Morning Briefing June 3: Ex-National candidate leaves party after serious allegations

A former National candidate has left the party in disgrace after serious allegations, and a decision on the current travel bubble pause with Victoria looms.

Jake Bezzant, a former National Party candidate. Source: 1 NEWS

Jake Bezzant, a National candidate who unsuccessfully ran in the 2020 election, is no longer a party member after serious allegations from a former partner that he impersonated and shared explicit images of her online.

On the podcast Whips, Chains and Brains released on Monday, Tarryn Flintoft alleges Bezzant "used to impersonate me online ... and would engage in online sex as me and would send nude images and videos of me".

Flintoft says she felt she had to speak up after attempting, over a number of years, to encourage Bezzant to seek help. Bezzant has rejected the allegations. 

Flintoft also made a complaint to police, who investigated the matter, but couldn’t press charges because Bezzant wasn’t technically breaking the law. She says current laws are inadequate to deal with situations like hers. 

bill which would criminalise the online sharing of intimate photos or images of another person is currently being considered by a Parliamentary select committee. NZME’s Derek Cheng reports Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged the law may need changing.

The situation comes just two days after veteran National MP Nick Smith announced his resignation after a “verbal altercation” with a staffer.

Yesterday, Politik’s Richard Harman reported that leader Judith Collins had, either “by accident or intent … forced Smith’s resignation” because she had warned her caucus the media would soon report a “scandal involving one of the party’s MPs”. 

Collins says she “certainly did not push” Smith to resign, and that he’d already been considering retiring after losing his Nelson seat in last year’s election. 

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Melbourne’s lockdown extended

Melbourne's lockdown will be extended for another week as authorities remain concerned about the transmission of the Indian variant of Covid-19 between strangers. Meanwhile, lockdown restrictions are poised to ease in regional Victoria from tonight. 

The New Zealand Government is getting advice about the situation today. It will then decide what to do with the current travel bubble pause with Victoria, currently in place until 7.59pm tomorrow.

Numerous options are being considered, such as a period of quarantine should there be a situation where Kiwis trapped in Victoria return to New Zealand while the state is still in lockdown.

Water infrastructure’s eye-watering bill

The cost of fixing New Zealand’s creaking drinking, stormwater and sewage infrastructure could top $185 billion in the next 30 years, according to a report ordered by the Government. 

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A report recommends combining the 67 councils and other water providers into a much smaller number. Source: 1 NEWS

The report by Scottish Water (which can be found here) paints a dire picture. The Government says it shows urgent reform is needed to prevent households from ballooning water bills. Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta is proposing amalgamating the country’s 67 council and drinking water regulators into about five publicly owned entities. 

Local Government NZ president Stuart Crosby says councils would want more detailed data about the proposal so it could assess how it’ll impact individual communities. Auckland Mayor Phil Goff supports the reform, but worries it would mean Aucklanders would have to cross-subsidise other regions. National’s local government spokesperson, Christopher Luxon, says any change will be impossible if councils and communities aren’t taken on the journey.

Water infrastructure aside, a natural hazards planning expert says the recent flooding in Canterbury suggests the country’s infrastructure isn’t ready for the next big disaster

Clean up continues after Canterbury floods

The clean-up effort in Canterbury continues, after days of torrential rain earlier this week. 

Among them are Mid Canterbury farmers whose properties are near burst stopbanks. The Rooney family watched the Ashburton River carve a new path right through their Methven Highway dairy farm where five generations have lived and worked. Philly Rooney said the floodwaters had taken "basically everything", so even calculating the damage was a daunting task.

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Several high country areas have been permanently changed by the weather event. Source: 1 NEWS

A number of farmers and their families are also completely cut-off in Canterbury's Upper Rakaia Gorge area thanks to massive slips that have taken out all road access.

But, there was a critical win for Cantabrians: the Ashburton Bridge was open for most of yesterday to light traffic after tests were completed to assess its strength. 

Stuff’s Sam Sherwood reports a decision about heavy vehicle access on the bridge won’t happen until at least today. The situation has prompted a farming leader to question why there’s only one bridge across the Ashburton River, Stuff’s Tina Law reports.  

More Kiwis happy to get vaccine

A growing number of New Zealanders are happy to get the Covid-19 vaccine, according to a 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll.

Fifty-six per cent of those surveyed said they will definitely get it or have had it already. That is a 12 per cent jump on when 1 NEWS first asked the question in September last year. 

Twenty per cent of people said they will probably receive the jab and 11 per cent of people said they probably won't get it.

Other news of note this morning:

- Waikato DHB has restored more than half of its servers following a crippling cyber attack, but the health board’s chief executive says "there’s still a way to go".

- Cyber crime has cost Kiwis $3 million in the first quarter of this year.

- Police have charged two people over an attack on a four-year-old Flaxmere boy early last year.

- The Chief Ombudsman says he’s frustrated Corrections doesn’t seem to be taking on his recommendations to improve the “undignified and barren” conditions of Christchurch Men’s and Whanganui prisons.

- RNZ reports Samoa’s Court of Appeal has voided a legal challenge by the incumbent Human Rights Protection Party that a female candidate was wrongly removed as an MP.

- The BBC reports Israeli opposition leaders say they’re getting close to forming a new government, which would end Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 12 years in the role

Tighter whitebait fishing rules are on the way, but advocates say more needs to be done to protect vulnerable species

And finally...

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Scott teaches kids how to repair and ride bikes safely and gives away bikes to the community. Source: 1 NEWS

Super volunteer Scott Tulua runs a free bike refurbishing and donation service in Auckland’s Ōtara for local kids and their families. In fact, he gives up so much of his own time that it’s turned into a full-time role. 

Working closely with Flat Bush Primary, he teaches the children valuable life skills – like how to repair bikes and ride them safely.

The humble Tulua insists what he does isn’t special, and he’s only wanting to help. But Lotu Fuli, his ASB Good as Gold nominator, says he’s the go-to man when the community needs help and wanted to acknowledge his work.