A wide view of Tauranga, which is among the fastest growing areas of the country (Getty Images)
A wide view of Tauranga, which is among the fastest growing areas of the country (Getty Images)

The BulletinApril 2, 2019

The Bulletin: Tauranga moves closer to Golden Triangle train dream

A wide view of Tauranga, which is among the fastest growing areas of the country (Getty Images)
A wide view of Tauranga, which is among the fastest growing areas of the country (Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: BOP Regional Council to investigate upgrading train lines, PM Ardern in China, and dozens of schools stuck using coal for heating.

Choo choo for train lovers: The Bay of Plenty Regional Council is investigating a passenger rail system in and out of Tauranga, reports the Bay of Plenty Times journalist Jean Bell. At the moment, rail in Tauranga is pretty much all used for freight, with the Port a major income earner for both the Regional Council and the city’s economy. That would mean double tracking would be needed, so that trains could pass each other in and out of the city. But an increased train system to and from Tauranga would also move closer to the dream held by public transport advocates for years – passenger rail services throughout the so-called Golden Triangle of Auckland, Tauranga and Hamilton.

You’ve probably heard the term thrown around before. Half of New Zealand’s population live within the Golden Triangle, it’s a high growth area, and at the moment it’s pushing outwards. Currently, a commuter train service is set to begin in 2020 for a five year trial between Auckland and Hamilton. Given the immense amount of new housing being built to the south of Papakura, and given how bad the Southern motorway can get at rush hour, it seems likely a new train service will be popular with both drivers and riders. Those on the train won’t have to sit in traffic, and there won’t be quite so much traffic for those driving to sit in. It stands to reason that commuters coming in from the East Coast would feel the same way.

As for Tauranga itself, transport is a massive issue for the city. It is growing rapidly – far faster really than the city’s transport infrastructure can handle. Gridlock is a constant irritant for many residents. As the launch post of the Greater Tauranga blog noted, the city has the highest rate of private car dependancy in the country, at 97%. Tauranga itself is a city where bigger and newer roads haven’t delivered on their promise. For example, when a $225 million road was completed in 2006, it was predicted that it would take up to 20 years for it to become heavily congested with traffic. It actually took just eight years for it to all fill up.

And residents are calling for rail to be investigated more as well – at least they were in the vox-pops done by the Bay of Plenty Times. People in Tauranga have been calling for trains for a while, based on the idea that the rail network already exists – it would just need to be upgraded to be fit for purpose. It is not considered likely that Tauranga will have a rail network for passengers within the city any time soon.

It’s certain to be an issue that comes up for further debate during the upcoming local government elections. At the moment, there isn’t necessarily a lot of alignment between local and central government on transport priorities – central government recently rejected the BOP Regional Council’s Regional Land Transport plan, with Greater Tauranga saying it was because there was too much of a focus on road. Regardless, it’s a central government promise to get rail around the Golden Triangle going before their time is up. For regional leaders in Tauranga, this could be the perfect moment to try and get on board.

PM Jacinda Ardern has been in China for a brief visit. More will be followed up on over the next few days, but in the meantime this from Stuff’s Stacey Kirk is a good wrap of the visit. The impression one gets from reading it is that the Chinese government is trying to project an aura of friendly but steely strength – President Xi spoke of “new opportunities” and the two countries trusting each other. PM Ardern in turn spoke about the importance of the Free Trade Agreement to this country, and incremental progress towards an upgrade.

Dozens of schools are unable to come up with the cost of switching away from coal, reports Stuff. While burning coal is both a health risk and environmental disaster, schools also need to be warm enough for kids to learn in. Some could convert to wood-pellet burners, but the cost of that fuel is twice as much, and that isn’t generally funded by the ministry of education.

Various perspectives have been coming out in recent days about hate speech laws. Radio NZ reports there are calls for the law to be changed so that religious groups cannot be targeted with hate speech. Justice minister Andrew Little has indicated that he wants a review of existing laws sped up – currently there is no specific hate speech offence on the books, though you aren’t allowed to “excite hostility” towards particular groups.

However, while no serious person would deny that hate speech exists, there’s a legitimate argument that the state getting involved can create perverse outcomes. Kiwiblog author David Farrar went through some of the cases in Britain, with a view that they shouldn’t have ended up in court, and that if New Zealand were to adopt similar laws, similar outcomes would occur.

Regardless, it’s not an area of society that lends itself well to absolutist positions. Recently on The Spinoff, civil liberties advocate Thomas Beagle called for care and time to be taken rather than rushing out a law. However, he also noted that “no democracy based on human rights and civil liberties can seriously entertain the idea that entire classes of people are less than human because of their race, sexuality, religious beliefs, or similar attributes.” And that’s fundamentally the idea that hate speech laws try to support – that speech can be harmful and dangerous (which it obviously can be) and that protection is needed against that sort of speech.

