Minister Megan Woods and Air Commodore Digby Webb heading to a press conference (Photo: Radio NZ, Dom Thomas)
Minister Megan Woods and Air Commodore Digby Webb heading to a press conference (Photo: Radio NZ, Dom Thomas)

The BulletinJune 22, 2020

The Bulletin: New Covid-19 case in isolation facility, system reaching capacity

Minister Megan Woods and Air Commodore Digby Webb heading to a press conference (Photo: Radio NZ, Dom Thomas)
Minister Megan Woods and Air Commodore Digby Webb heading to a press conference (Photo: Radio NZ, Dom Thomas)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: New case amid capacity concerns at isolation facilities, police mourn colleague who was killed, and vibrant weekend of party politics as election nears.

Quarantine and managed isolation facilities are continuing to dominate the news, after a weekend of new developments. The news broke last night on Radio NZ that the Novotel Hotel in Auckland had been put into lockdown, following the discovery of a new case – that means around 300 people are currently confined to their rooms. There isn’t necessarily any reason for alarm for the wider public here, because the case was spotted in a facility. Officials are refusing to comment until today’s 1pm media briefing.

But for those facilities – the single most important mechanism for stopping new Covid-19 outbreaks – the situation is currently very difficult. Right now they’re at capacity, reports the NZ Herald, and several busloads of returning New Zealanders had to be taken to Rotorua to do their isolation there instead. That news didn’t go down very well with some who had to do their isolation outside of Auckland, which is understandable even if the move was necessary. As Radio NZ reports this morning, there are currently more than 4200 people in facilities, and another 900 are expected in the next few days. To reiterate – the vast majority of these people are returning New Zealanders, and according to minister Megan Woods, “there is no legal basis to prevent them from returning home, nor would we.” A review of all facilities will be taking place this week. Meanwhile Radio NZ reports requests for special exemptions to come into the country are on the rise.

It follows a week in which faith in the quarantine facilities was severely tested, and the government made rapid changes in response. The events of the week have been laid out by Justin Giovennetti, who wrote that “the reliability of assurances that the border was safe was shredded within hours of the news that the two women who’d been let out on compassionate grounds had tested positive. Ardern initially blamed an “unacceptable system failure” at the border but then said she’d lost confidence in the system altogether as stories continued to emerge.”

New stories here are still emerging too – One News reporter Kristin Hall had a piece last night about a contact of a confirmed case, who was moved between three different facilities without being tested. Regarding one of the biggest concerns out of last week, we got some numbers on how many people had been released from quarantine without being tested. This Radio NZ story concluded with the detail that “there were about 2400 people who had left a managed isolation facility but had not had a test”. Follow up testing is now taking place for all of them.

And as for new cases over the weekend: There were two others on Sunday announced at the official briefing, but they were both related to the border. As far as we can tell, there still hasn’t been any community transmission for weeks now – long may that particular streak continue.

Just quickly, a message from The Spinoff’s managing editor Duncan Greive: 

“The arrival of Covid-19 and lockdown changed The Spinoff, transforming our editorial to focus on the biggest story of our lives, taking a small team and making it a seven day a week news operation. But it also fundamentally changed us as a business, too. Prior to the crisis, around 20% of our editorial costs were funded by our Members. Now, that figure is north of 50%. The loss of some key commercial clients meant that change has to be permanent. If you’re already a member, please know that all at The Spinoff are incredibly grateful for your help. If you’re not, and can afford to contribute, please consider doing so – it really is critically important to our ability to cover the next phase of the crisis, in all its complexity.”

Police officers have paid tribute to their colleague who was killed on the job on Friday. Radio NZ reports Waitematā District Commander Naila Hassan described Matthew Hunt, 28, as an outstanding officer, who was highly respected by his peers, and had a strong desire to serve the community. Hunt is the first officer killed in the line of duty in New Zealand since 2009. Another officer is recovering in hospital after also being shot in the incident. A 24 year old man has been arrested and charged with murder and other charges, and a 30 year old woman has been charged as an alleged accessory to murder.

A few bits of party politics news to share: The Māori Party has launched its campaign with a procurement policy, by which a quarter of government contracts would be sent to Māori firms, reports Leigh-Marama McLachlan for Radio NZ. The detail here would be all-important, but similar schemes have had success overseas. Sticking with the Māori Party, I reported over the weekend that they’d secured the endorsement of Hone Harawira, along with the resources and databases of the Mana Movement he leads.

In the Greens: First term MP Chlöe Swarbrick has announced that she’ll be running to win Auckland Central, the seat currently held by National’s deputy leader Nikki Kaye. You might think that seems a bit of a redundant bit of news, but it’s very unusual for the Greens to actually try and win electorate seats. Here’s a report on the announcement, along with an analysis of how good her chances are.

