New Zealand

Technology • Internet & Web
New Zealand Police have frozen $90m from Russian IT expert

New Zealand Police has frozen $90 million from a New Zealand based company belonging to Alexander Vinnik who had been arrested in July 2017 while on a family vacation in Greece. The Russian IT expert has an open extradition warrant from the United States and France where the authorities accuse him of money laundering, identity theft, drug trafficking and computer hacking. The authorities also accuse him that he has operated BTC-e, a cryptocurrency exchange that allegedly enabled money-laundering. The Greek legal team of Vinnik denies that he ran the exchange and says he was an employee.

Regional News • Oceania
New Zealand reports two new Covid-19 cases after being 24 days without new case
Visualisation of the Covid-19 virus
Visualisation of the Covid-19 virus Credit: Fusion Medical Animation

The ministry of health has released a statement that two new Covid-19 cases have been imported from the United Kingdom. Dr Siouxsie Wiles from the University of Auckland who specializes in infectious diseases has stated that "That's why we all still need to be really conscious that if you have a sniffle or anything that we still go and get tested, just in case there has been some transmission from someone who's come into the country". The transmission follows after New Zealand had been 28 days without a new community transmission and 24 days since a new recorded case.

Science • Space
Rocket Lab carries payload for NASA and NRO into orbit
Rocket Lap - Electron Rocket Launch
Rocket Lap - Electron Rocket Launch Credit: Screenshot Rocket Lab YouTube

The spacetravel company Rocket Lab has successfully resumed its operations and carried a payload for NASA, the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office and the University of New South Wales Canberra into orbit. Being pushed back due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Electron rocket has been successfully launched from the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.

Science • Animals
Turmoil due to feral chickens in Auckland suburb
Turmoil due to feral chickens in Auckland suburb
Credit: unsplash.com/William Moreland

In what locals described as "something out of a Stephen King movie", feral chickens have invaded and disturbed peaceful Auckland suburb Titirangi, leaving the neighbourhood "wrecked". In 2019, the number of feral chickens in Titirangi had grown to 250 but most of them were captured and relocated to nearby farms. Amid the lockdown, the birds have returned and are once again disrupting the residents' sleep and damaging the area.

Regional News • Oceania
New Zealand is Covid-19-Free, moving to Alert Level 1
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern  at the InterContinental New York Barclay in New York City, September 23, 2019
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the InterContinental New York Barclay in New York City, September 23, 2019 Credit: The White House from Washington, DC / Public domain

New Zealand reports its last active Covid-19 case has recovered, marking the country's 17th day in a row without infections. In Monday's cabinet meeting, the move to Alert Level 1 was discussed and later announced publicly by PM Jacinda Ardern. She urges to stay vigilant and that "with over 100,000 new cases being reported each day, the challenge of COVID remains around the globe and so it remains here."

Regional News • Oceania
PM Scott Morrison calls for reopening interstate borders by July

Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison is urging Western Australia and Queensland to allow travellers to cross interstate borders by July as he's “very keen to see Australia’s economy continue to reopen on the timetable for interstate travel”. Australia has seen a decline in Covid-19 cases but premiers of Queensland, South and Western Australia are not yet willing to reopen their borders for interstate travel. Morrison warns of the economic impact, especially on the tourism industry. “If I get planes flying between Australia and New Zealand, I want them flying between New South Wales and Queensland and Western Australia and South Australia”, said Morrison.

Regional News • Oceania
Zero Covid-19 Cases in New Zealand for 14 Consecutive Days
Mount Victoria, New Zealand
Mount Victoria, New Zealand Credit: unsplash.com/Kirsten Drew

There have been no new reported cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand for two weeks in a row, with the last known infected person leaving quarantine on 15 June. Scientists are optimistic to declare the elimination of the virus by next week, if no new cases occur.

Science • Space
2020 Strawberry Moon lunar eclipse occurs today
Full moon, so called "Strawberry moon" viewed  from Tochigi prefecture, eastern Japan.
Full moon, so called "Strawberry moon" viewed from Tochigi prefecture, eastern Japan. Credit: On-chan (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

Today's lunar eclipse that begins at 17:45(UTC) and lasts until 21:04(UTC) will be a "penumbral eclipse," which occurs when the outer ring of Earth's shadow just grazes the moon.

This subtle lunar eclipse will be entirely visible for observers in eastern Africa, the Middle East, southern Asia and Australia. It will start at moonrise for those on the eastern coast of South America, western Africa and Europe, and at moonset for skywatchers in Japan and New Zealand.

The full moon in June is called a Strawberry Moon because it coincides with the strawberry harvest. In Europe, an old name for this full Moon is the Mead Moon or the Honey Moon.

Regional News • Oceania
George Floyd Solidarity Marches across New Zealand
George Floyd Solidarity Marches across New Zealand
Credit: unsplash.com/Logan Weaver

Thousands of people across New Zealand have joined Americans to protest the killing of George Floyd. In Auckland and Christchurch, protestors have gathered for the Black Lives Matter March for Solidarity while a vigil is being held in Wellington. Among the organisers is 20-year old student Joanna Li, who told the NZ Herald: "It's needed, if you think it's not needed, you're not paying attention."

