Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for September 2, bringing you the latest on New Zealand news and the Covid-19 pandemic. The whole country is now in alert level two, with extra restrictions in Auckland. Official information here. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
12.45pm: Bloomfield’s back, but are there more Covid-19 cases?
The director general of health Ashley Bloomfield is back from his time off and will be fronting today’s 1pm media briefing alongside health minister Chris Hipkins.
Yesterday, there were 14 new cases of Covid-19, with five in the community and the remaining nine detected in managed isolation.
12.00pm: Planning for alert level one hasn’t started yet, says Bloomfield
Political editor Justin Giovannetti reports from the health select committee:
The government hasn’t yet started planning for a return to level one Covid-19 restrictions, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield told parliament’s health committee today.
Bloomfield, along with health minister Chris Hipkins, faced over an hour of questions from opposition MPs and Labour members about the government’s response to the coronavirus. Parliament is expected to meet this afternoon for the last time before the October election.
Health officials are focused on bringing Auckland’s level two restrictions in line with the rest of the country, said Hipkins. Social gatherings in Auckland are capped at 10, while groups of 100 can meet in the rest of New Zealand.
Bloomfield, asked if the country would need to see two cycles of 14 days without community infections before the return to the lowest level of restrictions, said his office hasn’t considered what advice it’ll provide. The current south Auckland cluster is New Zealand’s largest collection of cases and officials have warned that the tail of infections as new cases pop up could continue for weeks.
The decision to move cases to quarantine facilities should decrease the number of ongoing infections, said Bloomfield. “We haven’t considered any advice on the shift from level two to level one,” added Hipkins.
The government also hasn’t considered lowering the alert level in the south island, where no community transmission has been detected in months. The health minister said the possibility of Aucklanders travelling to the south island and unwittingly carrying Covid-19 with them was too high to consider dropping the alert level. Act leader David Seymour asked if the government had considered stopping Aucklanders from travelling south. “Cutting the south island off from the rest of the country isn’t something we considered,” said Hipkins.
Labour MP Ruth Dyson, who represents a south island electorate, interjected: “The Christchurch people are happy with things as they are.”
11.20am: The bus is back! Peters hits the campaign trail
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is back on the campaign trail in Wellington today, which means the return of his massive, face-inlaid bus.
The bus is back! The ‘Back Your Future’ bus tour is on the road again with our first stop here in Upper Hut at the innovative Brewtown which is a thriving group of small businesses. Great to see vision innovation and enthusiasm all combining! pic.twitter.com/voSZ4VV3Gq
— Winston Peters (@winstonpeters) September 1, 2020
Peters is in the sprawling metropolis of Upper Hutt today (I’m allowed to say that, having spent 17 years there) to relaunch his “Back your Future” campaign for re-election.
According to the photos posted to his Twitter account, Peters has spent some time during his visit to the Hutt staring wistfully into the distant.
There has been no confirmation about when the Act Party’s slightly less significant campaign minivan will hit the roads, although The Spinoff’s been told the schedule is still being rejigged following the recent lockdown.
10.15am: Peter Ellis appeal to continue posthumously, court confirms
The Supreme Court has confirmed that Peter Ellis’ appeal against child sex offences will be allowed to continue, despite his death in September last year.
Ellis was appealing his 1993 convictions of sexual offending against seven children. He had appealed twice to the Court of Appeal, resulting in three of his 16 convictions being quashed. Ellis was granted leave to appeal his remaining convictions just a month before his death last year.
10.10am: Trump denies having ‘mini-strokes’
The US president has this morning denied he suffered a series of “mini-strokes” that saw him being hospitalised. Instead, as is to be expected, Donald Trump has turned the attention on his Democrat rival Joe Biden.
It never ends! Now they are trying to say that your favorite President, me, went to Walter Reed Medical Center, having suffered a series of mini-strokes. Never happened to THIS candidate – FAKE NEWS. Perhaps they are referring to another candidate from another Party!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2020
What makes this twitter outburst particularly interesting is the fact that the claim appears largely unprompted. According to the Washington Post, Trump might be foreshadowing claims made in an upcoming book about his presidency. White House physician Sean Conley confirmed that Trump is healthy enough to continue his campaign and “has not experienced nor been evaluated for a cerebrovascular accident (stroke), transient ischemic attack (mini stroke), or any acute cardiovascular emergencies”.
9.45am: Metservice offline again following cyber attack
Metservice appears to have been targeted by another cyber attack, with its website down for the second day in a row. Yesterday, the weather forecaster confirmed it had been the target of a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack. It comes after five days of disruption to the NZX, along with attacks on banks and news providers.
Earlier this week, Andrew Little, the minister in charge of spy agency the GCSB, said he believed the attacks were coming from a criminal group, not state actors.
“The nature of this tends to be criminal activity rather than state backed. You can’t rule it out but it’s more likely than not to be criminal activity,” he said at the time.
