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Morning Briefing Oct 8: A new dawn for Auckland and a day to forget for Collins

Kiwis are being urged to remain vigilant as Auckland returns to Alert Level 1 for the first time in nearly two months this morning and Health Minister Chris Hipkins confirms New Zealand has again reached the benchmark of zero active community cases of Covid-19. 

Auckland's Ponsonby Central. Source: istock.com

It comes as the NZ Herald reports (paywalled) that as the first known case of the Auckland cluster fell ill back in August, health officials were being warned about “pathetically low screening rates” potentially allowing Covid-19 to spread undetected. 

Hipkins is now urging Kiwis to continue doing their part to keep on top of the virus – and they could look across the Tasman as to why.

After 12 consecutive Covid-free days in New South Wales, the Australian state detected three new community cases yesterday that don’t appear to be linked to each other or any existing outbreaks. 

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A day to forget for Collins

It was another bad day at the office for National Party leader Judith Collins as a campaign walkabout in the Auckland suburb of Ponsonby quickly became a source of embarrassment.

As waiting media watched, Collins was declined entry to an eyewear store with a staff member giving her the thumbs down, before she faced the indignity of a cafe’s jellybean election poll that had Labour streets ahead of the pack.

But it was Collins’ walk along Ponsonby Road that proved the most damaging as it became apparent the local “members of the public” she spoke to were campaign volunteers or party plants who’d been strategically placed to bolster numbers.

1 NEWS reporter Benedict Collins witnessed the spectacle and later described it as “cheeky and clumsy” on National’s part.  

Minor parties in spotlight

The country’s minor parties will be facing off in TVNZ’s Multi-Party Debate tonight.

Moderated by Jessica Mutch McKay, it features NZ First’s Winston Peters, ACT’s David Seymour, the Green Party’s James Shaw, Advance NZ’s Jami-Lee Ross and the Māori Party’s John Tamihere. 

The New Conservatives took TVNZ to court yesterday to try and be included in tonight’s debate, however the judge ruled they didn't meet the criteria.

The party will now only take part in the debate if it hits 3 per cent in today's 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll. Those poll results will be revealed at 6pm, with the debate kicking off on TVNZ 1 and at 1NEWS.co.nz from 7pm.

Wildfire horror laid bare

The scale and horror of the fire that destroyed much of the village at Lake Ōhau has been revealed with Fire and Emergency releasing dramatic new pictures of the scene that greeted the first responders on Sunday morning.

The operation has now been scaled back to 50 firefighters working to secure the fire’s perimeter and manage hot spots. 

Meanwhile, there was some joy for the owners of a Lake Ōhau bed and breakfast as they found their beloved pet cat and lamb alive after fire tore through their property.

Dwayne Rennie and Hugh Spiers have described their "unbelievable relief" at finding the animals. 

And as investigators prepare to look into the causes of this latest bush fire, the Otago Daily Times has examined the issue of how best to manage fire risk in an increasingly dry South Island.

New voice for children

The Children's Commissioner has shaken up his office by appointing the country’s first Assistant Māori Commissioner for Children.

Judge Andrew Becroft says the move is about sharing power as expected under the Treaty of Waitangi.

Glenis Philip-Barbara will step into the role after working in the public and community sector for more than 30 years. Both she and Becroft will be on TVNZ’s Breakfast around 7.40am today.

Meanwhile, the Māori Party were yesterday campaigning for a complete overhaul of what they call New Zealand’s “racist” justice system. The party is promising to establish a Māori legal aid service if elected into government.

Other news of note this morning: 

- All pubs and restaurants across central Scotland are to be closed under new measures to curb the rise in Covid-19 cases. 

- A man has admitted murdering Australian surfer Sean McKinnon in a campervan near Raglan last year.

- Labour says it will require councils to purchase only zero emissions buses by 2025 in a bid to decarbonise the public transport bus fleet.

- National’s Paul Goldsmith says Australia’s tax cuts show tax relief is imperative to restoring economic prosperity on both sides of the Tasman.

- Facebook is tightening its policy against QAnon with plans to remove all accounts representing the baseless conspiracy theory.

- Scientists say climate change is putting the heat on future kūmara crops.

- And the Aotearoa Music Awards finalists have been revealed.

And finally... 

Reese Witherspoon. Source: Getty

In the wild west that is the internet, online scammers are using searches for celebrities as a way to install dangerous malware on people’s computers.

Security software company McAfee has just released the list of 10 celebrities whose names generate the riskiest search results in New Zealand.

Hollywood star Reese Witherspoon is second on that list – but you can find the country’s “most dangerous” celebrity to search for right here.