Ardern v Collins debate

The first leaders’ debate of the election is tonight on 1 News at 7.00 pm until 8:30 pm.

This puts Jacinda Ardern head to head against Judith Collins, Labour versus National.

We will have to wait and see what impact this will have on the election.

Ardern now admits campaign selfie was ‘a mistake’

Jacinda Ardern had been enjoying her ability to attract enthusiastic supporters while campaigning, but she was held to account for this over the weekend after this photo was published:

The offending selfie.

Stuff: David Seymour criticises Jacinda Ardern’s lack of social distancing in selfie while on the campaign trail

ACT leader David Seymour criticised Ardern on Saturday, and said New Zealanders would be asking whether she was part of the team of five million after she “clearly flouted the rules she has asked us to live by”.

In a statement, Seymour said hospitality businesses were going broke at alert level 2 because of single server and social distancing rules.

“Meanwhile, the person responsible for the rules is breaking them. Small business owners will be incredibly angry.”

I’ve heard from people who generally support Ardern being very disappointed.

Initially Ardern left it to a spokesperson to deal with it.

In response to Seymour’s criticism, a spokesperson for Ardern said the PM asks members of the public to keep appropriate distancing when interacting and getting photos.

“There are a number of handshakes and hugs she unfortunately has to decline and best endeavours are made to keep separated when people ask for photos, but often members of the public will come very close to the prime minister which is difficult to control.”

That’s a poor response. Ardern was actively encouraging the public getting very close, and it should have been easy for her to control.

This came up gain at yesterday’s Covid media conference, and Ardern did respond herself this time.

Stuff: Jacinda Ardern admits close-quarters selfie was a ‘mistake’

Asked about the photo on Monday, Ardern said she acknowledged an error.

“Look, I just need to acknowledge I should have moved further forward and asked them to step away from each other,” she told reporters.

“I work really hard not to shake people’s hands, I sanitise, I wear my mask in Auckland, and I work hard to try and keep my social distance. In that particular photo I did make a mistake. I should have stepped further forward, I should have asked them to step apart from each other”.

“I totally acknowledge that.”

She hasn’t ‘totally acknowledged’ the mistake. She tried to mitigate it by saying how much she did to keep her social distance, but I this isn’t the only time she has worked crowds of fans while campaigning. It’s just the first time media have made a thing of it.

Election 2020: David Seymour criticises Jacinda Ardern's lack of social  distancing in selfie while on the campaign trail | Stuff.co.nz

Ardern at fault for campaign selfie gaffe | 7NEWS.com.au

Ardern at fault for campaign selfie gaffe | 7NEWS.com.au
Kate Hawkesby: Why isn't the PM social distancing? - NZ Herald
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=12366457

National’s tax cut policy

Just when it looked like Labour were comfortably PR managing their way to a comfortable election victory, playing ultra-safe with a minimal policy approach, and National looked to be going through the motions heading for a big defeat, the campaign has been shaken up a bit with a promise of tax cuts for everyone.

National were obviously waiting for the PREFU release (Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update – economy “better than predicted”) on Thursday, announcing their Economic & Fiscal Plan yesterday, with most attention given to short term tax cuts aimed at stimulating the economy.

This seemed to rattle Labour, with both Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson reacting.

Ardern said tax cuts were “irresponsible”:

“What they have announced today is unaffordable and is raiding from a fund that has to be available to make sure that we as a nation can keep responding to the challenges of Covid, not deliver unaffordable tax cuts.

This is a bit rich. Labour have already spent something like $50 billion propping up the economy, and have a $14b fund set aside to dish out as they see fit.

“Now is just not the time for tax cuts and I genuinely believe New Zealanders will look at the environment right now and agree with that.

“What we need now is really careful economic management, we need certainty and we need a plan and that’s what we’ll deliver.”

There’s nothing certain about our short and medium term economic future.

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson:

“It beggars belief that in the middle of a pandemic the National Party is planning to gut the money set aside to protect New Zealanders in case of another major outbreak of Covid-19,” he said in a statement after the announcement.

“We carefully put aside $14 billion to look after New Zealanders’ health and wellbeing and now National wants to put that at risk. This policy reeks of desperation as National races to borrow money to pay for a $4000 temporary tax cut for Judith Collins.”

The responses from Ardern and Robertson reek of rattledness.

National’s announcement.


National will cut taxes for middle New Zealand

National’s massive tax stimulus package will put more than $3000 extra into the pockets of hard-working Kiwis on middle incomes, National Party Leader Judith Collins says.

You can read a copy of National’s Economic & Fiscal Plan here.

Ms Collins has announced the next National Government will let Kiwis keep more of what they earn by lifting the bottom tax threshold from $14,000 to $20,000, the middle threshold from $48,000 to $64,000 and the top threshold from $70,000 to $90,000.

These changes will be in place from December 1, 2020 until March 31, 2022. The total cost of this over the 16-month period is estimated to be $4.7 billion.

“Today we are facing the biggest economic downturn the world has seen since in living memory. But with the right leadership and economic plan we can grow our economy and keep Kiwis in jobs,” Ms Collins says.

“To keep our economy ticking, New Zealanders need money to spend. National will deliver temporary tax relief that puts more than $3000 – or nearly $50 a week – into the back pockets of average earners over the next 16 months.

“This will give Kiwis the confidence to go out and spend, which will be crucial for our retail, tourism and hospitality businesses to survive this economic crisis.

“New Zealand is facing a much longer and more painful economic shock than earlier forecast. We need a serious plan for economic growth to get us back on track.”

National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith pointed to higher taxes as Labour’s only plan to get New Zealand out of this economic hole.

“No country has ever taxed its way out of a recession – and this is a big one we’re in now.”

As well as tax relief for households, National will double the depreciation rate for businesses that invest in new Plant, Equipment and Machinery over the next twelve months. This will bring forward the amount a business can claim in depreciation for new investments, which will stimulate investment by increasing the return on capital.

Doubling the depreciation rate is expected to cost $430 million a year for five years, while increasing tax revenues in out years.

“Our stimulus package has been fully-funded and costed, and is included in our independently reviewed Economic and Fiscal Plan released today,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“National’s plan carefully balances the need to drive economic stimulus, increase investment in core public services and restore government debt back to prudent levels.

“Labour, on the other hand, has announced it will increase taxes during a recession. The contrasting approaches to the economy at this election could not be clearer.

“Judith Collins and her strong National team will bring the leadership, experience and vision needed to get our country back on track.”

You can read a copy of National’s Economic & Fiscal Plan here.

You can view a copy of National’s Personal Tax Relief Policy here.

You can view a copy of National’s Double Depreciation Rate Policy here.


See RNZ: National promises $4.7bn in tax cuts in economic and tax policy

Obviously this policy would benefit me, by a few thousand dollars. I’m not sure it’s the best approach over the next year or two, but at least it’s reasonably even, it means all tax payers would pay less tax for 16 months (that makes for a messy part taxyear), and every one of us could decide what to do with the extra take home pay.

