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Morning Briefing June 3: Life at Level 1 beckons

New Zealand could find itself at Alert Level 1 as early as next week after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revised the Government’s timeline for making the big move yesterday.

Jacinda Ardern Source: Getty

With no new confirmed cases of Covid-19 for 11 days – and just one active case left in the country – Cabinet will now review New Zealand’s alert levels this coming Monday.

Some senior MPs, including Ms Ardern’s coalition partner Winston Peters, are pushing for an immediate move to Level 1, although that’s not a view generally shared by the scientific community.

The Prime Minister says there’s still some concern in those circles over the asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19. 

However, the progression to Level 1 can’t come soon enough for many businesses, including those in the main cities’ CBD areas, where foot traffic – and spending – is well down.

Queen Street, Auckland (file picture). Source: istock.com

With employees from many large companies still working from home, some stores in Auckland’s CBD are operating at 70 per cent below normal. 

Ms Ardern is expected to shed some light on what life at Level 1 will look like later today.

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No quarantine for protesters

Reaction to the large crowds gathered for Auckland’s Black Lives Matter protest earlier this week appears to be one of the catalysts for bringing forward New Zealand’s alert level timeline.

With thousands of people standing shoulder to shoulder for that event, Prime Minister Ardern says the protest was “a clear breach” of Level 2 rules. 

However, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says those who took part in the protest won’t have to quarantine for 14 days as some other experts have suggested. And Police Minister Stuart Nash says he understands there won’t be any prosecutions of protesters for breaking Level 2 rules.

An organiser of the Black Lives Matter protest in Christchurch says he’s still standing by his decision to help create the event. 

An “unholy production”?

With tensions still rising in the US following the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd in police custody, President Donald Trump has threatened to deploy the military to quell ongoing riots.

He followed up that threat with a photo opportunity the New Yorker has described as an “unholy production”

Holding up a Bible “like a product on a home-shopping network”, President Trump stood outside the historic St John’s church near the White House, after authorities cleared peaceful protesters from the area - including two Australian journalists who were bashed live on air.

The staged visit was sharply criticised by the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

Joe Biden has also condemned the dispersing of protesters for a photo opportunity and has vowed to address institutional racism should he win the presidential election in November.

House prices ‘on a cliff’s edge’

Quotable Value says house prices are showing the first signs of fragility, with the residential property market on the brink of a material decline for the first time in nearly 12 years.

They warn the market is “teetering on a cliff’s edge” with the question no longer being if house prices will fall, but by how much.

They say there’s a disconnect developing between vendors and purchasers, with a gap between what price sellers are expecting and what buyers are prepared to pay. 

Meanwhile, in other housing news, landlords have been given five more months to meet the Healthy Homes standards that will cover rental property requirements like heating, insulation and ventilation.

The original deadline for compliance was July 1, but that’s been extended to December 1 in the wake of the Covid-19 shutdown. 

Govt reveals free job training details

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has revealed the industries that will benefit from the free trades training announced in the Budget.

The Government is making job training for some industries free from July 1 and says they were chosen based on those that are expected to be hard hit by Covid-19.

How flush will you be at 65?

For the first time, KiwiSaver statements will estimate your balance at retirement and what that will look like as a weekly income.

Financial Markets Authority investor capability manager Gillian Boyes says Kiwis have been able to see their predicted balances for some time through various tools, but people haven’t been using them.

“So, we thought if we put it straight on the statement, they can see their future right in front of them,” she says.

Other news of note this morning:

Southern Cross Travel Insurance says it’s halving its number of full-time employees due to the shutdown of international travel. 

A student who was called out for posing in blackface for a Snapchat photo has left Auckland's Westlake Girls High School, the college confirms.

Dozens of engineering jobs are on the line with current border restrictions preventing foreign ships from docking in Nelson. 

New Zealand's domestic Super Rugby competition is introducing a handful of key rule changes.

1 NEWS can reveal just how widely the official NZ COVID Tracer app is being used. (Spoiler alert: It’s not much.)

If your hands are suffering from being washed and sanitised all the time, you’re not alone – so Seven Sharp’s investigated how to cope with the pandemic-induced dermatitis.

And Hayley Holt has returned to TVNZ’s Breakfast, thanking viewers for their support after she lost her baby. 

And finally...

Laura Daniel at Crystal Mountain Source: Seven Sharp

With Kiwis forced to look closer to home for tourist attractions in the age of Covid-19, we’ve all been discovering a few hidden gems - or crystals, as it were – in our own backyard.

Seven Sharp’s Laura Daniel paid a visit to a crystal-themed fun park in west Auckland this week and was so taken with the “Disneyland of the west”, she’s even given them their own catchy ‘90s theme tune