A pōwhiri to welcome politicians on to the upper Treaty Grounds at Waitangi (Getty Images)

The Bulletin: Politicians steal limelight at Waitangi

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Politicians take limelight at Waitangi, Auckland Lantern Festival cancelled, and each end of the country facing contrasting extreme weather.

Ceremonies at Waitangi started yesterday, ahead of the day itself tomorrow. So far, the coverage has been dominated by grandstanding. Stuff’s Thomas Coughlan was there, and has an account of how the row between National leader Simon Bridges and NZ First leader Winston Peters got started. Basically, there was high tension all day, before Bridges launched into an attack on the government’s lack of delivery for Māori in his speech, which Winston Peters then responded to in an unscheduled speech. Perhaps to the surprise of absolutely nobody, NZ First MP Shane Jones will run for the Northland electorate, reports Newshub.

On the other hand, treaty negotiations minister Andrew Little was given a rare honour by the tangata whenua of the marae. He spoke entirely in te reo, and without notes, on a range of topics, echoing former PM Bill English who also made the effort as a Pākehā leader to learn the language. The NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Simon Wilson wrote Little vowed to remain committed to the treaty settlement process with Ngāpuhi – an ongoing difficulty for the wider region. At the end of his speech, and after the waiata from the visitors, the hosts sang back – which is very unusual and indicates respect. Te Waihoroi Shortland of Ngāti Hine was quoted at the end of the story saying to Little that “two years ago you stood here like a cocky politician. You are now an example. You have shown the nation what can be done.”

Meanwhile for the PM, the trip to Waitangi is a reminder of one taken two years earlier, in which she asked Māori to hold the government to account on what they promised. The Spinoff’s Leonie Hayden has taken that speech and compared it against the actual achievements of the government, where it holds up, and where it falls short. It has been interesting that the PM has continued to repeat that message of wanting to be held to account, most recently at the unveiling of a statue for Dame Whina Cooper. That is despite the obvious controversies her government has encountered on issues like Oranga Tamariki, Ihumātao, and most recently distribution of Whānau Ora funding.


The Auckland Lantern Festival has been cancelled for the year. The NZ Herald reports it’s the first time in the 21-year history of the event that it has happened, and the decision was made in consultation with Chinese community leaders. It wasn’t a universal view that it should be called off – the story quotes Auckland University Professor of Asian Studies Manying Ip, who says the cancellation may have been made in haste, and that it will have a negative impact on the wider community. Logistical difficulties with the travel ban were part of the reason for the cancellation. There are still no cases of the virus in New Zealand.


The dry state of Northland is laid bare in this shocking statistic from Kaitaia: Te Ao News reports the far North town got only 11% of the average rainfall it would normally see over January, with Kaikohe and Kerikeri also only getting about a quarter of their annual January rainfall. Rural News Group reports water use is by far the biggest headache for Northland farmers right now, and the story is a clear-eyed look at the problem, including this alarming quote from Julie Jonker of Northland Rural Support Trust: “People are saying that for the first time in decades the creeks are running dry.”

Meanwhile at the other end of the country, there’s way too much water and it’s getting dangerous. Radio NZ reports this morning that people in low lying areas of Gore and Mataura have been told to evacuate, after three days of pounding rain. Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks says (in a grim converse to the Northland situation) that he can’t recall ever seeing such constant heavy rain in the area.


Despite a pre-election promise, Labour have backed down on making changes to rodeo that animal rights activists consider to be cruel. Radio NZ reports minister Damien O’Connor has confirmed the impression of the Rodeo Cowboys Association that flank straps, electric prodders and calf roping were no longer going to be banned. O’Connor also told rodeos that they need to “take animal welfare seriously.” But it will put him offside with Green MP Gareth Hughes, who recently repeated a call for the ban to be delivered.


A new record has been set in consenting numbers for Auckland dwellings, reports Interest. The latest Stats NZ figures show the residential construction industry continues to boom, with many regions outside of Auckland also seeing massive growth in building consent figures. There are some interactive graphs in the story that you can play around with to drill down into year by year comparisons, which some of you might find enjoyable.


A major new hotel development in Queenstown is proving to be unpopular with locals. Mountain Scene reports that 50 submissions were made on the eight-storey, six-star proposal in Aspen Grove – and just one of those was in favour. That one in favour came from local property owner Logan Skinner, who highlighted the many Airbnb properties in the area, and said “the impact of a well-managed hotel is considerably less than the impact of a poorly-managed rental property.”


A great saying about journalism: “If one person says it’s sunny, and another person says it’s raining, the journalist’s job is not to quote them both. It’s to look out the window.” Anyway, there’s been a lot of claim and counter-claim about which party did or didn’t fund particular roads, so Newsroom’s Dileepa Fonseka has looked out the window and made the call on who is closest to the truth.


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

Right now on The Spinoff: Librarian Rebecca Hastie gives a crash course on the systematic pruning of collections, also known as “weeding”. John Summers writes a nostalgic remembrance to the sweet treats of the 90s. Duncan Greive has the essential guide to the places that will make you fall in love with the Coromandel. Liam Hehir argues that there were greater reasons than just electoral logic for Simon Bridges to rule out NZ First. I cover the battle taking place on the margins of the political spectrum for voters to the right of National. Teuila Fuatai looks at the key findings of the recent Oranga Tamariki inquiry into traumatic and heavy-handed state intervention. And Kiki Van Newtown writes about the risk of xenophobia from the coronavirus.


For a feature today, a confronting look at the despair being felt in many poverty-stricken communities at the moment. Writing on E-Tangata, long-time voluntary sector worker Lorene Royal has set out how bad things are in Hokianga right now, with the reality of life not matching the beauty of the surrounds. Here’s an excerpt:

Our pre-Christmas celebration was overshadowed by significant and persistent “events” that show how broken our communities actually are.

A woman took her own life in a neighbouring street. What’s distressing is that she was isolated in every sense. Her contact with the outside world had been reduced to the mental health care workers who were alerted to check on her when she didn’t pick up her medication.

Into the new year, another neighbour at the end of the street took the same route. Around us, there’s a growing normalcy around people just “checking out”. Within the past year, there’ve been seven suicides in the Hokianga. That we know of.


In sport, likely future NBA star RJ Hampton has finished up his short stint with the Breakers, reports Christopher Reive of the NZ Herald. He’s had something of a hip injury in recent weeks, and needs to get back to the USA to prepare for the NBA draft, in which he is odds-on to be a first round pick. It doesn’t exactly come at a great time for the Breakers, who need two big wins if they’re to have even a mathematical chance of making the playoffs, after a troubled season on and off the court.

And something rather unusual is going on with the coaching staff of the Black Caps. Gary Stead will temporarily step away during the ODI series against India, reports One News, and bowling coach Shane Jurgensen will take on the top job. According to the report, it was a pre-planned trip to help with workload management for Stead. However, it does also follow a fairly brutal string of losses.


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