Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Stocktake of the vaccine rollout, social housing waitlist stretches to another new record, and cargo ships building up in Tauranga port traffic.
Progress on the vaccine rollout is starting to speed up, but the overall rollout is still lagging behind the rest of the world. Yesterday at a press conference, Covid-19 minister Chris Hipkins said 628,000 people are now fully vaccinated, with 1.5 million doses administered overall, and Hipkins is confident of that “ramping up” – our live updates at 1.00pm has further details. Oxford’s Our World In Data tracker has New Zealand below both the global per capita average of doses given, and very low relative to other OECD countries. The disclaimer for that stat is that Covid isn’t currently circulating in the community. The NZ Herald had a story yesterday about the slow start to the rollout, which impacted the current situation.
Bookings for the general public will open next week. There may be some teething issues, and are probably to be expected in a complex job. One came out on Stuff, where Sophie Cornish reports thousands of people in Wellington got a text carrying incorrect information, and telling them to book via a dead website or disconnected phone line. The actual website is expected to go live next Wednesday.
Public confidence is crucial to the overall success of the rollout, and we’ve got a new poll that gives a fair idea of how people are feeling. The Stickybeak/Spinoff survey shows there’s much less positivity towards the vaccination programme than the overall government Covid response – on this, respondents were split roughly into thirds over positive, negative and neutral views. On whether people would actually get the jab, 65% of respondents said they would, against about 15% who said they would not.
Meanwhile, in a bright spot: Some rural or remote areas are doing mass-vax days, and Radio NZ’s Tom Kitchin went along to see one in the predominantly Māori community of Te Araroa in Tairāwhiti. The day isn’t part of the ministry’s priority group programme – rather the idea is to get everyone done in one go. Misinformation about vaccines was a topic being discussed by locals in the report, but it appears to have had wide uptake.
Finally, to avoid shortages, a suggestion has been made for New Zealand to start producing vaccines. Stuff’s Hannah Martin reports that came from college of GPs medical director Dr Bryan Betty, who argues that is is necessary to develop capacity because of the likelihood “booster” jabs will be needed as the virus mutates. Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said there are no current plans to start producing vaccines, but more cooperation might be possible with Australia who are looking to do so.
Well over 10,000 people on the social housing list are waiting more than six months to get a home, reports Stuff’s Henry Cooke. That overall list is now 24,010, the highest it has ever been. Even with several hundred people being moved off the list into housing, and with a house building programme underway, demand isn’t being met. The story has a concerning post-script: rental inflation is rising faster than both income and general inflation, meaning that for renters the share of their income going into housing is increasing.
More than a dozen cargo ships have built up in a long wait around Tauranga’s port, reports Mathew Nash for Sun Live. There are logistical issues up the chain causing problems, and it comes at a time of very high timber and kiwifruit exports. Meanwhile, these sorts of issues are causing an effective breakdown in what’s known as “just in time shipping”, and Newsroom’s Anuja Nadkarni reports this is providing a boom for domestic storage facilities, which are seeing unprecedented demand.
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The Public Service Association is disappointed with a lack of progress on a reform aimed at helping parliament’s workers. Newsroom’s Sam Sachdeva has reported on criticism that two years on from the damning Francis Review, an independent commission to oversee MP behaviour has been delayed. Currently there is a serious lack of accountability for how MPs treat staff, with public scrutiny difficult, and a lack of recourse for mistreated staff. Only the Greens have actively supported the recommendation, with other parties non-committal.
Auckland Council and the United Church of Tonga is at an impasse over an iconic but derelict building in Grey Lynn, reports Caroline Williams for Stuff. Carlile House is currently fenced up, hasn’t been used for years, and anyone stepping inside would be running the risk of a bit of roof falling on their heads. The church took over the building in the 70s, but can’t afford to repair it. And because it has heritage status, it can’t simply be knocked down.
There has been speculation the government is looking at introducing an inheritance tax, but revenue minister David Parker has again hosed the concept down, reports Newshub. A statement said it was “not being considered”, and Labour campaigned in 2020 on very limited tax system changes over this term. It’s an interesting call for Parker to make, as an admirer of economist Thomas Piketty, who argues inherited accumulated wealth actively works against a meritocratic society, amid a rapidly growing gap between asset owners and the rest.
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Right now on The Spinoff: Mirjam Guesgen writes about the various fates that might befall Toa the orca. For good measure, Mirjam Guesgen has also reported on an animal welfare activist case against rodeos. Max Rashbrooke in partnership with the Productivity Commission writes about the inquiry into why some lead lives of persistent disadvantage. Leonie Hayden looks back on three largely forgotten moments from the 81 Springbok Tour. And Simon Bridges is the latest guest on FIRST, talking about first school memories and first concerts.
For a feature today, a concerning story about how long-term warfare creates generations of men with few skills outside of fighting. World Politics Review (soft paywall) has looked at the proliferation of Colombian mercenaries in conflicts around the world – including alleged involvement in the recent assassination of Haiti’s president. The country has been fighting internal wars for decades, and the army is now functioning almost as a pipeline for young men with limited opportunities to private security forces. Here’s an excerpt:
The private security industry took a big reputational hit in 2007, when armed guards working for Blackwater, founded by Erik Prince, massacred 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 more in Baghdad. But Prince continued to expand his empire, reaching an agreement to build a private standing army in partnership with Saudi Arabia in 2011. The corporate mercenary industry had gone global, and some of its most attractive recruits were Colombian veterans and ex-paramilitary members.
“The selling point was not only that Colombian soldiers were ‘battle tested,’” said Sergio Guzman, director of Colombia Risk Analysis, a research and consultancy firm in Bogota. “They had worked with U.S. special forces. They had been trained by U.S. advisers.” As if to underscore his point, the Pentagon announced Thursday that at least some of the 21 former Colombian soldiers arrested in connection with Moise’s assassination in Haiti had been trained by U.S. advisers during their time in the Colombian military.
In sport, a celebration of heart and endurance to keep battling for the win well beyond the final whistle. The ODT’s Hayden Meikle has reported on what is believed to be the longest game of rugby ever played in New Zealand, with 113 minutes being needed to separate Union and Kurow in the North Otago President’s Grade final. Extra time wasn’t enough, so the teams went to golden point, before a penalty put Union over the top for an 18-15 victory. Many of the players were reportedly “really buggered” by the end of it all.
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