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Category Archives: Jacinda Ardern

New Zealands successful Covid policies hid inequality the government cant ignore it this year – The Guardian

Posted: January 9, 2022 at 3:51 pm

March 2020 seems like an age ago. And also like it was yesterday. The month begun more or less like any other March in New Zealand. The weather was typically warm and dry, most people were back in the office or on site, and parliament was sitting after its generous summer recess. In most respects you could mistake March 2020 for March 2019. Except, on 4 March, the country recorded its second coronavirus case after a woman returning from northern Italy, where this strange virus had taken hold, presented with the infection at the border. The number of infections increased again and again as the month unfolded with 647 come 1 April.

In the early days of March, government advisers and prime minister Jacinda Ardern were aiming, like the rest of the world, for either herd immunity or flattening the curve. But when the governments chief science adviser presented advice on precisely what this meant for the health system a quick collapse, essentially Ardern went for the approach her advisers at the universities of Otago and Auckland were advocating: elimination. On 25 March the prime minister made her way to parliaments debating chamber and in a historic speech announced a national state of emergency and a move to an alert level 4 lockdown. The speech helped generate unprecedented national solidarity.

More importantly, the lockdown announced didnt just flatten the curve. It absolutely smashed it.

But in 2022, as Omicron threatens to wreak as much, if not more, damage than any previous Covid-19 variant ever could have, the lockdown course of action is probably off the table. That seems counterintuitive. But 2022 is (obviously) a different year. Shortsighted business owners in Auckland are unlikely to tolerate another round of restricted trading or slightly slower supply chains. Pathetic anti-vaxxer activists are more organised than ever before, corralling the tiny rump of unvaccinated New Zealanders in a way that makes them appear more significant than their numbers justify. And some segments of the media continue to platform anti-science, anti-lockdown views.

With the lockdown option probably off the table, New Zealand is likely to catch up with the rest of the world. When the Omicron outbreak happens, the health system will begin buckling under the pressure of Covid-19 admissions and politics will become increasingly polarised after two years of near consensus. When the first lockdown happened, activists and political commentators were arguing that things couldnt go back to how they were. The prime minister had implemented a successful wage subsidy, helping keep thousands of people in work, a freeze on rent increases was implemented, and the government brought forward millions in infrastructure investment. This was a social democratic programme that many people wanted to stay.

Why? Because it worked. New Zealand enjoyed exceptional GDP growth, historically low unemployment levels, and a year like any other. Schools and businesses were open, concerts and mass gatherings were happening, and people were generally happy with their lot. But underneath this apparent success story were the same inequalities as before. House prices were still through the roof, defying policies aimed at slowing their growth. The house market is now worth far more than the countrys annual GDP with that wealth accumulating overwhelmingly in the hands of baby boomers. Uncharacteristically high inflation is also eating away at the purchasing power (and the already minimal savings) of the working and middle classes.

This brings us to perhaps the good news for 2022. The government can no longer ignore the inequality crisis. The prime minister, who in one of her historic mistakes, ruled out a capital gains tax in 2019, must now implement other policies to arrest house price rises. The central bank must grab inflation by the neck. And historically low unemployment must translate to wage growth, perhaps with the assistance of the governments Fair Pay Agreement (FPA) legislation. Under FPAs, an industry-wide floor will be set for wages and conditions meaning, for example, that supermarket or security workers must be paid at a minimum level.

When this legislation passes in late 2022 it will have wide reaching effects, including making housing more affordable for previously underpaid workers and helping offset some of the worst impacts of relatively high inflation. And so in a social and political sense, 2022 has much to commend it. But in a health sense it is, of course, scary. Its difficult to predict what an Omicron outbreak might bring. But we can take some comfort in that the government and New Zealanders have eliminated outbreaks before. Were tantalisingly close to eliminating the recent Delta outbreak. And because of this, were more cognisant of the inequalities each outbreak exposes. Now, we must tackle those inequalities before Omicron makes them any worse.

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Afghans in hiding because of service to New Zealand deserve hope, says former soldier –

Posted: at 3:51 pm

Over Christmas, while hundreds of Afghans with visas to New Zealand were in hiding targeted because of their work with the New Zealand Defence Force a deposed politician and his 13 family members entered managed isolation.

The families in hiding are awaiting extraction, but several remain in the dark about their future because of an arbitrary deadline, says Ellen Nelson, a former Defence Force engineering officer.

These people literally put their lives on the line for us every day, she said.

For almost five months from her Manawat home, since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August, she has spent up to 14 hours a day advocating for them to be granted visas and find safe passage to New Zealand.

READ MORE:* Former Afghan vice president 'given safe haven' in New Zealand * Crown defends refusing humanitarian visas to Afghans with New Zealand links fearful of Taliban * Afghans face Taliban retribution, perhaps death, for Kiwi links, lawyer says


Ellen Nelson says New Zealand owes it to those who are at risk because of their service to New Zealanders.

Afghan locals had been hired as tradespeople, including interpreters and security guards, for New Zealand military. They and their families became targets when the Taliban took over. New Zealand responded by offering a special visa, the applications for which were open for nine days.

Nelsons team was in touch with around 10 workers and their families who missed out.

The only reason they don't have a visa is they fled their homes and went to the mountains... they had no reception, and didnt know about the visas until they were back in reception.

One former security guard had already been killed by the Taliban, believed to be due to his work with New Zealand, she said.

Sam Tarling/Getty Images

Afghan refugees in Paris on December 17, waiting to be transferred from tents to lodgings.

She said, although it wasn't a matter of choosing between rescuing some people over others, former Vice-President Sarwar Danishs getting a visa highlighted how the fate of so many lives were in the hands of politicians.

This is a plea to Immigration New Zealand, a plea to the Prime Minister, even... let go of that arbitrary cut off date and give them some hope.