Gang members looking to avoid giving up guns have been given short shrift by deputy PM Winston Peters, reports One News. More details have emerged on the government’s plans to get rid of a range of types of guns and equipment, with an amnesty to bring them in to last until September 30 – the changes are expected to become law by the end of next week. As for reports that Mongrel Mob members might not comply because they need guns to protect themselves, Winston Peters was unsympathetic: “It’s not a matter of cooperation, it’s a matter of being obliged to conform with the law of this country.”

The decline of churches continues, with even Catholicism now looking to close the doors on some Wellington churches, reports Radio NZ. They’re putting it down to an increasing number of buildings needing earthquake strengthening, and an ageing priesthood. But it’s part of a wider trend of the traditional denominations seeming to be losing a lot of their physical presence – there have also recently been stories about Anglicans losing numbers, and Dunedin losing Presbyterian churches.

Metro Magazine have relaunched their website (hello friendly competition) with the annual top 50 restaurants of Auckland. It’s pretty heavy on the Ponsonby/Karangahape Road area, but there are a few nods to the rest of Auckland too, like the Viaduct. Anyway though, the new site looks good, and their new editor Henry Oliver has outlined why it was relaunched.

Technical difficulties: A lot of you tried to read the Max Rashbrooke article yesterday about the government’s first 18 months – unfortunately something gammy was going on with the website it was hosted on, so the previously working link came back with an error. I’ll post it again later in the week if it comes good.

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Right now on The Spinoff: We collected the best things the journos at Vice NZ who have now been made redundant produced, as a tribute to their work. A new episode of Gone By Lunchtime is out, covering politics in the aftermath of the Christchurch attack. Holly Carrington from Shine covers the new law allowing victims of domestic violence to take paid leave, and urges employers to not force those asking for leave for proof they’re being abused. And Alex Casey speaks to Grace Stratton, a pioneer in accessibility fashion.

Also, I ended up writing up a piece about the dumbest April Fools gags I came across yesterday morning. There were a few that came into the inbox from readers that made me chuckle a bit, but I think the funniest one I saw over the course of the day was this from the Department of Conservation – for some reason it just landed with me.

E-Tangata publish a lot of great stuff, week in, week out. But I want to go back to this yarn that they’ve recently republished. It’s about softball star Nathan Nukunuku, who isn’t far away from becoming the most decorated Black Sox player in history. They profiled him back in 2015, focusing on the earliest days of his rep career, and through to playing for New Zealand. Here’s the intro:

Twenty five years ago, when Nathan Nukunuku made the Auckland under-14 softball team, he was easily the youngest in the squad. Staying with his teammates in a motel for the first time was a big deal. A bunch of the boys had gathered in one room and Nathan was asked to flick the jug on. He was straight on to the job.

A short time later, there was a massive bang from the kitchen. The kids rushed over to inspect and, through the smoke, spotted a smouldering jug. It hadn’t seen a drop of water. All eyes turned to the culprit. To Nathan. And the put-down came.

“How old are you, man? Like, 10?”

“Nah,” said Nathan. “I’m nine.” Which he was.

Here’s a remarkable story out of the weekend’s ISPS Handa national football league final, from Stuff7 players out of the winning Eastern Suburbs team are about to join a national U-20 camp. It shows how many good young players are coming through right now, given that the Phoenix also have a handful of talented teenagers. It might not be quite a golden generation of talent yet, but the signs are good about the level of talent that will be going for top honours in a few years.

New Zealander Greig Hamilton has had a good run at the bizarre Barkley Marathons race – an ultra-marathon that this year nobody managed to finish. The NZ Herald reports Hamilton managed to start the 4th out of five loops, but had to tap out shortly afterwards – the only other competitor still in the race lasted a few more hours before also giving up. The race takes place over 60 hours, and covers about 160km across five loops, all the while the race director plays mind games on competitors. In the history of the event, 15 people have finished it.

Finally, and speaking of ultra-marathons, Dana Johannsen from Stuff blogged through the entirety of the Super Sunday netball triple-header. It’s a really good insight into where things are at in terms of Silver Ferns selections, and the state of the competition as a whole. A lot of the established players just haven’t justified their places in recent years, and it’s fair there’s a good chance the World Cup later in the year will be another disaster. But after that, there are players developing now that Ferns coach Noeline Taurua has her eye on.

From our partners: Climate change has already affected how electricity gets delivered to customers, and it’s only going to get more challenging. Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha outlines what the lines company is doing to respond.

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