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Morning Briefing June 17: Border 'oversight' pierces NZ's Covid-19 confidence

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says “expectations have not been met” following revelations New Zealand’s two new cases of Covid-19 weren’t subjected to essential health checks before leaving their managed isolation. 

Source: Getty

With the pandemic still raging overseas, the news that two cases have been imported into New Zealand wasn’t altogether surprising yesterday – but the revelation that the two women hadn’t been tested for Covid-19 before being granted a compassionate exemption to leave quarantine early certainly dented the country’s swelling confidence in eliminating the virus. 

Last night, Ms Ardern used one of her signature Facebook live videos to say the circumstances around the new cases weren’t acceptable.

That sentiment was shared by Auckland University Professor of Medicine Des Gorman, who told Seven Sharp the decision to allow anyone to leave quarantine early was “a complete oversight”.

The Government has now suspended all compassionate exemptions for travellers until it gets assurances from the Ministry of Health that their procedures are more robust.

Meanwhile, health authorities have also confirmed two teenagers who were granted compassionate exemption from isolation to attend a funeral in Hamilton broke the rules by failing to return to quarantine afterwards. The pair have since been located. 

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Health system’s major check-up

A major review into New Zealand's health and disability system recommends scrapping district health board elections and slashing the number of boards around the country.

Those are just two of the proposals put forward in Heather Simpson’s comprehensive Health and Disability System Review released yesterday.

The report found the health system is under "serious stress" and isn’t serving people with disabilities well.

It also noted Māori health outcomes are significantly worse than those for other New Zealanders and called for a Māori health authority to be created as an independent agency. The full report can be found here

Reactions to the review flooded in all day yesterday – The Spinoff has rounded up what health experts made of the recommendations here

Rental tide turning

Rental properties in New Zealand are beginning to shift from a landlords’ market to a tenants’ one. For the first time in more than a decade, rental prices are showing a decline.

A lack of international tourists and students has led to a glut in apartments and other properties in places like Auckland and Queenstown, with investors turning Air BnBs into longer-term rentals.

For the first time in a long time, renters can negotiate their agreements, with some receiving rent drops of 5-10 per cent.

Further firearms changes

The Government has revealed a new independent agency will be set up to oversee firearms, a function that has sat with police until now.

New Zealand First had been pushing for the independent authority to deal with licensing and administration.

It comes as the second round of gun reforms continue through Parliament following the Christchurch terrorist attack.

Parliament’s playground squabble

The children's playground at Parliament is being called a “monument to extravagance” after it ran significantly over budget.

The playground’s total spend is currently sitting at $572,000, with $243,000 of that devoted to a slide. National MP Nick Smith says the price tag is an “embarrassment”.  

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s playcentres have been given an urgent funding boost of $3.7 million to stop 100 of them closing their doors this year.

Playcentre Aotearoa told 1 NEWS of its financial struggles in May, saying job losses and centre closures were likely. 

Eye banks struggling

The New Zealand National Eye Bank is struggling more than ever to fill eye tissue orders following the Covid-19 lockdown.

Unlike other organ transplants, the sight-restoring operation was postponed in most cases during the lockdown along with other non-urgent surgeries.

That prompted the Eye Bank to stop collecting donations for several weeks and means people hoping to have their vision restored are now having to wait even longer.

Other news of note this morning:

A cheap and widely available steroid is being labelled a breakthrough in the treatment of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, a bleach being promoted by a New Zealand website as a "miracle" cure for Covid-19 is a potent acid that can rust steel within hours.

United States President Donald Trump has signed an executive order introducing several police reforms.

Auckland’s Watercare is using emergency powers to pull a further 15 million litres of water a day from the Waikato River to combat the region’s drought.

And Air New Zealand is resuming passenger flights between Auckland and Shanghai from next week.

And finally...

Belinda Todd and Jodie Rimmer in a scene from Melody Rules Source: 1 NEWS

Ah, Melody Rules. It’s been 27 years since it first graced our screens and – rightly or wrongly – it’s still remembered as “the worst sitcom of all time”.

As Seven Sharp continues to mark 60 years of TV in New Zealand, they chat to one of the stars of Melody Rules, Jodie Rimmer, to ask, was it really that bad? (Short answer: Yes.)