Austrian neo-Nazi Martin Sellner, at a rally in Vienna (Getty Images)

The Bulletin: UN Migration Pact wounds still fester

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Wounds caused by UN Migration Pact drama still fester, Middlemore sources concerned deadly flu cases contracted in hospital, and rat populations ballooning. 

It started off as little more than an obscure, non-binding agreement for the United Nations to mull over. It became a rallying call for the white supremacist who has pleaded not guilty to charges related to the Christchurch mosque attack. And now the UN Migration Pact lives on as a festering wound in New Zealand politics.

Over the last two nights, Newshub have been releasing a series of stories detailing how that is playing out. The first discussed a protest in which convicted white supremacist Philip Arps allegedly made death threats against deputy PM Winston Peters. Those are being investigated by the police.

The second story was dominated by an interview with Austrian neo-Nazi Martin Sellner, of the pan-European group Generation Identity. The man accused of the Christchurch massacre made donations to Sellner, and shared email correspondence with him, which included mutual social invitations. The money has now been bounced back to Victim Support by Sellner, they don’t want it so it may now end up with an anti-racism charity of some sort.

The latter Newshub story was in my view deeply naive and irresponsibly framed. I say that because it gave such an easy ride to Sellner’s claims of being ‘peaceful’. Partly that’s because groups like Generation Identity make a point of deceiving the media, so that they can present a softer face to the world. And partly I say that because they have actively tried to disrupt migrant rescue boats in the Mediterranean, which could have caused serious harm or even deaths at sea had they not failed pathetically. Generation Identity members have also been implicated in racist street attacks, and send members to military-style training camps. To not mention that in every single story in which Sellner claims to be non-violent is negligent. Sellner leads and inspires this movement, and must own the violence which so clearly accompanies it.

That is not to say that everyone who shares those views of the UN Migration Pact is a neo-Nazi. That is my observation, having personally reported on a similar demonstration to the one Philip Arps made his threats at. Some attendees certainly had extreme far-right views, and were on a continuum with the likes of Sellner, and other attendees did not share those views at all. But while there were no explicit threats of violence made against anyone that I witnessed, the rhetoric around migrants was at times extremely harsh, and it’s not always easy to seperate where that sort of language ends, and where threats of violence begin. Sellner’s group also launched disinformation campaigns in relation to the UN Migration Pact.

You might recall National opposed the UN Migration Pact, as covered in this edition of The Bulletin from last year. It is a position which now looks increasingly bizarre given their other pro-migration, pro-foreign investment stances. You might also recall that they quietly and clumsily deleted the anti-pact petition from their website – later blaming it on an “emotional junior staffer.” Now to clarify, I don’t for a second believe that there is a single neo-Nazi within the National party, and want to be very clear that I’m not accusing the party of sharing Generation Identity’s views.

But that has not stopped Winston Peters calling for National leader Simon Bridges to resign, reports the NZ Herald. PM Jacinda Ardern hasn’t gone so far as that, but called National’s position “irresponsible” and based on false information. It’s ironic given Winston Peters’ long and ignoble history of anti-immigration rhetoric, and Jacinda Ardern’s campaigning on immigration cuts at the last election. But here we are, with the three major party leaders pointing fingers at each other, and trying to extricate themselves from this quagmire. And all the while, we can look at what is happening in Europe, where the neo-Nazis who are the true threat to pluralistic democracy get stronger and more confident.


Sources at Middlemore Hospital are concerned patients may have died after catching influenza following being admitted, reports Josie Adams for The Spinoff. Two people presented with no flu symptoms, but later died of flu-related complications, said a nurse. Middlemore says any patient who shows flu symptoms will be put in ‘droplet isolation’, and deny that the patients contracted flu in the hospital’s emergency department. Flu season tends to peak around August, and so far more than a million vaccine doses have been administered.


