Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has denied her coalition Government is falling apart following the derailment of Auckland’s $6 billion light rail project.
With the coalition parties unable to reach an agreement on a preferred proposal, the project is now being shelved until after the election.
As RNZ reports, Labour and Green MPs are now venting their frustrations at NZ First blocking their flagship policies.
While Transport Minister Phil Twyford says the party has “different priorities and different principles than us”, Greens co-leader James Shaw says NZ First isn’t acting in good faith and are breaching the coalition agreement by axing the light rail project.
The Herald reports the Prime Minister is shrugging off claims the Government is “tearing itself apart” over the issue.
Ms Ardern says hers is an MMP Government and “this just happens to be one [area] where we were unable to form a consensus”.
Meanwhile, NZ First has also left business owners frustrated after putting the brakes on proposed changes to commercial leases, forcing Labour to turn to National for support for the bill.
NZ First leader Winston Peters denies he’s blocking the changes, saying, “We’re just making sure the policy is a sound, commercial proposition in fairness to the contractual laws in New Zealand.”
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Shake-up for Covid testing
The onset of the flu season and a previous directive to test anyone with respiratory symptoms for Covid-19 has seen a surge in Kiwis lining up at community testing stations this week.
More than 9000 Covid-19 tests were carried out on Tuesday and some DHBs have been struggling to keep up with the sheer volume and deliver test results on time.
However, RNZ reports Covid-19 testing for every person with a cough or cold symptom has now been dropped by the Ministry of Health.
Meanwhile, Kiwis overseas say they’ve noticed a rise in hostility towards those making the decision to return home in the wake of new Covid-19 cases being caught at the border.
Some people online are calling for flights into the country to be scrapped completely.
1 NEWS reporter Kristin Hall, who’s covered the recent quarantine issues, says those returning Kiwis don’t deserve to be attacked by keyboard warriors.
Here, she writes about her dealings with those involved, saying, “These are New Zealanders who want to keep Covid-19 out of the community as much as everyone else.”
Prisoners given right to vote
A bill reinstating voting rights to some prisoners passed in Parliament last night – but not without controversy.
Prisoners serving sentences of less than three years will now be allowed to vote in this year’s election after Parliament partially removed the blanket ban put on prisoner voting rights in 2010.
However, there were confusing scenes as the Greens proposed to extend voting eligibility to all prisoners.
Labour and NZ First voted down the move, however National voted with the Greens for that particular amendment.
Justice Minister Andrew Little called the move “mindless politics” and said the anomaly would be corrected.
Jobs cut at St John Ambulance
A $30 million financial hole due to Covid-19 disruption will force St John Ambulance to cull 100 jobs.
As 1 NEWS revealed earlier this month, the organisation has seen a significant drop in income and was not eligible for the Government's Covid-19 wage subsidy.
CEO Peter Bradley says jobs will now go from all areas of the organisation, including his executive team – and he can’t rule out cuts to the frontline ambulance service.
OCR remains unchanged
The Reserve Bank has held the cash rate at a record low 0.25 per cent and is urging banks to continue reducing mortgage interest rates.
Despite a rosier economic picture because of an earlier than expected return to Alert Level 1, Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr is leaving the door open for further reductions and other moves to stabilise the economy during the pandemic.
Other news of note this morning:
Commuter chaos is set to continue in Wellington this morning after a mechanical fault caused delays and cancellations on several train services last night.
Waikato-Tainui iwi leaders will meet with Auckland councillors today to discuss the region’s water woes.
Three more Mongols gang leaders have been arrested following police raids earlier in the week, while police have busted an alleged money laundering syndicate they say is tied to the Comanchero motorcycle gang.
A new report predicts Hawke's Bay could transform into a desert in 30 years if nothing is done to stop climate change.
Gemma McCaw has retired from the Black Sticks for a second time, saying the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics was a big reason for her decision.
Confectionery giant Nestle is changing the name of its Allen's brand Red Skins and Chicos lollies because of their racial overtones, while Pascall says it’s also changing the name of its Eskimo lollies.
And New Zealand’s oldest free-standing toilet looks set for high-level heritage protection.
It’s not a great time to be a statue.
But while monuments representing controversial historical figures are being pulled down around the world, Seven Sharp’s Laura Daniel says there are some New Zealand statues that should remain untouched.
Check out her guide to the statues that have no problematic history and are guilty only of continuing to promote a movie from 2007.