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The Bulletin: Trouble in paradise for tourism industry

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Two major threats loom for the tourism industry, fair pay agreement working group comes back, and Shane Jones and Russel Norman go to war over trawling.

For two major of reasons, the tourism industry could be about to hit some severe headwinds. It’s an enormous sector of the economy, bringing in tens of millions of dollars every year, and employing hundreds of thousands of people. But it’s also particularly vulnerable to social forces that are only partly controllable, and economic forces that are completely uncontrollable.

The issue is thrown into stark relief by the NZ Herald’s Jamie Gray, who has written about what Air NZ’s earnings forecast downgrade will mean for the tourism industry. As an island nation, any sign of fewer people flying here is a warning for the tourism industry, who can by definition only make money from people who have made the trip. Tourism is seen as a highly cyclical industry, and the last few years have been extremely good, so a downward turn is possible. Slower economic growth in China, and trade fights between them and the USA, were also cited in this Stuff story as threats to growth in the industry.

But perhaps the growth has gone too far in any case. We’ve covered this issue before of course, but examples keep cropping up. Almost half of New Zealanders surveyed at the end of last year felt that tourism growth was too high – that was reported on by Stuff. Further research covered by the NZ Herald warned that over-tourism could spark divisions among New Zealanders. Overtourism is seen as a threat to our sustainability, reports Newshub. And during that whole rowdy tourist family fortnight, a serious and salient point was made by Tess Nichol on Slate – that even though our economy depends on tourism, we end up having an awful lot of stories which basically boil down to vilifying visitors. Those who say we’re suffering from too many tourists may soon get their wish.

There has been some response to the concerns. The NZ Herald reported recently that Tourism NZ has moved to promote the ‘shoulder season’ more, so that locations and businesses won’t have quite so steep peaks and troughs each year. But with the enormous growth in visitor numbers, the country is clearly still failing to figure out the best balance for one of our most vital industries.


A working group report on Fair Pay Agreements has been released, sparking conjecture on a few key points. Stuff reports there has been a battle over whether or not FPAs should be compulsory across industries, with the working group itself unable to come to an agreement. Employers are bitterly opposed to that, but unions and the minister Iain Lees-Galloway have backed that provision.

Former National Jim Bolger, who led the working group, called on his former party to react calmly to the recommendations, reports the NZ Herald. So far, that has not been the response, with employment relations spokesperson Scott Simpson calling the thresholds for triggering an FPA across an industry “democratically offensive.” That point was made in response to the recommendation that an FPA process could be triggered by 10% of the workers in an industry saying they wanted it.


NZ First MP and minister Shane Jones has put himself right in the middle of a fight between Greenpeace and fishing company Talley’s, reports the NZ Herald. In a press release about a subsidiary of Talley’s being charged over alleged bottom-trawling in a protected patch of ocean, Greenpeace’s Executive Director Russel Norman noted that Shane Jones was a recipient of donations from Talley’s. Mr Jones fired back, accusing Greenpeace of being the ones fishing for donations.

Of course, this all seems like one of those stories where we’ll end up talking about a clash between two larger than life personalities, and not about the practice of bottom-trawling itself. It produces a horrendous amount of bycatch – fish which are killed unintentionally and discarded – and is highly destructive to marine ecosystems. Protected areas of the ocean are there for a reason.


Truancy services in Kawerau are urging schools to stop asking parents for money, reports the NZ Herald. It’s the area with the highest truancy rates in the country (though they are improving) and high rates of truancy are strongly correlated with low incomes. Social agencies in the area say costs are often put on activities that can keep kids engaged in school.


Some North Canterbury drinking water bores became so polluted with nitrate last year, they became a risk to pregnant women and babies. However, as Stuff reports, despite the local medical officer of health calling the water undrinkable, the irrigation company supplying the water didn’t actually breach their water consents. Some residents were potentially drinking unsafe water for up to eight months. The Amuri area of North Canterbury has a high concentration of dairy farming.


There have been vague suggestions of an alliance between the Māori Party and The Opportunities Party this week. Writing on The Spinoff, commentator Morgan Godfery outlines why the idea is attractive, but also why it is vanishingly unlikely to actually be successful. It’s a piece well worth reading for anyone already casting an eye towards how the party landscape for the 2020 election will look (and let’s face it, a lot of people reading The Bulletin will be that kind of person.)


