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Morning Briefing May 17: New bubble brings tourists - and some precious cargo

The Cook Islands travel bubble brings much awaited tourists and vaccines, pressure mounts over the latest Gaza conflict, and support for Judith Collins plummets in a new poll.

Beach in Rarotonga - stock image. Source: istock.com

The Cook Islands border is open to New Zealand this morning as the nation prepares for its first visitors in a year – and the arrival of some precious cargo flying in with them.

The Pfizer vaccine will also be on board the first tourist flights this week, ready for the vaccination programme beginning on Wednesday.

Given the nation’s small population, officials expect everyone there to be fully vaccinated in just 12 weeks. 

Other preparations are also in full swing. The local Chamber of Commerce says they’re under the pump helping businesses prepare for tourists but they’re pleased with the uptake of the CookSafe tracing system. 

Meanwhile, the issue of Covid passports is again making headlines, with the boss of the world’s busiest international airport saying they’re the only way to restart mass foreign travel in Covid’s wake.

Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths told the BBC he doesn’t think there’s any other alternative to such documents.

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Pressure mounts over Gaza conflict

More than 40 people, including 10 children, have been killed in the latest Israeli air strikes on Gaza.

The worsening violence comes as the United Nations Security Council meets over the crisis.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres says the recent fighting is "utterly appalling", but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his country has the right to defend itself and that attacks will continue at "full force".

Protests condemning Israel’s actions have taken place around the world over the weekend, with pressure also mounting here for the New Zealand Government to do more.

International relations specialist Robert Patman told 1 NEWS New Zealand has been “restrained” in its support to help resolve the Gaza conflict and should “urgently” change that approach.

Green Party spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman says she’s also disappointed by the Government’s response to the escalating violence in Gaza. 

“This is an atrocity and it’s absolutely not good enough that the New Zealand Government hasn’t condemned it,” she says.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has expressed concern over the attacks on both sides but hasn’t definitively addressed how the Government is stepping in.

Support for Collins crashes

After several weeks stoking claims of racial “separatism”, National leader Judith Collins has seen her preferred Prime Minister rating plummet in a new poll.

The Newshub/Reid Research polling saw support for Collins drop nearly 13 points to just 5.6 percent.

Jacinda Ardern’s preferred PM rating dropped too, but she’s still miles ahead of the competition on 48.1 per cent. Labour has also retained its significant lead in the poll on 52.7 per cent support. 

Those results came as Collins made more claims about a “separatist” agenda on the Government’s part, this time over the South Island’s publicly owned water assets.

She claims the Government plans to transfer that water infrastructure into a new entity half-owned by Ngāi Tahu. However, the iwi yesterday denied those claims, saying Collins is “seeking headlines” rather than gathering facts.

Meanwhile, National’s deputy leader Shane Reti has defended Collins’ critique of the proposed Māori Health Authority as “racist” and “separatist”.

He told TVNZ’s Q+A that Collins is doing her job as leader of the Opposition and added he has his own concerns over the planned revamp of the health system. 

Kiwi carers still out of pocket

1 NEWS can reveal up to 5000 people who care for their disabled whānau members still aren’t getting paid, despite a law change rushed through before last year’s election.

Labour promised to change the “discriminatory” law that meant only family members of high or very high needs people were able to access Ministry of Health payments, but Health Minister Andrew Little admits there are people still missing out who should be getting paid.

He says he didn’t realise the extent of the problem but says policy work is being done to fix the “complicated” law.

Covid detected in wastewater

Two weak positive Covid-19 results have been detected in Wellington's wastewater, however experts believe it’s “most likely” due to recently recovered cases continuing to shed the virus.

Further wastewater samples are being tested, while the Ministry of Health is encouraging anyone with coronavirus symptoms, particularly in Wellington, to get tested promptly. 

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s Covid vaccine rollout faced new criticism yesterday, with the Police Association questioning why regular officers are in the "last tranche" to be vaccinated along with the general public.

Association President Chris Cahill told Q+A officers need to receive the jab now, as they will be on the frontlines in the event of another Covid outbreak.

Budget day draws near

Budget week is here with Finance Minister Grant Robertson due to deliver the Government’s spending plans on Thursday.

Several pre-Budget announcements have already been made, including new cancer screening spending, early childhood teacher pay increases, and support for a carbon neutral public sector

1 NEWS political editor Jessica Mutch McKay has written about the significance of this year’s Budget here, outlining the pressure and expectations that will come with it.

Other news of note this morning:

- Taiwan, which has survived the pandemic relatively unscathed, is imposing its toughest restrictions yet as Covid case numbers there continue to climb.

- TVNZ’s Sunday has taken a deep dive into concerns housing development is threatening New Zealand’s fertile soil plots

- Jacinda Ardern has denied the United States’ recent joining of the Christchurch Call is lip service after Joe Biden was absent for its second anniversary summit

- Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick is turning her attention to alcohol harm with a bill proposing a ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship in sport.

- Rocket Lab says it's working to figure out what went wrong on its latest mission, in what the company says was one of its "toughest days”.

- An emotional protest has unfolded at one of the country's most well-known rehabilitation centres.

- And TVNZ’s Good Sorts series celebrates a young First XV manager who’s winning on and off the rugby pitch

And finally...

Source: 1 NEWS

Remember when a holidaying British family captured the country’s imagination as they allegedly stole, littered and verbally abused their way around the North Island in 2019?

Well, those heady days are set for a retelling on stage as the New Zealand Opera prepares an homage to those “unruly tourists”.

The show, which will be in theatres next year, will cover the events through a comedic lens, although the NZO says more weighty aspects will also be examined.

I’m already booking my tickets.