Before visa applications closed in August, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned not all visa holders would be extracted immediately.

The Government needed a plan B, which Nelson and colleagues with security and military backgrounds formulated in October, but it was not taken on.

Byron Smith/Getty Images

Afghan refugees arriving in Thessaloniki, Greece, on November 22.

For safety reasons, Nelson could not give details on what was happening now, just that there had been some progress for the families who did have visas, thanks to the mahi of volunteers, staff from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other agencies, and donations from kiwis.

My plea to the New Zealand public is to welcome these people when they do get to New Zealand, with open arms. Theyll need accommodation and job options.

Her group ran social media page Helping Afghans Who Helped Kiwis, and a Givealittle which had raised over $60,000 at the time of publishing. The money went towards extraction and resettlement efforts.

A November 24 update said the funds had helped a few families find safe passage to New Zealand.

The Minister for Immigration has been approached for comment.

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The new NZ divide: those anxious about Covid-19’s inevitable spread, and the accepting –

Posted: at 3:51 pm

A new divide is emerging: There are those accepting the virus will soon be present in their community, and those anxious about the toll Covid-19 will take on them and their whnau should it leak into their hometowns.

Since New Zealand officially shifted from the widely backed elimination strategy, to that of the traffic light system, community cases of Covid-19 have been talked about as an inevitability.

But those in areas still struggling to improve vaccination coverage dont think it should be inevitable they bear the brunt of community transmission.

This has seen a new chasm open over the summer period, between those desperate for the movement that will bring some semblance of normalcy; and those whove asked holidaymakers to stay away to protect the health of their communities just for one more summer.

Liz Carlson/Stuff

Some tourism operators and locals are gagging for business, others have asked holidaymakers to stay away. Its our first taste of the new New Zealand divide.

READ MORE:* Covid-19: Northland only DHB that hasn't reached 90 per cent first dose vaccine target* Music festival to take sting out of Covid-19 jabs as Ngti Kuri rallies to boost vaccination rates* Expect to be stopped: Hone Harawira is on a mission to protect Tai Tokerau from unvaccinated Aucklanders* Covid-19: Iwi say checkpoints with police are reducing non-essential traffic

Victoria University of Wellington clinical psychologist Dr Dougal Sutherland says the starkly different mindsets show a shift in values.

In the early days of the pandemic, the so-called Team of 5 Million was united behind the simplistic elimination strategy. The priority value was health.

As the pandemic morphs, making value judgments had become increasingly complex. Different groups were placing greater emphasis on different factors, depending on how they had been affected, Sutherland said.


Jacinda Ardern said elimination was never going to be forever. But the next phase is more complicated.

In December, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Stuff that transitioning out of the elimination strategy was hard, because there was such a simplicity to it. And there was a unity that came from it, too.

But those in charge always knew elimination was not a forever strategy, she said.

Now, with 92 per cent of the eligible population double-vaccinated, and the beginning of a booster programme that saw more than 40,000 shots administered on the first day of walk-in vaccines, Ardern says the traffic light system is enough to keep the country safe.

Ross Giblin/Stuff

Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins continues to tell people to preapre for the virus in the community.

Minister for Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins took this a step further when responding to the countrys first active community Omicron case.

Whether its Omicron or Delta, Covid-19 is here, he said.

We are moving to a point where there is going to be freer movement at the border. We have delayed making that shift to allow people to get their booster doses; to start us on the pathway to rolling out childhood vaccinations, he said. But we are moving to a different space now; we are going to have Covid-19 in the community.

Many have been mentally preparing for the community spread of Covid-19 for a long time. At some point, New Zealand will have to relax its border controls, which will increase the risk of the virus leaking.

But those who are more vulnerable to the adverse health effects of Covid-19 have taken it upon themselves to keep the virus at bay at least a little longer.

As University of Auckland microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles has repeatedly said: None of us are safe until were all safe.

Lawrence Smith/Stuff

Theres clear evidence from a medical point of view that this is not going to be good for Tai Tokerau Mori, in particular, Tai Tokerau generally, to have the borders open, Hone Harawira says about keeping Northlands borders closed.

Tai Tokerau has the lowest rate of double vaccinated people, at 84 per cent. And just 76 per cent of Northland regions Mori population has had two shots.

Its against this backdrop that former MP and longtime activist Hone Harawira led the region in establishing Tai Tokerau Border Control in an effort to police who comes into the region over the busy summer months.

The group has been petitioning the Government to keep Northlands boundary closed until vaccination rates in Tai Tokerau reach 90 per cent.

This isnt just crazy radicals saying shut the border, Harawira said in December.

Theres clear evidence from a medical point of view that this is not going to be good for Tai Tokerau Mori, in particular, Tai Tokerau generally, to have the borders open.

David Kirkland/Northland Inc

Local iwi have asked non-locals to stay away from popular spot Maitai Bay this summer.

At the same time, Ngti Kahu has asked holidaymakers to stay away from popular spots in the Far North.

Ngti Kahu chair Margaret Mutu said Te Whnau Moana o Karikari hap, with the support of Ngti Kahu iwi, decided to keep the Maitai Bay Campground on the Karikari Peninsula shut over the Christmas holiday period to protect local residents.

They also asked Aucklanders and those travelling through Auckland to stay away from other iwi territories, including the rest of the Karikari Peninsula, Mangnui, Coopers Beach and Cable Bay.

The kuia and kaumtua of Karikari are extremely worried for their whnau, Mutu said.

On the other side, struggling businesses are desperate for people to visit.

Former Tai Tokerau-based MP Shane Jones said he feared this approach would see Aucklanders go elsewhere for the summer.

Jones asked: What profit is there in saving lives whilst destroying livelihoods?


