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The BulletinSeptember 4, 2019

The Bulletin: Hints of change in major health system review

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: 300 pages worth of health system review delivered, exportable green hydrogen examined, and small hospitality businesses pushed to the brink by Uber Eats. 

A massive doorstopper of a review has been delivered, into a sector that has been a massive headache for successive governments. The NZ Herald reports the Health and Disability Sector review has delivered serious criticisms of a confused, muddled system, that often lacks accountability and leadership. While the review says the overall care delivered to patients is good by international standards, there are wide disparities in the ease of access to that care, and patients are often left not knowing how to navigate the system.

So how should it change? That will have to wait until part two of the report, which will deliver recommendations to the government around March 2020. But among it all, there appears to be a further lean towards rationalisation of DHBs. As Politik reports, aspects of that happened on a de-facto basis under the previous government. One of the major problems identified by the report is that the system is “fragmented” and criticism came in for the DHB system over that.

For those interested in the health system, the full interim report is worth a read. Because of the wide and varied ways the whole population interacts with it, the thinking being done by the working group is certain to be impactful when the recommendations get delivered next year.

Exportable hydrogen produced from renewable energy is a hugely promising idea which the government is exploring. But does it actually make any sense? Yes and no, is the answer from this excellent exploration of the subject by Interest’s Jenée Tibshraeny. Part of the issue is that it is an emerging field of technology, and there isn’t currently any sort of global market through which to assess the economic potential. But on the other hand, properly green hydrogen (referring to being produced through renewables) could dramatically cut carbon emissions from transport.

Small hospitality businesses say they’re being pushed to the brink by high commission fees of Uber Eats, reports Alice Neville for The Spinoff. There is wide inconsistency in the fees too, with some bigger businesses able to get a discount on commissions, and others alleging that they were told flatly (and untruthfully) that nobody gets a discount from the 35% per order. It’s a horrible bind for those small businesses, who often feel they simply have to be on the app to maintain a customer base, despite the huge share taken by Uber.

The PM has shut down suggestions of a ‘no jab, no pay’ policy around beneficiaries and vaccinations. The topic came up in a fractious edition of her weekly Newstalk ZB interview, after being suggested earlier in the day by Dr Lance O’Sullivan. She said the measures being taken by the government had a better chance of success in preventing the outbreak’s spread, and had been proven in the past.

Housing was arguably the biggest issue on the government’s agenda when they went into office in 2017. We’re about to find out how they plan to extricate themselves from the tangle it has become. The Kiwibuild reset will be unveiled by new housing minister Megan Woods today, and there will be heaps of coverage and reaction in tomorrow’s Bulletin. One point to watch out for – the social housing waitlist continues to blow out, despite the government making good progress in actually building more social housing, so how that fits into their new plans is likely to be important.

Former PM Helen Clark has made a big intervention in the cannabis legalisation debate, reports Don Rowe for The Spinoff. Her foundation has released a report strongly backing the pro-legalisation position in next year’s referendum on the issue, with Clark saying the current laws are unjust. As for the politics of it all, Clark says she has backed partial decriminalisation since 1994, but in recent years her position has evolved.

Two interesting stories to share which relate to Wellington’s transport network: Radio NZ’s Laura Dooney has been surveying candidates running for the Greater Wellington Regional Council, and what they have to say about bus driver pay. A shortage of drivers has been one of the major reasons why the wider network has been so troubled recently.

And the other one: The NZ Herald’s Georgina Campbell digs into what seems like a fairly important question – is the Wellington City train station building actually safe? There’s something of a dispute brewing between Kiwirail, who say it is, and the City Council, who have concerns about it being earthquake prone.

Finally, speaking of Wellington transport, I’ll be transporting myself down to Wellington later this morning, to write about the various elections around the region for The Spinoff. As with all of our local elections coverage, it’s all made possible by the contributions of Spinoff members, so cheers for that.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Claire Achmad writes about the new lunches in schools programme, and how it is a small sign of a much wider new strategy. Don Rowe writes about Volvo giving away millions of dollars worth of safety research for free, sixty years after they did the same with seatbelts. Catherine Woulfe reviews a new collection of essays from the wonderful Linda Burgess. Tony Burton outlines how Boris Johnson is something that I’m not allowed to print in this particular publication. And Hayden Donnell looks up and down the country for every celebrity or stunt candidacy in the local elections.

Fights against major and systemic environmental problems have been won before, as this fascinating piece from the BBC shows. It concerns acid rain, and the international scientific and diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the terrifying phenomenon. The piece contains more than a few references to current predicaments about the failure to achieve such consensus of action around climate change. Here’s an excerpt:

Scientists began pinpointing culprits and journalists covered the problem through the 1970s and 1980s, but some people working in industry were doing their best to obfuscate, sow doubt and delay action.

“There were lots of deniers of acid rain,” says Likens. At the time, Likens remembers giving public lectures on the topic. On occasion someone would stand up, rudely interrupt him, and say they didn’t believe in acid rain. “I would often respond by saying, ‘Well, have you ever collected a sample of rain and analysed it?’ They would say ‘No’ and I would say, ‘Well try it some time.’”

Like with climate change, says Likens, there were many big, powerful, wealthy people involved with vested interests. From its discovery in 1963 to passage of the Clean Air Act in 1990, legislative action on acid rain took 27 years.

Two perspectives on a big announcement yesterday from five major sporting codes: They’ll basically be making kids sport less competitive, and more aimed at fun, in an attempt to keep kids participating. Writing on The Spinoff, Trevor McKewen says there’s a lot of similarities in the ideas to what was instituted in Norway, which was actually followed by a generational increase in elite success. On the other hand, Hamish Bidwell writes on Radio NZ that what has been announced is nothing more than “well-intentioned gobbledigook.”

And the Tall Blacks have kept their World Cup chances alive overnight, reports Newshub, closing out their must-win game against Montenegro. They’ve kept up the frenetic and fast style of play, which proved to be too much for Montenegro late in the game. But the real test is still to come – Greece are the final pool opposition, and their team is very strong.

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