Police Minister Stuart Nash and Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement
Police Minister Stuart Nash and Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement (Radio NZ, Dom Thomas)

The Bulletin: Blunder shakes confidence in gun buyback

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Data breach blunder hits gun buyback, new poll gives National the numbers to govern, and South Island farm sale blocked by ministers.

Another problem has hit the gun buyback programme, denting confidence in both the government and the police carrying out the operation. This time it comes in the form of a data breach, in which the private and personal details of tens of thousands of gun owners became visible. Stuff reports it isn’t yet clear exactly how many people accessed it, after the alarm was raised by a gun dealer who found out they could access the data. That included both bank account information, and data on who owned what firearms. It doesn’t necessarily appear to be the case that the data was visible to the wider public.

It is important to note that the government and police have made the case that they’re not directly at fault. Newshub reports German software giant SAP has apologised for the breach, with it reportedly resulting from a botched feature upgrade that assigned the wrong permissions to the wrong people. The update had not been authorised by police, and the online components of the gun buyback programme were immediately shut down when it was discovered, with a manual process continuing.

But even with it contained in that way now, it’s hard to escape the fact that something like this was exactly what gun owners were worried about. That came through strongly in this press release from the Council of Licensed Firearms Owners, who said it was “a huge blow to the whole hand-in programme, and to Police claims that firearm owner data would be safe under the Government’s planned registry.” They accused police of misleading the public by insisting the private information of gun owners would be kept safe. And it also plays into a wider perception of stigma gun owners have been talking about for months – along similar lines to the insistence that media be banned from buyback events, because gun owners feared being photographed and identified at them. It’s also not exactly paranoid for gun owners to fear being robbed, especially if their information is out there, given the value of stolen guns within the criminal underworld.

Let’s not forget – it’s not like the police have been particularly flash at holding onto guns recently either. Earlier in the year a bunch of guns were nicked from right out of a station, and two Glocks had to be recovered after being stolen from a cop car. Protests have taken place at gun buyback events, and it isn’t really clear what success for the programme will look like. It’s fair to say – success probably doesn’t look like the people who need to be reached by the buyback programme feeling totally alienated from it all. A relatively low proportion of gun owners are estimated to have handed back their weapons so far.

As well as all that, there are increasingly urgent questions being asked about government data security generally. Radio NZ has a report on that, and the National Party put out a press release listing all of the breaches under this government (conveniently forgetting that they were actually the culprits with the Treasury one.) It should worry everyone that this just keeps happening, given how much information government holds on members of the public, and privacy advocates are calling for a lot more tightening up.

A brief message from Emily Writes, Parents Editor at The Spinoff

Stories for and about parenting often lack humanity. They generally treat new mothers in particular as if they can no longer think for themselves. I’m proud to be part of a media organisation that encourages us to see each other and celebrate our differences as new parents, rather than pit us against each other for ‘engagement’ in imaginary ‘mommy wars’. If you want to support writing that pushes boundaries and encourages seeing the world in a less insular way, then please support The Spinoff by joining as a member.

National has taken a year end poll lead in the One News Colmar Brunton survey. They’re well ahead of Labour in the two party race, and what’s more with two projected ACT seats would have enough MPs to form a government. The poll also had NZ First below the threshold, and the Opportunities Party, Māori Party and New Conservative all sitting on 1%. In the preferred PM stakes, Simon Bridges has finally cracked double figures (he’s on 10%) while colleague Judith Collins and PM Jacinda Ardern are personally down slightly.

It’s all in sharp contrast to the recent Stuff-Yougov poll, which had all parties on very different figures, and the parties of government comfortably ahead. Incidentally, all three companies doing public polling have had ACT getting at least two seats in their most recent survey – assuming that David Seymour continues to win Epsom. It’s one of the few points they all agree on in fact, along with the Greens being safely above the threshold. Both parties will likely be feeling confident about surviving election year based on these numbers.

A major South Island farmland sale has been denied under the Overseas Investment Act, reports the NZ Herald. A Canadian-controlled company wanted to by more than 4500 hectares of land, but were told by ministers David Parker and Eugenie Sage that anything greater than 2000ha wouldn’t be in New Zealand’s interests. It’s rare for a decision to go this way, but is starting to happen more, with a government that has made a bigger deal out of intervening in cases of foreign investment and ownership.

