Live updates, November 23: Ardern discusses Covid-19, climate change in call with Joe Biden

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 23. Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

8pm: The day in sum

Two new imported cases of Covid-19 were announced – but the location of origin for one of the two cases is still being determined.

An Air New Zealand worker has reportedly tested positive for Covid-19 in Shanghai. They tested negative last week while in New Zealand but tested positive in Shanghai as part of routine screening over the weekend.

The children’s commissioner is advocating for a “total transformation” of the current child welfare system, recommending a “by Māori for Māori” approach as part of a new report into Oranga Tamariki.

The government announced three additional projects to go through the RMA fast track process. All three are private projects located in Auckland, Huntly and Richmond.

The Green Party unveiled its portfolio reshuffle with co-leaders James Shaw in charge of climate change and Marama Davidson in charge of prevention of family and sexual violence, and housing.

Jacinda Ardern spoke with US president-elect Joe Biden in a phone call to discuss a range of topics including climate change, Covid-19 and trade.

4.10pm: Three ‘fast-tracked’ projects announced; Ardern shares more details of call with Biden

At today’s weekly post-cabinet press conference, Jacinda Ardern and environment minister David Parker announced three additional projects to go through the RMA fast track process in an effort to boost New Zealand’s Covid recovery. All three are private projects: a mixed-use commercial and residential development around Auckland’s Dominion Road,  the Ohinewai foam factory in Huntly, and the Vines subdivision in Richmond.

“If the three projects gain approval, it is estimated together they could create more than 2,000 jobs during the construction phase and around 200 permanent jobs once the projects are completed, as well as enable up to 160 new dwellings,” said Parker.

Ardern also shared more details on her “warm” phone call with Joe Biden today. She said the president-elect spoke positively of New Zealand’s Covid-19 response, adding that New Zealand was happy to share its knowledge and experience with the US where the pandemic continues to rapidly spread. She said an invitation to visit New Zealand was also extended to Biden, who has already been invited to visit Australia for the anniversary of ANZUS, adding that he spoke fondly of his visit to New Zealand as vice-president a few years ago.

3.40pm: Ardern discussed Covid, climate change in first call with Joe Biden

The prime minister has taken to Instagram to confirm she has spoken with US president-elect Joe Biden this afternoon.

Sharing a photograph from within her Beehive office, Ardern said she congratulated Biden on his recent election win and discussed a range of topics.

“We talked about climate change, Covid-19, trade and our region (which he remembers fondly from his visit a few years ago),” Ardern wrote, saying she is “looking forward to speaking [with him] again”.

Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th US president in January next year. But, for now, Donald Trump is continuing to instigate fruitless legal battles claiming he won the presidency.

3.00pm: Figures show post-lockdown spending bounce back

New figures from Stats NZ show the largest September quarter rise in 25 years, as New Zealanders hit the shops after the second wave of Covid-19 had kept them indoors.

Spending on major household items, vehicles, and groceries contributed to a 7.4% – or $1.8 billion – rise in total retail sales compared with the September 2019 quarter.

The total retail sales value for the 12-month period from October through to September 2020 was down just 0.2% to $97.6 billion. That’s in comparison to sales for the same period from 2018 to 2019 being up 4% to $97.8 billion.

“A strong September quarter has contributed to the year-ended sales coming in just shy of last year’s value,” said Sue Chapman from Stats NZ.

Read more here

On The Spinoff: New findings on in-flight Covid transmission

This afternoon on The Spinoff, Siouxsie Wiles writes about a new New Zealand study that offers some important lessons on how the coronavirus can spread aboard an aircraft.

Here’s an extract:

One of the good things about New Zealand pursuing an elimination strategy for Covid-19 (aside from the obvious) is that we are able to help answer some of the questions there are about how the SARS-CoV-2 virus transmits between people. Take air travel. As many people in the US start to head off around the country to spend Thanksgiving with their friends and family, will some of them be spreading the virus on the journey? A new study suggests yes.

Read the full piece here

1.05pm: Air New Zealand worker reportedly tests positive for Covid-19

An Air New Zealand worker has tested positive for Covid-19 in Shanghai, according to a 1 News report this afternoon.

The airline said the worker, who is a cabin crew member, had tested negative for Covid-19 while in New Zealand on November 18. However, they tested positive on November 22 in Shanghai, when tested as part of routine screening.

