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The Bulletin: U-turn for government’s transport strategy

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Huge changes in transport strategy announced by the government, the Defence Force boss is stepping down, and the Royal Commission into state care abuse is open for submissions.

The government is proposing an increased fuel tax, and money is being moved out of state highways, in order to dramatically increase funding for road safety and public transport infrastructure. The NZ Herald has a very useful rundown of exactly what is being proposed in the draft government policy statement on land transport. Aucklanders will be hit twice as hard because of a regional fuel tax on top, but will also benefit from projects like light rail.

If it sounds like Transport Minister Phil Twyford has made a huge shift in priorities from the previous government, you’d be right, and Simon Wilson writing in the NZ Herald would agree with you. But writing for Stuff, Tracy Watkins says any increase in the fuel tax “will go down like a cup of the proverbial” in the regions. Both The Press in Christchurch and The Dominion Post in Wellington have the words ‘fuel tax’ in bold type front page headlines this morning, which would normally bring transport ministers out in a cold sweat. But this government clearly thinks the upside of their safety and public transport proposals will carry the day with voters.

Meanwhile, an intergovernmental organisation is recommending many of New Zealand’s roads be reduced to a 70kmh speed limit, reports Stuff. The proposal is based on studies that basically show that the faster you go, the bigger the mess, to borrow the old slogan. The chances of such a proposal actually being implemented are slim, if the Stuff poll embedded in the article is anything to go by – when I voted to see what the results were, 80% of the 10,000 respondents didn’t want a bar of it.


Chief of the NZ Defence Force Lieutenant-General Tim Keating is standing downand insisted throughout his press release the decision isn’t related to Operation Burnham. That was the SAS operation detailed in Jon Stephenson and Nicky Hager’s book Hit and Run, which alleged that war crimes may have been committed. The statement left reporters writing paragraphs like this one in the NZ Herald:

“Keating’s announcement comes during close scrutiny over the Defence Force’s admission last month that photos in Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s book Hit & Run were accurate – reversing the Defence Force’s initial claim that it never operated in the photographed areas in the Afghanistan operation.”

Jon Stephenson had the following to say about the departure:

“He has shown a serious lack of moral leadership and let down the troops who were under his command, many of whom have served New Zealand honourably.”

And this piece from 2017, by Selwyn Manning and published on Kiwipolitico, outlines exactly why, and in great detail, why the Defence Force’s response to the claims in Hit and Run was so troubling. And the Prime Minister told Gordon Campbell last week that an independent inquiry into the claims is likely to be launched soon.


Former Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand has opened calls for submissions on the Royal Commission of Inquiry into abuse of children in state care. He spoke to Waatea News, saying that many of the thousands of kids who went through the state system suffered neglect and abuse, and in many cases the consequences and outcomes of that were horrific.

If you wish to make a submission, or know someone who does, Ātea editor Leonie Hayden has written a guide for how to do that. It is one of many pieces about the Royal Commission on The Spinoff, which you can see a full guide to here.


Orion Health shares have fallen to an all-time lowamid a revenue guidance downgrade, and a major restructure, reports the NBR. The Auckland based healthcare software company will likely make more layoffs, after already losing 10% of its 1200 strong workforce.


Environment Southland is moving to make it harder for dairy farming to expand in the region, reports the Southland Times. Under the new rules, farmers will not be able to expands farms, or establish new farms, without a resource consent, in which farmers must demonstrate they can operate in a way which doesn’t increase water pollution. The plan comes into effect next year.


Idiots are opening Corona bottles with their eye sockets, and getting injured as a result. The story on Newshub reveals three people in Nelson managed to injure their eyes in the space of three weeks through Corona mishaps. Apparently nobody told them that it just looks weird and unnecessarily hard case to open a bottle with your eye socket – using a lighter to jimmy it open looks much cooler.

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A cosplayer dressed as Harley Quinn from the movie Suicide Squad. (Photo: Gianni Lanza/Getty Images)

Right now on The Spinoff: A fantastic feature from Alex Casey about sexual harassment and groping in the cosplay community, and what pop culture festivals like Armageddon are doing about it. Russel Brown has investigated how AWOP payments took over the festival scene. And I put on my Spinoff smoking correspondent hat to review cigarette plain packaging.


Here’s a thought provoking feature from Noted about the place of Auckland in the wider NZ consciousness, with the provocative headline ‘Why Auckland should seperate from the rest of NZ.’ I found it to be a sometimes infuriating, sometimes hilarious read, but as a relatively recent arrival to Auckland this paragraph hit home:

“This is, I’m sure, another reason for New Zealand’s hostility towards Auckland. The city threatens because it is so attractive, especially to the young. The 2013 Census showed that close to 10,000 New Zealanders move from the regions to Auckland each year, with the city acquiring net gains in the 15-29 age group. Youth seeks opportunity and Auckland offers it.”

Of course, the premise of the piece – that Auckland should split itself off, is never going to happen. But it’s one of those entertaining hypotheticals that can be fun to unpack. It reminds me a bit of when Stuff suddenly floated the idea of a bridge across the Cook Strait, apropos of nothing. There was no real impetus behind it, or reason why it was suggested, but the water cooler conversations about it lasted for days.


In sport, all hail Ish Sodhi. The legspinner has batted New Zealand through to a miraculous test draw, to help win the test series against England 1-0. A lot of people forget that Ish Sodhi first made major headlines by cracking 17 off the final over to win an U-19 World Cup match. Well, the innings he played yesterday was a triumph of grit and playing for time. One News has a nice video of him walking off the field at the end, that will stir the heart of any New Zealand cricket fan. In the aftermath, Kane Williamson told ESPN Cricinfo that the team wants to play more test cricket. While the players are still enthusiastic about the format, it seems hard to believe it will die.

The Commonwealth Games starts today, and Sophie Pascoe will be New Zealand’s opening ceremony flagbearer. She’s the first para-athlete to hold the honour of leading the NZ team, and Andrew Alderson writes in the NZ Herald about why that’s such a big deal.

And in Warriors watch, Jamie Wall has written an excellent explainer on the change of ownership for Radio NZ, and what it might mean for the NRL club, and its fans.


From our partners, Vector’s new technology engineer Kate Murphy writes about the humble LED, and shines a light on the history and impact little things can make on energy reduction at scale.


The Bulletin is brought to you by Vector. If you live in Auckland, they also delivered the power you’re using to read it. And they’re creating a new energy future for all of us, as showcased by the incredible Vector Lights.


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