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How peak oil can devastate the rest of the economy

Written By: - Date published: 1:15 pm, January 14th, 2009 - 24 comments
Categories: economy, Environment - Tags:

We all know the story of the sub-prime crisis that had developed into the credit crisis  – a flood of credit saw mortgage lenders lending to anyone, including people who couldn’t really afford the repayments. To get these potentially bad loans off their books, the banks pooled them together into new, unregulated instruments and sold their returns to others. Problem is, out these instruments turned out to be worth a lot, lot less than everyone thought because a lot more people are defaulting on their mortgage payments than was predicted.

But the question we rarely hear asked is ‘Why did more people default’? Because these people who were poor loan risks (ie, low-income) were also living in ‘energy poverty’ – more than 10% of their income going on buying energy. This made them extremely vulnerable to rapid increases in energy prices. And rapidly increase energy prices did, breaking record upon record from 2004 through to mid-2008. Petrol in the US tripled in price during this period, but oil-use is so embedded in the economy that people could not reduce their consumption in proportion. The result was that people in energy poverty were having to spend a much larger part of their income on energy even while the rising cost of transport sent the value of the houses these people had bought in the US exurbs into free-fall. More people became insolvent and started defaulting on their mortgages in larger numbers, sparking the credit crisis and sending the world into recession. It was the oil shock that sent the world into recession. The credit credit along with last year’s food and commodity price rises was just a vector of the oil shock.

Oil is so pervasive that it affects every other part of our economy. Let’s look just at food. As oil supply falls following peak oil, we will struggle to maintain the supply of food. Not only does food take vast amounts of oil to produce in modern agriculture but the fall in oil supply will put food crops into ever greater competition with biofuel crops for arable land. Already over a fifth of maize production in the US (the world’s largest maize exporter) is used for biofuels rather than food. Plastics, road surfaces, pharmaceuticals, and a huge list of other products are made from oil. With a bit of clever chemistry, they can be made from plant matter instead, which sets up another conflict with food production. In fact, having exhausted the world’s ability to supply ever larger amounts of fossilised plant matter for our fuel and materials production, we will face the choice of using current plant matter instead, setting up a three way fight between fuel, food, and materials for the world’s shrinking resource of arable land.

It comes down to a simple fact: our wealth is based on the use of energy. If the amount of energy we use shrinks, so does the economy. Therefore, to return to growth, or even maintain our per capita wealth, after peak oil we’ll need to replace the energy from the dwindling oil supply and use energy more efficiently (ie waste less of it). Problem is, there is no source of energy that could be expanded rapidly enough to replace falling oil supply, once it starts falling. The prospects for improving energy efficiency, however are brighter. That’s the topic of the next post.

24 comments on “How peak oil can devastate the rest of the economy”

  1. Sam P 1

    Nice one Steve, am enjoying these peak-oil posts, keep up the good work.

    One question though .. you make some big statements (especially in para 2) about the correlation between fuel/commodity prices and people defaulting on mortgages. Do you have a reference for this or is this your own thinking? I’m just wondering how much this correlation has been empirically tested/studied?

    Cheers

  2. Peter Johns - bigoted troll in jerkoff mode 2

    Forget about planting biofuel crops if the food is needed. Biofuels are one of the cons of the 2000s, it is a feelgood thing only. It adds to starvation. There is not the volume of land around to grow these biofuels in meaningful amounts.

  3. Sam P. It’s interesting that there is little material around dealing with specifically why the number of bad mortages was so much higher than predicted but I’ve seen a number of references to the role of the oil shock. see here http://www.econbrowser.com/archives/2009/01/the_oil_shock_a_1.html for example. There were also some references in the recent economics periodicals but not online. There were also a number of news articles in the US media in 2007 talking about falling house prices in the exurbs driven by oil prices before the sub-prime crisis took off. So, no, I don’t have anything fantastic as a source. but I’m sure people will be working on it 🙂

  4. Sam P 4

    Thanks Steve, was just wondering where the thought came from, it is a really interesting link between the two! 🙂

  5. Carol 5

    Actually PJ, there are some good biofuels that don’t add to the problems. I watched the debates in parliament on this during the December sittings. One ACT MP, who had been against such biofuels, changed his mind when he examined the evidence. NZ’s Labour-Green scheme was to focus on NZ using the ‘good’ crops for biofuel, that are an improvement on fossil fuels without adding to starvation etc. I think becuse they use plant sources that aren’t used for food, and that are readily available in NZ.

  6. Peter Johns - bigoted troll in jerkoff mode 6

    Carol – what I think is that the volume of biofuel attained from crops will be small, ie, how much land or T of stock is needed to make say 1000 litres of biofuel. As a chemist I think it will be in-efficient use of land as the yield will be low and processing costs high, remembering the old days of extracting bark, pulp etc.

  7. Carol 7

    OK, PJ. Yes I agree biofuels can only make a small contribution, and with Steve that we need to cut back on energy use and improve energy efficiency.

    BTW I understand farming animals for meat is also an inefficient use of land – ie it requires more support crops to feed the animals than could be used to feed humans.

  8. Peter Johns - bigoted troll in jerkoff mode 8

    Farming can be a inefficient use for land, but there is also uses such as high country sheep farms that use low quality land, hence making it more efficient.

    But, what are we trying to achieve here, kick the cows of the land so we can make a bit more fuel? This will still lead to a distortion of food supply such as milk/meat.

    At the end of the day I would rather have cows/beef for food farting than have this land for biofuels.

    I can see a future where we will be rationed on meat/milk so we can save the planet, I bet this could be a Green agenda, even though they may not have thought of it yet. Certainly they want to tax cows for doing a natural act – farting.

  9. RedLogix 9

    Problem is, there is no source of energy that could be expanded rapidly enough to replace falling oil supply, once it starts falling.

