Al Jazeera English New Zealand
Al Jazeera English
Ardern’s Labour Party wins New Zealand election - Al Jazeera English
Ardern’s opponent Collins concedes defeat after trailing with a quarter of the votes to be counted.
Jacinda Arderns centre-left Labour Party has won New Zealands general election after the prime ministers opponent Judith Collins conceded defeat on Saturday with almost a quarter of the votes still to be counted. Labour had 49 percent of the votes, far ahead of National at 27 percent, the Electoral Commission said, with 77 percent of ballots counted in an election that was largely a referendum on Arderns aggressive handling of COVID-19 epidemic. Labour was on track to win 64 of the 120 seats in the countrys unicameral parliament, the highest by any party since New Zealand adopted a proportional voting system in 1996. If Labour wins more than half the seats, Ardern could form the first single-party government under the current system. After opposition National Party leader Collins conceded, Ardern came out of her home in Auckland, waving and hugging gathered supporters. To Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who I have phoned, congratulations on your result because it is, I believe, an outstanding result for the Labour Party, Collins said in a televised speech. People were very grateful and very happy with how weve handled COVID, they like the shape of the plan that weve got going forward from here for the economy, said Finance Minister Grant Robertson, a top Labour MP. Of Arderns current coalition partners, the nationalist New Zealand First party had 2.6 percent votes and the Green Party 7.6 percent. If she is unable to form a Labour-only government, she is expected to continue to rely on the minor Greens while jettisoning New Zealand First. A Labour-Green coalition would be the first fully left-leaning government since the 1970s, a scenario that Nationals Collins warned would mean more taxes and an environment hostile to business. Ardern has pledged to raise taxes on top earners, while Collins promised short-term tax cuts, but they have otherwise shown few major differences on policy. Be strong, be kind The prime minister won global acclaim for her handling of a mass shooting last year by a white supremacist at a mosque in Christchurch, with her inclusive be strong, be kind mantra and swift action to ban guns. She burnished that reputation this year with a go hard, go early approach to the new coronavirus, which has eliminated locally spread COVID-19 in the nation. The election was delayed by a month after new COVID-19 infections in Auckland, that led to a second lockdown in the countrys largest city. While known internationally for promoting progressive causes such as womens rights and social justice, at home Ardern faced criticism that her government failed on a promise to be transformational. New Zealanders also voted on Saturday in referendums to legalise euthanasia and recreational cannabis, with results to be announced on October 30. The latter vote could make New Zealand only the third country in the world to allow the adult use and sale of cannabis nationwide, after Uruguay and Canada.
Black hole research wins scientists Nobel Prize for physics - Al Jazeera English
Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez awarded the prize for their discoveries related to black holes.
Three physicists have won this years Nobel Prize for physics for discoveries related to black holes. Briton Roger Penrose, a professor at the University of Oxford, will receive half of this years prize for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity. Goran K Hansson, the academys secretary-general, said German Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute and the University of California, Berkeley and American Andrea Ghez of the University of California, Los Angeles will receive the other half of the prize for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy. It is common for several scientists who worked in related fields to share the prize. The discoveries of this years Laureates have broken new ground in the study of compact and supermassive objects, said David Haviland, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics. Ghez is only the fourth woman to win the physics prize, after Marie Curie (1903), Maria Goeppert Mayer (1963) and Donna Strickland (2018). Last years prize went to Canadian-born cosmologist James Peebles for theoretical work about the early moments after the Big Bang, and Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for discovering a planet outside our solar system. The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and prize money of 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.12m), courtesy of a bequest left 124 years ago by the prizes creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel. The amount was increased recently to adjust for inflation. On Monday, the Nobel Committee awarded the prize for physiology and medicine to Americans Harvey J Alter and Charles M Rice and British-born scientist Michael Houghton for discovering the liver-ravaging Hepatitis C virus. The other prizes are for outstanding work in the fields of chemistry, literature, peace and economics.
