Morning Briefing Sept 15: Govt decides Level 1 still a step too far

New Zealand is remaining at its current Covid-19 alert levels for at least another week after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said a shift to Level 1 is still too risky.


Auckland’s Level 2.5 status is now due for review on September 21, with the rest of New Zealand expected to move to Level 1 next week if no cases of the virus emerge in other parts of the country.

Ardern says Ministry of Health modelling suggests there’s still a 25 per cent chance of Covid-19 cases spreading outside of Auckland. 

Labour's coalition partner NZ First disagrees with the decision, saying the rest of the country should be moved to Level 1 now.

National’s Judith Collins also believes restrictions in the South Island have “gone on too long” and says the Government’s decisions around alert levels are “starting to look very political”.

There are also fears an extra week at the current alert levels will cause more harm to already struggling businesses

Cabinet’s alert level decision comes as one new case of Covid-19 was confirmed in the community yesterday.

Eighty-nine people have also been identified as close contacts of a healthcare worker who attended classes at a North Shore gym before testing positive for the virus. 

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Transport rules eased

Meanwhile, the Government has slightly eased the restrictions on public transport and airline passengers, saying services can now be filled without the need for social distancing. Mask use is still compulsory for Alert Level 2 and above.

Ardern says the move “will make a real difference to Air New Zealand and those parts of the country seeking increased numbers of visitors”.

Air New Zealand promptly released thousands of cheap flights “to say thank you”, while Jetstar announced it will resume domestic services from Thursday. 

But while some are celebrating the easing of travel restrictions, there are concerns a potential spike in travellers leaving Auckland could wind up stalling plans to move the rest of the country to Level 1. 

Ross steps down from seat

Independent MP Jami-Lee Ross says he’s no longer contesting the Botany seat at the election. The former National Party MP says he will instead go on the list of the Advance NZ party.

Ross believes his Advance NZ co-leader Billy Te Kahika will win in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate, which would see their party crossing the one seat threshold.

Labour’s Kelvin Davis currently holds the Te Tai Tokerau seat.

Six men arrested

Six men in their 60s and 70s will appear in court again next month after police charged them in relation to historical sexual offending at a well-known school for underprivileged and vulnerable boys.

The serious offences allegedly took place from the 1970s through to the early 2000s at Auckland’s Dilworth School.

School leaders yesterday apologised to former students, with Dilworth Trust Board chairman Aaron Snodgrass saying the school was “truly sorry” for what allegedly occurred.

Police say 17 victims have been identified so far and are calling for anyone with information to come forward.

Calls to change NZ’s name

The Māori Party has announced a policy that would see New Zealand's name changed to Aotearoa by 2026.

When asked about the proposal yesterday, Jacinda Ardern said the Government has “not explored” the idea of changing New Zealand’s name, but she’s “encouraged” to see more people referring to the country as Aotearoa.  

The Māori Party’s pledge to also guarantee Te Reo Māori and Māori history as part of core curriculum subjects in schools comes as the country again marks Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week).

Yesterday’s celebrations began with TVNZ’s Breakfast crew dancing along to a te reo version of Earth, Wind and Fire’s September and also saw New Zealand’s first Māori Supreme Court Justice, Joe Williams, lead a waiata practice at the Supreme Court in Wellington.

Nats reveal education plans

National has released its education policy with a promise to invest $630 million in learning support and teacher aides for schools if elected to government.

The overall $1.9 billion education package also includes creating more kura kaupapa, integrated, special character and partnership schools by 2023.

National has already promised to scrap teachers' annual registration fees, which would cost taxpayers $16 million a year.

Other news of note this morning:

- An overwhelming number of New Zealanders think the Government should be charging water bottling companies a fee, according to TVNZ’s Vote Compass tool. 

- The Green Party is promising to push for Fair Pay Agreements across retail, cleaning and security jobs to increase pay, should it be part of the next Government.

- Images from the Christchurch terrorist's video appear in a new docu-drama on Netflix, but it won't be blocked from view in New Zealand.

- Police have apologised for letting a child who was under a Family Court Order leave the country.

- A large segment of an Arctic ice shelf has shattered, which scientists say is further evidence of rapid climate change in the region.

- Jacinda Ardern says a clash with the election won’t be an issue for any Bledisloe Cup Tests scheduled in New Zealand next month.

- And if it’s an ad, say it’s an ad - that's the warning to social media influencers as strict advertising rules come into effect

And finally...

Justin Timberlake and Norris Aitken Source: Seven Sharp

Retirement villages have had a tough year in the wake of Covid-19 – but one Auckland facility isn’t letting the pandemic get them down.

Staff and residents at the Bert Sutcliffe Retirement Village recently filmed a shot-for-shot remake of Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop The Feeling music video, so Seven Sharp went along to meet the stars of the show.

They discovered ‘Justin Timberlake Snr’ didn’t want the lead role – but even he can’t help tapping those toes once the beat kicks in...