    In another thread I mentioned nuclear fusion, and that despite decades of research and billions of dollars thrown at magnetic confinement, the results have been dissapointing. In writing that I was concious that there is an alternative electron technique called Inertial Electrostatic Confinement (IEC).

    Googling will give lots of results; the fusor.net site has lots of info and many very capable enthusiasts for these things. SImple non-power producing devices can and have been built in peoples’ garages. But for a long time no-one has been able to get anywhere near a nett-power producing device.

    Dr Robert Brussard (of the Brussard Ramjet fame) spent much of the last few decades of his life (he died in Oct 2007) progressing a breakthrough idea that may yet prove to be the critical piece of human ingenuity which really does solve the Peak Oil problem; a problem Brussard himself was deeply motivated by. He saw a practical IEC machine as humanity’s ONLY hope for avoiding a long downhill slide into chaos.

    This wikipedia page is a pretty good and readable summary for non-technical folk. Polywell Fusor is worth reading.

    Another good overview here

    Right now there is reason to be cautiously optimistic that IEC Polywells MIGHT work. I have to emphasis it that it remains to be seen if a practical, power producing version can ever be made to work, but it could be our very best hope. (And that is a fairly thin thread to be clinging to.)

  10. George.com 10

    so if energy alternatives are going to replace fossil fuels, now (or 3-5 years back even) is (was) the time to get them up and running, proven, manufactured in sufficient quantities, infrastructure installed and consumer products manufactured to take advantage. Waiting until the peak oil crunch is upon us seems a little too late to me. We won’t likely have the abundent financial and energy resources available to quickly retool our economies. If people think the conversaion will be easy and pain free, I think they are in for a shock. War time conditions at best perhaps, rationing and shortages, emphasis on energy at the expense of the more profligate uses of our resources.

  11. RedLogix 11

    The point I think that a lot of non-techie people miss is this. It is quite unlikely that some totally novel and practical source of energy remains to be discovered. Modern science actually has a pretty good idea where all the energy sources are, and the constraints to harnessing them.

    While it is a bad idea to rule out something completely new and game changing, the hard truth is that as the decades have gone by, and theoretical physics has evolved very accurate and reliable models of reality, the room left for a such a discovery has shrunk to virtually zero. Betting the house on such a tenuous possibility is a fools wager. The only known and true sources of energy for a stable, sustainable civilisation are either:

    1. Direct or indirect solar renewables. (Not counting fossil fuels, which are just stored non-renwable solar energy.)

    2. Nuclear fusion.

    That’s it folks. That’s the whole enchilada. There are no other entries without opening the door to the science fiction crowd.

    Solar renewables are by and large fairly straightforward technologies, things like direct conversion solar/electricity cells, or indirect such as wind, wave and tidal energy conversions. The main obstacle is that while a lot of solar energy arrives at the earth’s surface, it is of fairly low entropy (low quality), very diffuse (spread out over a large area) and of course only arrives in useful quantities for about 25-35% of the day (necessitating massive anciliary storage facilities). From a theoretical perspective there is nothing difficult or challenging about these technologies, it’s just that all these factors combined tend to make them rather expensive. Which is why they currently contribute less than 1% of all human energy use. Worse still, scaling this number up does not come with much in the way of extra affordibility.

    This leaves fusion. The Holy Grail.

    Bussard’s Polywell Fusors are a radical, brilliant possibility. You really have to hope against hope that some decent funding allows them to get to a definitive, positive result. If they do, it will change the energy game, and by extension all the possibilities for our technical civilisation forever. Bussard would be remembered as one of the greatest minds ever, ranking alongside Newton, Maxwell and Einstein.

    Yet all the history of fusion research is stacked against them. Everything about fusion is HARD. It is almost as if nature really doesn’t want it to work outside of the deep heart of suns. So yes, human ingenuity just might do it yet, but it is still one hell of a long shot. And if the Polywells, or something very similar, do not work, there really is no feasible, timely fallback position for our world as we know it.

  12. T-Rex 12

    Good man RL, I was going to have you up on that “decades and billions but no closer” comment but then got distracted elsewhere. Pleased to see you found the work Bussard did (I think I read the other day that they now have funding for the next step). There’s also a pulse fusion project going on through NRL in the US that has some promise, and you of course the large ITER and JTER developments in Europe.

    I have more optimism for fusion than some, the decades and billions have actually been pretty sporadically spent when you look into it. Anyway, I’ve got to run off into the mountains (yay!) but before I do just wanted to mention the energy source you left off the list above – namely fission power using plutonium fuel cycle with breeder reactors – it’s proven tech and reserves are good enough for the next 2000 years or so… which is basically the same as saying “forever”, because if we’re not flying around the stars by then we don’t deserve a better source of energy.

    Good series of posts steve. I think the biggest thing for me is not so much preparing for an energy supply crash, but developing infrastructure in anticipation of what might come next, rather than for what we’re about to run out of. Wellingtonmotorwayscough.

  13. Matthew Pilott 13

    The first generation of biofuels rely on crops that are edible, and require top-notch land.

    The next generation, well underway, will be based on the byproducts of edible food and non-edible crops (if that’s not an oxymoron) grown on marginal land.

    After that, biofuels will be microbial – pond-scum, basically. No loss of arable land at all (I gather the benefit there is the concentration of resources – instead of huge tracts of land, we’re talking about stuff bubbling up in vats).

    The potential for these fuels is great, but it won’t be a replacement for fossil-fuels (although let’s be realistic, it’s highly doubtful a single source in isolation will be a replacement…)

    Didn’t Fonterra say that it could easily provide enough industry by-product to satisfy New Zealand’s biofuel requirements for an E12 fuel if it were made mandatory, and there was a methinex plant being geared up to take all this on, that has now been mothballed since mandatory biofuel has been recinded?

