Morning Briefing April 23: Will travel from India be back on the cards?

Plans for high-risk arrivals are set to be revealed, Jacinda Ardern speaks at Joe Biden's climate summit, and the Government is accused of turning emergency accommodation into a 'get rich quick' scheme.

Relatives of a Covid-19 victim in India. Source: Associated Press

The Government is set to reveal whether the temporary ban on travel from India will continue beyond next Wednesday.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins will make the announcement later today following the two-week halt on flights out of the country. More details on a new plan for dealing with returnees travelling from high risk countries are also expected today. 

Today’s decision comes as India finds itself in the grip of a devastating second wave of Covid-19, leaving people struggling to get medical help and causing an acute oxygen shortage at hospitals.

Cases of the virus have almost tripled in India since New Zealand announced its halt on flights, with more than 314,000 new cases reported there yesterday – the highest one-day tally recorded anywhere in the world.  

Statistics professor Michael Plank told RNZ allowing travel from India to resume would be difficult.

University of Otago law professor Andrew Geddis says the Government has the power to ban New Zealanders returning under Covid-19 legislation passed last year – but he says it can’t be used if it’s inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act, which contains the right of New Zealanders to return to their country. 

Meanwhile, a survey of nearly 10,000 blood donor samples suggests New Zealand has had eight past cases of Covid-19 that were missed in the community.

The University of Auckland survey, which has not been peer reviewed, says this means there has been undetected community transmission - but at a very low level. Researchers say the numbers highlight the success of efforts to eliminate the virus here. 

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Ardern joins Biden's summit

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has spoken at a climate summit convened by US President Joe Biden overnight.

Ardern is among 40 world leaders at the virtual gathering and was invited to take part in a special session on climate finance.

While Biden revealed the US will cut emissions in half by 2030, and other countries, including Canada and Japan, announced new targets, Ardern revealed no new climate initiatives on New Zealand’s part. But she says work is underway to adjust the country’s Paris Agreement pledge. 

Trans-Tasman talks take place

Ardern’s attention will now turn to her meeting with Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne later today.

Payne and her New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta met yesterday to discuss topics like tensions with China and the terror suspect who had her Australian citizenship revoked.

Payne used the meeting to stress the importance of the Five Eyes group following Mahuta’s comments about the alliance earlier this week. Ardern also waded into that issue yesterday, saying New Zealand’s Five Eyes relationship has not changed

Deportees were also discussed with Payne, with Mahuta saying New Zealand won’t back down over the contentious issue.

Hours after their meeting, Stuff reports a group of ‘501’ deportees met in Auckland to discuss taking a class action lawsuit against the Australian Government over their treatment.

A 'get rich quick' scheme for motels?

National is accusing the Government of turning emergency housing into a "get rich quick" scheme for motel owners.

Figures obtained by 1 NEWS show the 10 motel and housing providers paid the most for emergency housing have received $75 million between them since 2017.

National’s housing spokesperson Nicola Willis says the figures are shocking and that the money should instead go to community housing providers to allow them to increase builds. 

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni says she’s not comfortable with the current level of emergency housing but says it’s better than the alternative of having people living in their cars. 

“We have to house people in an emergency situation,” she says.

1 NEWS reporter Benedict Collins will be joining TVNZ’s Breakfast around 7.20am today to discuss the expense of the emergency housing stop-gap measure and the problems around moving to a more sustainable solution. 

Savings get a little bit safer

The Government is promising to introduce a deposit guarantee scheme that will protect deposits of up to $100,000 if banks or other eligible financial institutions fail.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson revealed the move yesterday, as well as other proposed reforms, including a new process for setting lending restrictions like loan-to-value ratios. It will see some degree of powers moved from the Reserve Bank to the Beehive

Dogs on drugs 

A greyhound trainer has been banned from racing for four months after one of her dogs ingested methamphetamine.

Angela Turnwald’s greyhound Zipping Sarah won her race at Addington in November last year but tested positive for meth afterwards.

Turnwald’s penalty is a $3500 fine and the four-month disqualification from racing, however animal welfare advocates say the punishment doesn’t go far enough.

A Government review into the greyhound racing industry was announced last week over transparency and welfare concerns. 

Other news of note this morning:

- Wellington’s bus commuters are having to find other ways to get into the city today as drivers walk off the job for the biggest strike the capital has seen in 30 years. 

- The deaths of a man and his baby daughter, who fell from a dam wall in South Australia, are being treated as a murder-suicide.

- The lawyers for the FAST Party in Samoa have been forced to withdraw a Supreme Court challenge after discovering they had the wrong information.

- RNZ reports the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care has been told to rein in its spending after blowing a $56 million budget. 

- Stats NZ has discovered an error in last year's official child poverty statistics.

- After 23 years, Tasmania is an international destination once more after the return of flights from New Zealand.

- And Kiwis love praise, so here’s a little more from Hollywood star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who’s lauded New Zealand’s pandemic efforts during an appearance on The Tonight Show.

And finally...

A cream doughnut coffin. Source: Seven Sharp

The popularity of designer coffins is on the rise – so what are your options if you want something more out of the box when you’re laid to rest?

Seven Sharp’s James Mustapic tested out a few caskets last night, including more eco-friendly options like cardboard or wool coffins.

But things got really fun when he checked out a few personalised caskets, including a giant cream doughnut for a true connoisseur of the baked good, and a fire engine coffin complete with flashing lights.

Mustapic can’t decide what casket he wants just yet – but did suggest a nice Black Caps-themed coffin might be good, because “the only thing longer than death is cricket”.