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Man arrested over Te Whatu Ora vaccine data breach

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Police have arrested a man accused of leaking large amounts of Te Whatu Ora vaccination data online.

The 56-year-old man has been charged with accessing a computer system for dishonest purposes.

He will appear in Wellington District Court on Monday.

In a statement on Thursday, chief executive Margie Apa said the individual downloaded a large amount of vaccine-related information and published it on an overseas website.

The person had no clinical background or expert vaccine knowledge and appeared to be trying to spread misinformation, she said.

The data appeared to have been anonymised, she said, and so far no personal information was believed to have been compromised.

“Analysis of the released data is ongoing but work so far has not found any National Health Index Numbers or personally identifiable information.”

The full extent of the breach was still being investigated, she said.

“Cyber security specialists are continuing to scan extensively for any other places where the information may appear.”

Te Whatu Ora found out about the breach on Thursday morning through an email the individual had sent.

The public health agency was doing everything it could to respond and safeguard people’s information, Apa said.

The data had been taken down from the overseas website and an Employment Relations Authority injuction was preventing it from being published elsewhere, she said.

“In addition, a police complaint has been laid, an employment investigation is underway, and the person is no longer at work.

“The individual has worked in the health system for a number of years. He was authorised to access data as part of his work and was locked out of our systems as soon as we became aware of the unauthorised use,” Apa said.

“We take the security of our data very seriously and are extremely disappointed at this gross breach of trust by this individual and his alleged involvement in spreading harmful misinformation.”

“What this individual is trying to claim about vaccines is completely wrong and ill-informed and their comments demonstrate this.

“Vaccination is safe and effective, and everyone should keep up to date with their shots to protect themselves, whānau, and their communities.”

A Te Whatu Ora team had been working to address the breach over the weekend alongside other agencies such as the National Cyber Security Centre, the police, Department of Internal Affairs and Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

Advice and support had also been offered to some individual pharmacies and vaccination sites that were identified in an early video published in relation to the unauthorised disclosure and misuse of data, Apa said.

Te Whatu Ora confirmed the man was also interviewed on a New Zealand conspiracy theory site on Thursday.

The interview contained a video with apparent screenshots of the leaked information, which included the details of some pharmacies and vaccination sites.

“We are in the response stage right now and that requires very detailed analysis of the data that was released,” Apa said.

“A thorough investigation is also underway to identify any learnings from this incident.”

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Heavy rain, wind and snow possible as autumn storm sweeps in

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Forecasters say Mother Nature is “shifting into a new gear”, with the temperatures set to plunge and weather warnings possible.

Heavy rain, wind and snow are on their way for parts of the country as an autumn storm moves in.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) said on social media that Mother Nature would be “shifting into a new gear” this weekend Heavy rain, wind and snow are on their way for parts of the country as an autumn storm moves in.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) said on social media that Mother Nature would be “shifting into a new gear” this weekend now that summer was over.

A band of heavy rain would move over the country on Saturday and Sunday, while wind, colder temperatures and snow to high elevations could be expected at the start of next week.

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Air NZ sorry for charging tourists $13,000 to change flight after terminal diagnosis

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Air New Zealand has admitted it made a mistake when it tried to charge two US tourists $13,000 to change their flights after one of them received a grave medical diagnosis.

Todd and Patricia Kerekes flew business class from New York to Auckland in January. The return tickets cost $37,500.

They intended to stay until April, but six weeks into their visit Patricia was diagnosed with cancer of the gallbladder. Their surgeon advised them to head home immediately, so Todd contacted Air NZ to have their flights moved up.

“Right away on the first call I told them my wife was gravely ill, and we were on holiday and we needed to go back home,” the 60-year-old told Checkpoint.

“And it was a whole series of long pauses, and I couldn’t tell whether they were conferring with co-workers or working at it on the computer, or what it was. But I would go through a whole series of 15- to 30-minute hold periods, and sometimes the people would come back and basically tell me something I didn’t want to hear, like it was gonna cost me NZ$13,000 to change my flight.”

