Minister Iain Lees-Galloway and the currently imprisoned Karel Sroubek  (Richard Tindiller Radio NZ and Carmen Bird Photography)

The Bulletin: Sroubek saga just gets stranger

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Karel Sroubek case gets even stranger, industrial action rumbles away among court staff, and letting fees to be gone by Christmas.

The residency decision on Czech drug dealer Karel Sroubek is starting to look stranger and stranger by the day. The NZ Herald’s Jared Savage has broken the latest: Mr Sroubek was granted loosened bail convictions so he could go back to the Czech Republic twice. He also had significant business interests in the country as of 2009. He was granted residency “ostensibly because of fears for his life if he returned to the Czech Republic” (NZ Herald article quote) by minister Iain Lees-Galloway – that hasn’t been confirmed by the minister though.

Now again, we don’t know the full details of what information the minister had to make his decision, and what has only just come to light. But from the outside, it looks pretty bad, and there are almost certainly dozens of OIAs flying in to get those documents. The minister has now ordered Immigration NZ to investigate the residency application of Mr Sroubek, reports Stuff, to assess whether or not Immigration NZ gave Mr Lees-Galloway the correct information. Newstalk ZB political editor Barry Soper has written on the NZ Herald that it appears Immigration NZ is being set up to do the dirty work by the minister. And National says the minister should be taking the heat himself, rather than passing it on to officials, reports Radio NZ.

As for the currently imprisoned Karel Sroubek himself, his chances of staying in the country look worse every day. Partly, that’s political – his case has been contrasted unfavourably with stories like this on Stuff: A couple which had now been separated by Immigration NZ, because one of them had reached the limit of permanent residency applications, and was subsequently deported back to Hong Kong. The argument is an emotive one, and very easy to make – why should they have to go while a convicted criminal gets to stay?

Immigration decisions have a habit of biting ministers, and one wonders whether having a ministerial sign-off like this is necessarily the best practice. Looking back, there are plenty of examples, like NZ First’s Tuariki Delamere resigning over potential conflicts of interests in a decision he made in the 90s, the granting of citizenship to wealthy Labour donor Bill Liu, and the granting of citizenship to tech-billionaire Peter Thiel by National. Would these decisions have been made better if done so by someone in a non-political role, like a judge? Or would that still lead to equally confusing outcomes?

Finally, for a lighter note on all of this, we’ve collected the thoughts of Iain Lees-Galloway himself on the matter, and published them on The Spinoff. Now, when I say collected, I really do mean that – they’re taken from his twitter account, and may or may not be slightly out of context. Still, it is pretty remarkable how closely a lot of a his statements in opposition line up with his present predicament.

Industrial action among court staff has continued, and may well get more intense, reports LawPoints. (published by the NZ Law Society) PSA members who work for the ministry of justice have been engaging in so-called ‘lightning strikes’ – sometimes with as little as 30 minutes notice. As well as that, they’ve also been ‘working to rule’ – that is, doing exactly what is stipulated in their contract and not a minute more on top. (As an aside, isn’t it incredible that doing your job to the letter of your contract is an industrial relations tactic?)

At the moment discussions are taking place among union members for a nationwide strike, which could happen as early as next week. The ministry has condemned the strikes, calling them “unlawful, unsafe and irresponsible.”

Letting fees for tenancies are going to be gone by the end of the year, just in time for summer moves, reports Newshub. This has been a small flashpoint in the wider battles going on over the rental system over the year, and is likely to be very popular with tenants. Of course, there were claims made during the debate over the new law in which property managers suggested tenants actually liked paying letting fees – many tenants respectfully disagreed. The front page of the Dominion Post this morning reports warnings from property managers that this will mean rent rises, but quite honestly when are rent rises not being threatened.

The countdown is now on for the CPTPP to come into effect, and a few sectors are eagerly eyeing up preferential access and lower tariffs, reports the ODT. Among them are winemakers, mussel farmers and kiwifruit growers. Tariff cuts will come into effect early next year. The Green Party have maintained their opposition throughout, in particular over the possibility of unbalanced Investor State Disputes Settlements being brought back in if the US decides to rejoin the deal.

This is a fascinating story about the rise of ghost houses in a small town tourist hotspot. A third of the homes in Raglan are classed as unoccupied holiday homes and many are listed on sites like Bookabach, but that has also led to a profound shortage of rentals, reports the Waikato Times on today’s front page. It has even led to some locals being forced to move out of the town when their tenancies have ended.

Jami-Lee Ross’s offer of a proxy vote for his former party has been rejected, reports Stuff. National whip Barbara Kuriger outlined why in a tersely worded letter, which has now been published. The party also says they are yet to make a decision on using the Electoral Integrity Act to turf Mr Ross out of parliament altogether.

An important story from our regional neighbourhood: New Caledonians are voting in a referendum on independence from France this weekend. RNZ Pacific has a great rundown on the backstory of why, the conditions the referendum is taking place under, and the chances it will pass. Even though voting is restricted to indigenous Kanak people and long term residents, opinion polls have not given any indication independence is likely to win – partly because Kanaks will not make up the majority of the electorate.

Finally, every single episode of Get It To Te Papa is now up on Lightbox. You can get a free month trial of Lightbox if you’re not already a member, but honestly, if you start on Saturday you’ll probably have watched the whole series by Sunday, it’s that good.

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Image: Simon Day

Right now on The Spinoff: Former UK Labour MP Bryan Gould has written about his personal experience of party reviews, and why he doesn’t expect much from National’s internal culture review. Jesse Mulligan has tried cooking some Jamie Oliver recipes and reckons they’re garbage. Justice reform advocate Roger Brooking says minister Kelvin Davis is on exactly the right track with his corrections changes. And Simon Day, meat enthusiast, went out to a pig farm to see how the bacon he eats gets made.

Just if anyone was wondering, yes, we’re going to keep banging on about the effect climate change will have on New Zealand. Fortunately, there’s an increasing amount of really important work happening in this area. Today’s feature comes from NZ Geographic, who have reported on the current state of New Zealand’s glaciers, and what the ramifications of their decline will be. It goes well beyond matters like water and energy supply, to the social and political effects that could have. Here’s an excerpt:

Deep South researcher Belinda Storey works at this interface. She has degrees in political science, disaster risk and finance, and serves as a director on the boards of Landcorp Farming and 350 Aotearoa.

One of her areas of study is the psychology of climate risk, especially the notion of ‘future proofing’—the attempt to neutralise the negative impacts of future events. She believes the very phrase implies a level of certainty about the future that doesn’t exist.

“When people talk about ‘future proofing’ they often haven’t taken account of how much things are going to change,” she says. “For example, many water consents for irrigation are for 35 years, but we don’t have modelling that will tell us what the water supply will be in even five years’ time. If there’s one thing people need to understand it’s this: the future will look nothing like the past.”

This is a fascinating sport feature from Stuff about the changing relationship between coaches and athletes, as sport is dragged into the modern world. It follows the year of reviews in various codes, and makes the point that fundamentally the changes are in how things are communicated. Some have argued that the changes are a sign of athletes going soft, but I don’t think I agree – why should anyone put up with what basically constitutes a bullying work environment?

From our partners, World Energy Day has put a spotlight on New Zealand’s sluggish progress towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Vector’s Beth Johnson explains why the time is right to accelerate.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, pass on this signup form to them.

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