The owner of the iconic Duke of Marlborough hotel in Northland is begging for a more targeted approach, which will give businesses and tourists certainty.

An Infometrics local economic report, looking at a range of scenarios for the tourism sector, found it would be years until international tourism rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.

While the country came out of lockdown in time for the summer, Northlands red traffic light status had stopped it from rebounding the way many had hoped.

The border checks and general uncertainty about whether people can travel to Auckland and what they can do when they arrive, also dampened domestic tourist demand.

The Infometrics report did not provide an outlook for domestic tourism spending for Northland because the uncertainty of the Covid-19 settings made it difficult to forecast or provide realistic scenarios for domestic traveller spending.

Duke of Marlborough owner Riki Kinnaird said the uncertainty had led to anxiety and despair for tourism businesses in the region.

Those in the Bay of Islands made up to 50 per cent of their revenue between December and February.

While it was a heavily seasonal model, it had always been predictable.

But things have become highly unpredictable, Kinnaird said.

His hotel was doing 1700 meals a day pre-Covid, now theyre doing 500. Summer spending has been decimated, Waitangi Weekend has been cancelled, and theres a question mark hanging over Auckland Anniversary weekend and Easter.

Youre left spinning plates until more business comes back in.

Kinnaird did not have an issue with those turning people away in other parts of the region they were good people, trying to do the right thing, he said.

But he didnt believe that was the right approach for the entire region.

Kinnaird urged the Government to create a more targeted approach to restrictions and support packages for those struggling to keep their heads above water.

Tairawhiti Gisborne

Tairwhiti health leaders have also asked people to keep away this summer, meaning cancelled events and holiday plans.

Tairwhiti on the east cape is in a similar boat, with 86 per cent of the eligible general population double-vaccinated. The regions eligible Mori population is 80 per cent double-vaxxed

But Tairwhiti also has a large youth population, which cannot yet get the vaccine.

This has led to the cancellation of large events, such as the Rhythm and Vines New Year's Eve festival, and sporadic checkpoints. Its also seen private accommodation providers cancel bookings.

In one case, a Hicks Bay accommodation provider cancelled bookings after being formally approached by the local iwi authority, which was concerned about the low vaccination rates in the East Coast Tairwhiti region, and the strain a Covid-19 outbreak could put on the health services.

Given that the December-February period is peak time for us, we have taken time to consider their request and have reluctantly decided to close down the house and cancel all bookings with a full refund of course, the accommodation providers said in an email.

As Auckland prepared to open in December, Matakaoa Covid-19 response lead Ani Pahuru-Huriwai told Stuff she understood whnau and visitors who had planned to travel to Tairwhiti this summer were excited to finally be let out.

And ordinarily, they would be welcoming everybody home with open arms.

But for some, the nearest hospital was three hours away; there was no GP, and health service providers were already under stress.

Its just this summer, then hopefully, well be in a much better position. And well have a massive party with everybody at home. Well definitely be needing one by then, Pahuru-Huriwai said.


How vaccination helps prevent the spread of Covid-19 (English subtitles).

The move away from the elimination strategy, at a time when both Delta and Omicron loom large, makes it difficult to decide how best to move forward.

It becomes a juggling act.

The Government says being vaccinated and following the traffic light guidance is enough. Some prominent public health professionals say people need to go further. Others think there should no longer be restrictions.

Where once there was unity, now theres uncertainty.

Victoria Universitys Sutherland said as this divide became apparent it was important not to make value judgments, but to try and empathise with other peoples positions.

That did not mean agreeing with them, but trying to understand why they felt the way they did.

Cameron Burnell/Stuff

Dr Dougal Sutherland said New Zealanders needed to practise empathy, work on compromise, and find something new to rally around to avoid further division as the country navigated the next stage of the pandemic.

As the pandemic hits different people in different ways, those values come into play. And if your values are being impinged on, that makes you feel anxious or angry.

If people engaged in empathic conversations, it reduced the sense of us versus them, he said.

Our brains automatically want us to be black and white, because thats much more simple to deal with.

But that could lead to a more polarised society, where people were angrier and more anxious.

Sutherland said New Zealanders needed to practise empathy, work on compromise, and find something new to rally around to avoid further division as the country navigated the next stage of the pandemic.

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Spy: Predicting the good, the bad and the ugly of 2022 – New Zealand Herald

Posted: at 3:51 pm

Spy predicts who will make headlines in the year to come. Photos / File

Spy's crystal and magic 8-balls have had a good shake up, we've looked at the stars, checked the tea leaves, and read some tarot cards to predict who will make headlines in the year to come. Warning: Predicting the future is not an exact science . . . but we do warn readers, several of last year's forecasts came to fruition.

Former State-Owned Enterprises Minister and acting Westpac CEO Simon Power is warmed at how electric the atmosphere is on his first day at TVNZ in March.

Is it because Jupiter has just been moving through Pisces? That staff are still jubilant to be working back in the office, or the fact that making television is a little bit more colourful than the world of banking?

The timing is absolutely perfect for Power and his knowledge of the Beehive, as motions on the Government's next moves to merge TVNZ and RNZ come into full public glare.

The former National Party MP sticks to the centre-ground as much as possible, by increasing the platform of shows for Clarke Gayford that sees him franchise Moving Homes to Moving Baches, Moving Jobs and a viewer favourite Moving Countries. Former Deputy PM Paula Bennett has her platforms increased too, Give Us a Clue is franchised to add Give us a shoe, where Bennett canvasses people's shoe wardrobes and viewers guess whose shoe addictions she is looking at?

