• We got a strong sense yesterday of the reaction to school going back for seniors currently languishing in Level 3, and how it’s gone down with teachers.
    The PPTA, as we know, was furious - they didn’t mince their words.
    They said the government had abandoned it’s ‘abundance of caution’ approach and moved to a “reckless disregard for consequences in the blink of an eyelid.”
    Teachers themselves had mixed reactions – some worried about having to teach students both online and in person – the increased workload associated with that, increased risk of exposure to Covid from any unvaccinated students. Could it be some kind of super spreader event, some wondered.
    Parents were in the same camp. Some relieved, some anxious. Students, likewise, were split – some thrilled to go back, others saying it’s too soon.
    And sure enough, yesterday we learn not all schools are going to follow the Ministry's instructions and open back up.
    Some are opting to just keep exams online for seniors, as was already in train.
    I can't work out if that's because teachers said ‘nope, not happening’, or schools just literally weren't prepared; given the government didn't consult with them on it - or whether it's because parents complained, or that schools just feel with more than a hundred cases in the community, it's too soon.
    I have sympathy for them to the extent that it would've been a bit of an experiment.
    With unknown vaccination levels inside schools still, who'd want to inadvertently end up a super-spreader event?
    While the National Party will tell you it’s imperative everyone gets back into the classroom quick sticks for learning, for many students, it's about so much more than that, isn’t it?
    School is community. It’s their friendship group, their mentors, their peer support, for some it’s even their regular food supply as we heard yesterday from a South Auckland Principal.
    But for all those arguing that kids need to get back to class for socialisation and learning, is that honestly what they’re going to get in this climate, at Level 3?
    Last time they went back to school after lockdown, they got paranoid teachers desperate to play catch up, phobic about germs and rules and sanitising and keeping kids distanced from their classmates. This constant patrolling made teachers stressed and grumpy.
    There’s also the theory versus reality part of it.
    In theory, everyone will be wearing a mask but, the reality from other schools around the country who’re already back, is that mask wearing got ditched fairly early on and enforcement is nigh on impossible without teachers having eyes in the back of their head. Friends told to stay apart just found other places to hang out together away from teachers.
    So given the amount of angst, stress and pressure on teachers and students to go back to school in a Level Three environment, I can see why some have said, no thanks.

  • Human rights activists have disrupted the flame lighting ceremony for the Winter Olympics.
    This was in protest to China hosting the games.
    The activists are calling for countries and athletes to boycott the games due to human rights abuses in China.
    At the same time, British diver Tom Daly is asking IOC to ban countries from competing where being gay is punishable by death.
    Deputy Head of Sport and Events Management at Bournemouth University Dr Keith Parry told Kate Hawkesby so long as the IOC are not being punished in a financial sense, we can expect to see them continue to claim political neutrality.
    “It’s always going to be political.”
    He says “We have seen the greater presence of activism from athletes because they have got more power these days.”

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  • Hopes today's announcement on the Covid protection framework will signal when the South Island can move out of Level Two.
    Canterbury Chamber of Commerce CEO Leanne Watson told Kate Hawkesby the south may have no cases of Covid - but that doesn't mean it's not struggling.
    She says businesses and people in general are frustrated that there’s just no recognition.
    “Businesses just want clarity. It will provide that sense of hope and will be a real incentive to people, particularly those who are not vaccinated yet.”

  • The Tamaki’s are once again defending their right to protest.
    Bishop Brian Tamaki appeared in court this week for failing to comply with a Level Three order and breaching his bail conditions.
    He has attended and helped organise two lockdown protests and violated his bail conditions by attending another protest on October 16.
    Wife Hannah Tamaki told Kate Hawkesby he fully understands he could go to jail.
    “I don’t think he deliberately wants to break the law but, he’s gonna tip-toe up to the line and shout over to the other side: People, make the choices that are right for you.”