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Housing Minister Chris Bishop sets ‘long-term’ price target of three to five times household incomes

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The new housing minister has set a target of having homes costing just three to five times household incomes – well below what they are now in most of New Zealand.

But Chris Bishop does not want too quick a fix to the country’s housing affordability crisis – saying a crash “tomorrow” would “cause enormous economic and financial instability to people”.

“What I want is for house prices to moderate over time, so that in 10 to 20 years’ time, we have essentially gone a long way towards solving our housing affordability problem,” he told Checkpoint on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day he outlined the first steps in his plan, saying most of the country’s biggest cities will be flooded with land for residential development.

In a speech delivered to Wellington’s Chamber of Commerce, Bishop confirmed councils will have to earmark 30 years’ worth of land for housing development.

They will be able to opt out of housing density rules that allow homes up to three stories high on most residential sites without the need for a consent – a bi-partisan rule that National signed up to in opposition. Instead, councils will be able to choose exactly where high density housing goes.

He also promised to make it easier to build granny flats or dwellings less than 60 square metres.

In his speech, Bishop said the status quo was costing the country the equivalent of 15 Transmission Gully motorways every four years “just on helping people to be housed”.

“The taxpayer subsidises rents for people in social housing, we pay for emergency housing grants, we pay for transitional housing, we help people with their bond payments and so it goes. A failure to reform housing has made it extremely expensive for government.”

And in a briefing to Cabinet, Bishop said housing affordability was arguably the single most pressing economic and social issue.

Speaking to Checkpoint, Bishop said New Zealand was not short of land, but rules “make it very difficult to use that land”.

“What we’re saying is we need to go out at the edge of our cities and we also need to go up inside our cities.”

Inside existing limits, Bishop said the coalition government would keep Labour’s policy of allowing up to six storeys “within walkable catchment areas of rapid transit stops”, and give councils more discretion over what areas had to allow up to three storeys.

Asked how councils would be prevented from pushing most of the intensification to certain suburbs and leaving others alone, he said: “There are natural limits on the intensification that would take place in suburbs. There are infrastructure limits, for example.

“But also, you know, over time suburbs will change and the nature of our cities will change. I mean, if you think about the Auckland CBD now, compared to say 50 years ago, it is much more dense, many more people live in apartments, they live in tower blocks in the CBD. The same is true to some extent of Wellington.

“But you know, the Wellington of today will look very different to the Wellington of 30 years’ time. Change will be gradual. It is not going to happen immediately, change will happen over many, many years.

“But what I am saying and what the government is saying is that we need more houses. We have an affordability problem in New Zealand and have done so for 30 years because we have designed a planning system that has made it very difficult to build more housing, and it is a social and economic problem we’ve simply got to grapple with.”

Pressed on how much he would like to see house prices drop, Bishop cited the internationally popular metric of prices to household incomes.

“In housing markets that we consider to be affordable, a house price to income ratio of between three and five is considered affordable. That’s not the case in most of our major cities right now.”

Current data shows that multiple nationwide is currently 6.6. In Auckland it is 8.1, Wellington 6.14, Christchurch 5.84, Hamilton 6.57 and Dunedin 5.7. In Queenstown-Lakes, the multiple is almost 15.

“Over time as you moderate house prices and incomes grow, [three to five] is what we would like to see things get to, but as I say, that is not going to happen immediately and it is not going to even happen in the next two to three or four years. This is something that has to happen in the medium- to long-term.

“And unless we do that, house prices will continue to go up and people will continue to be locked out of the housing market.

“I want house prices to be affordable, and a house price to income ratio of seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, in some cases 13 to one in some parts of New Zealand is not affordable, entrenching inequality and poverty in our cities.”

He refused to give an exact timeframe, saying that would be making the same mistake the Labour-led government did in claiming it could build 100,000 houses in 10 years.

“Land markets and the economy is much more complicated than that. What I am saying to you is that we have [an] extensive and comprehensive work programme based on evidence to make housing more affordable in the medium- to long-term.”

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