It does seems a better approach to Labour ‘picking winners’ and ‘corporate welfare’ of dishing out millions of dollars to selected businesses, which puts competing businesses at a disadvantage. I guess they plan to continue to do that with their $14 fund they don’t want given to workers.

Funny to see Labour favouring some corporates while National taking less from workers, that shows how muddled politics is these days.

This announcement is unlikely to swing the election (I’m still very undecided), but going by Labour’s responses it has them a bit worried. At least it livens up a lacklustre campaign.

Dunedin hospital rebuild delayed further, another Labour commitment failure

Before the last election Labour criticised the then National Government for delays in building a new hospital, and committed to starting the rebuild of in their first term. But the Labour Government has kept pushing out a decision and the rebuild to further than National had indicated, and have just announced they won’t even make a final decision until next year.

Before the 2017 election Labour stated: Rebuilding Dunedin Hospital

All New Zealanders should be able to get the healthcare they need, when they need it. Dunedin Hospital serves 300,000 people in the city and the surrounding regions, but it is no longer fit for delivering modern healthcare to a population with increasing health needs.

For years, Dunedin Hospital has needed to be rebuilt.

The current Government has finally committed to making a decision on the rebuild but Cabinet won’t consider the details until sometime next year and it plans for the new hospital to be up to 10 years away.

Up to ten years away then was up to 2027.

With Labour’s approach, Dunedin will have a new hospital as soon as possible, and the taxpayer will get the best value for money. Avoiding further delay will minimise costs and mean patients get better care more quickly.

Labour will: commit to beginning construction of the new Dunedin Hospital within our first term

This project is expected to cost $1.4 billion, and will deliver the most modern hospital in New Zealand, ready to serve Dunedin and the Lower South Island for decades to come.

But the Labour Government hasn’t avoided further delays. While land has been purchased and buildings are being demolished, there is no sign of a start on the outpatients block let alone the new hospital.

This week: Government confirms new Dunedin Hospital design

The Government has agreed on a preferred design for the new Dunedin Hospital featuring two separate buildings, and has provided funding for the next stages of work.

Minister of Health Chris Hipkins says Cabinet has approved in principle the detailed business case for the new hospital, giving people in the Southern region certainty and confidence in the design and ongoing progress.

But there is no certainty, still.

“Cabinet agreed the detailed business case in principle as it’s important the project maintains momentum and demolition and design milestones are reached. We’ve released $127 million to progress design, demolition, piling, project management and early contractor engagement.

“It’s expected the total budget for the project will now exceed $1.4 billion. This will be confirmed once concept design is finished and costings can be finalised. The final details of the business case are expected go to Cabinet for approval by February 2021.

While it looks probably that Labour will be back in Government next year and hopefully the Cabinet will approve proceeding with the rebuild they promised a start in their first term, so have failed to deliver.

Outpatients (at almost 15,000 sqm) is due to be complete by early 2025, with Inpatients (at around 73,500 sqm) due to be finished in the first quarter of 2028.

‘Inpatients’ is code for ‘hospital’. The small outpatients block will be built before the actual hospital is started, possibly in 2025 but that’s far from certain.

And the planned completion date is after what the previous Government had projected. If National had stayed on in Government there’s no guarantee they would have delivered either, but Labour has been no better.

Implementation Business Cases for each building – Outpatients in mid-2021 and Inpatients by the end of 2021, will be considered by joint Ministers of Health and Finance, prior to confirming the main contractor for each building.

Having committed to commencing a rebuild “in our first term” (which ends next month) they now say they will only consider the Implementation Business Case for the hospital building “by the end of 2021”.

The Labour Government is throwing billions of dollars at infrastructure and ‘shovel ready’ projects all over the country, but Dunedin, and Otago and Southland, are a long way from getting a replacement regional hospital for what three years ago Labour described as “no longer fit for delivering modern healthcare“.

This re-emphasises the reality that election campaign pledges, promises and commitments (from any party) are often deliberate delusions aimed at gullible voters.

RNZ three years ago: Ardern raises stakes over Dunedin hospital

Ms Ardern was confident her party could build the hospital faster than the National Party’s seven to 10 year estimation.

“The hospital at present is dangerous and unsafe for staff and patients. Most of the existing buildings would not survive a severe earthquake.

“Things are so bad that at the moment operations have to be delayed because of the leaks when it rains. Dunedin Hospital is no longer fit for purpose,” she said.

Serious problems with the current buildings are ongoing.

Last month: Progress on ICU air conditioning

New air-conditioning machinery will be installed in a bid to get Dunedin Hospital’s multimillion-dollar new intensive care department fully functional.

Ventilation issues delayed the opening of stage one of the project for four months in 2018-19; the second stage was meant to open at the start of this year, but its 10 critical care beds remain unused.

The project has been bedevilled by the hospital building’s old air-conditioning machinery, which has proven inadequate to meet the demands of a modern critical care unit.

A new critical care unit can’t be used because of problems with the building.

The new ICU was commissioned by the SDHB to tide it over until the new Dunedin Hospital is built.

It replaces a dark, cramped ward that has poor facilities for patients, their families and staff with bright, spacious rooms and modern equipment, an upgrade staff have been eagerly awaiting.

They could be waiting another ten years.

Earlier this week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke to the Otago Daily Times:

…Ms Ardern said Labour remained ‘‘absolutely’’ committed to the rebuild of Dunedin Hospital, and also wanted to continue investment on upgrading Otago and Southland school buildings.

‘‘I remember very early on visiting Dunedin Hospital and it was just so clear what was needed there,’’ she said.

But it’s still far from clear what Labour’s ‘absolute’ commitment to the rebuild of the Dunedin Hospital amounts to. Niceness doesn’t provide adequate modern hospitals, nor does it save lives.

How Ardern, Collins make people feel

I think that most people probably vote more on feelings on leaders than on policies or party lists.

This shows why the Labour campaign is based on the personality of Ardern.

It also shows what an uphill battle Collins has to make an impression (I think that Collins has done ok in ways but has been disappointing).

Interestingly Collins hasn’t fared well compared to Bridges, who struggled against Ardern and struggled to look like a competent leader.

Ardern has slightly reduced the negatives and significantly increased the positives since Covid struck.

Ardern’s record on child poverty

UNICEF has just ranked New Zealand near the bottom of OECD countries for ‘child wellbeing outcomes’.

Jacinda Ardern made a big deal out of child poverty when she became Prime Minister. She appointed herself Minister for Child Poverty Reduction.

She has responded to the UNICEF rankings saying their rankings are based on ‘old data’ from when National was in Government, and things are getting better.

How well has she done on child poverty?

I posted in November 2017 Eliminating’ (reducing) child poverty:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has virtually staked her political career on reducing poverty.

Image

In her ‘Speech from the Throne’ in November 2017:

In the last nine years, New Zealand has changed a great deal. Ours is a great country still. But it could be even greater. In our society today, no one should have to live in a car or on the street. No one should have to beg for their next meal. No child should be experiencing poverty. That kind of inequality is degrading to us all.

