Morning Briefing June 2: Anti-racism message competes with Covid concerns

The anti-racism message behind New Zealand’s Black Lives Matter marches has had to jostle for attention with high-profile concerns about what the gatherings mean for the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Protesters march down Queen Street Source: Getty

As thousands of Kiwis took to the streets yesterday afternoon to protest police brutality and racism towards black people in the wake of the death of American man George Floyd, two political party leaders questioned the nature of the events at Alert Level 2. 

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters wrote on Twitter that “our team of five million are being let down by a small group who think they know better than everyone else”, while Act Party leader David Seymour says the protests are “a slap in the face” for businesses who complied with Covid-19 prevention efforts.

Both politicians say the rules on gatherings should now be removed.

“If the authorities allow [the protests] to occur, then we should be at level 1 tomorrow,” Mr Peters says.

Meanwhile, microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles says she was “absolutely gutted” to see protesters not taking Covid-19 precautions.

She’s suggesting those who attended the marches should self-isolate for the next 14 days. 

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Violence spreads in US

New Zealand’s anti-racism marches follow multiple demonstrations across the US (and around the world) with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets to protest police killings of black people.

While many of those protests have been peaceful, they’ve been overshadowed by violent unrest in several cities. 

Those riots have seen National Guard soldiers deployed, transport systems shut down and curfews put in place, with protests close to the White House also seeing President Donald Trump rushed to his bunker at one point. 

And as the US enters another day of demonstrations, CNN reports those who are behind the violent protests are becoming “more diverse”.

They say footage suggests some civil protests demanding justice are being marred by agitators who don’t appear to be protesting for George Floyd.

They report the FBI is currently tracking groups from both the extreme right and left over their involvement in the unrest. 

Health experts in the US have also expressed concern that protests could lead to a fresh wave of Covid-19 cases, however protesters Time magazine spoke to say they are taking the risk because “either way we’re still being killed”.

Housing asking prices still high

The Covid-19 crisis may not be dampening property prices as originally speculated.

New data released by this morning shows asking prices in seven New Zealand regions are at record highs.

Spokesperson Vanessa Taylor says there’s been no backwards step in demand either, with last month’s traffic to their site on a par with February, when browsing is typically at its peak.

While new listings and total stock were down nationally in May, believes supply might be recovering faster than expected. 

Weather wreaks long weekend havoc

Some holidaymakers faced a long journey home yesterday as heavy rain caused flash flooding in the Coromandel region.

While the main route through the peninsula reopened late last night, the wild weather has hampered efforts to rescue a stricken boat in Whangamatā Harbour.

The commercial longliner is listing with its 500-litre diesel fuel tank leaking into the sea, however council officials are confident the light fuel will disperse with the heavy rain and winds. 

Meanwhile, heavy rainfall in Auckland over the long weekend has done little to relieve the region’s parched dams.

Water storage in the Hunua and Waitakere ranges is still 30 per cent below normal levels. 

New Zealand TV turns 60

Yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of television in New Zealand and it’s safe to say much has changed since those early broadcasts.

The country’s first ever television broadcast has since been taped over, but it lasted three hours, was only available in Auckland and featured an episode of Robin Hood.

Other news of note this morning:

In case you missed yesterday’s Queen’s Birthday honours, the full list of New Zealand’s latest recipients can be found here.

Education institutions are investigating measures to allow international students to safely return to NZ next month, including the possibility of chartered aircraft.

Stuff reports guests at a Wellington hotel were stunned to discover they’re sharing their accommodation space with a large group of film-workers direct from Los Angeles, a Covid-19 hotspot. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has revealed a vote on constitutional amendments that could extend his rule to 2036. 

Internal documents show the deaths of six kea following a 1080 drop in Otago this year were the result of a “perfect storm”. 

And police have turned to the public to help identify a Wellington man who’s been hit by a car and cannot remember who he is

And finally...

The NRL made its comeback following a lengthy Covid-19-induced hiatus over the weekend, but the action on the field was frequently undermined by the cardboard cut-out crowds off it.

For the princely sum of $22, fans have been able to get a cardboard cut-out of themselves placed in an empty stadium seat - and a couple of those cut-outs have already raised eyebrows.

Boris Johnson’s beleaguered advisor Dominic Cummings popped up at Bankwest Stadium, before things took a grim turn when the image of notorious serial killer Harold Shipman turned up at the Panthers vs Knights game. 

Not to be outdone in terms of questionable cardboard fans of the NRL, former star of the game Matty Johns also ran a superimposed digital image of Hitler amongst the cut-out crowds as part of a segment for his TV show.

He’s since apologised for the “poor taste” gag.