‘We beat the virus again’: COVID restrictions in Auckland lifted - Al Jazeera English
Easing of COVID-19 measures before midnight on Wednesday means there will be no limit on gatherings in Auckland.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that coronavirus restrictions in Auckland would be lifted this week, as she expressed confidence the second wave of coronavirus infections in the countrys biggest city had been almost eliminated. It felt longer, and dragged on in what was already starting to feel like a very long year, she said. But despite this, Aucklanders and New Zealanders stuck to the plan that has worked twice now, and beat the virus again. The city will move to alert level 1 before midnight on Wednesday, joining the rest of the country, with no new cases reported in the Auckland cluster for 10 consecutive days. There is now a 95-percent probability of the cluster being eliminated, Ardern said at a news conference. COVID-19 will be with us for many months to come. But we should still mark these milestones. New Zealand, a nation of five million, appeared to have stamped out community transmission of COVID-19 earlier this year following a tough nationwide lockdown that was subsequently lifted. The renewed Auckland outbreak, detected in August, was the biggest the country had seen, with 179 linked cases, and prompted Ardern to reinforce restrictions in Auckland. The easing of measures means there will be no 100-person limit on gatherings in Auckland, and no physical distancing rules in bars and restaurants. The country recorded one new case on Monday, involving a New Zealander returning from overseas, taking its total number of confirmed cases to 1,499, including 25 deaths. Well done Aotearoa! We did it. https://t.co/CZREe83bMY Helen Clark Foundation (@HelenClarkFound) October 5, 2020 Arderns success in containing the coronavirus has played a significant role in putting her firmly ahead in polls for a general election on October 17. Still, Ardern warned that success could not be taken for granted. She pointed to a decline in the use of the official COVID-19 tracing app and falling virus test numbers. A resurgence of the virus is not our only worry, resurgence of complacency is right up there too, Ardern said.
Dozens of homes razed in New Zealand bushfires - Al Jazeera English
At least 4,600 hectares affected by the blaze, which displaced more than 100 people in South Island’s Lake Ohau.
Bushfires have destroyed dozens of homes in New Zealand, authorities said on Monday, saying it was a miracle no one was hurt when a wall of orange descended on a remote South Island village. The blaze began in a mountain forest early on Sunday morning and, fanned by strong winds, swept through the village of Lake Ohau, forcing residents to flee for their lives. According to the New Zealand fire emergency agency on Monday, at least 4,600 hectares (11,366 acres) of land were affected by the blaze, which also displaced more than 100 people. The high winds meant the fire could not yet be contained and the situation may change rapidly with any shift in the wind, Fire and Emergency New Zealand said. Lake hau #Fire#NZ: This @CopernicusEU Sentinel 2B satellite image shows the burnt area and fire front(s) at 11:37 am Sunday October 4 (NZDT). The dirty brown bit in the middle is burnt. The bright orange is the hottest ground. Green is vegetation, cyan is snow (1/3) pic.twitter.com/Bo5DtwOr1L Todd Redpath (@toddrednz) October 5, 2020 At this stage we are confident that crews would have achieved 50 percent control of the fire perimeter by tomorrow night, it added on Monday. The agency said up to 50 structures were destroyed and conditions remained challenging, with 11 helicopters and nine fire crews attempting to contain the flames. Damage assessment was still underway. Waitaki District mayor Gary Kircher said the tiny Lake Ohau community had been devastated. Of the 60 or 70 houses, we believe that the majority have gone, he told Radio New Zealand. Officials say most homes in the area were destroyed in the fire and it was a minor miracle no-one had been harmed [Courtesy of Gary Kircher via AFP Photo] The reality is that its a minor miracle no one has been harmed. If it had been another 15-20 minutes, it would have been a very different story.
Face masks mandatory in New Zealand as Auckland lockdown lifted - Al Jazeera English
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern says she is confident outbreak under control as schools and businesses reopen.
