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The BulletinMay 2, 2019

The Bulletin: Electric vehicle incentives now well overdue

(Photo: Getty Images)
(Photo: Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Electric vehicle incentives now well overdue, mental health inquiry accused of suppressing Māori voices, and tensions erupt at Auckland Uni anti-racism hui.

The incentive package to entice people to buy electric vehicles is well overdue and still nowhere to be seen. Lobby group Drive Electric told Stuff that the target to have 64,000 EVs on the road by 2021 is now seriously unlikely to be met. The group’s spokesperson said it was “disappointing when signals were that this was ‘the year of delivery'”.

The package was meant to be announced around the start of the year, now it will be some time in the first half of the year. There was heaps of talk around it last year though, such as this report in the NZ Herald. Green co-leader James Shaw “said he would be announcing the Government’s EV working programme in about a month.” That was in October. Perhaps the programme of work was announced and I missed it, either way, nothing concrete has been delivered.

To be frank, the politics of it all are terrible for the Greens. It’s yet another policy being fronted by a Green minister (in this case associate transport minister Julie Anne Genter) that has fallen off the radar in government. It makes them look ineffective at pushing through the policies that their voters put them in parliament to chase, when it comes to big ticket items. To be fair though, every politician from every party in parliament should be playing their part on environmental challenges, if they want to continue looking their kids in the eye.

As for what an incentive package would mean for the country’s vehicle fleet, the old analogy about planting a tree comes to mind – that the best time was 20 years ago, and the 2nd best time is right now. One of the most important up to date data pieces about environmental inaction is this from the Two Cents Worth podcast, which found that NZers purchased 64 mostly diesel double cab utes for every electric car. Because of how long vehicles stay in the fleet in this country, a lot of those utes will still be on the road and pumping out carbon in 2040.

Other countries are at least doing something in this area. The BBC reports that there is debate in Britain at the moment as to whether the 2040 ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars is too slow. Imagine that! A ban on more heavily polluting cars is going to happen there, even if it is a few decades into the future.

It should be said as well, electric cars aren’t perfect by any stretch. Steve Heinen wrote about this for The Spinoff last year, and noted significant unintended consequences that would arise if everyone suddenly drove one. As well as that, a widespread and effective public transport system would be more environmentally friendly than everyone driving an EV. But they’re much better on carbon emissions than petrol cars, and New Zealand needs to do something major about transport emissions to meet the targets we’ve signed up to.

A spokesperson for Julie Anne Genter suggested to Stuff that “good things take time” when it comes to the incentive package. The analogy works for cheesemaking, but perhaps not politics, when a government has promised transformational change. The process of changing New Zealand’s vehicle fleet will take decades, so there really isn’t a moment to waste.

The mental health inquiry has been accused of suppressing Māori voices, in a process of “methodological racism,” reports Jessica McAllen for Stuff. It’s a complicated and detailed story, so I won’t summarise it too deeply here (go read it.) But out of the supplementary reports prepared to go along with the main report, the one for Māori perspectives was delayed, leaked, and cut back, while the other supplementary reports were released without apparent incident. Some of the cuts also appear to have removed direct criticism of mental health programmes.

Tensions have erupted at an anti-racism hui at Auckland University, reports Alice Webb-Liddall for The Spinoff. The campus has been plagued by persistent reports of an upswing of racism in recent months, and the hui was aimed at bringing those concerns to light. However, everything devolved after a speech was made by someone described by other attendees as a neo-Nazi.

It feels like the NZ Herald might have saved up a bunch of top features for launch day of their Premium/paywall section. In fact, there were so many that came out all at once that I struggled to get through them all. Here’s two that really jumped out at me.

Andrea Fox has done a deep dive into the cooperative model used by Fonterra, and cleared up quite a few popular misunderstandings in the process. It’s a model that is currently under a significant amount of scrutiny, because of the wider performance of Fonterra, and Fox has done a fantastic job unpacking the arguments around the model. She followed it up with this piece about whether Fonterra as an institution is living on borrowed time.

