Morning Briefing June 23: Australian passenger brings Covid to NZ

Officials reveal a confirmed Covid case from Australia spent the weekend in NZ, Andrew Little orders a review of the mental health system, and a major events venue goes into liquidation. 

A departures board at Sydney Airport. Source: Getty

Passengers on two trans-Tasman flights have been told to isolate immediately after a confirmed Covid-19 case travelled from Sydney to Wellington over the weekend.

The person arrived in the capital just after midnight on Saturday before flying back to Sydney on Monday morning, NSW Health confirmed last night. They subsequently tested positive for the virus in New South Wales, so anyone on Qantas flight QF163 and Air New Zealand NZ247 are considered close contacts.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health says it is most likely the person contracted the virus in Sydney prior to their visit.

Updates on any locations of interest here are expected this morning. It comes as The Spinoff reports the number of Kiwis currently using the Covid tracer app is very low

Just hours before confirmation of the case’s visit to New Zealand, the Government announced a pause in quarantine-free travel from New South Wales.

The halt will initially last 72 hours and be under “constant review”.

Sydney’s Bondi cluster of cases grew by 10 yesterday with officials there concerned about how fleeting the contact between positive cases has been. 

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Major venue in liquidation

One of the country’s largest events and exhibition centres has gone into liquidation.

Auckland’s ASB Showgrounds in Greenlane has been hosting events for more than 160 years, but RNZ reports a dispute over rent has exacerbated the pressures of the pandemic at the venue.

A car auction that was meant to take place there this weekend says it's been forced to postpone due to the “unforeseen liquidation”. 

The showgrounds was also set to host the Auckland Food Show, Home Show and Baby Show in the coming weeks.

Little orders mental health review

The mental health system is set for another review after Health Minister Andrew Little admitted he’s frustrated by the slow pace of progress in the sector.

Despite $1.9 billion being pumped into mental health, there’s only five new beds and one new facility to show for it. 

“It is frustrating because we inherited a system under crisis, we made a huge investment and two years into that investment programme we are still seeing some serious problems,” Little says. 

This latest review is cold comfort for mental health campaigner Mike King, who says the public is sick of reviews into reviews.

He says he believes the Ministry of Health is “holding everything up” and needs an overhaul, “because if it ain’t Covid, they can’t fix it”.

Govt aims to accelerate new builds

A billion taxpayer dollars is now up for grabs for developers, iwi, and councils wanting to build housing developments.

Housing Minister Megan Woods says the Infrastructure Acceleration Fund is set to "jump-start housing developments by funding necessary services, like roads and pipes to homes, which are currently holding up development".

She says successful projects will be those weighted towards bringing multiple affordable new homes quickly and in the right places.  

The money is part of the $3.8 billion housing fund the Government unveiled in March. 

Health of Hauraki Gulf in spotlight

The Government has revealed its plan to restore the health of Auckland’s beleaguered Hauraki Gulf, with the creation of 18 new marine protection areas and restrictions on fishing.

Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker has described the strategy as "transformative", but advocates say it doesn’t go far enough.

The Hauraki Gulf Forum says more of the area needs to be under protection, with fishing methods like dredging and trawling removed from the park entirely. 

Meanwhile, across the Tasman, the health of another body of water is in the spotlight with UNESCO's World Heritage Committee listing the Great Barrier Reef as a world heritage site "in danger”.

The Australian Government says it will contest UNESCO’s draft recommendation, saying moving the reef’s long-term outlook from "poor to very poor" could impact tourism and other ventures. 

ECE vacancies at record levels

The teachers’ union says the record number of vacancies at early childhood centres proves it’s no longer a desirable career for many people.

The number of jobs on offer at ECEs has doubled in the past six months, with some centres having to advertise multiple times to find teachers.

NZEI says it wants better pay, smaller teacher-to-children ratios, and allocated non-contact time for admin to try and retain the sector’s workforce. 

Other news of note this morning: 

- The race to vaccinate Fijians against Covid-19 is growing more important as cases continue to reach new daily highs.

- Changes to tikanga allowing wāhine to speak at Waitangi will not be for the sake of National Party leader Judith Collins, Ngāti Hine kaumātua say. 

- The man accused of carrying out a stabbing rampage in a central Dunedin supermarket has denied four charges of attempted murder.

- Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has defended the New Zealand Olympic Committee over the selection of weightlifter Laurel Hubbard for the Tokyo Games.

- Canterbury Police say they’re noticing a rise in the theft of valuable car parts.

- Winston Peters' comment describing the National Party as "sex maniacs" is "complete rubbish", according to the party. 

- Two late wickets have put the Black Caps in a strong position going into the final day of the World Test Championship final.

- A district council is trying to solve the mystery of why hundreds of thousands of litres of drinking water is disappearing every day.

- And four new political puppets have been unveiled at Wellington's Backbencher pub – you can check them out here

And finally...

Source: Seven Sharp

There have been rumours for years that the TVNZ building in Auckland has a ghost on its premises (which I am thrilled to have just found out now).

But while some claim to have seen the ghost, nothing has ever been caught on camera.

So, is TVNZ haunted? Seven Sharp’s Rhys Mathewson investigates.