Children went back to school and offices reopened in Auckland on Monday after authorities lifted the lockdown in New Zealand's largest city that was imposed to contain a sudden spike of coronavirus cases earlier in August. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was confident the outbreak was under control, but made masks compulsory on public transport across the country of five million people. "We have a plan that we know will work," Ardern, herself wearing a mask said on Monday. "We just need everyone's compliance and help. If everyone sticks to those guidelines and rules, coupled together with all the public health measures that we have, we can make this work." The lockdown began on August 12 after four cases were detected in the city of 1.5 million, and brought to an end 102 days without community transmission. The origin of the outbreak has still not been found. Students in Auckland returned to school after many weeks of disruptions. "To me, it's so good for them to go back to school. Online work, online school is all right but it's still not good enough for them. So it's good to get out of the house," said one parent. Public gatherings remain limited to 10 people in Auckland and the rest of the country remains on alert level 2, which means physical distancing norms must be followed. New Zealand announced nine new coronavirus cases on Monday, five of which were in the community and were traced to the known Auckland cluster. Ardern, who has delayed the country's general election until October 17, urged everyone to "do their bit"in fighting the virus. "It's natural that we feel tired, the whole world is," she said. "But relative to other countries we're doing really well. We'll be able to get back in front of the virus if we follow the guidelines." New Zealand has recorded more than 1,700 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far, and 22 deaths.
New Zealand mosque shooter sentenced to life without parole - Al Jazeera English
Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 Muslims as they prayed, is first in New Zealand to be sentenced to life without parole.
A court in New Zealand has sentenced a self-confessed white supremacist who killed 51 Muslims as they prayed at two mosques in Christchurch to life imprisonment without parole, the first time such a sentence has been handed down in the country. Brenton Tarrant, a 29-year-old Australian, pleaded guilty earlier this year to 51 charges of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one charge of committing a terrorist act during the March 2019 rampage in the southern city, which he livestreamed on Facebook. In delivering the sentence, High Court Judge Cameron Mander said on Thursday that a finite term was insufficient for such a crime, and that Tarrant had shown no remorse. "Your crimes are so wicked that even if you are detained until you die it will not exhaust the requirements of punishment and denunciation," Mander said. "As far as I can discern, you are empty of any empathy for your victims." Prosecutors told the court at the opening of the sentencing hearing on Monday that Tarrant had been planning the attacks for a long time and wanted to create fear among migrants. The killer represented himself at the hearing and said through a lawyer in court on Thursday that he did not oppose the sentence. Dressed in grey prison clothes and surrounded by guards, Tarrant did not react to the sentence. "The hatred that lies at the heart of your hostility to particular members of the community that you came to this country to murder has no place here - it has no place anywhere," Mander said. Gamal Fouda, the Imam of Al Noor Mosque, one of the places of worship targeted by Tarrant, said that "no punishment would bring our loved ones back", but was proud of New Zealand's response against extremism. "We respect our justice system and in New Zealand Muslim community, and the non-Muslim as well - we stood together against hate. And with it, our own model for the world. Extremists are all the same. Whether they use religions, nationalism or any other ideology," he said. "All extremists, they represent hate. but we are here today. We represent love, compassion, Muslim and non-Muslim people of faith and of no faith. That is us, New Zealanders, and we are very proud that we are Muslims in New Zealand and we'll continue to serve this country, and no punishment again is going to bring our loved ones back." Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was relieved that "that person will never see the light of day". "The trauma of March 15 is not easily healed but today I hope is the last where we have any cause to hear or utter the name of the terrorist behind it. His deserves to be a lifetime of complete and utter silence," she said.
Survivors, families describe loss, rage after New Zealand attacks - Al Jazeera English
At sentencing hearing for mosque shooter, survivors and relatives of victims recount their loss, grief and 'utter rage'.
