Auckland Port from above (File photo, Radio NZ)
Auckland Port from above (File photo, Radio NZ)

The BulletinDecember 5, 2019

The Bulletin: Huge decision looms on port move

Auckland Port from above (File photo, Radio NZ)
Auckland Port from above (File photo, Radio NZ)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Port move decision rapidly approaching, yet more pressure looms for NZ First party, and a big day for consumer banks and their capital holdings.

It’s all happening this week on the port, and whether and where it will move away from downtown Auckland. Cabinet discussions are taking place, and a decision is coming soon. We’ve covered it a few times in The Bulletin, but as it’s potentially the country’s biggest ever infrastructure project and more information keeps coming to light, it’s worth covering again.

Whangārei looms as the most likely replacement, but there is some cause for doubt. Radio NZ covered a recent report that indicated much higher costs than previous estimates, along with a serious rise in emissions into the future if operations end up in Whangārei. These points around emissions really shouldn’t be discounted – both in a scientific sense and political sense, since the decision by government to have a ‘climate impact assessment’ as part of how cabinet makes major calls. And it’s fair to say Ports of Auckland aren’t on board with a move – and in fact, the NZ Herald’s Michael Neilson reports they have just made a resource consent application for a massive dredging programme in the Waitematā Harbour – the sort of thing you do if you want to keep having big container ships come through for decades to come.

The key issue with a move north is that goods would simply have to travel further to reach the major population centres. Some planning has gone into what infrastructural upgrades would be needed to open up the route north a lot more, and those would also have positive flow-ons for people in the region. What the wider implications for the region of a move would be is excellently covered by Simon Wilson this morning in the NZ Herald (paywalled) and there are some especially interesting bits of the story about the politics of bringing jobs to an area.

So are there other options? Over at the NZ Herald (paywalled) Simon Wilson again looks at three options outside of Northport or downtown Auckland – Muriwai, the Firth of Thames, and Manukau Harbour. All of them are unsuitable in some way. Thames might seem perfectly located, but the water is largely too shallow. Muriwai would be like trying to surf a container ship into port, it’s just not happening. I encourage you to read the last line of Wilson’s story for a full sense of how much other options seem out of the running.

But moving in general is very much being supported by a lot of different people and groups. The former PMs throwing their weight behind the campaign have been widely covered. More recently, Ngāti Whātua declared that they wanted to move, because if Auckland Council then wanted to sell the newly vacant land, they’d be ready to buy it, reports Te Ao News. Having high profile people opine is one thing – but there would also be a powerful moral case to be made that it would be a way of returning land back to the original owners. Expect a decision on it all before Christmas.

Former senior figures within the NZ First party have requested a chance to make a submission over party donations, reports Newshub. They are former president Lester Gray and former treasurer Colin Forster. They say, basically, that they want to blow a whistle, and speak to parliament without NZ First officials present. Meanwhile, NZ First MP and minister Shane Jones is under more pressure – Radio NZ reports that while he recused himself from a decision on a massive funding application from an NZ First linked company, it entirely coincidentally happened on the same day RNZ lodged a whole lot of OIAs over the matter, after months of non-recusal.

Today is a big day for both the Reserve Bank and the big four consumer banks. An announcement will be coming on how much capital they need to hold, in order to withstand a future financial crisis. This from Stuff’s Tom Pullar-Strecker is a good explainer of both the current rules, and how they’re likely to change.

As the Labour party prepares to release the findings of an investigation into its handling of sexual assault allegations, another ex-volunteer has shared her experience. She approached The Spinoff after the publication of the earlier story had been published, having herself been assaulted at a party event. Her story though went public very quickly, and without her realising it was going to happen – “The headline popped up on my phone when I was on the bus – no heads-up, no warning, nothing. To say that I wasn’t prepared for my story to play out in the media would be an understatement. I felt disgusting.” Labour’s response is included in the story.

This is a story about the death of a migrant worker that has stuck with me for several days after reading it. Stuff’s Harrison Christian has written about Yu Xingming, a construction worker from China who died in a fall at a residential building site. He was working for cash in an employment relationship that reads as being deeply exploitative, and now his wife has been left without answers, compensation, or even a clear understanding of who his employer was. What is so troubling about it is that we just don’t know how many migrant workers are being exploited in similar circumstances.

Proof in parliament that cannabis, or at least the idea of it, makes people behave strangely. So it was with Paula Bennett, who held up a bag of green in the house to demonstrate what 14 grams looked like – the maximum daily purchase limit under the law announced this week. It turned out to be oregano. A reminder folks – it’s a limit, not a target. Among the more substantive concerns raised by Bennett, which will hopefully be addressed in the select committee phase, is the need for clarification around drug driving and workplace testing.

The Otago Daily Times has stood down cartoonist Garrick Tremain, after a cartoon making a joke about the Samoa measles epidemic. Several of his colleagues at the paper expressed disgust at what had been printed. There was huge anger about the cartoon, to the point where a protest gathered at the ODT offices, reports Stuff’s Hamish McNeilly. Editor Barry Stewart and Tremain himself have subsequently issued apologies. As to why it matters so much, I encourage you to read this by Christine Ammunson.

It’s coming up to the end of the school year, but for Tuturumuri School, it’s for the last time. The rural Wairarapa school, about 30 minutes to the south of Martinborough, will be closing after the roll dropped into single digits. There was a wonderful piece from Steve Rendle the Times-Age in July, about the fight put into keeping the doors open. The kids loved it there. This feature from Stuff’s Nikki Macdonald captured the final days, and what it had meant to generations of families.

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Blazed: Paula Bennett in parliament with 14 grams of Coromandel Gold (Oregano)

Right now on The Spinoff: Maria Slade explains the changes made by the government that will make life a bit easier for SMEs. Juliet Moses hammers a BSA ruling that didn’t uphold a complaint against an anti-semitic reference. The On the Rag podcast get together to discuss a difficult month for being a woman. Toby Manhire makes an unfortunate Liquor King employee be part of a stunt post about legal maximum purchase limits for intoxicating drugs. Russell Brown and the AI podcast look into the surprisingly good taste of music algorithms. And this one has some beautiful and powerful imagery – Tobias Buck has reviewed the Richard Brimer photography exhibition Harvest, focused on horticulture workers and currently showing in Hastings.

For a feature today, some tales of something few of us still here have experienced. The Project has met a bunch of people who had near death experiences, and lived to tell the tale. I wouldn’t read anything into what they describe beyond the facts of their experience (for example, whether or not it proves the existence of an afterlife) but it’s certainly interesting to hear it described. Here’s an excerpt:

Dr Natasha Tassell-Matamua, a psychologist and senior lecturer at Massey University, says she felt as though she was “travelling through a really long tunnel at really high speeds”.

“I saw what appeared to be a silhouette of a being. I just recall communicating with the being, I guess you could say telepathically… just saying I wasn’t quite ready for this. At that moment I was propelled back through the tunnel and back into my body… I was wondering what on earth happened to me,” she says.

If the Adelaide Strikers manage to win the Women’s Big Bash in Australia this weekend, it’ll probably have a lot to do with Sophie Devine. Newsroom have reported on her epic feats of cricketing excellence this season, which include topping the run scoring charts (at a rather healthy average of 77.76) and finishing the regular season among the top 10 wicket takers. The Strikers have a semifinal this Saturday against the Perth Scorchers, who are led by the dangerous Aussie star Meg Lanning. The other semifinal also has Kiwis to watch, with Amelia Kerr playing for the Brisbane Heat, and Lea Tahuhu in the Melbourne Renegades.

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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