An influx of pilot series pitches come in from Power's former colleagues, among the large list of politicians wanting to stay in the public light, Judith Collins pitches CCC Car Catch and Crush and a proposition for herself to front a new revamped Police 10/7 tempts him, but he actions only one from the big pile, but solely to be trialled OnDemand. Former Speaker of the House and the first TV face to become an MP Lockwood Smith, gets the green light to go full circle nearly 40 years on to bring back and front It's Academic.

In April, Australia & NZ general manager Glen Kyne, who congratulated Power within hours of his new role, appoints Richard Prebble to an advisory role in his Auckland office.

Elon Musk will buy up Marsden Point Oil Refinery. His plan is a three-pronged approach for the coastal land, inspired by the weather schedules kept by Rocket Lab at Ahuriri Point.

Musk studies the weather patterns north of the North Island and decides Marsden Point is perfect for his 2022 Southern Hemisphere SpaceX launch complex.

Musk also strikes gold finding the area is rich in hydrocarbons and methane for rocket fuel and conditions are perfect for testing and perfecting byproducts and experiments to make hydrocarbons using CO2 from the air instead.

29 Dec, 2021 02:03 AMQuick Read

The trifecta of usage occurs to Musk, noticing the space nerd tourism written all over it. By next Christmas, Musk announces the launch of his first SpaceX Hotel, architecturally designed in the shape of two rockets with a bridge at the top. Grant Dalton smells the big bucks and the America's Cup regatta has a new home.

Smelling the millions being made by hotels in government-managed isolation, a consortium of NZ billionaires and property developers come together for NZ's biggest construction projects.

The consortium asks Craig Turner if they can have a peek at the plans of his $1.2 billion Sleepyhead Estate housing and manufacturing development at Ohinewai and make offers for huge swathes of land near Huntly.

The consortium CEO is Rob Fyfe and its chairman is Sir John Key, who enlists Max, his son and business partner in MTK Property Development, to project-manage construction.

First builds are eight Sudima Auckland Airport-like hotels, surrounded by two suburbs of secure villa-style chalets for people who want to upgrade.

An airport and heliport are added, as is a local hospital. The little town is such a hit, Sir Michael Hill is asked to design a golf course.

Our most expensive crystal ball sees NZ having its most lavish wedding of all time this year. No! It's not the nuptials of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford at the end of this month at the US billionaire John Griffin's station at Nick's Head at Muriwai, near Gisborne.

Times that expense by at least 10 and predict billionaire Nick Mowbray and Jaimee Lupton may make it official and announce their engagement. The knot will be tied at a surprise wedding at the Toy Mansion in Coatesville in May, the wedding is tasteful and comes in at less than $500,000.

So too does the wedding of rich-lister Marc Francis, even though he and wife Dominique Wisniewski opt for Beluga caviar and Cristal champagne, they keep numbers down, so their guests can come and enjoy a bottomless selection of the very best.

Fellow rich-lister, Viaduct's Justin Wyborn and Kylie Vernon take over the whole Viaduct for their nuptials. It, too, is a tasteful affair and even though the guest list is massive, the wedding is kept to less than $1 million.

It's Mowbray's sister Anna, who announces her engagement to former All Black Ali Williams at her brother's wedding, where the nuptials are the most lavish ever.

It is also at the Toy Mansion, where the groom celebrates his stag by re-enacting the Dotcom raid for its 10th anniversary.

The bride allows his whim, and then things start to bloom and things get elevated for the big day. The bride and groom wear Versace, with a bridal party of 20. Flowers are imported and flown fresh by private jet from Brazil. Animals, borrowed from Auckland Zoo, are brought in to roam. The 1000 guests are blown away even more when at midnight, the couple's first dance is to a live performance by Justin Bieber.

Mark Zuckerberg chooses NZ to test run some of his new virtual labyrinths and picks the country's biggest influencers to take part.

As part of the multi-platform universe, The Bachelor creator and executive producer Mike Fleiss has given licence for all his shows to be conducted virtually, hosted by Art and Matilda Green. The two become the globe's first Meta megastars.

Virtual The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and Bachelor Nation are rolled out globally and the New Zealand vernacular becomes on-trend.

New VR Headsets are part of the trial, ones that are geared up for virtual loving and dates and prevent headaches, eye strain, dizziness and nausea after using the headsets. All is good in the Meta Bach world until real-life people keep choosing artificial human 3D Personas in rose ceremonies.

Zuckerberg doesn't just want fluff, he wants to show that the Metaverse cares and can help people too. He enlists wellness gurus Rachel Hunter and Gemma McCaw who, tempted by the world's first virtual ice bath, agree to host their exclusive wellness retreats in the Metaverse.

Mark Richardson is grinning from ear to ear when The Block producers and property buyers secure sections in Glen Innes for the show's 10th season The Block: Redemption.

It's going to help the local real estate market, especially with the expertise of four fan-favourite couples from previous seasons having a second chance to win says Richardson.

The political tea leaves become clearer when they see Tmaki MP Simon O'Connor's public profile soaring after Richardson asks him to come on his new radio show, and then asks him to guest judge on The Block.

Weeks later the pair meet at Richardson's favourite local St Heliers waterfront cafe for a cup of tea, no less. O'Connor tells Richardson how grateful he has been over the past few months and he is lobbying hard to make sure the former Black Cap has a very high spot on the party list.

Richardson smiles as only a left-hand batsman can.

"No, no, Simon I want you to have a high list position, I like what you do in Wellington, but I think I can do so much more for the good people of Tmaki, which is why I have decided to challenge you at the next selection."

A roll of the dice sees Taika Waititi cast himself in the new Flash Gordon action movie he is writing. The Thor: Love and Thunder director cast himself in Flash as Ming the Merciless. Convinced by his romantic other half, British popstar Rita Ora, Waititi makes the action movie classic half sci-fi - half musical and casts Ora as Ming's daughter Princess Aura. In a jaw-dropping move, Waititi's Thor star Chris Hemsworth is ignored. The actor is the epitome of the 80s Flash Gordon, but Waititi wants to bring the classic tale into the year 2022 and is a big fan of Josh Thomson's work in The New Legends of Monkey as Pigsy and casts him as his galactic warrior from Earth.