Survivors and relatives of victims from a mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques described in court on Tuesday how more than a year after the attack, they are still having trouble sleeping, enjoying life and providing for their families. It was the second day of a four-day sentencing hearing for Brenton Tarrant, an Australian self-confessed white supremacist who murdered 51 Muslim worshippers and wounded dozens more during the March 2019 attacks. The 29-year-old in March pleaded guilty to murder, attempted murder, and "terrorism", reversing an earlier "not guilty" plea. He could become the first person in New Zealand to be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, the toughest sentence available. The hearings have given many a chance to confront Tarrant, who showed little emotion as he sat in the dock surrounded by five officers. Rashid Omar, whose 24-year-old son Tariq was killed at the Al Noor mosque, said he had desperately held out hope his son had survived until police and Muslim leaders read out a list of those who died. "My body went completely weak and everything went silent," Omar said, breaking down into tears. "As a parent, no matter how old your children are, they'll always be your baby." Each day has become a burden to endure and he finds even simple tasks hard to complete, Omar said. He wakes up tired and with no energy. He once loved photography, he said, but now cannot bear to pick up a camera. Omar's wife Rosemary said she functions from moment to moment, often in a fog. The loss and grief is debilitating, she said, and has cast a shadow over everything in their lives. "It's like I'm broken, and I see my family as broken," she said. 'Irreparable damage' Ambreen Naeem, who lost both her husband Naeem Rashid and son Talha in the killings, branded the gunman the "biggest loser". "Since my husband and son passed away, I've never had a proper, normal sleep. I don't think I ever will," she said. "It is irreparable damage to me, that is why his punishment should continue forever." Naeem Rashid was hailed as a hero and prosecutor Barnaby Hawes said he "allowed a number of other worshippers to escape" when he charged at Tarrant in the Al Noor mosque and partially knocked him down. Many of those who spoke described continuing financial strain. Motasim Uddin, who was shot in the leg and spent more than three months in hospital, said he had not been able to return to his job as a welder and was worried about his future, especially as he was trying to support his parents in Bangladesh. "I cannot forget what happened, what I saw," Uddin said. "I try to forget, but I wake up thinking about it." Mohammad Siddiqui was shot in the arm when "the devil" arrived at the Al Noor mosque. "Yes, I call him a devil because you entered the house of God with evil intentions to kill innocent people. You've killed the dreams of my friends and family with ... your gutless action." Noraini Milne, whose 14-year-old son Sayyad was killed, said her own survival came as a blessing as she planned to spend her life helping others. "You are already dead to me," she said to Tarrant. "Whatever punishment you are going to receive in this world will never be enough." Tarrant has dismissed his lawyers and is representing himself during the sentencing, raising fears he could try to use the occasion as a platform to promote his racist views. He can choose to speak once the survivors have spoken, although the judge is expected to stop any attempt to grandstand. No remorse The attacks targeting people praying at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques shocked New Zealand and prompted new laws banning the deadliest types of semi-automatic weapons. They also prompted global changes to social media protocols after the gunman livestreamed his attack on Facebook, where it was viewed by hundreds of thousands of people. Tarrant, a former gym instructor, said he wanted to instil fear into those he described as "invaders", including New Zealand's Muslim population. But Raesha Ismail, who lost her brother Junaid in the attack, said it only strengthened her beliefs and she was now "more open with practising my faith in the workplace". Angela Armstrong, whose mother Linda died in the attack, challenged Tarrant to use his life in prison to consider the beauty and diversity of the freedom he sought to destroy. "You robbed me of my mother, of her love and strength. Likely you will also never again feel the love and warmth of your mother's hug either. While I have pity for your mum, I have no emotion for you. You are nothing," she said. "While he will remain trapped in a cage my mum is free. I therefore challenge Tarrant to use his remaining lifetime to consider the beauty and life to be found in diversity and freedom that he sought to distort and destroy." Linda Armstrong's nephew Kyron Gosse said he felt "utter rage" that Tarrant travelled to New Zealand from Australia and "stole our nation's innocence". "To this day, I have not received an apology nor have I seen any shred of remorse for his despicable actions," he said.
'Patently wrong': Ardern slams Trump over New Zealand virus claim - Al Jazeera English
NZ's prime minister hits back at Donald Trump's claim that her country is experiencing a 'terrible' surge in COVID-19.
