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Morning Briefing Nov 23: Report finds St John in need of lifeline

St John says it will have to cut staff and reduce services soon unless it receives another $80 million in government funding.

A St John ambulance. Source: istock.com

An independent review released to 1 NEWS shows the ambulance service is at “serious financial risk” and has not been operating within its means. The report also found St John has been funding its losses by using cash reserves. 

St John chief executive Peter Bradley rejects some of the review’s findings but says St John “cannot run a safe ambulance service on the funding it receives”.

St John is currently around 70 per cent government funded. Health Minister Andrew Little told 1 NEWS the Government is committed to supporting St John but says full funding of the ambulance service isn’t being considered. 

The news comes as hundreds of St John paramedics and ambulance staff prepare to walk off the job this week after a further breakdown in pay talks.

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Ōhau insurance bill sparks warning

The fire that destroyed around half of Lake Ōhau village last month has been deemed one of the country’s most expensive blazes.

The insurance bill from the event has reached $34.8 million and has sparked warnings about where we should be building homes.

Rural fire scientist Grant Pearce says he’s concerned about the frequency of wildfires in New Zealand and says authorities need to rethink consents and focus on preparedness. He says improved risk assessments around where wildfires are likely to increase are needed. 

And with summer approaching, authorities are reminding Kiwis to be fire prepared through measures like cleaning out gutters, mowing lawns and keeping a “clear zone” around homes.  

Concern over vaccine misinformation

With the US preparing to administer its first coronavirus vaccines as early as next month, a leading vaccinologist is warning misinformation about vaccines could derail New Zealand’s efforts to roll out a Covid-19 jab.

Dr Helen Petousis-Harris told TVNZ’s Q+A misinformation is “going to be a challenge” as doses of the vaccine become available.

She says the Government needs to put as much effort into making sure people get good information about the vaccine as they are in actually delivering it. 

Petousis-Harris says gaining the public’s trust by being transparent and informing people about the vaccine’s regulatory process could help combat any hesitancy.

She adds people shouldn’t be concerned about how quickly the Covid-19 vaccines have been developed, saying modern technology allows for faster manufacturing and production compared to previous vaccines.

And as health authorities investigate the logistics of delivering the vaccine, the pandemic continues to ravage other parts of the world, as demonstrated by New Zealand’s latest cases of the virus.

Yesterday saw nine new cases confirmed in recent arrivals from eight different countries.

The Ministry of Health says the varied origins of the cases is a reminder that mandatory isolation – a process that RNZ reports is costing $2.4 million a day – is still critically important.

Trump lawsuit thrown out

President Donald Trump’s bid to overturn the US election result through the courts has hit another hurdle, with a Pennsylvania judge throwing out a lawsuit that sought to invalidate millions of mail-in votes.

Pennsylvania officials can now certify election results that show Joe Biden winning the state by more than 80,000 votes. 

US District Judge Matthew Brann said the Trump campaign presented "strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations ... unsupported by evidence".

However, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani sees the decision as a positive development in their efforts to quickly push their case to the US Supreme Court. 

Meanwhile, Biden – who turned 78 at the weekend – has extended his popular vote lead over Trump to more than six million. 

Sharp increase in online threats

Netsafe says New Zealand’s Level 4 lockdown created a perfect storm for online trouble.

The organisation found there were sharp rises in the most serious kinds of digital harm during that time, including physical threats towards people and revenge porn.

Netsafe says the support some people need isn't available under the Harmful Digital Communications Act and work needs to be done on the legislation around it.

Other news of note this morning: 

- An iwi group opposing a development at Wellington's Shelly Bay have announced they will occupy the land.

- Thousands of New Zealanders may have been caught up in a massive online data breach in Australia.

- An economist says New Zealand isn’t building the correct types of houses to effectively tackle the housing crisis. 

- A survey has found Kiwis want the parliamentary term increased from three to four years.

- A woman has been awarded $15,000 by the Employment Relations Authority after being fired from her job while on holiday.

- TVNZ’s Sunday programme has gone behind the scenes of Team New Zealand’s top-secret America’s Cup build-up. 

- And Princess Diana’s brother has blasted Netflix's The Crown for its depiction of his late sister.

And finally...

Source: 1 NEWS

TVNZ’s Good Sorts series has long celebrated New Zealanders doing good in their community - and sometimes those Good Sorts are of the animal variety.

This week, Hadyn Jones met Twiggy, a baby miniature horse who’s survived a rough start to life to now spend her days bringing joy to the residents of a Taumarunui rest home. 

I can confirm the tale is just as cute as it sounds.