Morning Briefing Feb 25: Travel bubble tumbles as officials work to contain cluster

Kiwis are once again facing travel restrictions in Australia, the Government clears the way for Māori wards, and there's more bad news for home buyers.

Baggage claim at airport Source:

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield may not be alarmed in the face of Auckland’s latest Covid community cases, however Australians don’t share that confidence with several states reinstating travel restrictions for Kiwis.

Queensland moved first last night, saying New Zealand arrivals would have to undergo quarantine almost immediately. New South Wales and Victoria took similar measures, saying all travellers from Auckland will now have to spend 14 days in a hotel room when they arrive.

Other Kiwis who have arrived in Australia since February 20 are also being asked to isolate and get a Covid test. 

Meanwhile work continues to contain further spread of the Auckland February cluster, with most of Papatoetoe High School’s students and teachers now retested for the virus.

Bloomfield said yesterday he wasn’t “worried particularly” by this week’s three new cases, after genome sequencing linked them to last week’s cases.

He says the Kmart Botany employee who tested positive for Covid-19 had limited customer interactions while at work. She began developing symptoms on Saturday, which Bloomfield notes are different to what people have come to expect of Covid-19 cases.

He says many of those who have contracted the UK variant have had muscle aches and lethargy rather than the respiratory symptoms of earlier coronavirus cases. 

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Greens call for 'People's Vaccine'

The Green Party is calling for the Government to help developing nations access the Covid-19 vaccines, saying it’s "deeply disappointing" trade rules haven't been relaxed in order to assist.

MP Golriz Ghahraman says the Greens will today accept an Oxfam petition calling for fair and equitable global distribution of the vaccines.

New Zealand has already signed on to the international vaccine alliance COVAX, but Ghahraman says the Government needs to go a step further and support calls to ease trade rules that would make the vaccine affordable to poorer nations. 

"The sooner populations across the world are vaccinated, the sooner we will all be safe... We must ensure that this vaccine is the People's Vaccine,” she says.

Ghana became the first country to receive vaccines through the COVAX initiative overnight.

The Green Party’s calls come as New Zealand officials perform checks on the second batch of Pfizer vaccines that arrived in the country yesterday. Approximately 76,000 doses of the vaccine were delivered, along with 500,000 special needles.

Forty Christchurch border workers were the first in the South Island to receive the vaccine yesterday, with Air New Zealand staff beginning their vaccinations today

And as other vaccination programmes begin overseas, some countries are starting to consider a “Covid passport” system.

It could see those who are not vaccinated banned from travelling and stopped from entering places like pubs and concerts – but one law expert is warning such “passports” may discriminate against some

Govt clears way for Māori wards

The public will no longer be able to veto a council's decision to introduce Māori wards after the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Bill passed its third and final reading last night.

All stages of the legislation were rushed so local bodies can prepare ahead of next year’s elections. 

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta says many local bodies believe it’s time to “entertain the real opportunity for Māori being at the table and participating in decision making”.

The Māori Party celebrated the move last night, saying the provision the Bill is removing is “racist”, “discriminatory”, and “unconstitutional”.

The National Party, who recently revealed they plan to contest the Māori electorate seats for the first time since 2002, says they will repeal the Māori wards law if they are elected to Government.

Leader Judith Collins says the legislation is “shoddy law making”, adding that “electoral law reform should not be rushed through Parliament under urgency like this”.

Meanwhile, local government was making other headlines yesterday, with Wellington Mayor Andy Foster announcing an independent review into the council’s governance, following recent “infighting”.

Nanaia Mahuta has ruled out appointing a Crown commissioner there for now, a move that she took in Tauranga to replace their dysfunctional council.

Bad news for buyers

The home ownership dream is continuing to slip out of reach for many Kiwis.

The latest CoreLogic Housing Affordability report has found house price to income ratios across Aotearoa have peaked at their highest level since 2004.

Although the fall in interest rates have helped with mortgage affordability, the report’s authors note the sharp rise in property values is dampening that effect.

It comes as the Reserve Bank yesterday kept the Official Cash Rate unchanged at 0.25 per cent, with Governor Adrian Orr warning investors that if returning loan to value restrictions don’t work, more will be put in place.

Meanwhile, Housing Minister Megan Woods was being ridiculed by the Opposition yesterday after publicly celebrating a scheme that’s helped just 12 families into their own homes.

Woods insists she’s still incredibly proud of the Progressive Home Ownership Scheme which launched seven months ago.

She says it can take up to three years for somebody to go through the process and that the Government still plans to move between 1500 and 4000 families into home ownership through the scheme.

Woods facing long recovery

Tiger Woods may have a career littered with remarkable comebacks, but the golf legend is facing his toughest recovery yet following a serious car crash yesterday.

A medical officer has detailed the long surgical procedures performed on Woods, who shattered his tibia and fibula bones in multiple places.

Officials say there’s no evidence Woods was impaired at the time of his crash, but he could have been driving at a greater speed than normal.

Other news of note this morning:

- Residents in eastern Hawke's Bay have been rattled by a 4.3 magnitude earthquake this morning.

- The Government is promising to reduce New Zealand's cochlear implant waitlist with an extra $6 million investment.

- After criticism that the Government is dragging its feet on mental health reforms, Health Minister Andrew Little says its four-year plan is “largely on track” and will continue to ramp up.

- National MPs Paul Goldsmith and Simon Bridges have walked out of Parliament after an argument with Speaker Trevor Mallard. 

- More than 200 people could lose their jobs as part of a proposal to shut down Whakatāne’s paper mill.

- Another two men have been charged over historic allegations of sexual offending at Auckland's Dilworth School.

- Stuff reports the wealthiest Kiwis pay just 12 per cent of their total income in tax on average.

- Up to 30,000 households could be hit with an excess water charge in Christchurch.

- And NASA reveals the huge parachute used by its Perseverance rover to land on Mars last week contained a secret message.

And finally...

Former What Now cast members. Source: 1 NEWS

If you didn’t already feel old while you creaked your way out of bed this morning, here’s something that should do it: What Now is turning 40. Yes! The Kiwi classic is officially reaching middle age.

The TV show’s old gang has been hanging out with the new crew to celebrate the birthday, which Seven Sharp’s Rachel Parkin headed along to this week.

So “get out of your lazy bed” and take a walk down memory lane here