    As I understood, biofuels were a chance to deal with huge volumes of dairy industry waste and reduce our dependence on imported oil. Cheers, National, keep up the good work. I assume we’ll hit the Industrial Revolution shortly.

  14. Sam P 14

    This may interest you Matt

    When I worked for Fonterra dealing with environmental stuff they were looking into supplying up to 10% of their own fuel with bio-fuel made from milk waste, and that was 6 years ago. The plant I worked at had to subsidise a pig farm so the pigs could eat all the waste milk (a lot is wasted from accidental contamination and backwash when cleaning equipment, etc) which couldn’t be sent to the waste plant as it is highly pollutant and expensive to treat. This waste milk can easily be made into biofuel.

    A lot of criticism of bio-fuels assumes they all come from maize and are inefficient. Sugar-cane is a much more efficient way to make bio-fuel (although not enough to entirely replace oil without felling the entire amazon and probably some more again!). The Brazilians have been driving their cars with sugar cane biofuel for over 10 years!

    So there is a bit more to it then stopping producing food to grow maize

  15. Sam. But if we’re talking biofuels on the scale to replace falling oil supply (let alone increase energy supply) you’re going to need huge areas of land, no matter what the feedstock. And that feedstock has to come from somewhere – either its grown on existing arable land, or it means destroying more of what wild land is left or it means taking a product that is already being used elsewhere. In your example, for instance, what was being fed to pigs is now being turned into biofuel – the deficit in the pigs’ energy intake nees to be made up from elsewhere. No free lunches.

    There are a few decent options for biofuels, appearantly there are some trees that like semi-arid conditions and produce a nut that is very suitable, and there is biofuel from celluose (although you have to ask what the trees are being used for currently)

    I think it could be good for the Pacific Islands, some of them have large areas of fallow land and have extremely high oil costs but I can’t see it being a solution on a global level.

  16. Joanna 16

    Thanks for this series of articles Steve – they are very interesting.

    I would like to draw your attention to this article in New Scientist relating the research of Mark Jacobson. Basically, it lists the top 7 renewable energies and dicusses some concerns with others (eg: biofeuls). Most interesting was the idea that the entire fleet of cars and trucks in the US could be replaced with electric cars and powered by 3 square Km of wind turbines. does anyone have any info for our wind/solar generation in NZ?
    I have seen some interesting lectures recently on H2 generatio/storage and I think that will become very viable eventually but for now, I am sure we could be doing heaps more with the technology we have .

  17. Joanna 17

    hmm, ok i don’t think I did the link-thingy right above so here it is in ugly form
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16419-top-7-alternative-energies-listed.html?DCMP=OTC-rss&nsref=online-news
    sorry about that

  18. Sam P 18

    At the moment wind generates about 2.5% of NZ’s electricity (www.windenergy.org.nz) and I don’t think there is a significant solar contribution.

  19. Matthew Pilott 19

    Cheers Sam P – I might scrounge around for what I read from Fonterra. I seem to recall them saying they’d supply the raw material for free – that makes sense if it’s currently a waste product that is difficult to dispose of as you suggest.

    Incidentally I read today that Fonterra wanted to triple their profit outside of the core (milk solids) profit. Myabe they want to get into the fuel industry themselves. There was an $80m methinex plant in the pipeline before the election…

    Steve P – if (as is suggested) biofuels can be made from waste then i think they could be very useful – the cellulose you talk of is a waste product from the timber industry isn’t it? There’s talk of de-maizing maize, and using the stalks for biofuels – so we get the food and the fuel. Not sure whether this is pipe-dreamery at this point though, but I’m hesitant to write off the concept when these sort of ideas are coming thick and fast.

  20. Joanna 20

    Thanks Sam – that site is quite a good read and the figures seem to suggest there is potential for a lot more wind generation.

    One argument i often encounter against a move to renewable energy is that it is not reliable all the time (for example dry weather for hydro or still days for wind)

    The answer for peak oil is going to be a combination of known technologies rather than a new magical one (as others above have pointed out). and with careful planning we should be able to ensure a constant supply of energy (with in reason – I actually think a big part of this is going to be re-learning the value of quality products that need replacing less often)

    The question now becomes, knowing what we know, how can we move more quickly towards inplementing these technologies, and what planning/consnets will be needed etc etc while still ensuring that a thorough job is done?

    If i know anything about opponents to this idea, its that if early adoption of green technology is not a sucess they will use this to hold up any further development for as long as possible.

  21. Con 21

    Joanna wrote:

    One argument i often encounter against a move to renewable energy is that it is not reliable all the time (for example dry weather for hydro or still days for wind)

    Tidal power is a good one. There’s a bit of a lull at high tide and low tide, but it’s very reliable.

    The good thing about having a mix of energy sources is that they complement each other. If it’s not a sunny day, there’s a decent chance it’s windy. Plus there are ways to store wind energy (by pumping water up hill into reservoirs, for instance), so a lack of reliable base-load power can be worked around.

  22. Joanna 22

    Con- has much development been done on Tidal power – it is something I haven,t heard much about in terms of potential generation.
    I totally agree with you about the mix of energy sources complemententing each other – and I think we are well placed in NZ to take advantage of most of them – and we should. This is an area I think the government should be investing in especially as the ecconomic future looks bleak – a great way to get some new industries going with new jobs in research, enginerring and also in manufacturing, marketing etc etc, and hopefully some great products to export to the world.

  23. Phil 23

    But the question we rarely hear asked is ?Why did more people default??…. It was the oil shock that sent the world into recession.