A couple of really interesting anecdotes came in on the Stuff story about the electric car charging network, and the range that gives EVs. Simon raised the point about nominal range – as in, the listen number is only the true range when all conditions are perfect. He also noted that the Leaf, the most common type, “doesn’t have battery cooling, and that makes multiple charges much more difficult because the battery gets hot and does not have time to cool down. That means slower charges, and even possibly refusal of the car to charge if the temperature is critically high.” Simon and his family had managed some fairly hefty trips in EVs though.

Philip argued that “range anxiety” wasn’t actually all that bad, because drivers have to make considerations all the time, and this was just one that EV drivers had to make. “The range we get out of a charge is greatly influenced by how we drive – how fast (especially up hills), how we accelerate or brake. So our attempts to increase our range depends on how mindful we are of our driving habits.  We think that has to be a good thing.”


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One very unhappy complaint to the ASA

Right now on The Spinoff: Blogger Lucy Revill writes a response to a piece we ran last week about measuring social media influence – she reckons we got it wrong. Jihee Junn finds the ten most entertaining Advertising Standards Authority complaints. And Madeleine Chapman writes a definitive list of the ten biggest church music bangers.

Finally, Henry Oliver and Alice Webb-Liddall continue their series of talking about freelancing, and this time it’s about leaving the grind behind and taking a full time job instead. Incidentally, it might be the last Spinoff piece for Henry Oliver for a while, now that he’s off editing Metro Magazine. A new writer will be taking over his half of these chats next month.


There’s not really any particular peg for sharing this story, but it’s an exceptionally good example of tightly written crime journalism. It’s from Oregon Live, in the USA, and tells the story of a young Saudi man who killed a teenage girl in Portland, in a hit and run incident. But then, it appeared that he was able to flee the country, quite possibly with the assistance of Saudi Arabia’s government. What I really admire about this as a piece of writing is that it tells you absolutely everything you need to understand the case, and nothing else. Here’s an excerpt:

Upon the urging of Multnomah County prosecutor Shawn Overstreet, Circuit Judge Cheryl Albrecht raised the young man’s bail to $1 million from $280,000, court documents show.

“We always felt this guy was a huge flight risk,” Overstreet said in an interview with The Oregonian/OregonLive.

For most defendants, especially someone with limited financial resources, a seven-figure bail means they remain behind bars pending trial. In Oregon, defendants must post 10 percent of the set bail for release. Noorah, as it turned out, would receive some unexpected help.

Soon after his arrest, the Saudi consulate retained private defense attorneys to work on his case, according to court records and prosecutors. The consulate later cut Noorah a check for $100,000, enough to secure his release from jail, records show.


The White Ferns are currently under the pump against India, but there are question marks over whether their best possible team is out on the park. One player who could have been in the squad is Rachel Priest, who is profiled in this excellent feature on Cricinfo. She wasn’t wanted by the White Ferns, but has since become a T20 mercenary, and played significant roles in high-quality competitions in England and Australia. It will be really interesting to see if she gets called back up again, or if she’s now considered to be out for good.

Meanwhile, the Black Caps have beaten India after shuffling their batting order, which I suggested they do. Of course, the win was entirely due to Trent Boult and Colin de Grandhomme blasting India out with ruthless swing bowling, so it’s hard to know if the new batting order had anything to do with it. Still, the target of 93 was chased down in just 14.4 overs, so something went right.

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Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed this wildly optimistic take from Newshub’s online sports editor Grant Chapman, about the chances of the Breakers making the NBL playoffs. I’ll admit, I thought their season was dead and buried, but Chapman has shown that they can still get there, especially after two quality wins in succession. From here, the Breakers just need six more wins in a row, basically. That presumed sprint to the finish will start at 7.20 tonight in Auckland.


From our partners: The government is digging deep into the price of electricity in New Zealand, with a review of the entire energy sector. What will the review look at, why should there even be one, and does it mean you might pay less for power? Vector’s Bridget McDonald has the answers.


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