Floodwaters around a house in Mataura (Radio NZ, Sarah Robson)

The Bulletin: Long cleanup looms after Mataura River floods

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Long cleanup looms after Mataura floods, anger inside and outside of RNZ at major proposed changes, and quarantine in effect for Wuhan returnees.

The evacuation warnings for several flooded-out South Island towns have mostly been lifted. But there will be a long cleanup ahead for the residents, and some important problems have presented themselves as needing to be fixed.

From Gore south to Mataura, State Highway 1 remains closed, reports the ODT. Parts of State Highway 93 are also closed, with the situation to be re-assessed this morning. People who were told to leave Mataura, Wyndham and much of Gore have mostly been allowed to go back home. But as Radio NZ reported yesterday, Civil Defence Southland is warning that it will still be several days before the full extent of the damage can be measured, and flooding could still take days to fully drain or be pumped out of inundated towns.

Among the problems causedNZ Doctor (paywalled) reports that primary health services in Gore also had to be temporarily moved, because it was impossible for GPs to get to work. And a few residents who now have to get the deluge out of their houses spoke to Radio NZ. The pictures from that story show pretty clearly how much cleanup work will be needed.

Many farmers will be facing a difficult time ahead after losing animals or crops. Farmers Weekly has a story of catastrophic bad luck hitting one farmer north of Gore, who will lose much of a 280ha crop of cereals, which were just over a week away from being ready to harvest. It appears that a lot of insurance claims will be going in from farmers around the region, but they won’t necessarily cover the full extent of losses. Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor declared it to be an ‘adverse event’, which unlocks government support for those affected. “Based on what I’ve seen and the advice I’ve received from Ministry for Primary Industries field staff, the scale of impact is beyond the communities’ ability to cope,” he said.

There were fears of chemical danger around Mataura relating to ouvea premix (a byproduct of aluminium smelting) stored at the old paper mill, reports Stuff. When wet, it can produce ammonia, which is a highly hazardous gas. In the end, no harm came of it. But as the story makes clear, it has long been a controversial point for the town, and more pressure to move it somewhere else will be put on decision-makers. The Southland Times has reported on comments from the PM, who says that she is seeking advice, and that clearly a long-term solution needs to be found.

An immense, ridiculous amount of rain fell very quickly to make this flooding happen. And yep, there have been floods before, and some extreme weather is inevitable. But these sorts of events will become more common under models for how climate change will affect weather patterns, and we need to be prepared for that. So to finish this section, here’s a piece from climate scientist James Renwick, who has explained the science behind it over on Stuff.

Just quickly as well, because we’re talking about Gore – a correction and apology: On Wednesday, I incorrectly used the pronoun ‘she’ for Gore mayor Tracy Hicks – Tracy is in fact a he. My apologies for the error.


A brief message fromToby Morris, editorial cartoonist and illustrator at The Spinoff

I don’t think there’s anywhere apart from The Spinoff that gets what I’m trying to do and would support it in quite the same way. Similarly – as readers you get to make that choice now too. You choose to read The Spinoff, and by becoming a member you can directly support the kind of stories you want to read more of (and, for $8 a month, get a tea towel!). You support us making something new and different – and, hopefully better, you get to read it.


There are some big changes for Radio NZ’s music output currently being consulted on. Basically, RNZ Concert will be heavily cut back, and a new youth focused music station will be created. The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire has been taking the mood of people inside and outside the state broadcaster, and found a mood of baffled anger among many. The story gives a really good background too on the idea of a youth-focused music station at RNZ, which has been kicking around for decades now.


Quarantine procedures are currently in place for returnees from Wuhan province in China. Stuff reports a public meeting was held last night in Stanmore Bay, to reassure Whangaparaoa locals that there were no suspected cases among the group. If you want a guide to what quarantine looks like in practice, this piece from Auckland Regional Public Health Service worker Richard Simpson lays it out brilliantly – he worked on the response to swine flu among other viruses, so has a really good insight into how these things work.