Regional News • Oceania
Found: Missing New Zealand walkers rescued after 19 days
Kahurangi National Park on the South Island of New Zealand
Kahurangi National Park on the South Island of New Zealand Credit: W. Bulach / CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

Jessica O-Connor and Dion Reynolds were found in the New Zealand wilderness after 19 days. The two 23-year-olds got lost in Kahurangi National Park and sustained injuries in a fall. They found a water source and were able to make a fire, which was then seen by a search helicopter.

Regional News • Oceania
New Zealand reports zero Covid-19 hospitalisations
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Credit: gg.govt.nz

New Zealand's newest Covid-19 update reports zero Covid-19 hospitalisations and no new positive cases in the past five days. Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health, reported the release of the last hospitalised patient today. The number of people infected with the novel Coronavirus is down to 21.

Regional News • Oceania
Poll reveals: Jacinda Ardern most popular PM in a century

A public poll conducted between May 8 and May 16 by Newshub-Reid Research shows the Labour Party, led by Jacinda Ardern, climbing 14 points to 56.5%. Arden's popularity rose to 59.5%, with 92% respondents stating the party's Covid-19 response was "the right call". Arden said it was a “privileged opportunity to be leading at this time”.

Business • Economy
New Zealand’s Finance Minister Announces Plan to Reduce Unemployment Numbers
NZ Finance Minister Grant Robertson in Wellington, New Zealand
NZ Finance Minister Grant Robertson in Wellington, New Zealand Credit: David Tong / CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

Grant Robertson, New Zealand’s finance minister, announced a NZ$50 billion dollar plan to reduce unemployment numbers and save around 140,000 jobs within a two-year period. Robertson called the fund “the most significant financial commitment in modern history”. Of the budget, $3 billion are planned for government’s wage subsidy, $1.6 billion for apprenticeships training and trades, $3 billion for infrastructure including job creation and $400 million for supporting the tourism industry.

Regional News • Oceania
Controversial New Zealand Level 2 Enforcement Law Under Review

As New Zealand sees easing of movement restrictions, a controversial law that allows police to enter homes without a search warrant to enforce restriction rules is being heavily criticised. Parliament has voted to send the law to a selected committee for a post-enactment review. Both Act and The National Party called the bill "an overreach of powers".

Regional News • Oceania
New Zealand starts Alert Level 2 Restrictions

New Zealand has eased its alert restrictions from level 3 to level 2, entering a phase of loosening movement restrictions. Shops, restaurants, malls, gyms, museums, movie theatres and other public spaces reopend on Thursday under strict physical distancing and hygiene measures on May 13. Schools will follow on May 18.

Business • Economy
Growing number of jobless people hidden from official unemployment figures

The unemployment rate in New Zealand jumped to 4.2% in March and around 40,000 people have applied for benefits since February. While many are showing up in these numbers, according to various reports, the figure of actual jobless workers is presumably higher. Workers, who had been out of work before the Covid-19 pandemic, are having a hard time finding employment in the current climate. Official figures also don't take into account people who do not qualify for unemployment benefits, e.g. if their spouse is employed, they are not eligible for benefits.

Regional News • Oceania
New Zealand says it has stopped community transmission of Covid-19
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Credit: gg.govt.nz

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the virus was "currently" eliminated., but officials have warned against complacency, saying it does not mean a total end to new coronavirus cases.

With only one case reported last Sunday, and new cases in single figures for several days, New Zealand is moving out of its toughest level of social restrictions.

Regional News • Oceania
New Zealand Prime Minister says that Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny are essential workers

Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern has announced at a press conference that the government does "consider both the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny to be essential workers", but added that "it's a bit difficult at the moment for the bunny to perhaps get everywhere" and suggest people put easter eggs in their front windows to create their own Easter hunt for children in their respective neighborhoods.

Regional News • Oceania
New Zealand health minister got demoted after breaking lockdown rules

The health minister of New Zealand David Clark has broken the lockdown rules by driving 20km to a beach with his family to go for a walk. The minister has offered his resignation, but the prime minister Jacinda Ardern has stated that her priority "is our collective fight against Covid-19. We cannot afford massive disruption in the health sector or to our response. For that reason, and that reason alone, Dr. Clark will maintain his role". As an immediate reaction the health minister was stripped of his position as associate finance minister and demoted to the bottom of the cabinet rankings.

Science • Nature
Scientists discover fossil trace evidence for rain forest in Antarctica

A team of researchers from the United Kingdom and Germany has discovered fossil traces of a rain forest 90 million years old near the South Pole. The analysis of the findings such as preserved roots, pollen and spores have shown that the world was warmer during that time than previously expected. Professor Ulrich Salzman, a co-author and palaeoecologist at Northumbria University said that “The numerous plant remains indicate that the coast of West Antarctica was, back then, a dense temperate, swampy forest, similar to the forests found in New Zealand today".