Wanting to keep the Kiwi casting strong, not to mention the musical talent, his fourth casting triumph is the role of Flash's love interest, Dale Gordon, which sees Lorde cast. In her first big-screen role, the singer chooses to go by her birth name Ella Yelich-O'Connor as her screen name.

All the people-pleasing Waititi does in Godzone, still leaves one cloud with a dark shadow. A bidding war between Weta Workshop in Wellington and Warner Bros on the Gold Coast is won by the Australians with a last-minute sweetener from Canberra.

A social media platform meeting in the Leader of the Opposition's office had our magic eight ball dancing.

The topic: How to increase Christopher Luxon's cut-through on social media and increase the National Party youth vote.

Jacinda Ardern is sitting at 1.7 million followers and even though Luxon's followers have doubled since his winning the leadership, they are still sitting at under 10,000 so Tik Tok is chosen as the best platform.

A duo with a music star is decided the best move forward for overnight success. Luxon loves country music, so his team ask Taylor Swift to come on board and do a duet with the National Party leader to one of her crossover hits

Swift doesn't get back in time for filming in March. Staff blame it on Lorde for being besties with her in the pop world.

Someone remembers Country star Shania Twain's love of New Zealand, especially South Island sheep stations.

Twain agrees and gets into the country on time for filming and she and Luxon do a sexy duet to her 90s hit, Man I feel like a Woman.

They both cross-dress, just like the original video and their dancing is on Tik Tok point.

Tens of millions of people like the video, Luxon is a Tik Tok megastar, the cut-through is immense and not just in the rural voting community.

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Athletics: New Zealand Olympic medalist Tom Walsh reveals decision to split from longtime coach for upcoming season – New Zealand Herald

Posted: at 3:51 pm


8 Jan, 2022 02:30 AM3 minutes to read

Dale Stevenson and Tom Walsh at the Tokyo Olympics. Photo / Photosport

For the 2022 season, Kiwi shot put star Tom Walsh is going his own way.

After a long, decorated career under the watchful eye of national throws coach Dale Stevenson, Walsh revealed that working relationship would not continue this year.

Under his tutelage, Walsh has won three world titles, gold and silver Commonwealth Games medals and two Olympic bronzes, but confirmed to Newstalk ZB that he decided last November it was time for him to turn the page on that chapter of his career.

"It was just an opportunity to try something new. I'm a big boy; I'm pretty good at what I do and I understand I think - how I do it really well. So, if things don't go well, it's all on me now," Walsh said.

"The good thing about change is there's always an opportunity to do things slightly differently. We had a hell of a run, Dale and I, and now it's time for us to go a slightly different way and try things a little bit differently through a new lens."

This week, Athletics New Zealand announced both Stevenson and high performance director Scott Goodman would be leaving the organisation. Stevenson will be leaving his post following the Commonwealth Games in the UK in August, while Goodman will head to Australia in March.

Walsh said both were leaving due to family reasons and he would be working with assistant coach Hayden Hall when he was in need of guidance.

The 29-year-old will begin his 2022 season with the World Indoor Championships in Serbia in March, and said that much like in 2021 he faces a lengthy time offshore.

There were positive signs late last year for sportspeople like Walsh who must travel to compete, with isolating at home planned to be in effect by mid-February as part of a border reopening plan.

Initially, Phase 1 was planned to take effect on January 16. This stage, now delayed, would allow fully vaccinated Kiwis and other eligible travellers to travel from Australia and self-isolate at home for seven days instead of going through MIQ.

Phase 2, would have allowed fully vaccinated Kiwis and other eligible travellers from all other countries to travel to New Zealand with self-isolation instead of MIQ. This stage was planned for February 13. However, that date was pushed to the end of February at the earliest as the omicron variant made its way around the world.

With the Covid-19 environment ever-changing, Walsh said he was most likely going to be abroad for half of the year.

"[Jacinda Ardern]'s not helping us much. I may be away from March until September, depending on the quarantine status.

"Ideally, I'd like to come home, but I can't afford 10 days in managed isolation between the end of March and the start of July when world champs is. That means I'll probably be staying away unless the quarantine status changes.

"It's going to be another challenging year."

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Politics and the pandemic – another year of Covid-19 – RNZ

Posted: January 5, 2022 at 9:05 am

By Peter Wilson*

Analysis - When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in January that 2021 would be the year of the vaccine it didn't seem to raise much interest.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives at Auckland Zoo on 1 December to announce a support package for Auckland, hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic last year. Photo: 2021 Getty Images

Kiwis were enjoying a complacent summer, there hadn't been a community case since November.

It was all going to change, in ways she could not have foreseen.

As RNZ's timeline shows, the first community case of the year was detected on 24 January, a woman who had travelled extensively in Northland.

That was followed by outbreaks in Auckland, clusters which were vigorously traced, ring-fenced and isolated.

Auckland was put into a level 3 lockdown, and then in March went down to level 2. The outbreaks were serious enough for Australia to suspend quarantine-free entry for New Zealanders.

Despite this, the first full year of Labour's majority government began well. The elimination strategy was working, the team of five million understood it and most of them supported it.

Managed isolation facilities were taking in infected travellers, nearly all of them returning citizens or residents.

Supplies of the Pfizer vaccine, reported internationally to be one of the most effective against Covid-19, had been secured although delivery was going to be spread across the coming months.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said mass vaccinations should start mid-year.

Frontline workers and older people were vaccinated first but opposition parties began criticising the slow rollout for the general population.