  • Are you finding these days that your patience is wearing thin?
    When it comes to morons, mine is.
    When I read yesterday that people were gathering and chanting outside the Henderson Police Station wearing "Freedom NZ" masks, and revving their motorbikes after Brian Tamaki’s arrest, it felt like the world had officially gone mad.
    Worse yet, Tamaki’s wife Hannah was live streaming the whole thing to Facebook. And as the crowd chants - God only knows what they were chanting - she allegedly says, “I hope my hunny comes home tonight".
    Give me strength.
    How have I not taken alcohol back up? Are you serious?
    “Hunny” unfortunately broke his bail conditions by attending a second Freedom Rally protest.
    Hunny also claimed he’d gotten off his first arrest and avoided charges.
    Hunny appears to think he’s above the law, certainly above the Public Health Act Order.
    Hunny seems to generate a crowd.
    Not to sound too alarmist Hannah, but Delta’s on babes. This is Level 3, and these are blatant breaches of the rules.
    And are we not just getting a bit sick and tired of people breaching the rules? Do we not all want our freedom and normality back?
    But newsflash – we’re not going to get it by chanting, gathering in crowds and protesting in parks.
    I mean, I feel for their plight, I really do. They’ve been reported as anti-vaxxers when I think they’re just pro-choice 'freedom crusaders' and look, we all want freedom. But our ticket out of this is actually just to vaccinate, and stay away from others and big groups.
    You can actually dislike the government, not like the way this response is being handled, be bummed that we all have to go and stick needles in our arms, and yet still get vaccinated. You can actually think and do all of those things at the same time. Trust me, I have.
    None of this is fun, none of this is – excuse the irony – a picnic, but it’s the best we have. It’s the only way, as evidenced everywhere else in the world.
    I get that ‘hunny’ might be missing the limelight and that Bishop status is a top dog vibe that has to be constantly reinforced by seeming to look powerful. But this ain’t it.
    There are more helpful ways the preaching could be going down these days. Especially to those key demographics among Destiny Church like young people and Maori. I mean, this could be a powerful opportunity to lead by example on responsible behaviours that show compassion and care for your fellow man.
    But that probably wouldn’t garner as much media attention.
    So when Hannah said she wanted 'hunny' home tonight, she spoke for all of us.
    We’d like him home too Hannah, and preferably to just stay there.

  • The future of business travel, and what it will look like post-pandemic will be discussed today.
    Flight Centre are holding their corporate travel event Illuminate.
    It coincides with the launch of the government's self-isolation pilot for business travellers, with 150 people confirmed for the trial.
    Flight Centre Travel Group's Head of Customer Engagement Andy Jack told Kate Hawkesby the pilot is a welcome first step in right direction.
    “We’re no stranger now to isolating. It’s probably the longer-term solution but it isn’t the absolute solution for regular overseas travellers who travel more for days rather than weeks.”
    Jack says they saw travel bounce back ahead of this lockdown and domestic travel levels overtake pre-Covid levels.

  • The All Blacks have a supporter in the US House of Representatives with a congressman welcoming the "legendary" team to America ahead of their clash against the USA Eagles this weekend.
    Speaking next to a picture of the All Blacks haka, Republican congressman Alex Mooney, who is co-chair of the congressional rugby caucus, said the All Blacks are "the world's most famous rugby club" and their visit to Washington DC could be an "important barometer" for America to host the Rugby World Cup in the future.
    "I'm excited to see the legendary New Zealand All Blacks take the pitch against the USA national men's rugby team when they face off this Saturday October 23rd (Sunday NZT)," Mooney said in an address to the House of Representatives.
    "We hope to pack FedEx Field here in DC. The All Blacks of New Zealand are the world's most famous rugby club. They strike fear in their opponents with their world-famous traditional pre-game war dance called the haka."

    I am proud to join with my Congressional Rugby Caucus Co-Chair @EleanorNorton to welcome the New Zealand @AllBlacks & @USARugby to FedEx Field on Saturday. Sports are an important part of our society, where Americans put partisan politics aside. #Rugby #USARugby— Rep. Alex Mooney (@RepAlexMooney) October 19, 2021

    Mooney said rugby is a growing sport in the US and the All Blacks' upcoming clash against the Eagles could be the first step in showing off America's credentials for hosting a World Cup in the future.
    "Men and women's rugby are fast-growing sports in America and give us all a chance to put partisan politics aside," he said. "That's why bringing an international event of this magnitude to the DC area is a tremendous accomplishment USA Rugby, Events DC and Leftfield Live. The match is an important barometer for the ability to host future world class events including the Rugby World Cup."
    Mooney, who chairs the congressional rugby caucus alongside Democrat congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, played rugby in university and fell in love with the sport.
    The All Blacks take on the USA on Sunday at 8.30am before heading to Europe for matches against Wales, Italy, Ireland and France.

  • Some changes could be on the way for the Catholic Church.
    Pope Francis has announced a two-year consultation process that aims to reform the Church.
    Called "Synod" the aim is to consult every Catholic parish and bishop around the world on the future direction of the Church.
    Assistant Catholic Bishop of Auckland Bishop Michael Gielen told Kate Hawkesby the Pope wants everyone to have their voices heard.
    “We're going to approach this in complete openness. We’re called to listen.”
    Bishop Gielen says change is always hard for an ancient historical community but the Church is up for it.
    “We haven’t always got everything right in the past and we have to listen.”