This will be a government of transformation. It will lift up those who have been forgotten or neglected, it will take action on child poverty and homelessness…

Child poverty is a moral issue but it is also an economic one. Infometrics has estimated that poor investment in children in their early years costs the country between $6 billion and
$8 billion per annum.

This government will put child poverty at the heart of government policy development and decision-making. It will establish targets to reduce the impact of child poverty and it will put these into law.  A work programme will be put in place across all relevant areas of government to achieve these targets.  Heads of government departments will be required to work together to deliver real reductions in child poverty.

To deliver genuine change for children, transparent mechanisms are needed to hold the government to account on poverty reduction. 

Ardern mentioned ‘poverty’ 14 times.

A year later (December 2018): 2018 Child Poverty Monitor

When becoming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that dealing with child poverty would be a priority for her and her Government.  However there are no easy or quick fixes – yet at least.

“The 2018 Child Poverty Monitor puts a spotlight on critical areas in a child’s life where poverty continues to have an adverse impact. The four areas of focus are health, food insecurity, education and housing.”

Click here for the Child Poverty Monitor: 2018 Technical Report

Something was being done about it: 119-1 support for Child Poverty Reduction Bill

All parties except ACT (David Seymour) voted in favour of the third reading (and final vote) of the Child Poverty Reduction Bill in Parliament yesterday.

NZ Herald: Child Poverty Reduction Bill passes third reading

The bill, which will set measures and targets for reducing child poverty, inform strategy to achieve that and require transparent reporting on poverty levels and introduce accountability for governments, was a cornerstone of Labour’s election campaign last year and on the list of achievements for the coalition Government’s first 100 days in office.

Speaking in Parliament today, Ardern said it was no longer just a Labour Party bill.

“This is now an initiative that has been led by a coalition Government with the support of New Zealand First and the Green Party.

“And it also is an initiative that has had the support of the National Party. I want to acknowledge that. This is this Parliament’s collective challenge, and the groups that have come together in Parliament today to support it in this House mean that it will have an enduring legacy”.

That seems like reasonable success getting National alongside the three Government parties.

But in 2019: Budget falls short of child poverty targets

This year’s budget was promoted as a Wellbeing Budget, but it has been criticised for not moving far enough towards addressing things that will improve the well being of the less well off, especially children.

Newsroom:  Budget moves not nearly enough to meet child poverty targets

This is the first Budget under the new Child Poverty Reduction Act rules. 

So how did Grant Robertson go first time out? How much progress towards cutting poverty was there actually in the Budget? The short answer is a bit, but almost certainly not enough to meet all three short-term targets by the deadline of June 2021.

Approximately 55 percent of children in poverty live in households reliant on benefit as their main source of income. Indexation of the benefit to wages is an important long-term change, but indexation to inadequate basic rates is not enough. It will simply not be feasible to address child poverty without either (or both) raising benefit rates or the Working for Families tax credits paid to parents on benefit. We did not see either of these in this first Wellbeing Budget.

I noted:

The last government was already nudging things towards more ‘social conscience’ spending. The current government has nudged things a bit more. Perhaps they will push things further towards wellbeing in the next budget, which is in election year.

This year the budget was dominated by measures trying to address the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ardern’s 2020 Budget Speech did mention poverty:

We have long faced a housing crisis, our environment has been suffering, inequality and child poverty have all been issues we’ve had to tackle.

In three years’ time I want to look back and say that COVID was not the point those issues got worse, but the chance we had to make them better.

And that brings me to the last challenge, child poverty.

We know this has the potential to get even worse than where we are now. And while we moved quickly, even before lock down providing increasing government support to those out of work through benefit increases and the winter energy payment, today we focus on kids, with a major expansion of the food in schools programme.

We already started this programme last year, now we expand healthy lunches in schools so that for around 200,000 more children across the country benefit. Based on what we know, this will also create an estimated 2,000 jobs in local communities. And equally important it will mean in the tough days ahead we can guarantee our most vulnerable kids will get a filling healthy lunch every school day.

But that was a minor mention and Ardern followed it with.

Mr Speaker, I want to finish where I started. On our businesses, on our job creators, on our innovators and on those who have carried such a huge burden over these last weeks and months.

Mr Speaker, I said yesterday that this budget would be about jobs, jobs, jobs. In total it seeks to save as many as 140,000 of them over the next two years, and to support the growth of 370,000 more over four years.

This Budget shows how we are positioning New Zealand for that right now. It shows that we know this is not the time for business as usual, it’s the time for a relentless focus on jobs, on training, on education, and the role they all can play to support our environment, and our people.

So Mr Speaker, let’s begin our recovery and let’s rebuild, together

Word counts from the speech:

  • Poverty 2
  • Business 19
  • Jobs 23

Obviously business viability and jobs are important for family incomes and for the care of children, and Covid necessarily changed the Government focus a lot, But of the many billions of dollars spent on on Covid support most has been for propping up businesses and jobs, and little has directly addressed poverty issues.

Coming towards an election Ardern and Labour needed to be mainly focussed on dealing with Covid, and that seemed to dominate their campaign strategy, but yesterday UNICEF brought attention back to children.

RNZ: NZ ranked near bottom of UNICEF child wellbeing ratings

New Zealand is near the bottom of a UNICEF league table ranking wealthy countries on the wellbeing of their children.

Of the 41 OECD and European Union countries surveyed, New Zealand ranked 35th in overall child wellbeing outcomes – and UNICEF says that is failing children.

The UN Children’s Fund rankings show this country’s youth suicide rates are the second highest in the developed world, with 14.9 deaths per 100,000 adolescents, and only 64 percent of 15-year-olds have basic reading and maths skills.

The rankings also show too many children and young people in New Zealand are overweight and obese.

On mental wellbeing alone, New Zealand sits at 38th on the list and on physical health it is ranked 33rd.

NZ has ‘normalised inequality’

UNICEF NZ executive director Vivien Maidaborn said New Zealand’s rankings were driven by inequality.

“I think we normalise inequality. Somehow it’s alright that some families can’t afford homes and are living in motels and emergency housing. Somehow its alright that many of our lower socio-economic families can’t access high quality early childhood education. And then we wonder why we finish up with a statistic like only 64.5 percent of 15 year olds have got proficiency in reading and maths.

“Right now in Covid-19 there is a real worry we’re increasing inequality,” she told Morning Report.

She said while there were wage subsidies and mortgage holidays, there were no rent holidays, and the doubling of the winter energy payment was due to run out on 1 October.

“I just think we’re in danger of investing in the New Zealanders who already have wealth and assets and forgetting that the poorest New Zealanders, people living on benefits, are not being well supported.”

More from Maidment (and Chris Hipkins’ response to the ratings) from Stuff: New Zealand continues to fail children, Unicef report shows

Ardern issued a media release Prime Minister responds to child wellbeing report

A UNICEF report reflecting poor rates of child wellbeing in New Zealand between 2013 and 2018 underscores the Government’s work to break the cycle of child poverty.

