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The Bulletin: Counting sheep all the way to the bank

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Glut of good news for sheep farmers, a new poll comes out, and education minister hammers teacher pay aspirations.  

It’s a good time to own a flock of sheep. NZ lamb prices have hit a record high, reports the NZ Herald. It’s not expected that they’ll go much higher, and traditionally drop around Christmas, but analysts say there’s strong growth in demand to be working with, which is a healthy sign for the sector.

There’s more good news for wool, in that it is returning to prominence as an environmentally ethical fabric for clothing, reports Stuff. That’s because of the microbeads that end up in the ocean when synthetic clothes are washed. At the other end of the market, Lancorp aka Pāmu have just signed a huge deal to supply coarse wool to the USA for home insulation, reports Stuff.
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There are some patches where the grass isn’t particularly green though. This report from Interest notes that the wool price – in general terms – remains stubbornly low. And New Zealand’s exports to the UK and Europe may be interrupted, or made more difficult, as uncertainty around Brexit negotiations continues.

What does it mean for the farming industry overall? Sheep numbers are declining, but as per this recent report from Rural News, that decline is slowing down. The recent growth in what animals are being farmed is in beef cows.

All modern farming is reliant on commodity prices, and every choice a farmer makes is a gamble. But could this all mean that the wave of dairy conversions could be reversed in favour of going back to good old Kiwi sheep farming? Probably not, as this fascinating analysis from Stuff’s Keith Woodford argued last year – both economically and environmentally, the numbers still don’t match up. But the recent stories will all be a relief to sheep farmers who have endured some tough years, that better times might be coming.


Just a weekend after I bemoaned the lack of political polling going on, a new one has come out, and it shows…. absolutely no changes worth mentioning! The One News Colmar-Brunton poll shows that in the two and bit months since the last one, the coalition government still has a statistically significant lead over the opposition (but NZ First and the Greens are flirting with the threshold) PM Jacinda Ardern remains far more personally popular than Simon Bridges, and the National Party has the most support of any single party.


The education minister believes teacher pay demands are “well out of kilter,” and has warned them that the current government is more receptive than the last one, reports Newshub. The comments from minister Chris Hipkins are likely to go down like a cup of cold sick with primary teachers, who have scheduled a one day strike next week on the 15th. They want a 16% payrise over two years. The government has offered up to 2.6 a year over three years.


There’s a bit of reporting clash going on over the end of US ambassador Tim Groser’s term. Stuff reported on Sunday morning that Groser was “part of a clean out of less-favoured diplomats,” and that his three year stretch was unusually short. But the NZ Herald reported later in the day that it was incorrect – quoting foreign minister Winston Peters as saying Groser was only ever in it for three years, and had himself asked to leave the position. Interestingly, both organisations seem to be standing behind their stories.


Federated Farmers in the Bay of Plenty have tried to screw Tauranga City out of one of their allocated regional councillors, over fears the council is becoming imbalanced in favour of urban over rural, reports The Country. They’re proposing that Tauranga’s share of 5 out of 14 councillors be reduced, despite the city being an area of massive population growth. Figures presented to council showed that if there was any area that was under-represented, it was Rotorua. The Fed Farmers attempt failed, but it is shaping up as a major political battle over the next few years.


This is a really good piece of feature writing from Stuff’s Florence Kerr, on the torturous progress, or lack thereof, towards a treaty settlement between Ngapuhi and the Crown. New Zealand’s largest iwi is bitterly divided, and that means that it has become almost impossible to advance a settlement. But a lawyer involved in the proceedings argues that Ngapuhi never considered itself an iwi in the strict sense, rather a confederation of hapū.


Wellington Hospital’s power supply is at a “high risk of catastrophic failure,” reports the Dominion Post this morning. The information comes from an infrastructure report released under the OIA, which notes that the emergency generators at the hospital are getting to end of their life. The concerns are timely, but unrelated to the massive power outage that hit Wellington last week.


Lauren Southern has criticised New Zealand for a “lack of tolerance,” after she and Stefan Molyneux’s show was cancelled, reports Radio NZ. Hopefully, this will be the last time we have to talk about these utterly noxious individuals, but in the meantime, a reminder in case anyone was still in doubt: Nobody is under any obligation to show “tolerance” to racist views, nor under any obligation to give it a platform.


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Objectively good branding opportunities such as this will not be available should Victoria be removed from the university name

Right now on The Spinoff: Andre Brett outlines why he thinks removing the Victoria from Victoria University is a terrible idea. Laura O’Connell Rapira warns of the risk of ideology drowning the debate over Māori students in charter schools. And James Dann questions whether any sort of compelling case has actually been made for a new stadium in Christchurch.


The feature article being shared today offers a fascinating set of insights into the politics of jihad within the wider Middle East. On the face of it, it’s an interview between respected Guardian journalist Martin Chulov and Osama Bin Laden’s mother, who lives in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah. But it goes a lot deeper than that, into the current (questionable) reforms taking place in Saudi Arabia, the battles within the Muslim world over militant Islam, and on a human level, how a family copes when their son and brother goes badly off the rails. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

“For years, Ghanem has refused to talk about Osama, as has his wider family – throughout his two-decade reign as al-Qaida leader, a period that saw the strikes on New York and Washington DC, and ended more than nine years later with his death in Pakistan.

Now, Saudi Arabia’s new leadership – spearheaded by the ambitious 32-year-old heir to the throne, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – has agreed to my request to speak to the family. (As one of the country’s most influential families, their movements and engagements remain closely monitored.) Osama’s legacy is as grave a blight on the kingdom as it is on his family, and senior officials believe that, by allowing the Bin Ladens to tell their story, they can demonstrate that an outcast – not an agent – was responsible for 9/11.”


In a shock sporting twist, the Crusaders have won Super Rugby, beating the Lions comfortably in Christchurch. And we may as well get used to it, writes Jamie Wall at Radio NZ, because on paper this Crusaders team isn’t getting any softer over the off-season. Three titles in a row beckon next season.

And in League, the Warriors have held on for a gritty win over the Dragons, to keep a bit of daylight between them and the chasing pack for the NRL playoffs. The Warriors sit in 8th on 26 points after 20 games, with the Tigers two wins behind, with only four games to catch up.


From our partners, Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha writes that sometimes looking back on the past can make you glad you’re alive today, particularly when it comes to the safety of lines workers.


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