    Your argument in the second paragraph is interesting, and i’m sure to some extent holds true for an individual household. However, i’m not convinced of it’s accuracy on an international level . After all, one countries imports of oil are another countries exports. Broadly speaking, the net effect of oil prices (as distinctly separate from volumes) on global GDP should be roughly nil. 🙂

    One of the major factors that you haven’t mentioned, but has been well documented internationally, was the effect of ‘teaser rates’. Put simply, lo-doc home loans were provided to people with initially very low interest rates attached to them. Two or three yeas down the track, when they’re up for refinance, the rate being faced is two, three, or even four times larger than what they’re used to.

    It was refinance costs that sent the world into recession.

  24. george.com 24

    Steve. A couple of interesting discussion starters covering when peak oil may arrive and what potential damage it can do. This got me considering what are the permutations of a peak oil society and what possible pathways are there out of the crisis. I formed 3 broad groupings – the optimists, realists and pessimists. dealing with each in tern.

    The optimists see (broadly) business as usual. We could term them the ‘she’ll be righters’. yes, there may be the odd hick up with transition to a post oil world however we have the altermative technologies, there is enough power and the technology and infrastructure will come together at about the same time to avert any significant problem.

    Pessimists see great potential for society to step back several hundred years in its development, some dramatic collapse and even a return to some type of tribalism.

    realists walk perhaps between the other two. Society will not get bye without some fairly severe and/or prolonged problems but will have the ability to remake itself – a process of gradual (or maybe bumpy and uneven) down-powering.

    I don’t relish the realities of life in the pessimists world. Some people might actually enjoy it, if for no other reason than they can use the extensive gun collections they have amassed.I don’t automatically subscribe to the optimistic view of development either. Some of our liberatrian & neo-liberal friends will place great faith in the ability of the market to solve the problem. I don’t. There is the possibility of either scenario emerging as peak oil starts to bite. My view of reality is a little different.

    There is open the chance for a fascist style state to develop, that doesn’t excite me greatly. I see the possibility for a collective negotiated society as possible, perhaps with more emphasis on localism than globalism. This type of society will not make the libertarians/neo-liberals very pleased. Collective and negotiated versus individual and market.

    It might involve the prioritisation of resources – transport fuels prioritised, public provision of transport and other goods and services rather than privatised. It might also involve urban farming of various descriptions.

    How likely? Maybe no more of no less than the other possible scenarios. I haven’t bothered to do a probability tree. Difficult to conceive of perhaps in our market dominated and individually fetished society. That said, our parents/grandparents had little inkling of what a war time society would be like until hitler & stalin thought it a good idea to divide up Poland. There are examples of this style of economy – society.

