Morning Briefing Sept 17: Grieving family makes plea to public

A New Zealand whānau is grieving for the second time in as many weeks after losing another loved one to Covid-19.

Nigel Huirama Te Hiko. Source: 1 NEWS

Respected historian Nigel Te Hiko, 54, has died at Waikato Hospital, nearly two weeks after his brother Alan lost his own battle with the virus.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed Te Hiko’s death yesterday and delivered a statement on behalf of his family. 

“Coronavirus is so real. Be vigilant and cautious,” it read. The family is also pleading with Kiwis to stay home and seek advice if they’re sick.

It comes as another school closes its doors after a positive Covid-19 test for one of its students.

Chapel Downs Primary in South Auckland says the student was at school for a short time on Monday morning before testing positive for the virus. The school is due to reopen next week.

Treasury opens the books

The economic fallout from Covid-19 was laid bare yesterday as Treasury released the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update (PREFU).

It showed New Zealand’s near-term economic outlook is “less negative” than previously expected, but the medium-term outlook has deteriorated.

Unemployment is now expected to peak at 7.8 per cent in the March 2022 quarter, which is two percent down on May’s forecast.

Treasury is also predicting a dip in house prices next year, however RNZ reports real estate agents and buyers are already shrugging off those forecasts.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson says the unaudited Crown accounts to June 2020 showed "a rebounding economy” with core Crown tax revenue “indicating more activity than expected".

However, National claims Labour is trying to sugar coat some very bleak numbers. Leader Judith Collins says the economic update makes for “very dire reading”, adding the Government has “a lot to answer for” with its “yo-yoing” lockdowns.

NZ First leader Winston Peters says the PREFU is a “wake up call for New Zealanders“ and reinforces the need for experienced hands in government. 

Stuff has rounded up what the economists think of the PREFU here, with the consensus being the effects of the pandemic will be felt for some time. 

Covid’s social impacts

A new report from the Salvation Army shows the country’s communities are crying out for mental health, housing and income support as they grapple with the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than 500 people were surveyed in Rotorua, Johnsonville and Queenstown, with concerns around access to mental health services raised in all three regions.

The report found increased levels of stress and anxiety, with existing problems exacerbated by people’s loss of income and housing issues.

The full report can be found here.

Vaccine rollout issues flagged

As the world waits for a Covid-19 vaccine, two reviews have highlighted some major failings within New Zealand’s immunisation system.

Record numbers of people were vaccinated in this year’s flu campaign, on top of hundreds more during last year’s measles outbreak, however serious issues have been identified in both the distribution chain and communication from officials.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins says steps are being put in place to fix those problems. 

Nats reveal health plan

National has released an $800 million plan for the health sector ahead of next month’s election.

Should the party be elected, they are promising increased funding for Pharmac, the establishment of a rare disorder fund and a dedicated cancer drug fund.

National also wants to add primary care navigators – non-clinical frontline staff – to every general practice at a cost of $64 million per year.

A Pike River milestone

A "major milestone" has been reached in the ongoing Pike River Mine recovery operation on the West Coast.

A critical area for forensic examination has been reached for the first time since the explosion at the mine nearly 10 years ago.

The Government has now outlined the next steps for the investigation, which has been welcomed by the families of the 29 men who lost their lives in the mine. 

Other news of note this morning:

- The number of Covid-19 cases in India has surged past five million, the second highest in the world behind the US.

- Most New Zealanders don’t want the minimum voting age lowered to 16, according to TVNZ’s Vote Compass.

- New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says he turned down an offer from the controversial Advance New Zealand party to join forces.

- A man who was granted compassionate bail to attend a funeral has handed himself in to police after previously failing to return to Auckland's Mt Eden prison as agreed.

- The Overseas Investment Office has approved Microsoft’s plan to build a giant cloud computing data centre in Auckland.

- An Auckland principal is asking for empathy from potential employers who see 'Year 14' on applicants' report cards in the future.

- And returning Kiwis have been told they will be able to vote by telephone while in managed isolation this election.

And finally...

Source: 1 NEWS

Ah, love. Finding it can be a tricky thing – unless you’re a gentoo penguin, that is.

These guys know all about romance. The penguins’ courting rituals are once again underway at Auckland’s Kelly Tarlton’s aquarium and largely involve the presentation of a pebble to the bird that’s caught their eye.

But while gentoos are mostly monogamous creatures, it seems all is still fair in love and war on the ice...