Here’s an interesting issue to consider around businesses and climate change – whether companies should be required to publicly release emissions data. Stuff’s Rob Stock has looked into it, and found a reasonable split within the business world on the matter. As part of the ETS, that information will already have to be provided to the government. I’m personally all for a massive increase in transparency around emissions, and think this would be a useful tool to get there – but there are some reasonable arguments against it put forward in the story as well, such as commercial sensitivity and unnecessary layers of reporting bureaucracy.


More concerns around MP Jami-Lee Ross’s treatment of staff have emerged, reports Newsroom. Three of his four electorate office staff – employed by Parliamentary Service – have been placed on special leave in the last year. The latest allegations are understood to involve bullying. Ross himself denies the allegations, and says they have been made for political reasons.


The economic numbers for workers right now are looking pretty reasonable, reports Interest. Wage growth is up 2.6% for the year, and unemployment has ticked down ever so slightly to 4.0%. The wider context for the story is what such figures will mean for interest rates. The Reserve Bank is doing an update next week, and economists quoted in the story are leaning towards the OCR being held at 1%, because there is much less need for a cut to stimulate the economy.


On the other hand, an increasingly large cohort of older people are looking for work, but finding it impossible to get hired, reports Kelly Dennett and Josephine Franks for Stuff. The feature includes a lot of personal anecdotes that show the fundamental problem they’re facing, of having to prove that their age will not be a burden. The effects can be profound, with people facing poverty after their careers get cut short. This sort of discrimination against older people is against the law, but can be incredibly hard to prove.


Our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Newshub’s Emma Jolliff, who passed away this week. She was a highly respected journalist and presenter on Newshub Nation, who had been with the company for more than a decade after a successful career overseas. Director of News Hal Crawford described her as “a fantastic journalist and loved telling stories. She considered it an honour to tell people’s stories, and she did it so well.”


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

A new PhD thesis from the University of Otago explores the myriad roles played by manu in Polynesian myth.

Right now on The Spinoff: Alice Webb-Liddall asks a range of astrology enthusiasts about why the star-sign craze is back in fashion.I look back on the first ten years of Ultra-Fast Broadband, and how it has changed the business landscape of the country. We’ve taken an excerpt from a new book by Francis Tipene, one of The Casketeers, who writes about grief and holding it together for people who need it. TOP party leader Geoff Simmons argues that capitalism will be an essential tool in the fight against climate change. Vincent O’Malley laments the slashing of public reading hours at the National Archives. Alice Webb-Liddall again explores research into the place of birds shared by Māori and Polynesian mythology. And you might have noticed a whole lot of new RTD brands hitting the alcohol market – The Spinoff Food has reviewed and ranked the top 10, and a few others that were very much not so good.


For a feature today, a really interesting look into the place of Pasifika within the Treaty of Waitangi. Koro Vaka’uta at RNZ Pacific has spoken to a range of leading figures within the community, to try and figure out where the connections are. The result is a really illuminating view of cross-cultural relationships and collaboration. Here’s an excerpt:

“When you go to any Pasifika event or when you listen to any of our Pasifika leaders or Pasifika MPs, the first thing they do is with ease and openness, acknowledge Tangata Whenua in this country.

“So I think, our leadership in this area…in terms of embracing Waitangi Day as a nation for all people in Aotearoa, Pacific people will play a key role,” he said.

Mr Mann said Pasifika could pave a way forward due to their inherent understanding and knowledge of things indigenous.

“I feel sorry for people who feel they can’t find a place, and it’s mainly non-Māori, who feel they can’t find a place in Waitangi Day for meaning for themselves.

“My hope for the future is that our Pākehā population can resolve issues around fragility…resolve issues around fragility around colonialism and get to embrace Waitangi Day but obviously there is a path to go as we are still going through settlements from a Māori perspective.”


Victory, glorious victory. The Black Caps have won their first game in more than two months, thanks to a remarkably bold knock from Ross Taylor. The chase of 348 was the highest ever by the Black Caps against India, and weirdly it came in a match where neither the regular captain or coach were around. The White Ferns too pushed past South Africa, to take a 2-0 lead in their T20 series – also a handy turnaround in form.


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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