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    Transformers: The disaster of the Great Depression was transformed into a new and fairer society by the democratic socialism of the First Labour Government. The disaster of the Covid-19 Pandemic offers a similar transformative possibility to the Labour-NZ First-Green Government. Seize the time, Jacinda! You will never have a better ...
    4 days ago
  • Skeptical Science New Research for Week #12, 2020
    Tamper with The System? Well, we already are. But there's a difference between accidentally trickling sand into a precision gearbox versus formulating a plan to alter it on the fly with improvements in mind. One action is more or less innocently unscrupulous, the other amenable to earning an easy ...
    4 days ago
  • Avoidable hospitalisations: Helping our health system get through COVID-19
    Associate Prof George Thomson, Louise Delany, Prof Nick Wilson While it is possible that New Zealand can use intense public health controls to eradicate COVID-19 from the country – we must also plan for other scenarios where thousands of New Zealanders are sick – including many urgently hospitalised.1 Better resilience ...
    SciBlogsBy Public Health Expert
    5 days ago
  • Raise the Bar: 10 questions to ask your employer proposing redundancy
    Kia ora my name is Chloe Ann-King* and I am the founder of Raise the Bar, a campaign and non-profit that gives free legal aid, advocacy and tautoko to hospitality workers in Aotearoa. Right now all over our country hospo workers are being fired at will, having shifts cut or being ...
    PosseBy chloeanneking
    5 days ago
  • An equitable way to support business
    The Herald reports that the government is planning to lend billions of dollars to large businesses to keep them operating during the pandemic. As with mortgage relief, this is necessary: we need companies to stay in business, to reduce the economic damage and help things get restarted again when this ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    5 days ago
  • Hard News: Together Alone
    We're about to do something unprecedented as a nation. We hope that by taking this extraordinary action before a single life in New Zealand has been lost to the deadly novel virus we will save tens of thousands of lives. Our  lives. We'll do it together, in households, in isolation ...
    5 days ago
  • Why timing is everything: ‘A time to refrain from embracing’ starts today
    “There is a time for everything,    and a season for every activity under the heavens.”So writes the author of Ecclesiastes, a book in the Old Testament that’s counted as a ‘wisdom’ book and written as if by an unnamed king of Jerusalem. But who would have thought there would be a time ...
    PunditBy Tim Watkin
    5 days ago
  • Dealing with the Covid-19 Tsunami.
    I was surprised when the prime minister described the Economic Response to Covid-19 package as the ‘largest peacetime government spend in New Zealand's history’. Reflecting – checking through history – I realised that the term ‘spend’ was crucial and the package had no income tax cuts. Even so, it has ...
    PunditBy Brian Easton
    6 days ago
  • What about renters?
    The government today announced the latest part of its pandemic relief package: a six-month mortgage holiday for people whose incomes have been affected by the pandemic. Which is great, because these people are going to need help, and that's what the government should be doing. At the same time, it ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • Living within our means.
    Years ago the Argentine sociologist Carlos Weisman wrote a book titled “Living within our Means.” It was a critique of Argentine society that focused on the paradoxical question of why, in a land of plenty, there was so much economic instability, inequality, corruption and political turmoil. His conclusion was basically ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    6 days ago
  • Transparency and the pandemic
    Parliament will be leading by example and adjourning tomorrow after a special sitting to consider an epidemic notice and state of emergency. Day-to-day oversight of the government will be delegated to a select committee. But that's not the only overight mechanism. The OIA will still be law, and (so far) ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • ‘Overjoyed’: a leading health expert on New Zealand’s coronavirus shutdown, and the challengin...
    Michael Baker, University of Otago Overjoyed. That’s not a word epidemiologists normally use, but that’s how I felt after hearing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement about New Zealand’s COVID-19 shutdown of everything except essential services for at least four weeks from midnight on Wednesday. More than anything, I just ...
    SciBlogsBy Public Health Expert
    6 days ago
  • One way to solve the housing crisis
    How much homelessness is caused by house hoarding? We're about to find out. The pandemic has destroyed tourism, which means that house hoarders who put their hoarded properties up as short-term tourist rentals are now offering them on the ordinary rental market:Property investors are pulling properties from Airbnb to offer ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • The pros and cons of planting trees to address global warming
    This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Bruce Lieberman It seems like such a simple, straightforward, empowering idea: plant trees – a lot of trees – all over the world, and watch the planet’s temperature fall. Who doesn’t love a tree or two, even far more – the right ...
    6 days ago
  • Not a grand coalition, but a government of national salvation
    According to Newshub, Simon Bridges is open to joining a “grand coalition” with Labour as we hunker down to go into a month long lockdown. The idea is sound. Before now, the role of the opposition was to scrutinise and oppose. In the context of what almost amounts to a ...
    PunditBy Liam Hehir
    7 days ago
  • Raise the Bar: hospitality workers & wage subsidy entitlements
    Kia ora my name is Chloe Ann-King* and I am the founder of Raise the Bar, a campaign and non-profit that gives free legal aid, advocacy and tautoko to hospitality workers in Aotearoa. Right now all over our country hospo workers are being fired at will, having shifts cut or ...
    PosseBy chloeanneking
    7 days ago
  • Lifting our game against COVID-19
    We need to be lifting our game against COVID-19. You and I need to help those working to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while they’re trying to lift the testing and treatment efforts. We don’t want to be playing this game running backwards. Best to play it solidly forward, from ...
    SciBlogsBy Grant Jacobs
    7 days ago
  • The maths and ethics of minimising COVID-19 deaths in NZ
    Prof Tony Blakely, Prof Michael Baker, and Prof Nick Wilson The NZ Government must do more to clearly articulate its COVID-19 strategy: eradication or ‘flattening the curve’ mitigation. But to do so means understanding the maths and ethics of both these strategies. In this blog, we adapt our work for ...
    SciBlogsBy Public Health Expert
    7 days ago
  • All aboard the Covid Train
    A few days ago I was starting to write something about the pandemic, which now seems unconscionable. It took the form of a letter to an agony aunt:“Dear Deidre, I have an ugly confession. I am quite excited by Covid-19.”This is how the piece went:“I’m not a psychopath, honest. Although the ...
    PunditBy Phil Vine
    1 week ago
  • 2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #12
    Story of the Week... Toon of the Week... Climate Feedback Article Review... Coming Soon on SkS... Climate Feedback Claim Reviews... SkS Week in Review... Poster of the Week... Story of the Week... In Just 10 Years, Warming Has Increased the Odds of Disasters The likelihood of extreme events ...
    1 week ago
  • We are all socialists now
    Last week, the government announced a $12 billion initial package to support people during the pandemic. Today, the Reserve Bank is buying government bonds - effectively printing money - to keep up the money supply during the crisis. Normally such moves would have the right apoplectic. Instead, the National Party ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • A plea to experts: safeguard your role in public life
    I am a pundit, somebody who opines and comments on the news. There are no real qualifications to punditry though having a rudimentary way with words and good general knowledge helps. That is one reason there is a constant oversupply of would-be pundits and why it is quite hard to ...
    PunditBy Liam Hehir
    1 week ago
  • Enlightenment when?
    I recently encountered the following prescription from a Faculty of Education at a leading New Zealand University. At first I wondered if it was another product of the postmodern generator (http://www.elsewhere.org/journal/pomo/), designed to create gibberish in the postmodern form, but I’m told it is real: The “schooled” society: Towards the ...
    SciBlogsBy Michael Corballis
    1 week ago
  • What the Crisis Can teach Us
    The coronavirus pandemic has of course had a major impact on individual lives and on societies as a whole. But, long after the crisis has passed (assuming it does), we will begin to realise that its real and lasting significance lies in the lessons it has taught us, if only ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • Hammering home measures to stop COVID-19
    COVID-19 has plunged Aotearoa New Zealand (indeed, the world) into territory that, while maybe not totally unprecedented, certainly hasn’t been seen during the lifetimes of most of us here today. Our borders are closed to non-citizens, we’re being told not to gather in groups of more than 500 outside/100 inside, ...