“The report itself acknowledges in many cases data was missing or was several years old, largely painting a picture of the previous Government’s underinvestment in our families,” Prime Minister and Child Poverty Reduction Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“The report pre-dates our progress in rolling out the $5.5bn Families Package, setting child poverty targets, lifting 18,400 children from poverty, and improving seven out of nine child poverty measures.

“Our plan to make New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child is making a difference but there is more to do…

“That work is all under way, with 6000 young people contributing to our Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy, the historic Child Poverty Reduction Act 2018, and the alignment of our goal to halve child poverty in a decade with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development goals.

“One of the things I’m very focused on through the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy is to systematically collect and publish data on a much broader range of child wellbeing indicators, which is why we invested $21 million in Budget 20 to measure persistent poverty.

“What’s important is that as a Government we keep making progress to ensure our children have a warm, dry home, access to healthcare, safe and healthy food, and the chance to have a childhood in which they’re free to learn and play,” Jacinda Ardern said.

(Edited)

But that was a defensive response.

A week ago Bryce Edwards compiled Political Roundup – Politicians making inequality worse

Inequality and poverty look to be the forgotten issues of the election campaign, with not much more than lip-service being paid to them on the campaign trail. Yet decisions are currently being made that appear to be fuelling a greater gap between rich and poor.

Newsroom’s Bernard Hickey has tweeted this week to sum up how the Government has chosen to manage the Covid-19 health and economic crisis: “This Covid-19 response has all been about bailing out property owners, helping banks, propping up zombie small businesses, big grants and loans to well-connected big businesses and middle class welfare via special Covid dole to higher-paid jobless. Not a team of 5 million at all.”

Hickey has elaborated on this in a column, saying the Government has made policy choices that have advantaged the rich and disadvantaged the poor, which will fuel higher levels of inequality: “without debate, the Labour-led Government has delivered the biggest shot of cash and monetary support to the wealthy in the history of New Zealand, while giving nothing to the renters, the jobless, students, migrants and the working poor who mostly voted it in” – see: NZ’s ‘K’ shaped Covid-19 recovery.

Hickey has also written today about housing inequality, arguing that the Government has chosen to prioritise the housing market in order to prevent a crash in values – see: Our housing market is too big to fail (paywalled). He believes the Government has chosen not to embark on “massive state house building”, nor implement a capital gains tax, because these might upset wealthy property owners.

Of course, the problems of inequality and poverty aren’t simply down to the Covid-19 crisis. At the last election, Labour, the Greens and NZ First campaigned strongly on inequality, pointing out that under nine years of National things had got worse for the poor and working people in a variety of ways.

Have these parties actually made a significant difference during their three years in power? There are signs that things haven’t improved much at all. The Government has largely chosen not to transform the economy or redistribute wealth in any meaningful way.

This was reflected in February when the official economic statistics were released, showing little change. Financial journalist Brian Fallow reported the details: “Data out this week on household incomes and housing costs make uncomfortable reading for both the Government and the Opposition. A centre-left Government should not be happy that in the year to June 2019 — its first full year in office — it has not moved the dial on income inequality at all. A standard measure of inequality, called the Gini coefficient, at 33.9 is as bad as it has been at any time in National’s last nine years in power and higher than it was before the global financial crisis” – see: Numbers show Government hasn’t moved the dial on income inequality at all (paywalled).

Fallow made the notable comment: “Neither the Government nor the Opposition is offering any plan to change that.”

A major problem with Covid that despite all the Government subsidies there is less work available and take home wages have decreased for many people, and this has impacted on the lower waged most. And that impacts on many children.

Ardern has a chance to address this with Labour’s campaign policies, but those will be political promises for the future. There’s a good chance Labour will have more unconstrained power next term, but under Ardern the Government has talked up transformation but under-delivered.

Leftwing blogger No Right Turn: Labour doesn’t care about the already poor.

While they talk about ‘kindness’ and ‘wellbeing’, when push comes to shove, they’re happy with existing inequalities, happy even to exacerbate them, happy with the underclass Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson created, happy with the status quo and all its injustices.

Because doing anything about any of those problems would mean them having to pay more tax on their $180K+ salaries, or on their property portfolios or family trusts, and that seems to be something which is simply unthinkable to them now.

Ardern has achieved a bit on child poverty this term but Covid may have reversed some of that.

The UNICEF report is timely – it should have reminded Ardern of her commitments on child poverty, and she will no doubt be reminded again through the campaign.

Three years ago:

This will be a government of transformation. It will lift up those who have been forgotten or neglected, it will take action on child poverty and homelessness…

Ardern managed only modest gains and some of those have been reversed by Covid.

Early in her first term she talked the transformation talk. We are waiting for a bold walk.

Labour wimped out on a number of major polices, like Kiwibuild and CGT, and underperformed on others like child poverty and homelessness.

Next term she won’t be able to blame National as much. She may not have Winston Peters holding her back. She may have the Greens pushing her for action.

“The Govt was afraid of the political backlash if it left Auckland in lockdown”

It looked to me like the Government was something like “afraid of the political backlash if it left Auckland in lockdown”, and appeasing Auckland is part of the reason for keeping the rest of the country in level 2 when there is no Covid cases anywhere else apart from a handful in Tokoroa.

But I don’t think the Government “is now letting the rest of NZ do it’s dirty work for it”.

Response from the rest of the country has been mixed.

Stuff: Auckland visitors welcomed back to Queenstown and Christchurch

Queenstown businesses say they are thrilled to welcome Auckland visitors back to the region after a quiet few weeks.

Air New Zealand had seven direct flights scheduled to land in Queenstown on Monday bringing thousands of visitors to the region.

Aucklanders rushed to book holidays in the resort following Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement that level-three lockdown, which prevented domestic travel from the city, would be lifted on Monday.

Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult said the arrival of Aucklanders back in Queenstown was fantastic, from an economic point of view.

“Auckland is our largest single market by a country mile, and we definitely need to keep our economy going as hard as we can.

“It’s great to see them here,” he said.

Some Aucklanders headed for Christchurch where Marissa Palmer, 34, said a small number of people were not following social distancing rules at Auckland Airport.

“They’re just simple rules … it’s not rocket science,” she said.

Simple rules? I’m not clear on what the current rules are.

Restrictions of people from Auckland like above Taupo running race example are obviously happening, and there are a lot of concerns about a surge in internal travel from Auckland around the country.

Actually Jacinda Ardern has asked Aucklanders not to attend mass gatherings elsewhere in the country, but in some cases this seems to be being ignored.

NZH: Aucklanders heading to Queenstown for tech conference

A conference being held in Queenstown this week includes at least one Aucklander as a guest, despite Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s call for people from the city to avoid mass gatherings.

It comes amid concern of Covid-19 spreading from Auckland, and with memories fresh of a significant cluster — linked to 39 cases — emerging from the World Hereford Conference in Queenstown in March.

