Live updates, February 10: Sean Plunket gone from Magic Talk; Covid-19 vaccine signed off by cabinet

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for February 10. Get me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz. You can help keep us ticking by donating here.

6.30pm: The day in sum

The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine was officially signed off by cabinet, after receiving provisional approval last week.

There were three new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation.

The government announced three pieces of legislation that will replace the to-be-repealed Resource Management Act.

Māori Party MP Rawiri Waititi was allowed to speak in parliament despite his lack of tie, after yesterday being ejected by the speaker.

MediaWorks confirmed controversial talkback host Sean Plunket won’t be returning to his afternoon slot on Magic Talk.

It was revealed that Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March is in MIQ after travelling back to Mexico for a “serious personal family matter”.

The second impeachment trial of former US president Donald Trump got under way.

National’s Simon Bridges slammed the government’s decision to rush through legislation on the public veto of Māori wards.

5.00pm: Hamilton-Auckland commuter train service launching in April

Commuter trains are returning to the Hamilton-Auckland route for the first time since a 16-month trial that ended in 2001, reports RNZ.

Starting on April 6, two return services will run each weekday, leaving Hamilton at 5.46am and just before 6.30am, and returning in the evening just before 5pm and again just before 6.30pm. The Hamilton-Auckland route will end at Papakura, where passengers will transfer to local trains. The service will also stop at Rotokauri and Huntly.

Named Te Huia, the service was meant to start last year but was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and then track maintenance in Auckland. It won’t be quick, taking an estimated two hours and 45 minutes from Rotokauri to Britomart.

The cost of a trip using a concession card will be $12.20 from Hamilton and $7.80 from Huntly.

3.15pm: Rawiri Waititi allowed to speak in House – despite lack of tie

It appears Trevor Mallard has backflipped on his call to ban Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi from speaking in the House while not wearing a neck tie.

Waititi was ejected from the chamber yesterday afternoon following a stand-off over his decision to wear a hei tiki in place of a tie.

Today, Mallard simply sighed after Waititi rose to speak – but gave the MP the chance to ask his question.

In an email sent to media, Waititi and his co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer called on Mallard to allow cultural attire to be worn in the house.

“It is Te Paati Māori view that you are the sole arbitrator of a number of maters before the House,” the co-leaders wrote. “We noted that members dressing in the formal wear of their culture that they identify with is consented to. In support of our interpretation of your view, we noted the Green member of parliament from Mexico wore his own neck adornment that has been sanctioned by you because it is his culture from Mexico.”

They added: “It must follow that the wearing of a hei tiki by a Māori member of parliament representing the Māori Party and unashamedly Māori must be allowed to wear his cultural statements of identity.”

2.20pm: Sean Plunket gone from Magic Talk

Controversial talkback host Sean Plunket won’t be returning to his afternoon slot on Magic Talk, Mediaworks has confirmed.

Plunket was reportedly asked not to return to the station this week, according to a Sunday report on Stuff, in the aftermath of John Banks’ racist remarks on a recent broadcast. Banks had endorsed the views of a caller who described Māori as “stone-age people with a stone-age culture”.

Today, a statement from Mediaworks announced Plunket has “decided to leave” the station after being off air for the past two days.

Mediaworks CEO Cam Wallace thanked Plunket for providing “many vibrant discussions” over the past two years on air.

“I would like to thank him for his significant contribution to the station,” Wallace said. “I wish him all the best for his future endeavours.”

A decision on a replacement for Plunket will be announced in due course, the network said.

2.15pm: Green MP ‘didn’t meet the criteria’ for emergency MIQ slot

Updated

Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said he refused to get involved after a Green MP travelled overseas and later tried to get an emergency place in managed isolation.

Ricardo Menéndez March travelled back to Mexico for a “serious personal family matter”, returning to New Zealand at the start of February.

Speaking at today’s Covid-19 briefing, Hipkins said the decision of whether March could get an emergency spot in MIQ was for MBIE. He said he was “not going to get involved in any way”.

Hipkins said March was refused an emergency spot as he “didn’t meet the criteria”.

A spokesperson for the Greens told The Spinoff that March had “followed the appropriate processes” upon his return to New Zealand.

A request to speak to March directly was declined.

1.00pm: Covid-19 vaccine signed off by cabinet; three new MIQ cases

The government still doesn’t know when the first batch of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines will arrive in the country – but is powering ahead with its plans for the rollout.

After receiving provisional approval last week, the vaccine has today been officially signed off by the government. An information campaign will start next week ahead of the vaccine arriving on our shores.

The formal approval represents step two on the “road to our rollout,” says Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins.