    PunditBy Andrew Geddis
    1 week ago
  • What does ‘level two’ mean – and why does it matter?
    For the last few weeks, I’ve been urging you to prepare yourself, your family, business, and community for Covid-19. Now it’s time for real action.  Yesterday the director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced another 13 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, bringing our total to date to 52. ...
    SciBlogsBy Siouxsie Wiles
    1 week ago
  • 2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #12
    A chronological listing of news articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week, i.e., Sun, Mar 15, 2020 through Sat, Mar 21, 2020 Editor's Pick Now Isn’t the Time to Forget About Our Climate Change Efforts   Tasha Tilberg, Lindsey Wixson, and Liu Wen photographed ...
    1 week ago
  • Is the Guardian becoming  a real newspaper again?
    by Jan Rivers The article has been corrected to show that it was Ewen MacAskill, former Guardian journalist and not Luke Harding who travelled to meet Edward Snowden with journalist Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras.  Some of the Guardian’s well-known journalists who did not sign the protest letter are ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Life asserts itself regardless
    by Cultural Worker Late March 2020 amidst the virus. With gigs crashing and burning all around it was without much hope that I called a long standing rest home booking: “ Hi, I’m supposed to be entertaining at your place this afternoon – is it still on?” “”If you don’t ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Politics, the possible, and the pandemic
    Whenever people demand real change from their politicians, we're told that "politics is the art of the possible". The implication is that change isn't possible, so we'd better just get used to the sucky status quo. But now that there's a pandemic, a lot of things we were previously told ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • The Only Way Through This Crisis Is Together.
    Together: In leading New Zealand through the Covid-19 Pandemic, the Prime Minister could do a lot worse than allow herself to be guided by the spirit of collective sacrifice and co-operation that animated the New Zealanders of 80 years ago. Most Kiwis alive today have had no opportunity to prove their ...
    1 week ago
  • GFC vs Covid-19
    It is said that generals fight the last war. In the case of the early stages of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) they had learned from the Great Depression of the 1930s and they fought intelligently and successfully. Later their advice would be ignored in favour of the Austerians who ...
    PunditBy Brian Easton
    1 week ago
  • Nobody Left Behind.
    Solidarity Forever: All over the world, the arrival of the Covid-19 virus has exposed the fragility of the walls we erect around ourselves and our loved ones. It has shattered our illusions of autonomy and revealed to us how utterly dependent we all are on other human-beings. Finally, we see ...
    1 week ago
  • Rebuilding a truly “Democratic” counter, or a “moderate Republican” bolt-hol...
    Looking across the various arguments for/against the leading candidates to take the Democratic Nomination, you might honestly be very hard pressed to tell. There are a number of things that have now started happening since Amy Klobuchar and “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg both threw the towel in and immediately (and ...
    exhALANtBy exhalantblog
    1 week ago
  • Abortion law reform a win for women
    by Daphna Whitmore Abortion is no longer in the Crimes Act in New Zealand. The law reform passed yesterday and now abortion is a medical matter between a woman and her doctor. Many women’s groups and progressive people have campaigned for reform for decades. The women’s liberation movement and some ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • How to spot bogus science stories and read the news like a scientist
    Doug Specht, University of Westminster and Julio Gimenez, University of Westminster When fake news, misreporting and alternative facts are everywhere, reading the news can be a challenge. Not only is there plenty of misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and other scientific topics floating around social media, you also ...
    SciBlogsBy Guest Author
    2 weeks ago
  • Why New Zealand needs to continue decisive action to contain coronavirus
    Michael Baker, University of Otago and Nick Wilson, University of Otago With some of the toughest border restrictions and a newly-announced NZ$500 million boost to health services, New Zealand is among a small number of countries with a strategy to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. New Zealand is also fortunate in ...
    SciBlogsBy Public Health Expert
    2 weeks ago
  • Parliament and the pandemic II
    As expected, the government has introduced a sessional order to allow Parliament to operate during the pandemic. You can read it on the Order Paper here, but the short version is that questions and motions can be filed electronicly, select committees can work remotely, and the the Business Committee can ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • When a virus goes viral: pros and cons to the coronavirus spread on social media
    Axel Bruns, Queensland University of Technology; Daniel Angus, Queensland University of Technology; Timothy Graham, Queensland University of Technology, and Tobias R. Keller, Queensland University of Technology News and views about coronavirus has spread via social media in a way that no health emergency has done before. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, ...
    SciBlogsBy Guest Author
    2 weeks ago
  • How to survive 14 days of self-isolation
    So you’ve recently returned from overseas, come into contact with someone who tested positive, got a bit of a dry cough yourself or perhaps just want to self isolate for 14 days to avoid other people who might have COVID-19. Here are a few tips and tricks to help get ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Abortion Legislation Bill passes third reading
    Some fave speeches:     ...
    Boots TheoryBy Stephanie Rodgers
    2 weeks ago
  • Why Leadership Matters – More Than Anything.
    Our Good Fortune: Precisely because she has never been an ideologue (she calls herself a “pragmatic idealist”) Jacinda Ardern has a political nimbleness and spontaneity which, when infused with her exceptional emotional intelligence, produces spectacular demonstrations of leadership. Jacinda's empathic political personality contrasts sharply with the less-than-sunny ways of her ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Skeptical Science New Research for Week #11, 2020
    2 weeks ago
  • 68-51
    The Abortion Legislation Bill has just passed its third reading, 68-51. NZ First MPs bailed because their referendum amendment didn't pass, but there were plenty of MPs to provide a majority without them. The bill is a long way from perfect - most significantly, it subjects pregnant people who need ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • The ‘herd immunity’ route to fighting coronavirus is unethical and potentially dangerous
    As most of the world tries to suppress the coronavirus spread, some countries are going it alone – trying to manage the pandemic through so-called “herd immunity”. Herd immunity means letting a large number of people catch a disease, and hence develop immunity to it, to stop the virus spreading. ...
    SciBlogsBy Guest Author
    2 weeks ago
  • Eight new COVID-19 cases today. It’s no surprise when you look at some numbers
    So, as I sit at home with a very, very slight headache (i.e. not at work when I would otherwise be so), the now familiar figure of Ashley Bloomfield reports eight new confirmed cases of COVID-19  including two in Waikato. A surprise, given that we had just twelve yesterday? No. ...
    SciBlogsBy Marcus Wilson
    2 weeks ago
  • The WINZ Paradox versus the new COVID-19 Reality: Get real people, seriously…
    Many who advocated for, and voted for, the current Coalition – particularly those who voted Labour and the Green Party – expected to see a sea change in the reality of social services. A real, deep change of attitude, approach of process through which the system negotiates the difficult and ...
    exhALANtBy exhalantblog
    2 weeks ago
  • The Air New Zealand bailout
    Stuff reports that the government is going to have to throw $2 - 3 billion at Air new Zealand to get it through the pandemic. Good. While international routes are basicly closed, Air New Zealand is a strategic asset which is vital to our tourism industry, not to mentioning airfreight. ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Why NZ’s tough coronavirus travel rules are crucial to protecting lives at home and across the Pac...
    New Zealand’s border restrictions will come with significant job and business losses in the tourism sector, both at home and in the Pacific. But the new travel rules are absolutely necessary to protect the health of New Zealanders and people right across Pacific Islands, because New Zealand is a gateway ...
    SciBlogsBy Guest Author
    2 weeks ago
  • The tiniest of teeth
    Back in early 2018, as a shoddy legal tactic to try and avoid the prisoner voting ban being formally declared inconsistent with the BORA by the Supreme Court, Justice Minister Andrew Little floated the idea of greater legal protection for human rights. When the Supreme Court case didn't go the ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago

  • Government supports Air NZ freight flights
    The Government has fast-tracked up to $1 million to help Air New Zealand move urgent freight to and from New Zealand, with the first flight to Shanghai leaving tonight, Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced today. Phil Twyford says it’s crucial that trade in vital goods such as medical supplies and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 hours ago
  • Tariff concessions on COVID-19 related products
    New Zealand will temporarily remove tariffs on all medical and hygiene imports needed for the COVID-19 response. Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker and Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi said today that the New Zealand Customs Service will apply tariff concessions to all diagnostic reagents and testing ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Clarification of modification to wage subsidy scheme
    Minister of Finance Grant Robertson has clarified that the changes to the wage subsidy scheme announced yesterday mean that employers should be passing on the full subsidy to workers, except in the case where the person’s normal income is less than the level of the subsidy. “We still want employers ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Face masks flowing to DHBs
    Medical face masks from the national reserve supply are now being distributed to District Health Boards, while at the same time local production is being ramped up. Yesterday more than 640,000 masks were sent to DHBS – that is an immediate two week supply, with more to follow in coming ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • COVID-19: Further steps to protect New Zealanders’ jobs
    The Government has made modifications to the wage subsidy scheme to ensure people don’t lose their jobs during the national lockdown. These changes will soften the impact of COVID-19 on workers, families and businesses, and position them to exit the lockdown and look to recovery, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Tax relief for Mycoplasma Bovis farmers
    Farmers whose herds were culled in response to the outbreak of Mycoplasma bovis will be able to minimise the tax treatment of their income in some circumstances. Revenue Minister Stuart Nash says Cabinet has agreed to change the law. It means farmers may be eligible to spread their income over ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • $27 million for NGOs and community groups to continue providing essential services
    A $27 million dollar package, effective immediately, is being provided to social sector services and community groups to ensure they can continue to provide essential support to communities as we stay at home as a nation to stop the spread of COVID-19, Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni announced. “At ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Statement on guilty plea of March 15 terrorist
    “The guilty plea today will provide some relief to the many people whose lives were shattered by what happened on March 15,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. “These guilty pleas and conviction bring accountability for what happened and also save the families who lost loved ones, those who were injured, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • COVID-19 updates
    The Prime Minister is holding daily press conferences to update New Zealanders on the Government's response to COVID-19. Links to videos and transcripts of these updates below. These transcripts also include All of Government press conferences led by Director Ministry of Health's Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. 25 March: Live update from the Prime ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Police numbers break through 10,000 mark
    Frontline Police numbers have broken through the 10,000 mark for the first time in history as officers step forward to keep the community safe during the COVID19 lockdown. “Two Police graduations in Auckland and Wellington in the past week have been conducted in unprecedented circumstances,” Police Minister Stuart Nash said. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Urgent tax measures for economic recovery
    Urgent legislation has been passed to support the package of economic and social measures needed to recover from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. “The COVID-19 Response (Taxation and Social Assistance Urgent Measures) Bill will cushion New Zealanders from the worst economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Revenue Minister ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Further support for farmers and growers as drought persists
    From tomorrow, Government support for farmers and growers affected by drought will be expanded and extended across the country, with access to Rural Assistance Payments (RAPS) available throughout the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chatham Islands, Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni announced. “These challenging conditions have ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • COVID-19: Temporary changes to Education Act
    Parliament has passed amendments to legislation that give the Secretary of Education stronger powers to act in the fight to limit the spread of COVID-19, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “They are part of a suite of changes passed under the COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Bill,” Chris ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Canada, Australia, Chile, Brunei and Myanmar join NZ and Singapore in committing to keeping supply a...
    Canada, Australia, Chile, Brunei and Myanmar have joined forces with New Zealand and Singapore by committing to keep supply chains open and remove any existing trade restrictive measures on essential goods, especially medical supplies, in the face of the Covid-19 crisis.  Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker today welcomed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • COVID-19: Rent increase freeze and more protection for tenants
    Immediate freeze on rent increases Tenancies will not be terminated during the lock-down period, unless the parties agree, or in limited circumstances Tenants who had previously given notice can stay in their if they need to stay in the tenancy during the lock-down period Tenants will still be able to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Working together to protect businesses and workers
    As New Zealand unites to lock-down in the fight against COVID-19, the Finance Minister is urging all businesses and workers to stay connected over the next four weeks. “We understand the extreme pressure many businesses are under right now. I know most business owners think of their workers as family ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • State of National Emergency declared to fight COVID-19
    A State of National Emergency has been declared across the country as the Government pulls out all the stops to curtail the spread of COVID-19. “Today we put in place our country’s second ever State of National Emergency as we fight a global pandemic, save New Zealanders’ lives and prevent ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Prime Minister’s statement on State of National Emergency and Epidemic Notice
    Mr Speaker I wish to make a Ministerial Statement under Standing Order 347 in relation to the recent declaration of a State of National Emergency. Having considered the advice of the Director Civil Defence Emergency Management, the Minister of Civil Defence declared a State of National Emergency for the whole of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Deadline for domestic travel extended