Ardern and her ministers insisted there was no great rush, the country was learning from others and, unlike others, was not ravaged by the virus so did not need the vaccine as badly.

In April the quarantine-free bubble with Australia opened but it was paused the following month because of outbreaks across the Tasman. It popped in July, and was never reinflated.

Mass vaccinations began in late July but the take up was slow and opposition pressure mounted. There was still did not seem to be any sense of alarm in the community.

There was relentless criticism of the way the Maori rollout was being handled. They were lagging behind the rest of the population.

In her end-of-year interview with RNZ Ardern accepted the government could have done more to assist community-led vaccination efforts but defended the decision not to prioritise all younger Mori.

In August everything changed. The first case of the Delta variant arrived in the community, linked to a returnee from Australia. Somehow, it had escaped from the Crowne Plaza MIQ facility.

Photo: RNZ

Ardern ordered a level 4 lockdown for Auckland and the Coromandel lasting four days, and three days for the rest of the country.

It didn't contain Delta, something no other country had been able to achieve, and cases spread in Auckland and to other centres.

Complacency had now been completely dispelled and there were queues at testing stations and vaccination centres.

Parliament was suspended as the vaccination rollout came under even more intense scrutiny.

National suspected the government had been slow to order the vaccine, something Hipkins denied, but there was no denying other developed countries had started much earlier.

The elimination strategy was becoming untenable, it wasn't working because Delta was too easily transmitted.

The government was reluctant to give it up. The strategy had delivered a huge election victory, but it didn't have a choice.

In subtle ways, the messaging began to change. "Zero tolerance doesn't mean zero cases" was creeping in, and in October, Ardern changed the game: "It's clear that long periods of heavy restriction has not got us to zero cases," she said.

There was still no admission that elimination had been scrapped.

Judith Collins, then National's leader, called on Ardern to "tell the truth ... the elimination strategy is clearly dead".

The government then began introducing steps within the alert levels, trying to relieve the pressure on Auckland which by then had been in various states of lockdown for months.

There were reports of confusion, the rules weren't clearly understood.

On 22 October the government revealed what was going to replace it - although it still said the aim would be to stamp out the virus where it appeared in small clusters.

The traffic light system was explained to the country. Lockdowns would be replaced by red, orange and green settings with red the most restrictive.

It would start when all the 20 DHBs had reached 90 percent full vaccination rates, a highly ambitious target. Ardern and Hipkins were careful to say the decision on when to switch the traffic lights on would be a "pragmatic" one.

That turned out to mean before all the DHBs had reached the target, most were still some way off.

The Auckland business sector was putting huge pressure on the government to end lockdowns and give it some certainty about the future.

An almost deserted Queen Street during Auckland's last lockdown. Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

It did that on 29 November, announcing the new system would start on 3 December. Auckland and several regions with low vaccination rates would start at red, the rest of the country at orange.

Two weeks later it was announced Auckland and the other red regions, with the exception of Northland, would move to orange on 31 December, just in time for New Year. Businesses fumed over the delay but it appeared to be generally well received.

Cases of the Delta variant had increased to daily numbers which would once have caused immediate lockdowns, but were now barely noticed. Hospitalisation rates were steady and only a handful of people were in ICU.

Around mid-December Auckland cases began to decline - the vaccine was working and the city had rates above 90 percent.

Ardern told RNZ: "It was the year of the vaccine and to finish with rates in the mid-90 percent mark for first dose, 85 percent for Maori, over 90 percent for Pacific, I'm really proud of what New Zealand's doing."

She was right to be proud, what had been achieved during the year had been remarkable. In her last speech in Parliament before the adjournment Ardern said New Zealand had been through two years of Covid-19 and 44 people had died - minuscule when compared internationally.

Voters, however, were not showing their appreciation. The change from elimination to living with the virus hurt the government although it's unlikely it could ever have sustained, under any circumstances, the levels of the last election.

Polls showed Labour's support trending down and its ratings for the way it was responding to Covid-19 also changed, with fewer approving and more disapproving.

They showed Labour was unlikely to again win an election on its own, but could still form a government with the Greens.

The year ended in a vastly different way to its beginning. Omicron, the scary new variant reported to spread even more quickly and easily than Delta, turned up in MIQ.

It was ravaging other countries and around the world new restrictions were being imposed.

In his last briefing before Christmas, Hipkins announced sweeping changes to the response, tightening up MIQ and bringing forward booster shots to four months after the second dose from the original six months.

The government also pushed back quarantine-free entry for returning New Zealanders to the end of February, causing an immediate outcry from those who had confidently believed they would be able to come home on 17 January without having to secure a slot in MIQ.

Hipkins also announced children would start being vaccinated on 17 January, before school started.

The measures, he explained, were designed to keep Omicron in MIQ - there were 22 cases at the time - and buy time while more was found out about the new strain.

He gave an assurance that if it did break out lockdowns would be the last resort. The first response would be to put regions where it had appeared into the red setting.

Chris Hipkins Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Throughout the year Covid-19 was a massive distraction. Because of that, radical initiatives announced by the government came under far less scrutiny than would otherwise have happened.

It announced that DHBs would be replaced by a single national health authority, a huge undertaking. Of no less enormity was Three Waters, the plan to take control of water infrastructure held by councils and put it under four entities.

Some councils were appalled by Three Waters - they were initially told participation would be voluntary but that changed to having no choice.

The May budget came and went. It was the first written by a Labour majority government under MMP, and it showed. Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the benefit increases in it were the biggest in a generation and he was "righting the wrongs" of former finance minister Ruth Richardson's Mother of all Budgets.

National and ACT said there was nothing in it for people who earned money.

