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Local government report calls for voting age drop

It’s the end of another week! Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for Friday, October 28. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund – reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz. Thanks to our members.

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Local government report calls for voting age drop

It’s the end of another week! Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for Friday, October 28. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund – reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz. Thanks to our members.

Oct 28 2022

Elon Musk completes Twitter takeover, immediately fires executives

“With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon” – Elon Musk, one of the co-founders of artificial intelligence company Open AI (James Duncan Davidson)

Elon Musk has reportedly fired some of Twitter’s top executives as he takes control of the social media platform.

Overseas media has reported that Twitter’s CEO and chief financial officer have both been let go by Musk, along with the head of legal policy (who happened to be responsible for banning Donald Trump).

The world’s richest man has only just formalised his purchase of Twitter, worth US$44 billion.

30 years of ‘inadequate’ fluoridation. Could Three Waters help?

Water (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

New research has revealed local councils have been “inadequately” fluoridating the water supply for the past three decades – and some are hoping Three Waters could rectify the issue.

The Otago and Canterbury University study discovered that fluoride targets were only achieved 54% of the time over the last 30 years, and even the best performing council only made it to 78% of the target.

Most of the time, the failure to reach the target was from under-fluoridation – although in 0.2% of cases there was actually too much fluoride added.

“We found major inconsistencies in terms of how well each council fluoridated its drinking water supply. Council compliance with achieving fluoridation has clearly been inadequate for the last 30 years,” said Tim Chambers from Otago University.

The revelations in the research will not be wholly surprising. It was confirmed earlier this year that Wellington Water had not been fluoridating for almost a year.

It’s prompted the Dental Association to question whether the government’s controversial Three Waters scheme may be necessary to ensure accurate fluoridation. “Instead of 67 councils having to fluoridate their water supply, there will only be four entities so we’re hoping this will streamline the process,” the associations spokesman Rob Beaglehole told Newshub.

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Local government report calls for lower voting age, longer term, EC oversight

Disappointingly, the panel did not consider canine suffrage. (Photo: Getty)

The government’s been advised to drop the local election voting age to 16, increase the council term to four years and enforce the single transferrable vote (STV) system across all elections.

A draft report into the future of local elections has been released this morning for consultation. It’s the second of three reports produced by an independent panel exploring how local government can enable communities to thrive, both now and into the future.

“Local government plays a vital role in contributing to community wellbeing, and the world we live in is vastly different to 30 years ago when the current system was last overhauled,” says the review’s chair, Jim Palmer. “We’ve spent a lot of time engaging with central and local government, iwi, businesses, community organisations, young people and the wider public to shape the draft report and recommendations.”

The release of the report follows the recent dismal turn out in the local elections across the country. For example, in our biggest city, 35.5% of eligible voters actually turned in a ballot (a nudge above the even worse 2019 results).

Other recommendations (there are 29 in total) from today’s report include turning over responsibility for local elections to the Electoral Commission, a call that’s been heard a lot already this year.

The report also suggests councils “develop with hapū/iwi and significant Māori organisations within a local authority area, a partnership framework that complements existing co-governance arrangements by ensuring all groups in a council area are involved in local governance in a meaningful way” and that the government “explores a stronger statutory requirement on councils to foster Māori capacity to participate in local government”.

And what about online voting? The report acknowledged that postal voting had become increasingly outdated, though it does not specifically recommend the adoption of a new system. However: “[the panel] supports the ongoing work to resolve the barriers to effective online voting.”

The report’s now open for submissions and feedback through until the end of February next year.

Listen: How effective is our environmental spending?

Aotearoa’s Government spends $2b a year on the environment, but where does that money go? Backed by his recently published report on our tracking of emissions, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton dives into discussion with Bernard Hickey on the importance of collective clarity and knowledge in the measurement of our environmental spending in the latest episode of When the Facts Change.

Listen below or wherever you get your podcasts

Is Phil Goff’s diplomatic posting purely political?

Phil Goff wears a coffee face mask

When it was announced Trevor Mallard was heading to Ireland for a diplomatic role after leaving parliament, there was widespread backlash from within parliament and outside. That’s continued to some extent, with criticisms continuing to be levelled in the weeks after that appointment was confirmed.

That has not happened with the latest high profile political appointment: former Labour minister and recently departed Auckland mayor Phil Goff, who will soon become New Zealand’s next high commissioner to the UK. It’s one of the most cushy diplomatic postings available.

Speaking to RNZ this morning, Goff acknowledged his appointment was political – but said he’s received support from across the spectrum, including from both the leaders of National and Act. “Political appointments are longstanding, in many instances they can add some real value, in some instances they’ve been less than appropriate,” he said. “What’s important is you’re doing that job on behalf of New Zealand and bringing together your skills and experience.”

Political appointees do have a good understanding of the political system, said Goff, which can provide advantages.

On the backlash to Mallard’s appointment, Goff remained – shock horror – diplomatic. “Trevor will bring professionalism and competency to his role as well… He will leave partisanship behind him, he will do what is required of him,” said Goff.

Meanwhile, over in the pages of the Herald, Goff was once again diplomatic when asked to comment on the current political situation in the UK. He would not speak on the continuous exchange of prime ministers (possibly for fear of there being a new one when he arrives in London in 2023), but said: “the most important thing is that through the interesting period we’ve had in the last couple of months, while there may have been changes in leaders, there haven’t been changes in the policies that are important to New Zealand, such as the free trade agreement and the broad approach to foreign policy.”

If the government changes next year, Goff remained confident he would retain his role and continue to receive support from back home.

The Bulletin: More big TV series shot in New Zealand on government wishlist

BusinessDesk’s Jem Traylen reports (paywalled) on the quiet-ish release of the government’s proposed changes to its screen production grant. Nothing nefarious implied here – it just didn’t get a lot of pick up yesterday. In 2021, international productions received $169.8m in funding from the New Zealand screen production grant. New Zealand productions received $48.4m (New Zealand productions also received $301.6m in 2021 from other government sources).

Screen-sector revenue in New Zealand is estimated to be $3.5b each year so we’re not talking chump change here. The changes are aimed at attracting more international multi-year television productions rather than one-off blockbuster movies. The proposal is now out for consultation.