  • Senior students in level three regions get to go back to school from Tuesday, but for years one to 10, no such luck.
    Education Minister Chris Hipkins says those students might not return to school until 2022.
    And if they do, Hipkins says some options being considered to make it work are rostered attendance, and learning outdoors in the warmer months.
    Principal of Rowandale Primary School in Manurewa, Karl Vasau said it’s not as simple as just getting kids back in the classroom.
    “Sometimes we think, goodness me, let’s get them back to school, let’s make it safe, but sometimes Kate, getting them back to school just won’t work.”

  • As if this week’s not tough enough and we’re not rarked up enough already, now they want to carve up heritage houses for more development.
    A new bill aims to force councils to allow more dense housing. The "new intensification rules will allow buildings of up to three storeys on most sites in cities without any need for resource consent from August 2022,” we read yesterday.
    This is basically a green light to development and a way of addressing housing supply. Councils have previously made access to land difficult; this turns the tables. It takes more power off Councils and reduces impediments to progress, and that’s no bad thing.
    What might be ruffling the feathers of the latte set however, is whether this snazzy new drive for development winds up on their front door step.
    A South Auckland Councillor has said that it needs to include wealthier suburbs too.
    So those sitting pretty in a 200-year-old villa in Remuera, or Kelburn or Fendalton may well be looking down the barrel of a 3-storey development going up next door. In some areas it's up to 6 storeys.
    How palatable will be this be for them? I can tell you it’ll go down like a cup of cold sick.
    Low density houses in suburbs in metropolitan areas are already feeling the squeeze with infill housing and developments like apartment complexes springing up around them.
    A green light to more of it will have people worried.
    I get both sides of the argument, on the one hand we need more housing, no question, and we need it to happen quickly. But on the other hand, who’s overseeing whether quiet neighbourhoods will turn into bustling ugly concrete jungles?
    Threats to remove heritage overlays or to reclassify them risks losing, not just the history of suburban areas, but also the architecture, cityscape, urban landscape and design aesthetic.
    If sprawling bungalows lovingly maintained in Merivale or Mt Albert or Maori Hill suddenly have to make way for 3 or 6-storey-high concrete apartment buildings, then what does that do to the value of an area?
    Will this devalue already established homes? Will there be a flight to certain areas, thus rearranging the whole current make-up of suburbs? Or will value of the ancient villa on a one-thousand-square-metre lot actually go through the roof because they’ll soon be like hens teeth?
    And how much is it costing to throw your 3-storeys up on land in wealthier low-density suburbs anyway? Where, by the time you’re done, the price of the finished development will be out of reach of any first home buyer.
    Will this pump the market up? Or pump on the brakes?
    I imagine it's a gamble that'll have heritage home owners feeling a little uneasy this morning.

  • A new bill designed to cut red tape and allow more intensification in housing construction could be pointless if practical aspects aren’t taken into account.
    Labour and National have joined forces on the rules, which will allow up to three homes of up to three storeys built on most sites, without resource consent.
    AUT construction expert John Tookey told Kate Hawkesby it could help those wanting to get on the property ladder.
    But he’s raised questions over whether there are enough builders or materials to construct all the houses being promised.
    About 105-thousand extra homes are expected to be built in the next five to eight years.
    Tookey says it has to be twinned up with capacity growth initiatives, such as skills training or a revised Ministry of Works.
    “Somebody somewhere needs to start thinking more collectively about capacity because opportunity without capacity is meaningless.”

  • Prison staff have been taken by surprise by the Government’s move to include them in mandatory vaccination.
    All staff working in New Zealand prisons now need to get their first dose by October 30 and both doses by December 1.
    Corrections Association Acting President Floyd du Plessis told Kate Hawkesby the news has come as a shock to members.
    He says they understand it was decided by Cabinet on Monday, but they're disappointed it wasn't announced sooner to help get things rolling.

  • Life has returned to normal for millions in Britain since coronavirus restrictions were lifted over the summer. But while the rules have vanished, the virus hasn't.
    Many scientists are now calling on the government to reimpose social restrictions and speed up booster vaccinations as coronavirus infection rates, already Europe's highest, rise still further.
    The UK recorded 43,738 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, slightly down from the 49,156 reported Monday, which was the largest number since mid-July. New infections have averaged more than 44,000 a day over the past week, a 16 per cent increase on the week before.
    Last week, the Office for National Statistics estimated that one in 60 people in England had the virus, one of the highest levels seen in Britain during the pandemic.

