Climate change commissioner Dr Rod Carr (Getty Images)
Climate change commissioner Dr Rod Carr (Getty Images)

The BulletinFebruary 1, 2021

The Bulletin: Reaction to big changes required by first emissions report

Climate change commissioner Dr Rod Carr (Getty Images)
Climate change commissioner Dr Rod Carr (Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Reaction to big changes required by first emissions report, stories swirl about managed isolation places, and UK in bid to join NZ-inclusive trade bloc.

The Climate Change Commission has released a major report setting out the changes that will need to be made for New Zealand to meet international emissions obligations. Commissioner Dr Rod Carr described it as “ambitious but achievable.”  There will now be a period of consultation, and at a certain point the government will be legally required to respond to the plan, either accepting it and implementing it as policy, or setting out one of its own. An exceptionally useful wrap of it all has been put together by Justin Giovannetti, who read the massive text while it was under embargo, and I’d highly encourage you to read his piece.

The key points are this: Using existing technology, and without requiring high tax increases or a painful contraction in economic activity, the policy settings of the country can be changed so that we achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. But the swathe of changes needed is vast, and has to happen quickly. The list of actions is comprehensive, rather than a pick and choose grab bag. Moreover, carbon neutrality is only one target over what will be needed over the coming century – at some stage we’re going to have to start reducing carbon levels.

Climate scientists have come out positively to the report. The Science Media Centre collected reactions, and there was a pretty common theme. As Associate Professor Anita Wreford from the Deep South Challenge put it, “the report emphasises the fact that our current direction is not enough to meet the net-zero target, and we need to change course in the next few years to be able to achieve the target (which we must, to play our part in the global effort to avoid the worst impacts of climate change). That last point about the global effort is potentially more relevant to business than it appears – with the US swinging back towards trying to take an international leadership position on the issue, New Zealand exporters may find themselves pariahs if we don’t follow suit.

A few key changes required stand out.Stuff’s climate team reports a lot of it will revolve around carbon emissions for transport. They’ll need to come down quickly, with an import ban on new petrol cars considered necessary at some stage in the coming years. Similarly, jobs are likely to be lost in the oil and gas sector, though many of those people are likely to be skilled and able to find work in emerging energy industries. On Radio NZ’s news this morning, the vehicle lobby described the changes as too ambitious, and said incentives for EVs will be required.

Agriculture faces lower stocking levels, and land use change towards native forests, rather than necessarily plantation forests. One thing that will need to be tidied up is the current policy, according to a farmer quoted by Stuff in the days before the report was released, who said that currently native bush is sometimes being felled to make way for pine – a poor outcome for a range of reasons.

So far, PM Jacinda Ardern has indicated support for the advice given, reports the NZ Herald.“The Commission’s draft advice sets out an achievable blueprint for New Zealand to become a prosperous, low-emissions economy. The positive news is that the government’s actions to date have laid much of the groundwork for the transition but that more is now required,” said Ardern. The term ‘groundwork’ is arguably doing a lot of work there, given important and probably tougher political decisions are now required. In a Morning Report interview, climate change minister James Shaw suggested that various sectors might end up pointing the finger at others, in order to reduce the burden on themselves – a difficult challenge for the government to navigate. The politics of it all are very sharply analysed by Stuff’s Henry Cooke. Activist groups like Generation Zero, and the school strikers, have also come out in support for the Commission’s report, provided urgent action is actually taken.

To give my own opinion on the matter: There are likely to be people who think the timeline will be too hard and fast to bring everyone along, and suffering will be created as a result. One has to wonder whether anyone who over the decades delayed action, or denied a need for it to take place, is feeling responsible at all right now. The world effectively took out a loan against the future, and the interest payments have been building. If only we hadn’t left paying the bill so late.

A terminally ill man has been granted a managed isolation place so that he can see his family one last time, after a public appeal. Stuff reports Trev Ponting’s case was reviewed when it hit the headlines, however no reason for the change was given. It follows several similar stories with the different outcomes, such as The Wiggles being granted places for a tour, and a cruise ship being denied after appearing to brazenly push towards New Zealand waters, despite not having places organised for much of the crew.

On the story of Ponting, it’s a complicated one. On the one hand it’s only human to be happy for his family that they will have this, and it’s hard to begrudge either the reversal, or the efforts made to publicise his case. But it also raises questions. Are MIQ decisions being made on the basis of media attention? And with places limited, is there truly any fair way to allocate them, or measure one need against another?

Meanwhile, some foolish funny business has been going on in a managed isolation facility. Stuff’s Steve Kilgallon reports an MIQ staffer has been sacked, after having a 20-minute (not my euphemism) “encounter” in the bedroom of a returnee. Both parties have since returned negative tests, so it is believed that there is a low risk of an outbreak as a result of the… well, whatever it is that happened in there.