“While we’ve found the ‘decision to use’ process around this first application to be relatively straightforward, the government also recognise there will be a huge amount of further detail to consider as the other vaccines in our portfolio of 14.91 million courses go through the Medsafe approval process,” he said.

“Now we’ve reached the crucial stage of approval for the first vaccine, we are in a much better position to start having a conversation with New Zealanders about how we plan to proceed, recognising the natural questions some will have.”

Hipkins repeated his message that “we will be ready to go” as soon as the first batch of the vaccine arrives in the country, although could not confirm when this will be. “People such as cleaners, the nurses who undertake health checks in MIQ, security staff, customs and border officials, airline staff and hotel workers will be among the first to get the vaccine.”

The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is suitable for use in New Zealand for those 16 years of age and over, the government said, with some additional recommendations including:

  • Ensuring adequate information is provided, particularly around expected common side effects, for example fever, muscle pain, fatigue;
  • Requiring a 30-minute observation period after the vaccine has been administered;
  • Patients receiving specific therapies should not receive the vaccine. These therapies are pembrolizumab (Keytruda), nivolumab (Opdivo), ipilimumab (Yervoy), atezolizumab (Tecentriq); 
  • That pregnant women are advised to discuss the risks and benefits of receiving the Pfizer vaccine; and
  • That it is suitable for use in lactating women.

Hipkins reaffirmed that the vaccine will be free and accessible to all New Zealanders, with the general public able to get the jab once priority groups have been treated.

New Covid-19 cases in managed isolation; none in the community

There are three new cases of Covid-19, all in managed isolation, Ashley Bloomfield announced.

Ten previously reported cases have now recovered, taking the total number of active cases to 59. There have been 1,968 cases overall since the pandemic began.

The first of today’s new cases tested positive on day 12 in managed isolation, after arriving from Germany via Doha. The second tested positive on day nine after travelling from Tanzania via Qatar. The third arrived from the UAE and tested positive on day zero. None of these cases are linked to the Pullman Hotel or the community, Bloomfield said.

Three of the four cases from the recent north Auckland community group have now recovered, with just “case D” remaining in quarantine.

12.55pm: Bloomfield, Hipkins, to provide Covid-19 update

Another day, another Ministry of Health Covid-19 briefing. Chris Hipkins and Ashley Bloomfield will be providing today’s update from Wellington, with a fairly major development expected.

Watch below:

11.55am: Important news – this lawyer is NOT a cat

I interrupt the important news of the day with this incredible video circulating on Twitter.

A lawyer in Texas accidentally used a cat filter during a Zoom court proceeding, eventually telling the judge: “I’m not a cat”.

This is arguably the biggest story of the day and I give you permission to watch this 30 second clip wherever you are, right now.

11.00am: RMA reform officially announced; three replacement acts unveiled

The government has announced its intention to follow through on an election promise to repeal and replace the Resource Management Act (RMA).

It will be replaced by three new pieces of legislation:

  • Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA) – to provide for land use and environmental regulation (this would be the primary replacement for the RMA);
  • Strategic Planning Act (SPA) – to integrate with other legislation relevant to development, and require long-term regional spatial strategies;
  • Climate Change Adaptation Act (CAA) – to address complex issues associated with managed retreat and funding and financing adaptation.

Read more: The RMA is dead. Long live the three new RMA-like laws

A pledge to overhaul the widely derided and lengthy RMA was backed by parties across the political spectrum before last year’s election, with National making it one of its main policy promises. The opposition said it would introduce new legislation within the first year and pass it all before the end of the first term.

This has largely been followed by the government, although the addition of a third act is new. The RMA working group had previously recommended two replacement acts, something both National and Labour committed to at the time.

Environment minister David Parker said the National and Built Environments Act will be progressed first. “Given its significance and complexity, a special select committee inquiry will consider an exposure draft of the NBA Bill from mid-year. This will include the most important elements of the legislation, including the replacement of part two of the RMA,” he said.

“I expect that the complete NBA and the SPA will be formally introduced into parliament by the end of 2021, with the NBA passed by the end of 2022,” he said.

The aim, Parker said, is to fully replace the RMA within this parliamentary term.

10.45am: Waititi hopes tie debate can be resolved today

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi is hopeful he’ll soon be allowed to wear his hei-tiki in place of a neck tie during parliamentary proceedings, after yesterday being booted out of the house by Trevor Mallard.

Mallard, the Speaker of the House, said he will allow the Māori Party to submit to the Standing Orders Committee asking that hei-tiki be permitted in lieu of a tie.