    A man wears a face mask as he walks in Piccadilly Circus, in London. Photo / Alberto Pezzali, AP
    In July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government lifted all the legal restrictions that had been imposed more than a year earlier to slow the spread of the virus, including face coverings indoors and social distancing rules. Nightclubs and other crowded venues were allowed to open at full capacity, and people were no longer advised to work from home if they could.
    Some modellers feared a big spike in cases after the opening-up. That didn't occur, but infections remained high, and recently have begun to increase — especially among children, who largely remain unvaccinated.
    Also rising are hospitalisations and deaths, which have averaged 130 a day over the past week, with 223 reported Tuesday alone. That is far lower than when cases were last this high, before much of the population was vaccinated, but still too high, critics of the government say. Britain has recorded more than 138,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest total in Europe after Russia.

    People sit at the bottom of a column in the area of Covent Garden. Photo / Alberto Pezzali, AP
    Against that backdrop, some feel Britons have been too quick to return to pre-pandemic behaviour. Masks and social distancing have all but vanished in most settings in England, including schools, though Scotland and other parts of the UK remain a bit more strict. Even in shops, where masks are recommended, and on the London transit network, where they are mandatory, adherence is patchy.
    A plan to require proof of vaccination to attend nightclubs, concerts and other mass events in England was dropped by the Conservative government amid opposition from lawmakers, though Scotland introduced a vaccine pass programme this month.
    Some scientists say a bigger factor is waning immunity. Britain's vaccination programme got off to a quick start, with shots given to the elderly and vulnerable beginning in December 2020, and so far almost 80 per cent of eligible people have received two doses. The early start means millions of people have been vaccinated for more than six months, and studies have suggested vaccines' protection gradually wanes over time.
    Millions of people in Britain are being offered booster shots, but critics say the programme is moving too slowly, at about 180,000 doses a day. More than half of the people eligible for a booster dose haven't yet received one.
    The UK also waited longer than the US and many European nations to vaccinate children ages 12-15, and only about 15 per cent in that age group in England have had a shot since they became eligible last month.
    "It's critical we accelerate the booster programme," said epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, a member of the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.
    Ferguson said one factor influencing the UK's high case numbers was that it has relied heavily on the AstraZeneca vaccine, "and, while that protects very well against very severe outcomes of Covid, it protects slightly less well than Pfizer against infection and transmission, particularly in the face of the Delta variant".

    A man wears a face mask as he passes a woman without...

  • Financial hardship thanks to lockdown means more people are trying to get their Kiwisaver funds out earlier.
    Budgeting advisers say there's been a 25 to 40 per cent increase in the number of payouts being approved.
    That means an increase in rejected applications that they don't quite meet the hardship standard - and this is proving tough for some to hear.
    Financial Services Complaints CEO, Susan Taylor told Kate Hawkesby they have noticed increased demand for their services.
    "We’ve had about a five to ten percent increase, just in the last few months, which we see as a bit of a trend happening.”

  • You knew when the PM started selling the idea that we should be so grateful not to be going into level 4, that the mind games were on, and she was going to make Level 3 sound like a picnic.
    And picnics as it turns out, is all we got. Two more weeks of them.
    I could not have called this more wrong. Yesterday, I optimistically said they’d definitely free up some restrictions. I thought a zoo or a museum or the odd library may get thrown a bone.
    How wrong I was. Two more weeks at Level 3 for Auckland, and the announcement that a slew of announcements will be dripfed over the coming week. If we thought we were living week by week on dripfed news by the Government, it just got worse. It’s now day by day. We are being dictated our terms, and our lives, in 24-hour cycles.
    Here in Auckland, we’ve been locked down for 63 days now. Ten weeks. We are 89 percent vaccinated single dose, 71 percent double dose. The bulk of us, bar Destiny Church and the odd North Shore party goer, are abiding the rules.
    This is infuriating. It smacks of a PM who is so disconnected from her own electorate; she hasn’t been in Auckland for months, her platitudes from the cosy level 2 Beehive in Wellington thanking Aucklanders are falling on deaf and increasingly annoyed ears.
    The PM’s giggling at questions with the Wellington-centric press gallery who sound equally out of touch with Auckland, is increasingly nauseating. It alienates every single person she’s asking to do the hard graft.
    The response seriously lacks an Auckland connection yet Aucklanders are the ones bearing the brunt of this nightmare. Apart from the glib ‘hey thanks Auckland’ the Government shows no sign whatsoever of understanding what this is truly like.
    I can tell you as an Aucklander sitting watching this unfold, into week 10 of home schooling and watching businesses fall over all around us, it’s not remotely funny. None of it’s amusing. If ever the PM needed to check her tone, it’s now. The once Queen of Communication – as declared by the Left – is whirling and sinking in a communication mudpool.
    Also, there's a disingenuousness now around these announcements about announcements.
    It's just plain cruel. Do they know and just won't tell us because they're drunk on power? Or are they making it up as they go along and don't have a clue yet?
    The lack of urgency is galling. If they know what's happening for schools, vaccine passports, Māori, business support, and a target, then they should've shared it as of yesterday.
    And if the target is over 90 percent, they're chasing pipe dreams nowhere else in the world has, at our expense.
    It’s become a farce. If you voted for this omnishambles, I hope you’re happy.