I went to the New Conservative party conference over the weekend, where they’re also gearing up for a hard run at the election. Of the campaign numbers that jumped out, they’re currently in the middle of distributing 750,000 leaflets, and putting up approximately 500 billboards around the country.

And this is a great feature about Social Credit’s economic ideas, by Tom Pullar-Strecker at Stuff, who writes about how their ideas have become much more mainstream in recent years even if the party itself is still on the fringes. When I wrote about the party last year, there was definitely an element of the tide turning in favour of their views – but the economic response to Covid-19 has massively accelerated the takeup of programmes like quantitative easing, which owes a lot to social credit economic theory.

Some money has finally been spent from the Green Investment Fund set up years ago, with $15 million for cleaner energy solutions at Wellington’s port. But as the NZ Herald reports, it also came out at about the same time as the news that NZ First had firmly blocked the Green Party’s electric car feebate scheme, meaning it’s now deeply unlikely to make it out of cabinet before the election. The spending from the investment fund has been very slow to get moving – for context, here’s a story about the slowness by Stuff’s Henry Cooke from October last year. Sustainable NZ also criticised the announcement as underwhelming and uninspiring.

There was a further announcement last week about the funding boost for apprenticeships, which was that employers will be given $16,000 to take someone on for a 20-month term. The Spinoff’s Michael Andrew reports it has been very positively received by industry and trades groups, particularly in light of the decline in apprenticeships that is generally seen during economic hardship. The piece also looks into a few areas with serious worker shortages, that potential apprentices could have a crack at.

Here’s a very interesting piece on the issue of food security, and how it could be a growing problem in the future. Newshub’s James Fyfe has opened with the empty supermarket shelves that some parts of the country saw at the start of lockdown, and the struggles McDonalds had finding lettuce at the end of it. And the reporting underlines a key point about it all – the problem with food security isn’t necessarily growing it, it’s getting the food where it needs to be while it’s still fresh.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Ellen Sinclair reports on the communication issues from universities that made life much harder for students over lockdown. Elodie Berthe speaks to a former refugee who now works to help all New Zealanders access the benefits they’re entitled to. The Aotearoa Resettled Community Coalition collects some of the stories and pictures of how these people came to leave their birth country and come here. The NZIER public good team writes about cycle lanes, and how the cost-benefit analysis is done for them. Josie Adams writes about a remarkable documentary filmed over many years, following a man who was assigned female at birth’s journey into manhood. Sarah Bennett writes about the exhilaration of learning to ski in her 40s.  And there’s a brand new Gone By Lunchtime episode, which I haven’t listened to yet but is apparently very funny.

For a feature today, a thoughtful piece about the business of sport, and whether the market needs to consolidate to survive. Stuff’s Dana Johannsen has looked at emerging considerations around whether professional franchises will need to merge to survive – so effectively, you’d have the same organisation supporting multiple teams across multiple sports. It probably makes sense – particularly in a saturated market like New Zealand. Here’s an excerpt:

Wyllie told Stuff she believes New Zealand’s sporting ecosystem is not big enough to sustain the number of professional teams it does. “There is no longer a place for standalone franchises in New Zealand,” Wyllie says.

“We’re all chasing the same ideal. If you were to sit down with any franchise or club, they would probably have the same core fundamentals like ‘have the most engaged fans’, ‘be financially viable’ … everyone has the same desire, but is anyone actually achieving it? We’re a small country and if we all think we’re all going to deliver to these, all we’ll be doing is cannibalising one another in a very small market.”

Despite the financial challenges facing sports as a global recession looms, New Zealand’s professional sports market looks set to become further congested in the next couple years. NZ Rugby is exploring the possibility of getting a professional women’s competition off the ground, while the Phoenix are in the process of trying to secure a licence in the W-League.

The new owners of the Warriors have brought the troubled tenure of coach Stephen Kearney to an end. After four years of middling results, the bosses decided enough was enough after a crappy performance against the Rabbitohs. But the decision has set off a storm of reaction – much of it negative. Kearney is widely respected as a person, and former Warriors great Sione Faumuina hammered it – this Stuff story reports some players might even want to come home. One eternal problem for the Warriors, which really didn’t seem to get any better under Kearney’s reign, is outlined in this (paywalled) piece by the NZ Herald’s Chris Rattue – the best players in the competition have no interest in playing for the club, and those that do end up there lack heart.

The Pulse are looking ominous in the ANZ Premiership,after thumping the Northern Stars by a 24 point margin. That was playing with shortened quarters too, meaning if anything the scoreline undersold their dominance over the game. They’re currently topping the table after two games, tied with the Mystics who also have two wins. The Southern Steel, strangely enough, find themselves right at the foot of the ladder, after a poor start to the season which included an unusual loss to the Mainland Tactix.

And I’m honour-bound to include this after talking so much smack about rugby over the past few weeks: The Crusaders went to Wellington and beat the Hurricanes. That’s it, that’s all you’re getting out of me on that particular subject.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme

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