He told the Herald it was his “strong preference” for ties to no longer be a requirement, but that a majority of MPs had voted to keep the rule in place.

Waititi said his hei-tiki Māori business attire and questioned why Green MP Ricardo Menendez-March could wear his traditional Mexican bolo tie in the House.

“[Mallard’s decision is] forcing indigenous people into wearing what I described as a colonial noose,” Waititi said.

Reports from parliament this morning claim Waititi is still not wearing a tie and hoped that a resolution on the matter could be reached before the House sitting time at 2pm.

9.30am: Trump’s second impeachment trial under way

The historic second impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump is under way, beginning with a four hour debate on the constitutionality of the proceeding.

Trump was formally impeached last month following his incitement of the riot at the Capitol building over a month ago. However, the trial is to determine whether he will be convicted – which could see him barred from holding political office.

The last impeachment trial of Trump – over his actions regarding Ukraine – lasted around three weeks, although most believe this trial will be shorter.

While the ex-president was easily impeached in the House of Representatives last month, it seems unlikely he will be convicted in the senate. That would require at least 17 Republicans to cross the floor and vote alongside Democrats to reach the 67-vote threshold.

Read more here

8.00am: Bridges angry over Māori wards vote, told ‘he forgot about his Māori side’

National’s Simon Bridges has slammed the government’s decision to rush through legislation on the public veto of Māori wards, saying it makes him angry as a Māori man.

The bill, which local government minister Nanaia Mahuta labelled “overdue”, had its first reading in the House last night under urgency.

But Bridges said the policy was separatist. “Because as a Māori man, it says I’m not good enough because of my whakapapa, because of the colour of my skin,” he said, according to RNZ. “This bill to me says I’m not good enough to win a vote of a non-Māori, well I am good enough.”

The comments prompted a fiery response from Labour’s Willie Jackson, who told Bridges he should “not be the MP for Tauranga” and that “he only squeezed home because he forgot about his Māori side yet again during the Tauranga campaign”.

7.45am: Top stories from The Bulletin

MIQ nurses are warning that mistakes will happen if understaffing and unsustainable workloads continue, reports Radio NZ’s Kate Gregan. Nurses even reported working 24 hour shifts, because there was nobody in place to cover them when their shift was meant to end. Some have also seen their wages get cut, and aren’t getting hazard pay – despite the obvious danger of the job.

The PM said she wants to look into the concerns being raised. But in a follow up Radio NZ story, her Covid minister Chris Hipkins said there was no evidence of these sorts of 24 hour shifts happening. One nurse provided RNZ with a timesheet showing a 21.5 hour shift (at that stage, surely the last two and a half hours become pretty academic) and others either insisted that they had, or pointed to a culture of long shifts generally. Nor are such complaints exactly new – Newshub’s Michael Morrah had a piece on a similar subject last year, as did Radio NZ’s Katie Todd.

The fundamental problem appears to be workforce shortages, with not enough troops to fill the breach. It also gives some context to why managed isolation capacity isn’t being increased – there wouldn’t necessarily be anyone to staff it. The government announced late last year that well over a billion dollars would be put towards keeping the managed isolation system in place until 2022 and be fully resourced. But it may well be that they need to put in even more down the line.


Air New Zealand has been forced to back down on doing work related to the Saudi military, reports One News. An investigation will now take place into whether the work was legal under international law. CEO Greg Foran repeated that he had not been aware of the work until very recently, with the contract being signed in 2019. The CEO then was now-National MP Chris Luxon, who said he had no knowledge or recollection of it crossing his desk. The Saudi Arabian embassy has also commented on the story, describing the Kingdom as the “largest humanitarian supporter to Yemen”.

Speaking of brutal dictatorships, political and military ties have been cut with Myanmar following their coup. Stuff reports a directive has also been made that aid should not be delivered in conjunction with the Myanmar military. Protesters from the Myanmarese community in New Zealand protested at parliament yesterday, calling on the government to take their concerns up at the United Nations.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.30am: The day in sum

Following the military coup in Myanmar, New Zealand suspended political contact with the country.

National’s leader Judith Collins confirmed her support for a proposed ban on gay conversion therapy.

National missed the deadline to present a motion of no confidence in the speaker. They will try again tomorrow.

Speaker Trevor Mallard kicked MP Rawiri Waititi out of the House following his refusal to wear a tie.

There were two new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation.

The Reserve Bank put in place stricter loan-to-value ratios.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and supporters led a hīkoi to Auckland’s High Court today in a bid to assert land rights.

Grant Robertson pledged to cracked down on property speculation with a proposal set to go before cabinet shortly.

Read all the key stories in yesterday’s live updates




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