“The crew member is well and has none of the symptoms of Covid-19. All other crew have returned negative results,” Air New Zealand told 1 News.

“Operating crew on layover in China go into a managed isolation hotel as a standard procedure. The crew will remain in isolation while we work with Chinese authorities, New Zealand Ministry of Health and New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to make arrangements for their safe return home.

“Upon arrival back in New Zealand, the crew will follow the direction of the Ministry of Health around isolation and further testing.”

1.00pm: Two new Covid-19 cases, in managed isolation

There are two new imported cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today – but the location of origin for one of the two cases is still being determined.

There are no new community cases.

Both cases arrived on November 19 and tested positive around day three of their stay in managed isolation. The first person arrived from the United Kingdom via the United Arab Emirates, the ministry said, but it’s not yet known where the second case came from. Both people have been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.

There are 52 active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, with the total number of confirmed cases rising to 1,674.

Yesterday our laboratories completed 3,274 tests for Covid-19, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 1,234,175.

November quarantine cluster

Case F – the latest person linked to the Defence Force worker cluster – has been revealed as a close contact of Case B. The Ministry of Health originally reported them as being a border worker, but this was incorrect.

The ministry said Case F has been in isolation since November 7, and their close contacts have all returned a negative result.

Whole genome sequencing for Case F shows a link to Case B.

11.30am: Greens unveil portfolio reshuffle; new MPs take on big portfolios

James Shaw and Marama Davidson are only holding portfolios within the Green Party that match their ministerial roles, it’s been confirmed.

The co-leaders have this morning unveiled the party’s portfolio reshuffle, confirming Shaw will hold the climate change and environment roles within the Greens. Davidson will be the spokesperson for the prevention of family and sexual violence, and housing.

Chloe Swarbrick – who won the Auckland Central seat – has kept the portfolios of drug law reform and mental health, two areas where she was vocal over the previous parliamentary term. She’s also picked up revenue.

Meanwhile, Julie Anne Genter has retained transport and gained finance. She will also be the Greens’ spokesperson for Covid-19 response. Jan Logie is retaining portfolios pertaining the inequality and social issues that she held last term.

“Jan has demonstrated over the years an immense ability to bring a team together, and to stand up for our most vulnerable. She will work closely with unions, and our marginalised communities, to improve outcomes for New Zealanders,” James Shaw said.

Eugenie Sage will continue in the conservation role and Golriz Ghahraman has retained the justice portfolio, along with connected positions.

New MP Ricardo Menendez March has picked up social development and employment, along with immigration. “He has been a very strong advocate on these issues in Aotearoa and we look forward to the fresh perspective he will bring to Parliament,” Shaw said.

“Teanau Tuiono brings his unique Pasifika voice to our caucus and gains the Pacific Peoples portfolio. He will focus on the climate impacts of our oceans, and how that relates to our Pacific neighbours,” Davidson said. “He also brings a much valued regional perspective to the portfolios of Agriculture, Regional Economic Development, and Rural Communities. Additionally, he takes over Security and Intelligence from Golriz.”

Finally, Elizabeth Kerekere will take on the Rainbow Communities portfolio, along with Māori development and health portfolios. “As an artist she will also bring mana and creativity to the Arts, Culture and Heritage portfolio,” said Davidson.

10.50am: Children’s commissioner wants ‘total transformation’ of child welfare system

The children’s commissioner is advocating for a “total transformation” of the current child welfare system, recommending a “by Māori for Māori” approach as part of a new report into Oranga Tamariki.

The second report in a two-part review said that Māori should be given the legal power to provide support for at-risk babies and children, rather than Oranga Tamariki.

“After decades of calls for change from Māori this is an opportunity to listen and get it right for mokopuna Māori,” said Andrew Becroft.

“A history of patching and tinkering with the state care and protection system has failed mokopuna Māori – too often resulting in severing their links with whānau, hapū and iwi. This creates life-long damage and must stop.”

The report asked the prime minister and cabinet to commit to transferring power and resources from Government to enable by Māori for Māori approaches that “keep pēpi Māori in the care of their whānau”.

Becroft added: “Our view, however, after extensive inquiry, is that it is unlikely that Oranga Tamariki or any other iteration of it, can deliver care and protection interventions and services in a way that will be most effective for tamariki and whānau Māori.”

