Firefighting efforts at the Hampton Downs dump (Facebook: Fire and Emergency)
Firefighting efforts at the Hampton Downs dump (Facebook: Fire and Emergency)

The BulletinApril 3, 2019

The Bulletin: Literal trash fire puts focus on landfills

Firefighting efforts at the Hampton Downs dump (Facebook: Fire and Emergency)
Firefighting efforts at the Hampton Downs dump (Facebook: Fire and Emergency)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Landfills in focus after pair of disasters, new firearms laws to be streamlined through Parliament, and generational conflict over climate change in Thames.

A pair of recent stories have shown that what gets put in landfills doesn’t ever really go away. Over and above the widely-covered crisis in recycling, landfills themselves are now causing significant issues for local residents. The problem basically boils down to the fact that what goes into the rubbish doesn’t always stay there.

In North Waikato, a fire at a dump in Hampton Downs has been burning since Sunday, reports One News. People nearby were told to keep their doors and windows shut, so that the smoke didn’t make it into their houses. It wasn’t considered a hazardous substance fire, and the firefighting effort was recently scaled back with the fire almost out. But it has completely ruined the plans of locals to collect rainwater, amid a drought in the area. Now they’ll have to wait for a few hours of rain to wash away the residue from their roofs. They’ve been drenched in rubbish – it has just been in a gaseous form.

Then down the other end of the country on the West Coast, a massive cleanup looms. All the way up and down the Fox River and along the beaches of Okarito and South Westland trash has been strewn, after flooding cut through the walls of an old dump. Conservation minister Eugenie Sage is warning that the cleanup will require more people than just local volunteers, reports Stuff. And it needs to happen soon – the longer the cleanup lasts, the more rubbish will end up in the sea, getting caught in the river or sinking into the land. For the ecosystem and the people it sustains, it’s a catastrophe.

Part of the problem is that it was a fairly poor quality dump on the West Coast. Newstalk ZB was told by waste management consultant Lisa Eve that old sites, and even more ad-hoc facilities like old quarries, are the worry. She says local councils need to rethink how they’re managing landfills more, and that newer landfills have a lot more protections.

But it’s no wonder people in the Dome Valley don’t want a new dump to be built near them. A petition has been launched, on the grounds that dumps shouldn’t be built near waterways, reports Radio NZ. And in the local news reporting you can see signs of consternation. Take for example this from the Mahurangi Matters, where they’ve used an idyllic, grassy photo of where the dump will go, and a provocative use of the term ‘Supercity Super Dump’ in the headline to describe the rubbish that the dump will service.

Surely the wider philosophical question has got to be asked here – what are we doing so that we aren’t simply building new dumps for more rubbish? Would it help if we switched to compostable materials? Or use incineration or pyrolysis? When talking to experts for both of those stories, the response was unanimous – the best way forward in terms of dealing with rubbish is just to immediately start producing a lot less of it.

New firearms laws will be streamlined through parliament. The government have intended to move quickly on them, and they made it through a first reading of parliament today. ACT leader David Seymour had planned to oppose the move, which would have forced parliament to sit under urgency, but he wasn’t there.

He was in fact outside, speaking to media. Stuff journalist Henry Cooke captured video of both Leader of the House Chris Hipkins putting the point of order through, and the subsequent response from Mr Seymour – again to the media. The NZ Herald reported his objections to the process, which were that the government was suspending consultation and scrutiny, and passing a law quickly more for the benefit of global opinion than outcomes.

The battle over whether the Thames District Council should sign on to a climate change declaration is being cast as a generational conflict, in this story by Stuff’s Charlie Mitchell. The town’s average population skews out, and an even older demographic of councillors have repeatedly refused to sign on to the Local Government NZ climate change declaration. On the other hand, an increasing number of young people in Thames are getting involved in climate protest, which is perhaps understandable – as opposed to their representatives, they’ll actually have to live in a climate changed world.

Just on this – the declaration itself is perhaps a bit of a red herring. It is non-binding and aspirational. The more fundamental question is whether any emissions reduction action is actually taking place. On that point, local mayor Sandra Goudie says the council is leading the way, though protesters say the Council is doing little outside of what they’re legally required to do. As for the question of whether Mayor Goudie is a climate change denier, she says she accepts the climate is changing, but refused to answer whether she thought human activity was the cause, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that is the case.

