Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Tamihere makes a splash with Watercare policy announcement, wind power set to boom, and breakthrough in efforts to reduce cow methane.
With the election only a few months away now, it’s a good time to check back in with the state of the Auckland mayoralty race. John Tamihere, the leading challenger to incumbent mayor Phil Goff, has released a policy that is bound to be a major talking point throughout the campaign. He wants to sell 49% of Council Controlled Organisation Watercare, potentially to ACC or the SuperFund, and use the money to upgrade Auckland’s infrastructure – specifically the water infrastructure so that beaches will be cleaner.
As this entertaining report from Stuff shows, Goff was absolutely aghast at the proposal – to quote: “Goff exclaimed: “What?” in apparent disbelief as he listened to Tamihere, and said any sale would put “water bills through the roof.” There was also conjecture over whether ACC had put in a bid – Tamihere claimed they had, Goff said he knew nothing about any bid. Currently Watercare is required to operate at the lowest possible cost, and Goff said any changes to that would increase water rates, particularly for large families, as any investor would want a return. City Vision, the centre-left ticket for Council and local board seats, immediately lined up alongside Goff in ruling out any sale of Watercare.
Now I wasn’t at the debate where the policy was announced, but there seems to be a non-zero chance it was made up on the spot. That comes from reading between the lines of a release from the Tamihere campaign hours after the event. “Tamihere said he would be releasing a full policy on water infrastructure and management over the coming weeks but when asked the question at an event this morning, he needed to tell the truth about how the city’s aging water infrastructure could be updated.”
It’s another skirmish in a campaign where Tamihere has been the aggressor throughout. So far, his policy announcements have been far bigger than anything coming from the mayor, who is largely running on a platform of long term continuity and completing major projects. Tamihere wants to sell the port but keep the land it sits on, and has outlined other plans on golf courses and stadium strategy. He has a lot of ground to make up against Goff, who won by a landslide in 2016.
There was a good look inside the Tamihere campaign recently by the NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Audrey Young, in particular profiling the political operatives around Tamihere who have vast campaigning experience, and backgrounds on both the left and the right. It might lead to some tensions over different visions for policy development, but operatives of the stature of Matt McCarten and Michelle Boag wouldn’t get involved if they didn’t think he could win.
Sometimes so far though, the aggression of the campaign has gone way too far. See, for example, an ad from the campaign that was ruled misleading, which is a polite way of saying it tended towards bollocks. Then there are his strange ‘play the man’ style attacks against NZ Herald journalist Simon Wilson, covered here on The Spinoff. It will be worth keeping an eye on whether such tactics continue, as interest in the campaign ramps up in the coming weeks.
Wind power is set for a booming few decades as the technology advances alongside efforts to decarbonise the economy. That’s the big conclusion from this excellent ODT feature, which forecasts major electricity generators will look to wind as the best place to invest. The numbers of turbines that will need to be built are fairly high if supply is going to keep up with expected demand, but with the carbon price set to rise they’ll become more economic over time. New Zealand has another world-leading advantage here – the ‘roaring 40s’ – strong westerly winds that circle the globe at roughly the latitude New Zealand is at.
An interesting breakthrough has taken place in the quest to lower methane emissions from cows – a key target for NZ’s efforts against climate change. The Country reports that researchers have identified the microbes that live in cow guts, which turn hydrogen into methane, which is then belched back out. The next step is to figure out how to stop those microbes getting that hydrogen, or towards other microbes that don’t produce methane.
Only a tiny percentage of Air New Zealand customers are volunteering to pay more to offset their carbon emissions, reports Stuff. In all, around 1.4% of carbon emitted by the airline in the 2019 financial year was offset. It rather highlights the absurdity of the system, in that a company that single-handedly contributes around 4% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions puts the onus on customers like this. While Air NZ are more carbon efficient than most airline companies, if they want to claim progress they could always choose to build compulsory offsetting into the ticket price. Or if they wanted to actually lower emissions, perhaps just send fewer flights up?
Aucklanders are being urged to conserve water now, in order to stave off water restrictions later, reports Newstalk ZB. Don’t let the rain overnight fool you – it has been a seriously dry six months for the region, and if that continues storage dam levels will start to get worryingly low. Of course, stopping unnecessary wastage of water should just be what people do as a matter of course, it’s after all a pretty important resource.
It could be worse though – people in Taupō are being urged to not flush, use washing machines or have baths following a major wastewater disaster, reports Stuff. Wastewater has been pouring into the lake as a result, and an estimate of just how much is expected this morning. However, it is likely to take weeks to clean up.