The UK will apply to join the CPTPP trade bloc, which includes New Zealand. The BBC reports it’s one of the bigger post-Brexit trade moves made by the country, and if successful, the UK would become the second largest economy in the bloc. Trade negotiations are currently underway between NZ and the UK. For the UK, the gains from joining may be somewhat limited, but there’s the outside chance the US will decide that once again it wants in, which would represent a big prize for the Brits.

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The Waitaki District Council will be meeting today to discuss a potential rates increase, reports the ODT. That’s not exactly a massive story in and of itself – councils do it all the time. But a particular quote from mayor Gary Kircher about increased costs on councils, “many coming from decisions by central government that impact council. The most significant of these is the Three Waters review programme”. Expect to see more stories like this over the course of the year.

Sticking with rates (please, bear with me) this is a fascinating piece about councils hitting commercial forestry with increases. Farmers Weekly has reported on the moves taking place in predominantly rural districts, generally far higher than what applies to rural (farming) land. There’s an element of it that feels like rural political machines flexing their muscles – farmers are more numerous and politically dominant at the local level, and many have raised concerns about land conversions. The justification given for the higher rates on forestry is the increased costs of road maintenance from forestry trucks, and the lower economic benefits provided to regions by forestry.

An interesting business story about one of our low-key most important exports – kiwifruit. It’s a knotty story, concerning the regulation of monopoly Zespri, and their patented brand of kiwifruit being grown by counterfeit operations in China. As Stuff’s Thomas Manch reports, Kiwifruit New Zealand has declined to approve a deal that would allow Zespri to buy up one of the counterfeiters, in a bid to stop the flow of unlicensed fruit. The full proposal Zespri made to KNZ hasn’t been made public, but the bid was turned down on the grounds of creating potential risk for New Zealand growers.

Some feedback of crayfish: It would appear Great Barrier residents are also having problems finding recreational crayfish. This email from Wendy, who said “I’ve just returned from Aotea / Great Barrier Island, and spoke to islanders who were bemoaning the lack of crayfish and the diminishing stocks. You certainly can’t get a feed of crayfish at any of the island’s few eating establishments.”

And from Erica: “Around the Whangarei cost line 10 years ago we would guarantee we would find a minimum of 2 crayfish of legal size. Now the normal is to not get one and sometimes not even see any legal or not. We also dive around the top of Doubtless Bay and there is now nothing to be found apart from crayfish pots which are also empty. 10 years ago you would of been able to get your limit. When you see the sizes of crayfish in supermarkets and how small they are and they would be illegal sizing if a recreational diver was to have caught them it just doesn’t make sense.”

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illustration: six red pills on a tongue, in a lightly drooling mouth
Image: Toby Morris

Right now on The Spinoff: Historian Andre Brett has a fascinating piece about anniversary days, and whether they should be ditched in favour of something else. Josie Adams has an excellent feature looking back at the wild era of over-the-counter BZP – also known as party pills. Donna Chisholm meets Brooke Stanley Pao, the new face of activist group AAAP. Indigo Paul ponders the politics of being a ‘volunteer housewife’. Jihee Junn meets a mysterious dancer finding fame after popping up in random TikToks around Auckland. I give a defence of the format of talkback radio – if not the rubbish that so often gets served up under that banner. And Kingi Snelgar puts forward some suggestions for Magic Talk as to who could do their Waitangi Day show.

For a feature today, a bit of commentary about the relationship between central and local government in Wellington transport planning. The NZ Herald’s Georgina Campbell has covered the chances of congestion charging coming to the city – central government isn’t keen, but something of an alliance is forming in Wellington local politics around the idea. Here’s an excerpt:

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster campaigned on congestion charging. He’s more interested in it as an alternative revenue tool to rates, while [GWRC chair Daran] Ponter is focused on mode shift. 

But Foster was caught on the hop in the first months of his mayoralty, discovering the Government had quietly ruled out congestion charging for Wellington during Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) negotiations he wasn’t a part of.

The new mayor claimed the first he’d heard of it was when the Herald approached him for comment in response to the Government’s position. Foster said at the time that taking away the option of congestion charging in Wellington would be a “literal roadblock”.

The Wellington Phoenix finally have a win to their name after a poor start to the A-League season. Newshub reports a late goal has allowed them to claim a 2-1 over the Central Coast Mariners, who have been surprisingly strong this year, after inflicting years of misery on their own fans. The Nix have a tough year coming up, based as they are in Australia for the foreseeable future, and it’s difficult to see them getting up into the playoffs again.

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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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