The Morgo conference is being held at the Heritage Hotel on Thursday and Friday.

Having Aucklanders attending the conference appears to directly contravene Ardern’s plea on Sunday calling for people from the city to avoid mass gatherings.

“Please don’t attend a mass gathering, even if it is not in Auckland,” she said.

NZH: Aucklanders shouldn’t be going to Queenstown for conferences – Chris Hipkins

Health Minister Chris Hipkins says he is not comfortable with Aucklanders travelling to conferences in Queenstown and has called on the city’s residents to “do the right thing”.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins says he is not comfortable with Aucklanders travelling to conferences in Queenstown and has called on the city’s residents to “do the right thing”.

“We are asking Aucklanders to continue to take their alert level restrictions with them.”

Aren’t we more or less at the same alert level throughout New Zealand now?

It’s quite confusing with all of the country at alert level 2 but with some special sub-rules for Auckland.

The alert level restrictions in Auckland meant people should not be attending gatherings of more than 10 people in the city, he said.

“So if Aucklanders are travelling to other parts of the country the same rules should apply.”

The Government was asking for “goodwill” from Aucklanders, he said.

“We are asking for Aucklanders to play their part as they have done over the last three weeks in keeping the country safe.

“There is never going to be a 100 per cent enforceable system when it comes to these types of restrictions so we are asking people to do the right thing.”

It has been shown already that people bending and breaking rules will happen, so it’s a concern if the Government is relying on appeals to the public rather than rules.

This looks messy.

Peters attacks Labour

The Government lasted nearly three years lasted nearly three years trying to portray the three party arrangement as solid and working well together.

But with the election looming and the fear of failing to make the threshold rising Winston Peters is attacking both the Greens and Labour. This post is on the Green target.

NZ Herald: Winston Peters takes swipe at Labour over response

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters relaunched his election campaign at a brewery but instead of taking a swig, he took a swipe at his Government partners.

He wrapped up the morning visit by saying the Auckland outbreak of Covid-19 was because Labour ministers were in charge of the key areas of the response.

“We could have done better on Covid-19. That’s a fact. If we could compare ourselves with Taiwan, we haven’t done as well as we could have done. We let our guard down.”

“Too many things fell through the traps, or the holes so to speak, that were deliberately left there by the bureaucracy … The fact of the matter is that the Labour ministers are the only ones in charge of all that.”

“I’m pointing the blame, but we’ll never get anywhere if everyone thinks we’ve done the best job in the world. We haven’t done as well as we could have done.”

Peters seems to be trying to claiming credit for ‘we’ doing the best job in the world but Labour Ministers stuffing up.

Peters said there were mistakes made and “it’s better to own up to them” – though he sits around the Cabinet table and is in Zoom meetings with Labour ministers when many of the important decisions are made. He will be in a Cabinet meeting on Friday morning.

He said if NZ First MPs were in charge, they would have brought in the military much sooner.

“Don’t keep on gilding the lily and saying everyone’s fine when it wasn’t going fine.

“The testing wasn’t going on, the surveillance wasn’t going on, the oversight and scrutiny that should have been done by the military was not happening. And masks were not used.”

Similar criticisms have been made by others including National, but this is one coalition partner taking swings at another.

It is also worth pointing out that Peters is doing this now as he launches into campaign mmode, not while the decisions were being made – by the Cabinet he and other NZ First ministers were a part of.

In fact, Peters has implemented a “no mask, no ride” policy on his NZ First campaign bus – but it apparently doesn’t apply to the party’s leader or deputy leader Fletcher Tabuteau who climbed aboard with their faces uncovered.

Peters may have thought that Labour should have made the plebs wear masks but that shouldn’t apply to him.

But the pair did make the effort to scan CovidTracer QR codes.

Tabuteau logged into every business and Peters at least opened his app at the first venue, but didn’t appear to actually scan in.

A politician ‘rules for others, not for me’ trick.

Ardern has responded – It’s a ‘disservice’ to say New Zealand hasn’t done well with Covid-19, says Prime Minister

The Prime Minister has hit back at Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters for saying New Zealand was “gilding the lily” about its response to Covid-19.

Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand had done “exceptionally well”.

“I think we do a disservice to every single New Zealander whose been part of that team effort if we don’t acknowledge that.

“I think we need to take into account, relative to other countries, how well New Zealanders have done and the results that have been generated.”

Peters did take that into account in saying the Government had done relatively well, it was just the Labour part of the Government that had stuffed some things up.

I’ve seen quite a bit of speculation about how National may have managed Covid if they had been in Government, from much the same as Labour (which is probably close too the mark) to killing thousands of people in order to allow businesses to make money (from the type of people who said similar of National pre-Covid).

But if the Covid response was negotiated just after an election with Peters holding the balance of power how well would we have done?

We would have still probably done fairly well with a few mistakes.

Peters seems a bit annoyed that he and NZ First haven’t had a lot of influence in the Covid response, with Ardern and Labour ministers getting most of the attention coming up to an election, but that is largely because the Prime Minister led the response and Labour ministers held the key portfolios of Finance and Health.

The military was called in but Minister of Defence, NZ First MP Ron Mark, got little exposure for that.

The NZ First initiated and run Provincial Growth Fund was diverted into the much larger Covid Recovery Fund, which shifted the handing out from Shane Jones to Labour ministers.

But Peters is limited in how much he can attack the Government he is a part of.

He hasn’t yet targeted Ardern herself, and I think that’s unlikely as that would likely be a political fools errand.

Peters came into the current Government seemingly positioning himself as virtual Prime Minister, seeing his long experiencing easily overshadowing the inexperienced leader Ardern.

But Ardern has stepped up big time on the big issues, the Christchurch mosque murders, the Whakaari eruption and now Covid. She has been widely praised for her leadership, leaving Peters looking like a barely relevant and fading sidekick.

Peters will probably keep attacking Labour but without being able to go head to head against Ardern without great risk his past it’s prime brinkmanship may overshadow his statesmanship.

Peters has been out-leadered by Ardern, and he has another problem that may be insurmountable – Ardern represents a new generation of politics, while Peters is a cranky political grandfather with more grate than gravitas.

I think NZ First’s political future may be largely out of Peters hands. They seem to be largely reliant on whether voters decide for themselves whether to moderate Labour’s power – we haven’t had a one party majority under MMP – and whether voters desert or come back to National.

Covid still dominates the news and public concerns. Peters can’t compete with that.

Similar to last election the Greens have managed to grab attention by shooting themselves in both James Shaw’s feet. When Metiria Turei gambled and lost support for the Greens slid, but so did NZ First support when Ardern stepped up for Labour.

Peters never reached great heights in preferred Prime Minister polls but he now barely gets a mention.

And NZ First don’t have a plan B if plan Winston isn’t working. Shane Jones has never win an electorate so winning an election seems something he can’t even buy. Who is the NZ First deputy?

It could be a tough campaign for them.

PM furious over poor communication over Covid testing in Auckland

On Friday incorrect official advice was circulated which encouraged people South or West Auckland to have a Covid test.

