Angry driver shouting out car window

The Bulletin: Transport plans prove to be controversial

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Government transport proposals prove to be incredibly divisive, EQC re-repair bill climbs, and an extraordinary warning about funding for Auckland addiction services.

The government’s transport plans have proven to be the most important policy announcement of the year so far, and have provoked a storm of response. It’s become a complicated political litmus test, and the following pieces are vital to understanding all the strands of the debate.

First of all, how is it being received as a policy? Transport blogger Matt Lawrie, writing on The Spinoff, absolutely loves it. Lawrie reckons it’s a case of the government putting its money where its mouth is, and welcomes the shift away from a focus on big roading projects. On the other hand, Simon Reid from the Road Transport Association is deeply disappointed by the changes, and told Newstalk ZB courier and truck drivers will get hammered by an increased fuel tax, and the shift away from State Highway funding.

And a hefty fuel tax to pay for public transport is fine if you’re a non-driver living in Auckland City. If you live in South Auckland and need to drive to work, not so much. Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board chair Lotu Fuli told Radio NZ the increase will disproportionately hit her constituents, who tend to be on lower incomes, and are already struggling with rising housing costs.

On the political side, Bernard Hickey writes on Newsroom that it’s opened up a clear battle line between the government and the opposition, and exposed a somewhat intractable culture clash between public transport users and car drivers. Fran O’Sullivan in the NZ Herald says Jacinda Ardern has made a bold move that finally puts her government “back in the drivers seat”, after weeks of being bogged down in scandals.

Back on Newstalk ZB, Heather du Plessis-Allen says voters will revolt over the fuel tax increases. And on Politik, Richard Harman writes that some regional mayors are heading to Wellington to tell Phil Twyford jobs will be threatened in their patches if the roading projects don’t go ahead. Harman has by far the best headline of all these pieces – Road rage in the provinces.


EQC has spent about $100 million more on earthquake remedial work than what was originally estimated, reports Radio NZ. New EQC minister Megan Woods says the previous government “willfully ignored” the scale of the problem. When questioned by Checkpoint, previous minister Gerry Brownlee said he did not recall when he found out that re-repair figure, and refused to answer further questions.


A remarkable warning has been issued to the government that addiction services are so underfunded, treatment provided may be “unethical”. The troubling story on the front page of the NZ Herald today relates to a law change requiring compulsory treatment for those most heavily addicted to drugs or alcohol. But the DHBs say without additional funding, addicts would get caught in a cycle of relapse. Health minister David Clark didn’t comment for the story, telling the Herald the matter was subject to a budget process.


The government has announced the compulsory recall of all alpha-type Takata airbags in cars, reports Stuff. To find out if your car is affected, go to recalls.govt.nz. And you should check, because if you have one of those airbags, it may kill you in a crash. The recall has taken quite a while to come to fruition, and Consumer Affairs minister Kris Faafoi was grilled by Heather du Plessis-Allen on Newstalk ZB to explain what was behind the delay.


The Christchurch City Council has been accused of muzzling the free speech of Templeton residents who don’t want a quarry on the outskirts of their town, reports The Press. Templeton, which is considering doing a ‘Texit’ and joining the Selwyn District over the quarry plans, is seemingly united against the quarry. A Council official was spotted noting down which houses had protest signs outside, and the the justification is worth quoting at length:

“The council confirmed it was investigating whether the signs – smaller ones a little bigger than a piece of A4 paper and larger ones measuring 80cm by 120cm – broke laws over their size. It said it did so after receiving complaints. Furious residents say it is “unfathomable” the council is scrutinising the size of placards while there is no law to stop a huge quarry being developed near their homes.”


High avocado prices are expected to drop next spring, with cyclical variation likely to deliver a big crop this year, reports the Bay of Plenty Times. Somewhat counter-intuitively, low prices per fruit in a high yield season are actually better for growers than high prices in a low yield season, because they make more money per hectare. Consumers will likely face competing demand from both Australia and China.


And finally, a correction: In yesterday’s Bulletin, I wrote that people in Nelson were being injured by opening Corona bottles with their eye-sockets. It has been pointed out to me that saying the injuries were caused by this method was an assumption, rather than a fact. So I hereby retract that statement, and apologise for any offence caused to both the good people of Nelson, and Corona drinkers.

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Photograph: Kim Baker Wilson / RNZ

Right now on The Spinoff: Police officer Vic Cook issues a furious rebuttle to the Sensible Sentencing Trust, over a facebook post celebrating the shooting of an armed suspect by Police. Mother of three Nadine Anna Hura writes about why she decided to quit drinking for good. And the cast of The Real Pod contemplate a world in which Married at First Sight no longer exists.


Today we’re spotlighting a few stories that deal with the tension between private land ownership and public use. Stuff reports that high country landowners might simply shut their gates, due to the overwhelming numbers of tourists walking across their land. The story is developed and localised on the front page of today’s Timaru Herald with a story about a farmer who has about 100,000 people walking across his land every year. He wants government support to put facilities for them in place, not least toilets.

Up in Auckland on the NZ Herald, landowners who have put their property in covenant with the QEII National Trust are up in arms, over a Council proposal to scrap their rates remission on those properties. Covenants are basically a way for landowners to prevent any future development of pieces of bush, wetlands, wildlife habitats and cultural sites – preserving them in their current state forever. The Council says the plan is about moving to a “more equitable and transparent system of support for those individuals and organisations who care for Auckland’s environment.”


In sport, here’s a thought-provoking column from Radio Live host Mitch Harris, who says Joseph Parker should quit boxing now before it’s too late. Parker lost his WBO Heavyweight belt over the weekend to Anthony Joshua, by a wide margin on points, and Harris says he should leave it at that before suffering permanent brain damage. Parker could fight again as early as August, and Radio Sport reports that it could be on the undercard for the Anthony Joshua – Deontay Wilder unification bout.


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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