Media will not be allowed to be present at gun buyback events, reports Radio NZ. It follows concerns from the Deerstalkers Association, who said otherwise law-abiding people may be vilified if they’re pictured with now-illegal weapons. Around 200 events will be held around the country, and a list of venues and times can be found here.
Alert for wellington commuters: There will be serious issues with train services all morning on all routes except the Johnsonville line. No train services in and out of Wellington will run on the Hutt, Kapiti, Melling and Wairarapa lines, because of a freight train crash. More information can be found on the Metlink website.
This story about the Fox River cleanup is for Gillian, who wrote in to ask: “Is there some reason the armed forces can’t be used for this detail? It isn’t as if it is a regular event and it is very important to this country to get it done. Relying on volunteers seems to put a large burden on a small community.”
Well, it turns out that is exactly what has happened, reports the ODT. Around 70 NZDF personnel will be sent to help out for a month, and military assets will be used to get rubbish from harder to reach areas. DOC says they’re very appreciative of that, and for the volunteers who are still turning up to help. By the way, DOC provides lunch, dinner and accommodation for anyone wanting to volunteer on the cleanup.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed, free daily curated digest of all the most important stories from around New Zealand delivered directly to your inbox each morning.
Right now on The Spinoff: Elle Hunt looks back on her bad days of renting in New Zealand, and asks why better conditions can’t be demanded. Toby Manhire very seriously asks people to please stop being mean to ANZ Bank, who are threatening that they might quit New Zealand. Anjum Rahman recalls the time she was asked to join the campaign against the UN Migration Pact. Danyl Mclauchlan responds to the ‘apologising environmentalist’ piece, and offers a very robust defence of the work of NGOs.
For me, the piece of the day is Duncan Greive’s deep dive into the remarkable life of Lovepreet Brar, a convicted fraudster on house arrest who also happens to be a massive bhangra music star. The story is jaw-dropping, and unfolds beautifully. Also, I don’t listen to a lot of bhangra, but the song embedded in the piece absolutely slaps.
For a feature today, some good news. I got this feedback from Mandy yesterday, and it really made me stop and think. She said: “Maybe I’ve got a case of the winter blues but all the news is a bit doom and gloom at the moment. Christchurch attack, climate change, rats, neo-Nazis etc. I think all these are really important and I do like to stay informed about it all. However, it can be a bit of a depressing start to the day. If you could add in some lighthearted, good news at the end that would be great. I don’t want to cheapen your work, but just something like this – Scotland has planted over 22 million trees in the last year in its fight against climate change.” (I checked, it’s true)
So, what’s going on in the world that’s good? Well, you might have noticed a few stories above the fold in today’s edition – the one about an anticipated boom in wind energy, and a scientific breakthrough on methane, for example. I think greenhouse gas emissions and climate change inaction is one of those topics where it’s really easy to get into a doom-spiral. But these are genuinely positive developments, and they should be celebrated, even if they’re small in the grand scheme of things.
Thinking about the feedback over the course of yesterday, I realised the negativity of news was making me forget a lot of bigger things. Looking out towards the horizon, it appears the sun will again rise for us today. No matter who you are, you will almost certainly encounter someone today who is happy to see you. No matter what the future holds, right now we live in an astonishingly unusual time in human history – that is neither good nor bad, just something to be marvelled at.
So, what to do with The Bulletin from here on out? The nature of news is that, almost by definition, a lot of it is bad. Terrible things happen all the time, and they have to be brought to light. There are a lot of topics that people absolutely have to be informed about, and its the job of news to do that informing. And I don’t believe in overly positive boosterism if it paints a misleading picture of the world as it actually exists.
But an overly negative view of the world isn’t accurate either. And hell, if you’re reading this, you’re probably alive, which is generally speaking better than the alternative. And the good things worth saving in this world haven’t been completely lost either, and we should be aware that some of them might still be kept. So from now on, I’ll make more of an effort to show the positive side of that more complete picture, when it is there to be seen.
And now, we’ll jump to one of those lighter topics that always makes people happy – sport.
The Wellington Phoenix are looking forward to a more secure future, with the A-League moving to a new governance structure, reports Radio Sport. The axe has been hovering over the club, but the A-League won’t be owned by the Football Federation Australia any more – instead it will be a commission co-owned by all 12 clubs (including expansion teams.) That’s huge for the sport in New Zealand, in large part because it will secure the future of the Phoenix Youth Academy. A serious coup for them has just been confirmed as well, young gun Sarpreet Singh has been signed by German giant Bayern Munich.
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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The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.