Child poverty figures are moving in the wrong direction, reports the NZ Herald. In the year to June 2018, four of the government’s new measurements showed an increase in child poverty, and about 148,000 children are living in material hardship. Minister for children Tracey Martin says that’s too high.

How strongly spoken was the PM in raising concerns about Uyghur internment camps in China? We don’t know, because as Newshub reports, Jacinda Ardern won’t say. She does say she raised the issue, and in a way that was consistent and predictable relative to previous governments. But it’s unlikely to satisfy groups like Human Rights Watch, who have called on the PM to make her concerns known directly and publicly. There’s approximately a million people being held without charge in these camps.

Meanwhile, what does China want from us? That’s outlined in this morning’s Politik article, which analyses the desire in China for more investment in New Zealand. But that could make things deeply uncomfortable with coalition partner NZ First. So if that is blocked, it could then make life more difficult for primary producers looking to export to China.

Regional economic development minister Shane Jones is walking a fine line in discussing a High Court case brought by NZTA against a major Northland trucking company. The NZ Herald reports on the front of their business section today that Mr Jones is concerned about “the economic implications flowing from issues between NZTA and Semenoff Logging,” – which is the largest logging transport operator in the region. Those economic implications include the loss of many jobs if Semenoff loses its license – which it stands to do on the grounds of many safety failures. Mr Jones says he’s not directly commenting on the High Court case itself – his National opponent Paul Goldsmith says as a minister he shouldn’t be talking about it at all.

If you were one of these people, go out and buy yourself something either nice or necessary. The NZ Herald reports 25,000 people wrongly received the Winter Energy Payment, which is meant to just be for beneficiaries and pensioners. The cause was a drafting error in the legislation. Minister Carmel Sepuloni says there are no plans to try and recoup the $3.4 million that was paid out.

Technical difficulties, resolved! If you still want to read that Max Rashbrooke article about the government’s first 18 months, the website appears to be fixed, so here it is.

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Right now on The Spinoff: David Farrier continues his quest to uncover abuses happening on the creepy side of Youtube. Hayden Donnell explores the hidden costs of buying a new house. Angela Cuming brings to light the many Hamilton City Councillors who one might raise an eyebrow at. Matthew Codd discusses the nature of difficulty in video games, and how hard is too hard.

Finally, this months edition of The Side Eye is told from the perspective of Sohail Din. He’s a student who is Muslim, and he wonders whether the current mood of reconciliation will last.

The worst potential outcomes of climate change are becoming increasingly plausible. This feature from Newshub Nation goes through the possibilities of each scenario, set against different levels of warming. For some, the effects of climate change will be immediately apocalyptic. But while those consequences won’t be evenly distributed straight away, they’ll catch up with all of us in the end. Here’s an excerpt that discusses ocean coral:

Coral reefs act like rainforests for the ocean ecosystem, supporting up to 25 percent of marine species, despite making up less than 1 percent of the ocean floor.

However coral is particularly sensitive to temperature, becoming ‘bleached’ and dying as the sea warms. Over half the Great Barrier Reef is already dead and the chances of saving what remains are remote.

Even in the best case warming scenario of 1.5degC, approximately 70 percent of coral reefs will die. At the more plausible (but still very optimistic) 2degC, 99 percent of coral reefs will be extinct.

Based on current UN projections, catastrophic loss of biodiversity in the oceans is almost inevitable. But it isn’t just the oceans in trouble – biologists estimate up to half of life on earth could face extinction by the end of the century.

The 2021 America’s Cup is on the verge of disaster, with Newshub reporting three teams are on the verge of crashing out. That would leave just three challengers still in the field – the minimum number in an agreement between Emirates Team NZ, and the government. Luna Rossa, INEOS Team UK and American Magic are all still understood to be solid. But fewer teams also means less money coming in, when much of the preparation has already begun.

Meanwhile, the World Cup squad for the Black Caps will be announced today, and the NZ Herald’s Niall Anderson believes he has the scoop about who’s in. Elements of the team are fairly predictable – 13 of the 15 names feel totally locked in. But Anderson says Tom Blundell will be going as a backup keeper, and Ish Sodhi has won the race to be the second spinner. The squad is also expected to include Jimmy Neesham, which will cap off a remarkable comeback – it wasn’t so long ago that he wasn’t even wanted on the park by Otago.

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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