    People needing to travel on domestic flights, trains and Cook Strait ferries to get home before the country moves into level 4 lock-down tomorrow night will be able to continue using the passenger services until midnight on Friday, Transport Minister Phil Twyford said today. Domestic passenger services, particularly ferries, have ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Mortgage holiday and business finance support schemes to cushion COVID impacts
    The Government, retail banks and the Reserve Bank are today announcing a major financial support package for home owners and businesses affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19. The package will include a six month principal and interest payment holiday for mortgage holders and SME customers whose incomes have been ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Government working to keep air freight moving
    Minister of Transport Phil Twyford has today announced details of the Government’s support package to keep key air freight moving and ensure New Zealanders retain access to essential goods during the four-week level 4 lockdown. “The Government is working with airlines and air freight operators to ensure New Zealand’s key ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • New Zealand moves to COVID-19 Alert Level 3, then Level 4 in 48 hours
    New Zealand moved up to COVID-19 Alert Level 3 – Restrict New Zealand to move up to COVID-19 Alert Level 4 – Eliminate, in 48 hours Two-staged approach to give people and businesses time to prepare  Level 3, from tomorrow Non-essential businesses must close All events and gatherings must be ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Prime Minister: COVID-19 Alert Level increased
    Good afternoon  The Cabinet met this morning to discuss our next actions in the fight against COVID-19.  Like the rest of the world, we are facing the potential for devastating impacts from this virus. But, through decisive action, and through working together, do we have a small window to get ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Govt takes significant economic decisions as NZ readies for Alert Level 4 in COVID-19 fight
    The Government is announcing significant further support for the economy, workers and businesses as the country unites to prepare for Alert Level 4 in the fight against COVID-19. Cabinet today agreed to remove the cap on the Government’s wage subsidy scheme, which will inject a further $4 billion into the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Govt backs RBNZ move to support economy with lower interest rates
    The Government is backing the Reserve Bank’s latest action to support the economy by reducing longer-term interest rates, meaning lower costs for businesses and mortgage holders, and a lower currency to help our exporters. The Minister of Finance has signed a memorandum of understanding and a letter of indemnity with ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Government statement on commercial cooperation during COVID-19
    The Government has asked the Commerce Commission to take account of the exceptional circumstances created by COVID-19 when monitoring business behaviour in coming weeks.   “The purpose of my request to the Commerce Commission is to make sure businesses can work together in ways that will allow them to provide ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • New Zealand temporarily closes diplomatic posts in Barbados and Myanmar due to COVID-19
    The New Zealand Government has temporarily closed its High Commission in Bridgetown, Barbados and its Embassy in Yangon, Myanmar due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Foreign Minister Winston Peters says.   “Due to the increasing scarcity of air links in and out of Bridgetown and Yangon, and the pressure COVID-19 is placing ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Supporting Māori communities and businesses through
    Associate Health and Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare has today announced the Government’s plan to support Māori communities and businesses in the face of COVID-19. “Our Government’s $12.1 billion economic package will help many Māori whānau, workers and businesses, whether it’s through wage subsidies, income support and worker redeployment, or ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Guidelines for hospitality establishments released
    The Government and the hospitality industry have worked together to produce guidelines to assist with managing and reducing transmission of COVID-19, Health Minister David Clark announced today.  The guidelines developed between the Government, Hospitality New Zealand and SkyCity Entertainment Group, set out how the new restrictions on physical distancing and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Nation steps up to COVID-19 Alert Level 2
    Four stage Alert System for COVID-19 announced New Zealand moved up to COVID-19 Alert Level 2 – Reduce Contact New Zealanders over 70 and those with certain medical conditions told to stay at home as much as they can to reduce risk of contact with the virus Workplaces to implement ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • PM Address – Covid-19 Update
    Kia ora koutou katoa I’m speaking directly to all New Zealanders today to give you as much certainty and clarity as we can as we fight Covid-19. Over the past few weeks, the world has changed. And it has changed very quickly. In February it would have seemed unimaginable to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • NZ and Singapore commit to keeping supply and trade links open, including on essential goods and med...
    New Zealand and Singapore have jointly committed to keep supply chains open and to remove any existing trade restrictive measures on essential goods, especially medical supplies, in the face of the Covid-19 crisis. Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker welcomed the commitment. “This is an important collective response, and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Joint Ministerial Statement by Singapore and New Zealand -Covid-19 situation
    JOINT MINISTERIAL STATEMENT BY SINGAPORE AND NEW ZEALAND AFFIRMING COMMITMENT TO ENSURING SUPPLY CHAIN CONNECTIVITY AMIDST THE COVID-19 SITUATION  The COVID-19 pandemic is a serious global crisis.  As part of our collective response to combat COVID-19, Singapore and New Zealand are committed to maintaining open and connected supply chains. We ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Transit between Australia and New Zealand
    Travel restrictions, closing our border to almost all travelers came into force from 23:59 on Thursday 19 March 2020 (NZDT).  All airlines were informed of these restrictions before they came into force. Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says “The transit of passengers between Australia and New Zealand has been agreed upon and ...
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  • $100 million to redeploy workers
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  • More support for wood processing
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  • Stronger border measures to protect NZers from COVID-19
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  • Action on indoor gatherings and events to protect public health
    The Government has reinforced its commitment to protecting the health of New Zealanders from COVID-19 through the cancellation of indoor events with more than 100 people.  “Protecting the health of New Zealanders is our number one priority, and that means we need to reduce the risks associated with large gatherings,” ...
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  • New Zealanders advised not to travel overseas
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