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Morning Briefing Aug 3: The fight to get into Fortress NZ

The management of NZ's border is back in the spotlight, the Government defends its record on housing, and Kiwi weightlifter Laurel Hubbard bows out of the Olympics.

A booking screen for New Zealand's MIQ system. Source: 1 NEWS

With the Delta variant showing few signs of letting up around the world, the management of New Zealand’s border is again in the spotlight.

While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to detail next week how and when the Government plans to open the borders, thousands of Kiwis living abroad say it’s currently near impossible to return home via one of the country’s 32 managed isolation facilities.

The Government admits the MIQ booking system is unfair but is still only looking at tweaking the current voucher system.

Some, including expat software developer Ben Morrison, say a waitlist system needs to be introduced. He’s penned an open letter to officials with other suggestions he thinks could improve the booking experience. 

But as expats continue their scramble for a spot in MIQ, there’s better news for the country’s fruit growers and winemakers, with the Government setting up a limited quarantine-free travel bubble to address labour shortages.

Seasonal workers from Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu will soon be able to enter New Zealand without spending two weeks in managed isolation.

The Government says this should significantly expand the workforce for those who need it and also free up some MIQ spaces.

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Countries still grappling with Delta

Queensland has extended its current lockdown until Sunday after the state recorded another 13 cases of Covid-19 yesterday.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles says the new cases are all linked to an existing cluster of the Delta strain in west Brisbane.

Meanwhile, top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci is again pleading with Americans to get their Covid vaccine, warning the Delta variant promises more “pain and suffering” there.

Although he believes enough people are vaccinated to avoid new lockdowns in the US, some parts of the country are again reaching record levels of hospitalisations due to Covid.

And the BBC reports a fresh outbreak of Covid is also causing concern in China. Cases of the Delta variant first emerged there in July and have quickly led to the country’s largest outbreak in months. 

Hubbard bows out of Games

New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has bowed out of the Tokyo Olympics without completing a lift, but she says she’s thankful for the support she’s received as the first openly trans woman to compete at the Games.  

"My performance wasn't what I had hoped but I'm humbled by the support I've received from so many people around New Zealand,” she said following the competition late last night.

She also thanked the IOC for “living up to the Olympic values and showing that sport is for all”.

Meanwhile, the Black Sticks women’s Olympic campaign also came to an end last night after the team lost to the Netherlands in their quarterfinal

But the news was better for other Kiwi athletes competing yesterday, with canoe sprinter Lisa Carrington’s quest for four gold medals off to the perfect start.

The track cycling programme also got underway last night, with the New Zealand men's pursuit team finishing third in qualifying, while the women’s pursuit team qualified sixth.

Elsewhere, a lack of wind in Enoshima saw the Olympic sailing programme postponed, pushing the 49er medal race – featuring Peter Burling and Blair Tuke – to today.

You can find the rundown of all the Kiwis in action here.

Also competing today is US gymnastics star Simone Biles, who will feature in the balance beam final a week after stepping away from the meet to focus on her mental health. 

Govt defends housing record

Jacinda Ardern says the Government believes in giving all Kiwis a warm, dry and affordable home to live in.

Her comments come as the Human Rights Commission announced a national inquiry into New Zealand’s housing crisis.

Ardern says the Commission is free to do any investigation it wants, but insists the Government is “pulling every single lever we have in housing” and are scaling up new housing “as quickly as we can”.

However, economist Shamubeel Eaqub and Renters United spokesperson Ashok Jacob have both told RNZ the Government needs to show the same political will to address the issue as previous governments did following the Second World War and the housing shortages seen then.

Nurses prepare to strike

Nurses have issued a strike notice for August 19 after rejecting their latest pay offer last week.

The nationwide strike will see nurses walk off the job from 11am to 7pm that day. Those who work in MIQ and at the border will be exempt, while services to preserve life will also be provided. 

Other news of note this morning:

- Auckland has been battered by severe gales overnight with power outages in several suburbs and a slow journey expected over the Harbour Bridge.

- A new statutory body has been established ahead of euthanasia becoming legal in New Zealand in November. 

- Education officials have warned their ministers that students are "falling through the cracks" because the curriculum does not clearly signal when they need more support.

- Jacinda Ardern has dismissed this week’s 10-point poll drop as pandemic fatigue.

- Sky News Australia says it "expressly rejects" that any of its hosts ever denied the existence of Covid-19, after it was stopped from uploading content to YouTube for seven days.

- Waka Kotahi NZTA is hoping new car safety rating labels can help Kiwis make potentially life-saving choices when they buy a new vehicle. 

- And new research has delivered a snapshot of what modern families look like in New Zealand, with the traditional “nuclear family” not as common as it once was.                             

And finally...

Mad-Eye Moody the moray eel. Source: 1 NEWS

In celebration of International Friendship Day, Seven Sharp went on the hunt for the unlikeliest of friendships – and may have just found it at Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium in Auckland.

The handsome devil in the picture above is a moray eel by the name of Mad-Eye Moody and he’s taken quite a shine to aquarist Kim Evans.

She says moray eels are “actually really sweet, interactive animals” and that Mad-Eye Moody always seeks her out for a pat and a cuddle when she’s in their tank.

Because you know what they say – when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s a moray...