This wasn’t corrected until Saturday, and the Prime Minister Jacinda Arxdern was reported to be furious.

But a bunch of people on social media seem to have been furious that Ardern was ‘repeatedly questioned’ on it.

The Government’s Unite Against Covid promoted this via their daily newsletter and social media:

Say yes to the test

Widespread testing is a critical part of our COVID-19 elimination strategy. COVID-19 tests are free and should be easy to access for everyone. We have more than 1,100 testing sites nationwide, including at most GPs.

If you’re in South or West Auckland, or if you have a greater risk of poor health outcomes if you were to get COVID-19, even if you don’t have symptoms, please have a test.

If you develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19, wherever you are, please call Healthline (0800 358 5453) or your doctor immediately and have a test.

The Spinoff describes it as:

Some alarmingly poor health communication went out over the weekend, leading to a furious response from the PM. The all-of-government Unite for Covid-19 group basically wrongly everyone in South and West Auckland to get a test, even if they didn’t have symptoms, in a message that stayed online for a full day.

NZ Herald: Incorrect message results in people queuing up for testing

Incorrect messaging telling people in West and South Auckland to get tested even if they don’t have symptoms has resulted in people queuing up at testing stations today.

That mistake resulted in queues of cars snaking out from a Covid-19 testing site in Massey West Auckland.

But Ardern said it had not been reported to her that testing sites have been overloaded.

A witness at a testing station in Massey, said cars were around the corner stretching onto Triangle Rd soon after the station opened at 8am today.

Another witness told the Herald the testing station was a lot busier than it was yesterday and the majority of people were wearing face masks.

United Against Covid said the advice had been removed ‘to avoid confusion’:

That’s a poor response.

RNZ: PM ‘incredibly angry’ over wrong call for South and West Auckland testing:

In a social media post, it said people who live in those areas, or who are at greater risk of poor health outcomes, should get themselves tested.

But at today’s Covid-19 briefing, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this was an oversimplification.

“That is not the ask coming from health officials currently … from what I understand of that message that has gone out, the detail of the message is correct, some of the topline headings were oversimplified and it is wrong.

“We’re working very hard now to deal with what’s that created within the community and we’re working very hard to correct that.”

She said was “incredibly angry” that it wasn’t clear and the government had to be “very direct in our asks”.

“There’s been an attempt to keep a message simple and it’s just been done badly.”

Jason Walls (NZ Herald): New Zealanders have every right to be ‘incredibly angry’ at the Government over incorrect Covid messaging

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is quite rightly “incredibly angry” at her officials for pushing out incorrect Covid-19 testing information.

But New Zealanders have every right to be incredibly angry at the Government for letting that official message remain unchanged for almost an entire day.

The fact that the stuff-up occurred in the first instance beggars belief.

The information affected roughly 700,000 people in South and West Auckland.

Ardern was “incredibly angry” about this “wrong” information being published on official channels, and rightly so.

She said she was told about the incorrect messaging late this morning and made it clear it needed to be fixed.

But the information was still up at almost 1.30pm.

Officials getting something this major so wrong erodes public trust in the Government.

People need to be able to rely on the Government for key information like this.

Ardern does get off the hook when it comes to the blame for how the stuff-up occurred.

She does not approve every single bit of Government messaging that goes out, she has officials for that.

In fact, she clearly shifted the blame to those officials when pressed about the issue – saying no ministers had uttered that information.

But Ardern needs to take responsibility for what happened next.

The incorrect post went up at roughly 5pm last night; it was reported on by most major news sites and made it to some Sunday newspapers as well.

Despite this, no formal correction notice was issued until the next day, according to Ardern.

And by formal correction notice, Ardern meant the All of Government communications team – the people in charge of the post – had notified newsrooms across the country, telling them the information was wrong.

The Herald, which ran the story that the Government was advising all people in South and West Auckland, received no such notice.

This is despite reporters seeking comment on the post.

In fact, Health Minister Chris Hipkins was interview by MediaWorks radio this morning and made no mention of the fact this critical bit of information was wrong.

Ardern revealed the information was incorrect at her 1pm press conference this afternoon.

Even then, she waited to be asked about the post rather than issuing the correction in her opening statement – a statement watched by hundreds of thousands of people each day.

Ardern said she had made it clear to the officials involved that they needed to fix the error.

Despite this, the post remained on the Unite Against Covid-19 Instagram page until almost 1.30pm.

Ardern should be furious at officials for this botch up – but New Zealanders should be equally as angry at the Government for not fixing the issue faster.

Was Ardern furious that the public was ‘misinformed’ and testing facilities were put under strain? Or because Government handling of this was criticised, and by association she got some poor PR?

On social media quite a few people seemed to be furious with journalists for highlighting the mistake to the Prime Minister.

To some it seems that Ardern is beyond reproach no matter what stuff-ups are made.

QT: more details on Covid isolation and border testing

More detail was given yesterday by Minister of Health Chris Hipkins and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Covid testing numbers for people in managed isolation and also border (airport and port) workers.

3. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Health: How many people in managed isolation have not had day-three tests since the week of 8 June?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Health): Mr Speaker, I thought the question was a bit longer than that. No—it’s been edited. The vast majority of people want to do the right thing and agree to get tested at day three and at day 12. So far, 20,065 day-three tests have been completed since 8 June. During that same time period, 19,473 day-12 tests have been completed, and there are currently 5,204 people in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ). There are some instances—[Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. I’ve warned members about that interjection which is a reflection on me and my responsibilities. Mr Goldsmith will withdraw and apologise.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: There are some instances where it’s not appropriate to test a person with a swab, such as young babies who are six months or younger. The number of people leaving managed isolation or quarantine without a day-three test has not been collated and reported in that way because before people can leave managed isolation they must return a negative day-12 test. I’m advised that only 15 adults have refused a day-12 test, and that means that they can be required to stay up to 28 days in managed isolation.

Dr Shane Reti: Is he really telling New Zealanders that the Government cannot count the number of people who entered managed isolation and subtract the number who were tested at day three?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: No, I’m saying that we don’t routinely measure the number of people who haven’t had day-three tests, because it’s not the most important consideration when it comes to our public health response. The key question that people should be asking is: “Are people being released from managed isolation at risk of taking COVID-19 into the community?” Because they get a day-12 negative test before they are released, they are not. With regards to those people who are in managed isolation, everybody who’s in managed isolation is treated as if they have COVID-19.

Dr Shane Reti: Does he agree with reports that thousands of people have not been tested at day three in managed isolation since 8 June?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The numbers simply don’t support that claim.

Dr Shane Reti: How many people in managed isolation have tested positive at day three, and how does that compare to the number who’ve tested positive at day 12?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I think the number that the member would be most interested in is that, of the people who have tested—there’s 14 people who have tested positive on the day-12 tests; of those, 12 people had a negative day-three test, only two of them didn’t have a day-three test. Those were people where they had their day-12 test shortly after we had introduced the mandatory requirements around the mandatory testing regime.