While Labour suffered from the political impact of the pandemic and ended the year less popular than when it started, National was the opposite although it was coming off a low base.

Judith Collins, who had overseen an awful election result, was erratic and unpredictable. The media seethed with rumours of a leadership coup and former leader Simon Bridges was touted as the one to stage it - something he denied.

Collins, however, was clearly in trouble and in November made what Stuff chose as the worst political mistake of the year.

Her demotion of Bridges because of something he had said five years previously was the last straw for the caucus and there was a vote of no confidence in the leader.

During a week of intense lobbying Christopher Luxon, a first term rookie, emerged with a consensus to replace Collins, and Nicola Willis was chosen as his deputy.

Luxon moved quickly to put his front bench together, giving Bridges the finance portfolio and ranking him number three.

A very successful business leader before entering politics, Luxon said all the right things during two weeks of saturation media coverage.

New National leader Chris Luxon Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

In mid-December, a Taxpayers' Union poll conducted by Curia showed National jumping up 6.4 points to 32.6 percent support, with Luxon's rating as preferred prime minister coming in at 20.4 percent - reported to be the highest for any opposition leader since Sir John Key.

National's gain came at ACT's expense. Its popularity, which had soared during National's traumatic times, was down 5.3 points to 10.6 percent.

Labour showed a very slight gain to 39.5 percent, a long way from the heady pre-election highs but strong enough to govern with the Greens who gained 2.3 points to 10.9 percent.

And Ardern was way ahead of Luxon on 39.1 percent as preferred prime minister.

Despite the bad news that came at the end, ACT had a good year with leader David Seymour often dominating question time in Parliament. There were no loose cannons in his well-behaved 10-member caucus - he was by himself before the election - although none were given much chance to show themselves.

The Mori Party's two MPs, co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi also made their marks in Parliament and backed the vaccination drive.

Most of the news about the Greens came from Climate Change Minister and co-leader James Shaw's trip to Glasgow for the international climate conference, and late in the year the party's other co-leader, Marama Davidson, launched a new programme to curb domestic and sexual violence.

For insights into how they saw 2021, read RNZ's Focus on Politics: An end-of-year chat with the minor party leaders.

*Peter Wilson is a life member of Parliament's press gallery, 22 years as NZPA's political editor and seven as parliamentary bureau chief for NZ Newswire.


Politics and the pandemic - another year of Covid-19 - RNZ

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Bidens petty intolerance over Capitol riots will be politically costly – Sydney Morning Herald

Posted: at 9:05 am

It was a turbulent end to a tumultuous presidency. On January 6, 2021 Insurrection Day the United States Capitol building was invaded by white supremacist terrorists armed with stun guns, pepper spray, baseball bats and flagpoles in an effort to overthrow the American government. The world watched in dismay and disbelief. Scott Morrison was distressed. Jacinda Ardern was devastated.

Rioters break into the Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021. Credit:AP

Never before have so many people from so many places cared so much about Congress.

The riots were, indeed, deadly: five people died last year on Capitol Hill. But only one was killed: Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, who was shot at point blank range by a plainclothes police officer as she climbed through a door that had just been shattered by invaders. The officer was cleared of any wrongdoing. He later claimed that he saved countless lives.

Its rare to be shot for trespassing, even in America. But thats the past, and perhaps its time to move on. Joe Biden already seemed to think so, nearly a year ago. Citing Abraham Lincoln in his January 20 inaugural address, he pledged to put his whole soul into bringing America together, uniting our people, and uniting our nation.

He believed this was possible if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts; if we show a little tolerance and humility.

US President Joe Bidens inauguration speech pledge to unite the country has failed to materialise.Credit:Patrick Semansky

Tolerance is, after all, exactly what the United States showed to the million or so southerners who literally took up arms against the federal government in the 1861-1865 Civil War, all of whom were pardoned. Meanwhile, more than 700 people have been charged with crimes in connection with the events on Capitol Hill. Thats right: more people are being prosecuted for January 6 than for the Civil War. When Biden read Abraham Lincolns second inaugural address, he apparently missed the part about with malice toward none; with charity for all.

Still, trespassing is trespassing, and most of the Capitol insurrectionists have been charged with the heinous offence of parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building. Who knew that was illegal? After seven months of watching mostly peaceful protesters seize control of city centres with few apparent consequences, maybe the insurrectionists thought they could get away with a bit of parading on what is, after all, public property.

Instead, the man who propped his foot on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosis office (it turns out that it wasnt actually her desk) was arrested, jailed, and denied bail. He was labelled a looter and charged with stealing government property (an empty mailing envelope). An appeals court eventually overturned the decision of the lower court not to allow the 60-year-old man with no prior criminal record to post bail, but not before he had spent four months in prison.

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Jacinda Ardern | NZHistory, New Zealand history online

Posted: January 3, 2022 at 2:16 am

New Zealands third female PM, and at 37 our youngest leader since Edward Stafford in 1856, Jacinda Ardern had the most meteoric rise to power of any New Zealand PM three months prior to being sworn in, she was not even leader of her party.

Like one of her political mentors, Helen Clark, Ardern grew up in rural Waikato, hardly a traditional Labour stronghold. She was raised as a Mormon, but left the church in 2005. After graduating from the University of Waikato, she worked in the offices of Phil Goff and Clark, and in Britains Cabinet and Home offices, and served as president of the International Union of Socialist Youth. After returning to New Zealand the 28-year-old entered Parliament on Labours list at the 2008 election.

Although she had long been identified as a rising star in New Zealand politics, Ardern began 2017 as a list MP in an opposition party that was languishing in the polls. In February she won a by-election in the electorate seat of Mt Albert Helen Clarks former stomping ground and in March she became Labours deputy leader. Then on 1 August, less than eight weeks before election day, she succeeded Andrew Little as leader.