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called out US President Donald Trump for saying her country is experiencing a "big surge" in COVID-19, saying his remarks were "patently wrong". Ardern's comments on Tuesday came hours after Trump told a crowd in the US state of Minnesota that New Zealand was in the grip of a "terrible" surge in COVID-19 cases, despite having earlier succeeded in eliminating the disease. "The places they were using to hold up now they are having a big surge," Trump said at the campaign rally. "They were holding up names of countries, and now they are saying, 'Whoops!'" "You see what's going on in New Zealand?" he said. "They beat it; they beat it, it was like front-page news because they wanted to show me something ... Big surge in New Zealand, you know it's terrible. We don't want that." The claim came as New Zealand confirmed 13 new infections on Tuesday, taking the country's total number of cases since the pandemic began to 1,293, with 22 deaths. The US has had more than 5.2 million cases and 170,000 deaths, the highest in the world. Ardern told reporters there was no comparison between New Zealand's situation and that in the US. "I think anyone who's following COVID and its transmission globally will quite easily see that New Zealand's nine cases in a day does not compare to the United States' tens of thousands, and in fact does not compare to most countries in the world," she said. "Obviously, it's patently wrong," she said of Trump's comment. "We are still one of the best-performing countries in the world when it comes to COVID... our workers are focused on keeping it that way." New Zealand has fared far better than most countries during the pandemic, but an abrupt resurgence of COVID-19 last week in Auckland prompted the government to extend a lockdown for the city's 1.7 million residents until August 26, while physical distancing rules are in place in other towns and cities. The outbreak forced Ardern to delay the country's general election by four weeks, to October 17. As the polls approached, the prime minister was keen to remind voters of her government's track record on fighting the virus. "Every other single country in the world has experienced resurgence. We went longer than many, our outbreak is certainly not as significant as what we are seeing in Vietnam, in Hong Kong, in South Korea or in Australia," she told state broadcaster TVNZ. The origin of New Zealand's latest outbreak is still unknown, but authorities earlier on Tuesday ruled out the possibility that it came from frozen food items or freight. "Seems clear now that the possibility is being ruled out from that investigation," Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told reporters.
New Zealand's Ardern launches 'COVID election' campaign - Al Jazeera English
PM kicks off her re-election campaign by pledging a $205m rescue package for businesses affected by the virus lockdown.
Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, launched her re-election campaign on Saturday promising a "laser-like" focus on boosting jobs and economic growth hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The charismatic 40-year-old leader is on track for a comfortable victory in the September 19 election, according to opinion polls, having won global praise for her leadership during the coronavirus pandemic. "When people ask, is this a COVID election, my answer is yes, it is," Ardern told her supporters gathered in Auckland for the launch of her Labour Party's re-election campaign. In her first campaign speech, Ardern pledged a 311 million New Zealand dollar ($205.32m) scheme aimed at getting 40,000 locals back in work, if her party wins the polls. The funding will allow businesses a subsidy of on average 7,500 New Zealand dollars ($4,953), and up to 22,000 New Zealand dollars ($14,529), to hire unemployed New Zealanders. "The new Flexi-wage scheme is a key plank of our economic plan to support businesses to recover and to provide jobs to those who have lost work due to COVID," Ardern said. Recent data suggests unemployment due to COVID-19 was not as dire as expected, and business confidence had improved due to the government's hard and early response to the pandemic. New Zealand has reported fewer than 1,600 cases, and just 22 deaths. It has been 99 days since the country had any domestic transmission of COVID-19, a rare achievement as the pandemic rages globally, and it has reopened the economy after undergoing a complete shutdown to eradicate the coronavirus. Ardern's Labour Party faces a challenge in next month's election from the opposition National Party, led by Judith Collins. But Labour remains well ahead in the polls. In her speech, Ardern also spoke of her unexpected rise to power in 2017, and her handling of a series of tragedies - a mass shooting at Christchurch mosques, the deadly White Island volcanic eruption and the coronavirus this year. "If you had told me then that our launch in 2020 would be in the midst of a global pandemic with our borders closed - I would have found that very hard to fathom," she said. Ardern's stratospheric rise in 2017 to become New Zealand's youngest prime minister and third woman to hold the office has been dubbed "Jacinda-mania" by some.
New Zealand suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong - Al Jazeera English
New Zealand says it can no longer trust Hong Kong's legal system because of the imposition of a new security law.
New Zealand has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in protest against a "deeply concerning" national security law that China imposed on the semiautonomous city. Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said on Tuesday that "New Zealand can no longer trust that Hong Kong's criminal justice system is sufficiently independent from China." "If China in future shows adherence to the 'one country, two systems' framework then we could reconsider this decision," he said in a statement. New Zealand is the latest member to take action among the "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing alliance. Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom have already suspended their extradition treaties and the United States has signalled it is preparing to do the same. US President Donald Trump has ended preferential economic treatment for Hong Kong and signed a law penalising banks doing business with Chinese officials who enact the draconian national security law in the city. The legislation - which came into effect ahead of July 1, the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997 - punishes what Beijing terms secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference with up to life in prison.