Dr Shane Reti: Have the majority of positive coronavirus tests in managed isolation been at day three and not at day 12?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes, that would appear to be the case, yes.

Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern: Can the member describe for the House the purpose of the day-three test from the Government’s perspective and a public health perspective, relative to the purpose of the day-12 test, which is primarily, of course, to ensure public safety?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The day-three test is primarily to ensure the people who have COVID-19 who are in a managed isolation and quarantine facility are getting the support that they need for that. There is very little risk to the public health from a positive day-three test because, as I’ve indicated, everybody who is managed isolation and quarantine is treated as if they have COVID-19, until such time as they get a negative day-12 test before they are released into the community.

Dr Shane Reti: If the majority of positive tests in managed isolation have been at day three, doesn’t that justify the importance of compulsory testing at day three?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The importance of compulsory testing at day 12 is to ensure COVID-19 doesn’t move out into the community. Day-three tests—which as the numbers have indicated, the vast majority of people are doing—help us to better serve the needs of the people who are in MIQ.

Dr Shane Reti: Does the modelling that the director-general used at a recent media stand-up to justify the current policy settings at the border require compulsory day-three testing; and if so, has the Government made serious border decisions on a modelling assumption that now turns out to be wrong?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I’m not sure I follow the question. Can I get the member to repeat the question?

Dr Shane Reti: Does the modelling that the director-general used at a recent media stand-up to justify the current policy settings at the border require compulsory day-three testing; and if so, has the Government made serious border decisions on a modelling assumption that now turns out to be wrong?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: No, and I do want to remind the member opposite that it was only three weeks ago he was accusing me and the Government of subjecting people to medical procedures in managed isolation and quarantine that they didn’t consent to.

Dr Shane Reti: Will he require testing in managed isolation to be compulsory at day three?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The current requirement is that it’s mandatory at day 12 before somebody is released, and I have no intention of changing that because the public health grounds to do so would not be strong enough.


4. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she agree with Professor Nick Wilson from Otago University, who said, “We must have had some failure at the border, it’s unlikely there could have been silent transmission for that long”; if not, why not?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): I agree with him that it is unlikely that there could have been silent transmission for that long, and the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) analysis supports that to date. However, that does not necessarily mean there has been a failure at the border. As I said on 15 July, when announcing our resurgence plan: “We only need to look to Victoria, New South Wales, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Korea to see examples of other places that, like us, had the virus under control at a point in time only to see it emerge again. This does not mean anyone has failed. It means perfection in the response to a virus and a pandemic is just not possible.” There are a number of ways the cluster originating at Americold could have entered New Zealand. To date, we have not established the source of the cluster, but we are working hard to investigate all possible options.

Hon Judith Collins: Does she agree with Professor Des Gorman, who, following the recent revelations that 63 percent of border staff were not routinely tested, said that the community “deserves better than such a casual approach to surveillance to possible infectivity among the border workforce”; if not, why not?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member is again trying to imply, without any evidence, that that is the source of the outbreak. I again point to the fact that the vast majority—the vast majority—now of our border staff, our managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) staff, those at ports, have been tested, and to date we have not found the source of this outbreak. [Interruption] And for the member who is pitching in, the ESR evidence demonstrates that the genome sequencing suggests that the source of this outbreak was in very close proximity to the first cases, thus demonstrating that it’s not a matter of there having been, necessarily, a case that was not picked up.

Hon Dr Megan Woods: Further to the member’s answer there, can the member confirm that the—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! The Minister—the Prime Minister, in this particular case.

Hon Dr Megan Woods: Sorry. Can the Prime Minister confirm that the genomic sequencing has not formed a link with any case coming out of a manged isolation facility or indeed any other worker at the border—that that link to the B.1.1.1. genomic clade has not been established?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, I can confirm that of those tests we’ve been able to run, we have not been able to demonstrate a link between the genome sequencing of this cluster, which is a B.1.1.1. cluster, and those to date, where we’ve had the ability to test, who have come through our MIQ.

Hon Judith Collins: When did her Government ask the Ministry of Health to work through a protocol which prioritises regular testing for staff who are more front-facing and at higher risk, and did the Government ask that the strategy make weekly testing mandatory for front-facing border staff?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, as I’ve referred to in this House on many occasions, we had a testing strategy that was endorsed by Cabinet on 22 June. It included reference to regular asymptomatic surveillance testing, which included, for example, customs, biosecurity, aviation security staff, and front-line staff at ports. Also, I had further, on 6 July, an appendix on the testing strategy in another Cabinet paper, which talked about proactive surveillance testing, including asymptomatic testing, and regular health checks of all border-facing workers—for example, air crew, customs, biosecurity, aviation security staff, and front-line staff at ports. So both on 22 June and 6 July.

Hon Judith Collins: Does she agree with Professor Nick Wilson, who said that “to prevent such outbreaks again, the Government needs to further improve the quality of its border management yet again.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I cannot tell you whether or not the member is quoting from some of the original statements from Nick Wilson, but I note her first quote was actually right at the beginning of the outbreak—so, I believe, somewhere in the order of 13 August or thereabouts. Obviously, an enormous amount of work has been done, sweeping across with surveillance testing of asymptomatic workers at our front line, and has not demonstrated a link between the outbreak at Americold’s site and our border staff. So the member can continue, of course, this line of inquiry, but I would say to the member that no one wants to find the source more than we do. It helps us make sure that we have got all of the periphery of this cluster. But it is not evidence based to imply it has come from one particular origin when we have not defined that as yet.

Hon Grant Robertson: Does the Prime Minister agree with Dr Shane Reti that it would “be almost impossible” to have 100 percent watertightness at the border, and “I don’t think anyone in anyone’s hands anywhere around the world has done that.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Dr Reti is correct because, as I’ve said, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Australia—places that have managed to get their cases down low, although none have managed to do it for as long as we have—have all experienced resurgence. I note Vietnam reached 99 days and has been highly praised for their proactive and rigorous regime. They are yet to determine the source of their outbreak either. We will continue looking, but it is simply not fair to say that this has been illustrative of a particular failure when there is no link to our borders or anywhere else at this stage.

Hon Judith Collins: When she said yesterday, “we’ve asked the Ministry of Health to work through a protocol”—[Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order! Order! I know there were two members involved in that conversation, and I can’t quite work out how it’s coming through the sound system, but it is. Can I ask Mr Seymour and Mr Shaw just to be quiet. Thank you.