Ardern campaigned impressively against the vastly more experienced Bill English, and lifted Labour to a creditable 36.9% of the vote. After weeks of tense negotiations, on 19 October MMP King-maker Winston Peters announced that his New Zealand First Party would form a coalition with Labour, which could also count on the support of the Green Party. With 63 seats between them, this was enough to install Ardern as our 40th PM.

On 21 June 2018 Ardern became only the second elected leader in the world (after Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto) to give birth while in office. She subsequently earned international acclaim for her response to the 15 March 2019 terrorist attacks and her government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In October 2020 Ardern led the Labour Party to a comprehensive election victory, gaining 50% of the vote the first time any party had achieved this milestone since 1951 and 65 out of 120 seats in the House of Representatives. Although able to govern alone, Labour negotiated a co-operation agreement with the Green Party, which held 10 seats.

By Neill Atkinson

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Jacinda Ardern | NZHistory, New Zealand history online

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Summer off politics: What Jacinda Ardern is doing, reading, and watching for her break –

Posted: at 2:16 am

Stuff has talked to MPs from across Parliament about what they're looking forward to over the summer break. Today, Prime Minister and Labour MP for Mt Albert Jacinda Ardern tells Luke Malpass what shes up to over the holidays.


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sits down in her office with Stuff Political Editor Luke Malpass for an end-of-year interview.

What shes up to during the break

After several months of living in Wellington (the prime minister is usually based in Auckland with her family) she says she plans on doing absolutely nothing but with sun.

The favourite thing to do with her family is simple: Beach time. I expect to be buried by sand.

READ MORE:* Summer off politics: Chris Hipkins on keeping up with Covid through the holidays and making 'not very good' furniture* Summer off politics: What Maureen Pugh is doing, reading and watching over the summer break * Summer off politics: What Marama Davidson is doing, reading, and watching for her break

What shell be reading and watching

My goal is to get through one book! I try to catch up on the writing of some of our New Zealand authors over the past 12 months. The pile Ive accumulated is quite large.

For Netflix or streaming shows, she nominates The Power of the Dog, a movie about a charismatic rancher, directed by New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion.

Favourite podcast

I havent listened to a podcast for a while, but if I did, Id return to Criminal, she says. Criminal is a podcast that its makers say is stories of people who've done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.

Any neglected hobbies you only find the time for over summer?

Simple really: All of them.

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Summer off politics: What Jacinda Ardern is doing, reading, and watching for her break -

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Green co-leaders reflect on a year of being between Opposition and Government –

Posted: at 2:16 am

At one level, the Greens are clearly in Government.

Their leaders, Marama Davidson and James Shaw, are both ministers of the Crown. They vote for the Budget and support Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern continuing in her role.

At another, they are basically in opposition railing against Cabinets decisions on Covid-19, or campaigning to obliterate benefit sanction and impose rent controls two ideas way outside the ballpark Labour is playing in.

Stuff spoke to the two co-leaders after a year where the party basically stood still in the polls.

READ MORE:* The Green Party one year into its co-operation agreement: stable and enjoying the friction* Green Party policy launch urges voters to 'think ahead' as it outlines negotiating platform for deal with Labour

Shaw said he didnt quite feel that the Greens were in opposition, despite campaigning against the Government at times.

The position weve taken is consistent how we actually worked while in opposition, because weve already tried to be constructive in that position of testing the Government in areas where we felt there could be an improvement. But we are doing it on the back of a really solid relationship we have with the Labour ministers.

When you compare us to the actual opposition parties some of what they do is constructive, but a lot of it is just trying to trash the Government so that they can have a go, and thats not our objective.

Davidson said she saw the Green Partys role as pushing for Labour to do better, go faster, and go further something that could be done from both within Arderns ministry and from campaigning outside.


Green Party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson.

There is one party in the Opposition she could see sharing a Cabinet table with, however the Mori Party.

We have a lot in common on a number of issues. Of course, especially with Te Tiriti [The Treaty of Waitangi] based government as a vision.

As he always is, Shaw is frustrated by the idea of flirting with the National Party to try to get more leverage with Labour.

You're talking about a scenario in which we're in a position to choose between working with Labour or working with National. And the question would be given the work that we've been doing with Labour and the affinity in a policy sense that we have with Labour, why would we choose National? They would. They would have to move in ways that I don't think that they would find comfortable.

One of the areas the party differs from Labour on is housing Ardern is still wary of ever saying that she wants house prices to actually drop, while Shaw is happy to say they should.

If house prices fell theyre unlikely to fall anything like to the extent to which theyve rocketed up, he said.

Those of us who are lucky enough to own houses wouldnt see any kind of material reduction because their house would still be valued at considerably more than it would at the point they bought it. There is a small group of the most recent buyers who have bought at the height of the market but that comes down to whether they can maintain their mortgage, and thats income.

Shaw said he was wary of putting forward some kind of support package for those homeowners as it could create a moral hazard.

As climate change minister it was extremely frustrating that his Emissions Reduction Plan had to be pushed off into 2022.

It was ultimately a function of Covid, which caused chaos across Government. But it was something I really wanted to do.

He was also frustrated by the attacks on his trip to the Glasgow climate summit.

The attacks by certain media outlets and certain National MPs were hypocritical, because it was only directed at one minister, not the three that have been making trips. It was personal, not principle.

I was attacked for taking up a spot in MIQ and then for not taking up a spot in MIQ by the same people.

Shaw and Davidson both said they did understand the strength of feeling against MIQ, however, even as they have been more enamoured of the Covid-19 elimination strategy than Labour.

Its a terrible experience for people who are separated from their families. Beyond just the inconvenience there are people with sick parents, missing weddings, pregnancies, special times. All to be stuck in a system that is random, Shaw said.

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