Conservation advocates are warning that far needs to be done to control ballooning rat populations now, and stoats in spring, reports Stuff. That’s despite DOC undertaking their biggest ever predator control programme ever. Forest and Bird are warning that because 1080 isn’t being used in some places, rats are pouring out of those forests into other areas. That could leave some native birds in unprotected areas facing ‘local extinction’ – where a whole population in a region is wiped out.


Construction deaths continue at stubbornly high rates over 2019, reports Radio NZ. So far 11 people have died in the sector this year, which already makes it the worst calendar year in a decade. Partly it’s a result of a massive growth in construction work, but it’s also feared that is having a flow on effect on health and safety standards. Workplace deaths generally are tracking much higher this year than they were last year.


For those following the Gail Maney case, this is a rather significant new piece of information. For those who aren’t – Maney was convicted of a murder she says she didn’t, and couldn’t have committed, and it was re-canvassed in the podcast Gone Fishing. Stuff reports a witness at the original trial now says they lied at the time, and were not actually present when the 1989 murder took place. The witness said they lied because they had been “threatened and harassed” to do so.


An interesting TV debate played out last night over the future of superannuation, on Q+A. The topic has never really gone away, and it is clear parties that campaign on changing the system get punished by voters. Richard Wagstaff of the CTU challenged the idea that the age needs to be raised, or that super will become unaffordable. But retirement commissioner Dianne Maxwell argued that while older people need support, a pension may not be the best way to do it.


Air quality in Hastings has fallen below safety standards twice in the space of two days, reports Hawke’s Bay Today. To put that in context, the entire Hawke’s Bay region had three breaches in the whole of last year. Domestic fires are a major cause of air quality problems, particularly if people are burning treated timber, rubbish or wet wood. Non-compliant wood burners are still in quite a few homes, and the Council says they will provide support for those looking to replace theirs.


The first half of the year has been among the hottest New Zealand has ever seen, reports the NZ Herald. High temperatures are forecast to continue, and rainfall is forecast to be on the lower side of normal. A major underlying driver of the weather pattern is climate change. On a related note, we released the first World Weekly Bulletin last week, which focused on six other examples of unusual, climate change related weather situations around the world.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Sam Grover shares the story of how he beat a property manager’s attempt to get him to pay a ‘cleaning charge’, and offers advice to others in similar situations. Gabrielle Baker writes about how the government needs to respond to a landmark report on iniquities in the health system. Pallas Hupé Cotter writes about the feelings of guilt that accompany weighing down a shopping trolley with endless bits of disposable plastic. And Lucy Zee ranks the chefs who feature on the wildly popular youtube channel Bon Appetit.


The campaign to stop the Manapōuri Dam took place 50 years ago, and still reverberates through the environmental movement today. This story by Mike White at North and South outlines not only the story of the dam that wasn’t, but what happened afterwards, particularly through a movement coalescing around a wider picture. Here’s an excerpt:

Mark is now 87, still working as an emeritus professor at Otago University, and still sometimes giving advice on Lake Manapōuri. “Life’s too short to hang your boots up.”

He credits the Manapōuri campaign as being significant beyond saving the lake, saying it was a forerunner of the Resource Management Act, which requires environmental values to be considered in developments, and also helped create the Official Information Act, because of the secrecy that surrounded government plans for the lakes. In many ways, the campaign marked the point between an age when the environment was seen as something to be exploited for profit, and one where it was considered something with intrinsic value. And it foreshadowed other successful environmental protests, against such things as logging native forests and nuclear testing in the Pacific.


Another challenger has pulled out of the America’s Cup, leaving just four teams as certainties for the start line, reports Newshub. The Dutch syndicate has failed to raise enough money to take part. Dutch Sail skipper Simeon Tienpont said the number of challengers didn’t matter so much, because it all came down to the final two in the America’s Cup. But if the tournament is actually going to be an economic boost, that’s not true – in that context it really is the more the merrier.

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From our partners: A two-tier system of energy use is developing, with those on high incomes much more able to reduce their bills than households on lower incomes. Vector’s Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer Kate Beddoe outlines what the company plans to do about that.


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