8.30am: Judith Collins calls for Shaw’s resignation over Green School
The seemingly never-ending saga of the controversial Green School continues this morning, with National leader Judith Collins calling for James Shaw’s head to roll.
It’s been revealed Shaw, the Green Party co-leader, refused to sign-off on $3 billion of infrastructure projects unless the Green School was included. As Newshub put it, Shaw held his ministerial colleagues to “political ransom”.
Today, Collins told RNZ she was surprised Shaw didn’t step down yesterday. “This is absolutely unacceptable behaviour,” she said.
“It’s not just that he advocated for a particular Green School that doesn’t even have education registration to be a school, but that he’s actually held up all these projects on the basis that he was holding the government to ransom. This is totally unacceptable.”
Collins said that her party supported the government’s shovel-ready projects because people were losing their jobs due to Covid-19 and needed certainty. “We thought that was the right thing to do… James Shaw was the one holding them up,” Collins said.
8.00am: Mosque attack victims want Australia to pick up jail bill
Last week saw the man convicted of the Christchurch terror attack imprisoned for life with no chance of parole. Today, RNZ’s reporting some survivors of the attack want Australia to pay for the man’s incarceration.
“I think Australia needs to pay the total cost for what we’ve spent already, they need to pay that plus ongoing,” said John Milne who lost his 14-year-old son Sayyad Milne. “They need to cough up big time. There’s a big bill out there for this now, he’s Australian, not a Kiwi, we shouldn’t have to pay for any of it.”
Abdul Aziz, who chased the gunman from the Linwood mosque, told RNZ he would rather see the millions being spent on the gunman, re-directed towards education programmes aimed at stamping out racism.
“Make sure we have some sort of classes or some things you know for the next generation. Make sure [that with] bullying or this racism and things we try to get rid of it you know [with] more education. That money you know we can do a lot better things than spending it on that coward.”
Yesterday, the gunman was designated a “terrorist entity” by the prime minister. This freezes all his assets and also makes it a criminal offence for anyone to support the shooter financially.
Read more here
7.45am: Auckland travel ban should have stayed in place, says expert
Aucklanders should still not be allowed to leave the city, despite the move down to alert level two, according to one expert.
Professor Michael Baker told the Herald that “it’s not in the spirit” of the prime minister’s recommendations that people head off from Auckland to attend conferences. Baker’s referring to the Morgo conference being held in Queenstown this week, with Aucklanders on the guest list.
7.35am: Top stories from The Bulletin
Yesterday’s developments were arguably the most dramatic. As our live updates (scroll down, busy day) reported, Green co-leader James Shaw made a public apology to all and sundry for supporting the project. “I apologise to parents, to teachers and unions. I apologise to Green Party members who… have felt demoralised by this decision. I apologise to the schools in Taranaki who quite rightfully want the best for their children. And I want you to know, all of you, that I have listened to your concerns,” Shaw said. He also pointed out that others had been in favour of the spending on the shovel-ready, job creating project, including the mayor of New Plymouth.
Just how hard did Shaw push for the funding to go ahead? As Newshub’s Tova O’Brien reported, an email from his office regarding the whole $3 billion package included the following line – “Minister Shaw won’t sign this briefing until the Green School in Taranaki is incorporated.” It also said that Shaw had discussed the briefing with education minister Chris Hipkins, who had previously said he hadn’t been all that keen on the idea, but had backed down in the face of Shaw pushing for it. Like it or not, it is becoming something of an albatross for the Green co-leader, and it’s all a bit weird to have him be clearly in favour at first, only to then turn around and say he now wouldn’t support it.
Want more weirdness with this story? A few other angles ended up popping out. One was the New Plymouth Labour candidate Glen Bennett, who Radio NZ’s Jo Moir said changed his initially supportive position to one of bitter opposition within four days. There was the strange spectacle of National railing against funding for a private school, despite being in favour of that during their last term of government. And as for the school itself, Newshub’s Anna Bracewell-Worrell had a funny story about it hosting an event run by a conspiracy theorist couple with some rather out-there views. Given how much bizarre drama we’ve all got out of this story, you’d have to say $11.7 million is a bargain.
7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories
There were 14 new cases of Covid-19, with five of those in the Auckland community.
Between August 21 and 27, 97% of MIQ staff were tested for Covid-19, according to the government.
A Roy Morgan poll put Labour at 48%, down 5.5 points since the same poll in July but still 20 points clear of National. The poll also had a surprise jump of 3.5 points for the Green Party, to 11.5%.
MetService became the latest NZ organisation to be hit by a DDoS attack, following sustained attacks on the New Zealand Stock Exchange and less successful attacks on RNZ and Stuff.
Green Party co-leader James Shaw made a public apology for his decision to support a controversial “Green School” in Taranaki.
Health minister Chris Hipkins urged Auckland parents to send their children back to school, but said the government had no plans to make masks mandatory on school premises.
Facebook threatened to block Australian users from sharing news if a proposed code forcing the company to pay for the news content it uses becomes law.
Read all the key stories in yesterday’s live updates.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.