Hon Judith Collins: Thank you, Mr Speaker. When she said yesterday, “we’ve asked the Ministry of Health to work through a protocol, a matrix, which prioritises more regular testing for those staff who are more front-facing and at higher risk.”, how does that differ from the testing strategy announced nine weeks ago on 23 June, which said the same thing?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Thank you for finally acknowledging that the Government did ask and seek for asymptomatic testing, because that is true, and I have produced countless evidence in the House of that. What I’ve also demonstrated is that when we originally had that working through a voucher system, we could not monitor it adequately. We moved to pop-up sites at the airport on 10 July and 16 July. Then those numbers were not adequate, and we were seeking again to scale up the border testing and had every expectation that our surveillance testing, as contained in the strategy of 22 June, would have been rolled out. We’re now working with Health to get the support of other agencies across airports and ports across the country to make sure we have that ongoing surveillance testing. I would say again, though, to the member, that we still, as yet, do not have evidence that this is where the cluster at Americold, which we have not traced any further back than 31 July, at a cool store facility in Mount Wellington—we have not as yet determined where it came from.

Hon Judith Collins: Has her Government ensured yet that border workers are getting tested weekly?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I identified yesterday, we’ve had a first sweep of staff that has included both those that you would consider at higher risk, because, roughly speaking—280 or so agency staff just at Auckland Airport alone that would be considered higher risk. There are then some that are further back that we would still want to be part of ongoing surveillance. They were part of our two weeks of sweeping through. We’ve started that again. We expect that will happen over the next fortnight again, and then, from there, we’ll have a regime that means those who are more frequently interfacing, potentially, with at-risk individuals will be tested more frequently than those who are not considered at risk but we’d still want to be part of asymptomatic surveillance testing.

Hon Judith Collins: Does she agree that Part 3, clause 18, of the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Maritime Border) Order, which deals with crew of non-departing ships who arrive in New Zealand by air, should be tightened to require mandatory testing of those replacement crews after their arrival in New Zealand?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Those crews are directed to go directly to their ships. If the member wants to stop the ability for imports and exports, that is a matter for her. We have a health order that very carefully manages the safety of our seafarers and our port workers. If anyone is to have any time in New Zealand, they must quarantine. This is an arrangement for those who are departing a departing ship.

Hon Judith Collins: So is the Prime Minister happy for such crew to fly into Auckland Airport and then fly to Wellington Airport to then board a ship without being tested?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The order is very specific about it being crew who are leaving directly, or who are coming into port and then leaving directly to their home country. That is what those orders are designed for. Of course we have regimes in place that mean people should not be having contact, outside of those arrangements, with others.


6. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Health: When he said he hadn’t read the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Testing Strategy for staff at the border, why had he not read it?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Health): The Government testing strategy is the strategy decided by Cabinet. The document that the member refers to was prepared before I became the Minister of Health, and informed the Cabinet paper on testing which was considered by Cabinet on Monday 22 June—also before I became the Minister of Health. Cabinet took decisions at that meeting, and at subsequent meetings, that went beyond the initial Ministry of Health strategy, including on the issue of asymptomatic testing. It’s the Government’s approved testing strategy that I have been focused on the implementation of. Though I am a diligent and conscientious reader, I have not read every document the Ministry of Health prepared before I became the Minister.

Dr Shane Reti: Was this an important document for the Minister to read?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I think the member, once again, should have listened to the answers before reading pre-scripted supplementary questions. As I indicated, the document was prepared before I became the Minister and informed Cabinet’s approved testing strategy. Of course, as a member of Cabinet, I read that document even before I became the Minister.

Dr Shane Reti: Does he agree with the strategy recommendation that testing of all border-facing staff is not viable?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: No. The advice at the time—and bearing in mind that the Government did get advice that there would be some difficulties around implementing that—was that we needed to find ways to get past those difficulties and make sure that that testing strategy was implemented, and that’s what we have done.

Dr Shane Reti: Have all border-facing staff, including staff at managed isolation facilities, been tested for coronavirus, and have they all got their results?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes. In terms of the managed isolation, yes. In terms of those front-facing airport workers that are at higher risk, yes. In terms of the port workers that are at higher risk, yes. Has absolutely everybody who has been at the port, for example, been tested? The vast majority of them have been. There will still be some where they may have moved on, for example, or we may not have been able to get in touch with them. That would be a very small number of people. About 13,000 people in the overall categories that I just mentioned have been tested over the last two weeks, and a second sweep of testing those people is happening again now.

Dr Shane Reti: Will it be compulsory for all border-facing staff, including staff at managed isolation facilities, to be tested weekly?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Not necessarily. The Government is currently doing a second sweep of everybody. By the end of that second sweep we will release a schedule that will set out how frequently people in different roles need to be tested. That will be based on a risk assessment, so that the lowest risk people are tested less frequently and the higher risk people are tested more frequently.

Dr Shane Reti: How infrequently could low-risk people be tested?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Those decisions have not yet been made.

Dr Shane Reti: When he said last week that staff testing failures were reported to him but were not facility-specific, why was the Jet Park, a high-risk quarantine facility, not reported separately?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I reject the first part of the question; that’s not what I said last week.


From Question 4 last Wednesday (19 August):

4. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Health: Did he receive reports on coronavirus testing of staff at Jet Park Hotel, Auckland; if so, from what date?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Health): Yes. I’ve had many conversations with officials regarding testing at managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities since becoming Minister of Health. In general, reports and advice were not facility-specific and covered all of the sites. It’s important to note that testing for Jet Park staff has been available since 26 March, when that facility was first stood up. On 22 July, I was advised that rolling testing was being implemented at MIQ facilities, and had commenced at the Jet Park in Auckland and Christchurch on Friday, 10 July. This was the first written report I received specifically describing the testing of Jet Park staff. In addition, as late as 11 August—the day before the current outbreak—my office was advised the programme of testing of asymptomatic MIQ and border workers had been ramped up to commence weekly testing for staff at the quarantine high-risk facilities in Auckland Jet Park and Christchurch, and fortnightly testing for staff working in managed isolation low-risk facilities. Of course, by the time I had the opportunity to read that and ask questions about that, we were already dealing with the current cluster.

Dr Shane Reti: How many reports or updates did he receive indicating incomplete weekly testing of staff at Jet Park from the date he was told they were being tested weekly?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I did not receive a facility by facility breakdown of the testing of staff.

Dr Shane Reti: Given he said yesterday that several weeks ago, the Ministry of Health notified him in writing that all staff at Jet Park were being tested weekly, when did he relay that information to Cabinet, if at all?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The 22 July memo that I was referring to was specifically provided in the context of the Cabinet committee meeting that was happening that morning. They were the talking points that I was given by Health for that meeting.

Dr Shane Reti: When did he relay the information on incomplete weekly testing of all staff at Jet Park to Cabinet, if at all?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I think if the member had listened to my last question, it would be very evident that it was on 22 July I reported that to the relevant Cabinet committee.

Dr Shane Reti: Can I confirm that on 22 July, he notified the Cabinet committee that all staff at Jet Park were being tested weekly and that there was incomplete weekly testing?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: No, I think I have literally just told the member what I told Cabinet on 22 July—that I was advised that rolling testing was being implemented at MIQ facilities and had commenced at the Jet Park in Auckland and Christchurch on Friday, 10 July.

Dr Shane Reti: What is the first date that he received Jet Park – specific testing information?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: It would have been within the last week, in the context of the investigations around this current cluster.