And Nicholas Jones has done a powerful investigative feature about the increasing number of diabetes-related amputations. They’re arguably a symptom of significant failings in care in the health system, and are being borne for more heavily by poorer people.

There’s a dispute over the veracity of a video which shows massive overcrowding at a supposedly free range chicken farm. Stuff has reported on the video from animal rights group SAFE, which shows clear suffering among the chickens – the video purportedly clandestinely shot at a farm north of Auckland. However, an industry spokesperson says the footage appears to be historic rather than up to date, and says what is shown is not standard industry practice.

Economic figures show unemployment and underutilisation has moved slightly in the right direction, reports Radio NZ. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is down .1 of a percent to 4.2%, while the underutilisation rate (whereby people have a bit of work but want more) fell to 11.3 percent. A significant increase in the number of people not in the workforce indicates many are coming into retirement. However, the economy also lost jobs overall, which is a sign that a long-expected slowdown is coming.

Students in Auckland are seeing an influx of rats into their flats, reports Te Waha Nui. It’s linked to a drop in temperatures forcing the rodents inside, coupled with good breeding conditions over a hot, dry summer. One of the pieces of advice (which from memory was an issue in all of my student flats, mostly my fault) is to keep the house clean.

This is a really important and relevant feature when it comes to methane, and the difference between that and other climate change causing gases. It’s from the LA Times, and outlines the fear scientists have over the increasing amount of methane entering the atmosphere, because the reason for the increase is both unexpected and not fully explained. As covered yesterday, it appears likely that methane (which in NZ is primarily produced from agriculture) will be treated less severely than other gases under NZ’s climate change legislation. However, the short-term warming effect of methane on climate is far harsher than carbon dioxide, so in time that might need to be reconsidered.

Also, apparently May 2, today, is World News Day. It’s the first I’d heard of it, and I like to pride myself on being pretty in the loop. Either way, please celebrate World News Day by getting your friends and family to have more news in their lives, through signing up to The Bulletin.

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Right now on The Spinoff: You thought you had heard the last of Bashford Antiques? You thought wrong – David Farrier is back with the fifth part of this ridiculous tale. Jai Breitnauer calls for generation X to insert themselves more into action on climate change. And Guyon Espiner is leaving Morning Report, and wrote about interrupting politicians and speaking Te Reo on the airwaves.

And there’s some stuff to listen to as well: Politics pod Gone By Lunchtime is joined by the one and only Mihingarangi Forbes. And food pod Dietary Requirements is talking restaurant awards, and joined by the one and only Henry Oliver.

The malign influence News Corp has had on Australian politics is laid bare in this bleak piece from The MonthlyThe author, Richard Cooke, uses the piece to explicitly draw comparisons between there and New Zealand. I think he’s been slightly reductive about our national discourse, and perhaps a bit surface level in his characterisation. But it’s always valuable to look at international perspectives to get a sense of your country. Here’s an excerpt around the comparison.

If you knew nothing about Australia, you might think that this process of reflection, accountability and protest would begin here as well, since it is this society that produced and exported the killer, incubated his prejudices, and then subjected its national neighbours to them. But that naive hope would fundamentally misunderstand where we are and what we are doing. There was no unity in grief – the trans-Tasman contrast became more pronounced than ever. Where New Zealand chose maturity, Australia chose malign idiocy. Everything was permissible, as long as it was irrelevant.

You might have heard earlier in the week that Australian cricketer James Faulkner had, or hadn’t, come out as gay on Instagram. Basically, he referred to his long term friend and flatmate as his boyfriend, and many took that to mean …. his boyfriend. But it wasn’t the case at all – it was just a joke. Writing on The Spinoff, cricket obsessive and gay man Jack Cottrell says this particular episode is painful because of the profound ignorance around LGBT issues in cricket, and because of the way coming out was treated as a joke.

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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