The report makes four recommendations to the government:

  • Government commit to transferring power and resources, from government, to enable by Māori for Māori approaches that keep pēpi Māori in the care their whānau;
  • Oranga Tamariki to act immediately to stop harm from occurring, and improve the experience for pēpi Māori and whānau, in the current statutory care and protection system through urgent changes to social work policy and practice;
  • Oranga Tamariki change the contracting process, and increase funding and support to iwi and Māori organisations, to deliver better services now, and to support and resource a transition pathway to by Māori, for Māori approaches; and
  • Minister and Oranga Tamariki act to improve the legislation and mechanisms in the current system to better work with Māori, both in the short and longer-term.

9.45am: Collins a ‘tough operator’; National needs to ‘take responsibility’ for loss – Key

Former prime minister John Key was on the media rounds for the National Party this morning after his address at the party’s AGM in Wellington over the weekend.

Key told party faithful that disunity within National along with the series of leadership changes led to the disastrous result on election night.

Speaking on RNZ this morning, Key said he remained in support of Judith Collins’ leadership, calling her a “tough operator”.

He said Collins would make a good prime minister – despite the dirty politics saga and being stood down under Key’s leadership.

“You want to take those things with a grain of salt. I did … the right thing … when there was a situation where she stood down for a period of time and I did the right thing and I reinstated her,” Key said.

Addressing the party’s defeat, Key said: “The reality is that we do have to take some responsibility, we did get some things wrong and if we don’t learn from them then we’ll just repeat them and won’t win.”

To try and win back the public in time for the 2023 election, National needs to “get control of the media agenda,” Key said.

“Stop the leaking … eventually those messages stop. Then the messages that the public start hearing from you are the messages they want to hear from you – the ones about them.”

8.20am: China threatens to poke out NZ’s eyes over Fives Eyes statement

Jacinda Ardern has responded to comments made by China that it would “poke the eyes” of anyone who interferes in its sovereignty, security or development interests. It comes after members of the Five Eyes – including New Zealand – condemned China’s actions in Hong Kong.

“For the sake of Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity, it is essential that China and the Hong Kong authorities respect the channels for the people of Hong Kong to express their legitimate concerns and opinions,” read the statement by the Five Eyes

This morning, Ardern told Newstalk ZB China’s response was not language she would use.

“My view is we have a relationship where New Zealand is consistent and predictable, where we raise these issues in a manner that is respectful and China will respond, where they see fit,” she said.

7.45am: Managed isolation scheme to go over budget, costing $2.4m a day

Managed isolation and quarantine is costing the country more than $2 million a day, according to figures released to RNZ.

It means the government is likely to make back just 3% of what it’s spent since August when it started charging short term returnees for their stay in isolation.

The government set aside $499 million to cover the scheme through until the end of the year, with $121 million remaining by the end of October. But, with $2.4 million being spent a day, the facilities are on track to go over budget before the end of the year.

Cabinet is due to consider long-term funding options for managed isolation and quarantine before the end of the year, RNZ reports.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

Contrasting visions for why National lost the election so badly have been presented at the party’s AGM. As the NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Derek Cheng reports, former PM Sir John Key said the party only had itself to blame, after a year of disunity and internal division. But those comments were at odds with what was offered by re-elected party president Peter Goodfellow, who basically suggested that the scrum had been screwed by Jacinda Ardern’s visibility throughout the Covid crisis.

The big event of the AGM itself was the election of the board, with Goodfellow on the ballot. A comprehensive account of this vote was done by Politik, which reports the sitting president was the lowest ranked successful candidate. Former MP and speaker David Carter was also successful, along with Southland regional chair Rachel Bird. There was also an unsuccessful challenge from a former board member, based on the theme that the party had lost touch with ordinary party members, and as such was out of touch with the public. Carter later said he wouldn’t have made the same comments as Goodfellow, were he giving the president’s speech, reports Radio NZ.

So what does it all mean for the party? In the NZ Herald, (paywalled) Claire Trevett wrote about how party leader Judith Collins seemed much more in line with Key, in sheeting home blame for the defeat to the party’s MPs. Both Key and Collins highlighted that a disciplined and upfront party would be able to win the lost voters back. Stuff’s Tracy Watkins picked out a different theme from the speeches – the possibility that National won’t learn its lesson, and will lose repeatedly for years to come.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here




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