An appalling number of chickens have died at a poultry farm on the outskirts of Auckland, reports Stuff. Around 180,000 chickens died when a power cut caused air to stop circulating at the facility which supplies Tegal. SAFE are outraged, and MPI are investigating. The dead chickens ended up being sent to a worm farm.

Supporters of ousted Christchurch Councillor Deon Swiggs have gone to court, over allegations made during the campaign. Stuff reports they say Swiggs’ bid for reelection was sabotaged, causing his loss to Jake McLellan. The hearing is expected to last a couple of days, with a judge to decide on whether the election should be run again. But the Swiggs campaign appears to have taken a hit on the first day, with the dropping of a point around whether they believe the McLellan campaign was responsible for orchestrating the campaign.

Anger is increasing in the Pasifika community over a lack of targeted health funding, reports Newsroom. That is despite health outcomes for Pasifika people lagging behind almost everyone else in the country. The story also goes into a frustration that there is too much of a government focus on supporting things like languages and culture, rather than the basics like health and housing.

A lot of you were interested in the weird testing of dead rats story yesterday, and we’ve got an update today. Dave Hansford writes for The Spinoff about a person with apparently coincidental connections to it all, Timaru chemist Dr Nick Wall. In the not so distant past, he also had a connection to an extremely expensive incident around alleged DDT in Lake Opuha. I won’t say more, because the piece speaks for itself, but it’s all starting to look like a David Farrier-esque rabbit hole.

Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz

This meme originated from a 1991 anime called “Taiyou no Yuusha Fighbird”

Right now on The Spinoff: Another glorious day of publishing excellence for us, so there’s a fair bit to share. Madeleine Chapman brings out the third installment of her lovely series about long haul train journeys. Josie Adams reveals the difficulties visual artists have with people online simply stealing their work. I write about a microfinance provider helping those in crippling debt, and how their lives can be turned around by relatively small zero interest loans. Hāpai Te Hauora CEO Selah Hart writes about cannabis law reform advocacy, and how it is entirely within the mandate of public health organisations. There’s a piece by me again about the infrastructure shopping list that could see some cash after the government’s announcement of more borrowing. Maria Slade writes about sustainable clothing maker Little Yellow Bird and their push to get into the school uniform market. Alex Casey writes about Christmas charitable giving, and what organisations in this space are doing for those in need.

Also, I know most of the audience of The Bulletin is urban, and so I reckon this one is a must-read. Adam Currie writes about how the abuse of farmers has to stop if the country is going to get anywhere with getting agriculture emissions down. Furthermore, he says that when urban NZ takes shots at farmers as a group, it strengthens the hand of big agriculture companies. I couldn’t agree more.

For a feature today, a very strong look at a relatively under-reported issue. Homelessness is on the rise in provincial New Zealand, in a way that hasn’t really been seen before in living memory. There are a range of causes, but what really jumps out from this story by Stuff’s Piers Fuller is that a lot of support services are really struggling with increased need. Here’s an excerpt:

Not so long ago the idea of visible homelessness on provincial streets was a foreign concept. Long seen as a symptom of metropolitan malaise, high rents and gaps in the welfare and mental health systems mean homelessness is now hitting the New Zealand heartland.

“Everyone should have someone looking after them. There’s only a handful, but these people are falling through the cracks,” says Masterton Foodbank coordinator Lyn Tankersley.

The closure of the Empire Lodge is a tipping point as it was one of the only temporary accommodation options.

“In March and April this year homelessness started getting attention. People were starting to say ‘who’s doing anything about those people sleeping on the streets?’.”

Basketball continues to be a sport that amazes and delights in how closely it gets analysed. So it is with this piece from ESPN, which looks at the outlandish concept of free throw defense. Somehow, there is an art to defending a shot in which no defense whatsoever is technically allowed within the rules, and some players are actually really quite good at it. The measure of how good someone is at it therefore becomes basically a measure of creativity.

And in the cricket, it’s very much another test to have one ear on at work today. The Black Caps are 5 runs behind in the 3rd innings of the game, with two wickets down, and by my reckoning they’ll need to bat until probably the tea break to reach a point of safety. While you’ve got the commentary on, it might also be worth keeping a tab open with Hamilton’s weather, as there is a chance of rain – that could either kill off the game, or leave the Black Caps needing to survive on a much fresher pitch.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme.

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