Funding of $63 million to help keep New Zealanders safe in the water was the subject of the last item of Beehive news we posted before Christmas. To kick off 2021, the welfare of tongue-tied infants, digitally disadvantaged oldies and fastidious prison inmates (many of them gang members) was high on the government’s agenda for official statements.
The tightening of our border controls to keep all of us safe from virulent new strains of Covid-19 was the subject of two press releases.
And three ministers (including the PM) took time out to congratulate Kiwis awarded New Year gongs.
Oh – and let’s not forget that Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta, on Christmas Day, welcomed the agreement reached by the United Kingdom and the European Union on their future post-Brexit relationship.
While Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis issued just one statement, he was kept busy over several days dealing with something he called “the prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison”.
The “event” involved 16 belligerent blokes rioting for six days at Waikeria Prison, lighting fires, throwing debris at Department of Corrections staff, and destroying something called the top jail.
The inmates were reported to have been protesting about several matters, from their water being brown, bedding being unclean, and their being fed food from paper bags.
Eating from paper bags is a familiar tuck-in practice among some members of the Point of Order team, who hadn’t appreciated until now that this might breach their human rights.
Davis issued a statement when the event at Waikeria was over.
He said the majority of those involved had been members of the Mongols and Comancheros. Five were deportees from Australia, three of them subject to returning offender orders because of their criminal convictions.
The Police have been left to determine the laying of charges in relation to the destruction of the prison facility.
Davis said a world-leading new high-security prison with a first-of-its-kind mental health facility is being built at Waikeria Prison, to open in 2022.
“The arson, violence and destruction carried out by these men were reckless criminal acts that put themselves, other prisoners, Corrections staff and emergency services in danger,” Kelvin Davis said.
He has instructed Corrections officials to undertake a comprehensive review into how this situation was able to evolve and escalate to the extent it did and report their findings back to him.
They will also assess the damage done to the prison, but no one is expected to return to the ‘top jail’ facility.
While the disgruntled jailbirds kept Davis from enjoying a summer holiday, Ministers in health-related posts were on the job, too.
Chris Hipkins, Minister for COVID-19 Response, on December 28 announced an additional test for COVID-19 will be required for returnees from higher risk countries such as the United Kingdom on their arrival in New Zealand from midnight on 31 December.
The new testing will be in addition to the current day three and day 12 tests.
The returnees are required to be in isolation or quarantine in their allocated room at a facility until their initial test has returned a result.
Growing travel restrictions are being imposed in countries that host airport hubs and by airlines themselves – which block routes to New Zealand for the overwhelming majority of travellers from higher risk countries – but Hipkins said the New Zealand Government is taking this extra precautionary step to provide another layer of protection “and to support its goal of making summer unstoppable”.
Could summer have been stopped?
Hipkins went on to bray:
“Our 14-day managed quarantine and isolation regime is providing one of the strongest border defences anywhere in the world. These additional requirements for returnees from higher risk countries will provide extra safety for people working in the facilities and greater assurance for New Zealand generally.”
In a subsequent announcement, he confirmed that travellers from the United Kingdom or the United States bound for New Zealand will be required to get a negative test result for COVID-19 before departing, and work is under way to extend the requirement to other long haul flights to New Zealand.
Travellers from the UK or the US must have a written form, certified by a laboratory or another form of approved evidence, showing a negative result in the 72 hours prior to departure. It will come into force on flights arriving in New Zealand after 11.59pm on 15 January.
Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall announced that babies born with tongue-tie will be assessed and treated consistently under new guidelines released by the Ministry of Health.
She also announced the Government’s investment in digital literacy training for seniors has led to more than 250 people participating so far, helping them stay connected through technology such as Zoom and Skype so they can to keep in touch with their families and get access internet services and information at home.
The Wellbeing Budget in 2019 provided $600,000 to deliver computer training and skills for people who need it. This is funding programmes such as Pacific Senior CONNECT and Better Digital Futures.
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