Morning Briefing March 5: Tsunami scare after quake jolts country awake

East Coast residents have had an eventful night following a large earthquake in the area, arrests are made following threats against two mosques, and an alert level decision is due.

A tsunami warning sign. Source: Getty

Residents in parts of the East Coast have had an eventful evening following a 7.1 magnitude quake that was felt right across the North Island.

The earthquake struck around 2.30am and triggered a tsunami warning, with people along the coast from Cape Runaway to Tolaga Bay told to evacuate and move to high ground. That warning was lifted just before 5am with evacuees advised to return home.

Tens of thousands of people around the North Island and the top of the South Island reported feeling this morning’s quake, with many frightened Kiwis saying it was the biggest one they’d experienced.

The moment the quake hit has been captured on camera at the New Zealand Post depot in Napier, which you can watch here.

Arrests follow mosque threats

A 27-year-old man is due to appear in court today in connection with threats made against the two Christchurch mosques attacked in 2019.

According to police, the threats to the Linwood Islamic Centre and Al Noor mosque were made earlier this week on the 4chan website.

Two people were arrested in raids at properties in Linwood and St Albans yesterday following a tip-off from a member of the public. While one of those people has since been released, the other has been charged with threatening to kill.

Both mosques have also been searched and cleared by police. 

The Muslim Association of Canterbury last night thanked police for acting promptly on the threat, adding “there is no place for hate rhetoric and hate crimes in our country".

Alert level decision due

The country will learn if current alert level restrictions will be lifted after Cabinet meets this afternoon.

While there have been no new community cases of Covid-19 for several days now, Auckland’s Level 3 lockdown hinges on pending test results for several gym-goers exposed to a positive case. Results are also outstanding from other relevant contacts who were at MIT and Kmart Botany. 

Meanwhile, work continues in trying to curb future community outbreaks of the virus, with the Ministry of Health looking to add saliva testing to frontline workers’ fortnightly nasal swabs.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says the ministry plans to hire a private company to carry out that testing

The Government’s vaccination rollout was also under the microscope again yesterday, with its “rolling maul” strategy criticised by opposition parties.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says while frontline health and emergency workers are up for the jab next, further decisions are yet to be signed off.

Bloomfield noted yesterday that he’s asked his team to start looking at the possibility of prioritising vaccines for the South Auckland community

Hipkins says more information will be released as more vaccines become available but National says the Government needs to provide more details for vaccinating the wider population.

ACT leader David Seymour agrees, accusing Cabinet of making up the vaccination programme as it goes along.

Businesses feel Covid crunch

The Crown accounts may be in better shape than expected, but Auckland’s latest lockdown is costing the economy millions of dollars a day and many businesses are fearing closure.

Small business owner Deslie Anthony told TVNZ she’s hoping her South Auckland nail salon can survive another lockdown and pleaded for people to work together to prevent future outbreaks. 

“If you’re sick, please stay home,” she told Breakfast. “You don’t realise what it costs a small business or what you’re doing to someone else losing a job.”

Auckland’s Level 3 lockdowns are having a knock-on effect for businesses further north, too. Business owners in Northland say when Auckland goes into lockdown, they’re effectively cut off from the rest of the country and lose many of their customers. 

There’s also concern for homeowners who signed up for the Government's mortgage deferral scheme last year when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit.

As Newsroom reports, the scheme ends this month with some borrowers facing a backlog of payments that have been mounting for a year.

Court appearances over Whakaari

Thirteen parties are appearing in court for the first time as a result of the deadly Whakaari/White Island eruption.

Ten organisations and three individuals will appear in the Auckland District Court today to face charges laid by WorkSafe. White Island Tours Limited, Volcanic Air Safaris Limited, Kahu (NZ) Limited, GNS, and the National Emergency Management Agency are among the 13 defendants. 

Whakaari erupted in December 2019, killing 22 of the 47 people who were on the island at the time.

Other news of note this morning:

- Italy has blocked the export of an Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine shipment to Australia.

- The NZ Government says it won't fly Kiwis out of Myanmar following the country’s coup, but it will ensure they get straight into quarantine if they can get home.

- Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison has expressed support for his attorney-general, who this week denied accusations he raped a schoolgirl when he was a teenager.

- A paediatric neurologist says Pharmac's decision to switch to a generic version of an epilepsy drug in 2019 cannot be discounted as a cause of death.

- Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt says Brian and Hannah Tamaki are not welcome there, after the Destiny Church leaders fled Auckland's lockdown and were spotted in the South Island.

- In a royal news wrap, Meghan Markle has accused Buckingham Palace of “perpetuating falsehoods” about her and Prince Harry; Prince Philip has undergone a successful procedure for a heart condition; and the BBC journalist accused of faking documents to secure an interview with Princess Diana in 1995 has been told he won’t face a criminal investigation.

- Wellington's mayor has caved to public pressure and scrapped plans to sell off part of the city's main library building. 

- The Sky Stadium seat destroyed by a six hit during the Black Caps’ T20 match against Australia has been put up for auction on Trade Me.

- And David Schwimmer has confirmed the Friends reunion will begin filming soon.

And finally...

The pyjama suit. Source: Seven Sharp

This time last year, barely anyone had heard of Zoom meetings, but they’ve since become a ubiquitous part of pandemic life.

Over the past 12 months people have wrestled with what to wear for those business calls at home – and we might just have a new option that combines business attire and loungewear.

Pyjama suits have popped up overseas, so Seven Sharp decided to take the concept a step further with a Frankenstein creation made from a blazer and a sleeping bag.

You can check out the fashion item literally nobody asked for here.