  • Despite the optimism of many yesterday, Auckland is facing another two weeks of lockdown while the rest of the country remains in level two.
    The Government did make some announcements of announcements
    It will finally reveal a vaccination target on Friday, as well as a new traffic light system.
    But this has some saying the chop and change of decisions shows the Government is flailing about
    Political commentator Bryce Edwards told Kate Hawkesby the Government are in a tough position.
    "They've got people that want relaxation of the rules and others that want a circuit breaker going back up to Level 4, Ardern did her typical thing of going somewhere in the middle, which means the status quo is staying where we're at."

  • The film industry has traditionally been dominated by studios in Hollywood, but there seems to have been a shift in the tide.
    The biggest movie in the world right now is a Chinese propaganda movie.
    The Battle at Lake Changjin is on track to become the biggest movie of the year, and the highest grossing Chinese film of all time.
    That alongside South Korea's Squid Game, has some in Hollywood nervous, and realising they may face more competition from Asian productions
    Media studies professor at University of Virgina and author of "Hollywood made in China" Dr Aynne Kokas joined Kate Hawkesby.

  • Hairdressers are frustrated there's no roadmap for them.
    They're among those bearing the brunt of Auckland's lengthy lockdown; it's 10 weeks since they've had to shut up shop.
    Ashley Green owns Society, a salon in Grey Lynn, and told Kate Hawkesby they have the ability to operate one client to one staff member, who's in full PPE.
    She says they can open safely.
    “If we are waiting for vaccinations to go up, why not let us look after clients who are already vaccinated? My team are fully vaccinated, we’re ready to go.”

  • Promising signs on the horizon.
    Auckland’s going to get to 90 percent vaxxed soon, fingers crossed, and that’s going to force this Government to open some stuff up.
    And by stuff, I mean the border. The shops. The Auckland boundary. Normality is calling.
    Not for the people still steeped in fear and “freaking out” like Rod Jackson and Siousxie Wiles.
    Unfortunately, in going hard and early on the fear mongering, and in pursuing it for so long, there’s still a large chunk of New Zealanders trapped inside the fear and unable to get out.
    These are the same people craving another level 4 lockdown. The epidemiologists - given so much airtime and limelight throughout this pandemic, risk becoming increasingly obsolete and irrelevant. They’re not on message anymore, the Government now distancing itself and making calls that the academics disapprove of.
    A classic example of this is the new traffic light system the Government wants to implement to replace levels.
    Most of their “experts” poo pooed this idea as “not fit for purpose”.
    Yet as far as the Government is concerned, they’ve ‘consulted’ on it so that’s that.
    Arrogance means you just have to go through the motions, you don’t actually have to listen or act on anything, you just give them a platform to speak, nod politely, and move on. This modus operandi is this Governments forte.
    In fact, these experts should be grateful they got any consultation at all.
    So, what will happen today then? Well certainly not level 4 as the panickers would like, in fact I think more freedoms are coming.
    They know tolerance for lockdowns is through the floor, they know they’re taking a hit politically on the MIQ shambles, they will only tolerate so much political damage.
    So, despite cloaking it all under the veil of a “health response” what we'll see in the coming weeks will all be political.
    Opening the border for Kiwis to come for Christmas will be a ballsy but welcome move, opening CBDs and retail, getting people back to the dentist and the hairdresser and the physio, allowing Aucklanders to escape T ā maki MaCovid. This all needs to start rolling out over the next few weeks surely.
    The pace at which they move here is key.
    Quick enough to get the ball rolling in time for Christmas, but slow enough not to infuriate the chicken littles running round saying the sky will fall in.
    It’s a balancing act, and one they need to weigh up in good enough time for Kiwis to get their much-promised summer.

  • It's the first day of term four, but Auckland students still don't know when they'll be back in the classroom.
    That's despite initial indications they would be coming back
    National Party Education Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says we should get on with it once enough teachers are vaccinated.
    He says told Kate Hawkesby the real danger isn't kids going to school, it's kids not going to school.
    "They're falling behind, they're losing track with their friends, losing the habit of getting to school. And let's face it, it's a complete lottery as to whether they're actually learning when they're in lockdown."