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Cows. Lots of cows. (Photo: Martin Hunter/Getty Images)
Cows. Lots of cows. (Photo: Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

The BulletinMay 7, 2018

The Bulletin: Curbs on cows could be coming

Cows. Lots of cows. (Photo: Martin Hunter/Getty Images)
Cows. Lots of cows. (Photo: Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Curbs on cow numbers likely to come, the education minister is pointing to a billion dollar shortfall, and we’ve got an exclusive story about so-called ethical fashion label World.   

The government might be about to put curbs on further dairy intensification, in order to raise water quality. The news came off the back of an interview environment minister David Parker did with TV One’s Q+A, and has already raised the hackles of National, who say such a move against dairying could have severe effects on the wider economy.

The Country reports that Parker’s move is part of a reformed National Policy Statement on water. David Parker hasn’t yet done the economic analysis on what such a move would mean, but he has signalled he wants to see more cropping and horticulture rather than dairying.

With this in mind, this recent piece from NZ Farmer is a good one to look back on, about ‘peak cows.’ Basically, the analysis says that Fonterra has a problem in which their business plan relies on growing milk production, but the number of cows the country can support has basically been maxed out.

The stories that have been playing out over health funding in recent months could be about to have a sequel in education, reports Radio NZ. Minister Chris Hipkins has accused the previous government of leaving him a billion dollar shortfall to deal with, further dampening expectations of largesse in the upcoming budget.

In a similar story, also on Radio NZHipkins has released a strategy to attract more people to a career in teaching. There’s a drastic shortage looming, and one major plan the minister has is to reduce the amount of compliance paperwork teachers have to churn through. Of course, the big one is and will always be pay – negotiations are coming up this year, and a big pay rise will send a signal to young people considering teaching as a career that it’s a good option.

We’ve got an exclusive, and absolutely must-read story on The Spinoff today about supposedly ethical NZ fashion label World. Rather than summarise it, here’s the opening paragraph:

“She’s the highly critical champion of New Zealand fashion, calling out competitors for saving money by making their clothes in substandard conditions overseas instead of paying higher wages at home. But for the past seven years, Denise L’Estrange-Corbet’s WORLD brand has been selling t-shirts, sweatshirts and sweatpants manufactured in Bangladesh and China and bought through AS Colour.”

Wellington’s morning traffic rush is getting worse, according to reporting from Stuff. The crunch point, as any citizen of the capital will know, is traffic coming into the CBD from the north of the city. Peak congestion periods are starting earlier, and running for longer into the morning. Proposals on how to alleviate it will be coming from Let’s Get Wellington Moving in June.

The government has thanked Malaysia’s government for intercepting a people–smuggling tanker allegedly bound for New Zealand, reports the NZ Herald. If the tanker, carrying more than 100 Sri Lankans, was heading to New Zealand, that would make it a highly unusual incident. As the Herald story notes, “In December last year, the Government said there had been no suggestion of a credible attempt by people-smugglers to reach these shores by boat.” An Australian refugee advocate told Radio NZ, that given the poor shape the vessel was in, there was no way it could have made it to New Zealand.

Both of the declared candidates for the Northcote by-election went on Newshub Nation, and voters in the electorate should have a look at it. I don’t buy the analysis that the vote will be a referendum on the government as a whole, or the leadership of Jacinda Ardern vs Simon Bridges. But it could be a referendum on the government’s transport plan, which as the debate showed will dominate the by-election campaign.

Auckland house prices are starting to noticeably stagnate and it’s likely to continue, according to this analysis on Noted. Among the causes listed, an intriguing one that jumps out is the Australian Royal Commission into banking. Because of the scrutiny the parent companies of local banks are under, they have to lend to the absolute letter of the law, which may cause a credit crunch. Not that our banks would have been bending the law beforehand of course.

Dozens of Southlanders have protested the closure of Invercargill’s Museum and Art gallery, reports the Southland Times on their front page this morning. The protest took the form of a mock-funeral, to mourn the lost spirit of the museum, which has been closed since mid-April.

I was very glad to be alerted to the existence of by MediawatchIt’s a new news website for the Queenstown and Wanaka area. So far they’ve been publishing for about a week, and already have some vital stories up for people who actually live in the area, such as this one about a dire shortage in hospital facilities. Plus, it’s got Peter Newport working on it, who I recall reading articles on The Spinoff from long before I joined the organisation – check them out here.

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Right now on The Spinoff: It’s Commute Week, so we’re going to be running tons of stories about how New Zealanders get to and from work every day. We’ve got a brand new Dungeons and Dragons comedy podcast called Waterdeep Mountain High. And I wrote about global broadcasting giant NEP’s acquisition of NZ Live, and what that will mean for the live broadcasting in New Zealand.

Apologies to show you this on a Monday, when you’ve probably got better things to do than 5000–odd words about the depopulation of rural Kansas. But this feature from The New Food Economy is just remarkable. The fundamental problem it highlights is the increasing specialisation of all farming in the area towards the growth of commodity crops, which are then vulnerable to price fluctuations.

“It is dark irony that, by focusing on production, Kansas farmers have devalued their own goods. Ever more sophisticated technology has led to a commodity grains glut that—thanks to the simple law of supply and demand—has crashed prices. In towns across Kansas, two- and three-year-old wheat sits under tarps beside full-to-the-brim grain elevators. Farmers wait in the hope that prices will rise—even just a little bit—before they sell.”

The other aspect of it – fewer and fewer people are needed to farm these days, even as the expenses for equipment rise dramatically. So that hits the surrounding economy of the area very hard. Shops close down, businesses can’t survive, small towns empty out.

It’s not necessarily something that is applicable, or directly relatable, to rural New Zealand. But my gut feeling reading the piece was that there were some similarities to towns like the steadily de–populating Pātea, ever since the freezing works that kept the wider economy humming closed down.

The craziest story in Super Rugby right now is the rise of the Jaguares, who have just won four away games in a row. The Jaguares! It took a year for rugby fans to realise it wasn’t pronounced with a hard J, let alone take them seriously. The NZ Herald have a look back at their history, and how their burst into playoff contention took shape.

And finally, still on rugby, this is by Joel Kulasingham at the NZ Herald is a brilliant exploration of the rise of the social conscience of the All Blacks. Is it genuine? Or is it merely useful positioning for branding and sponsors? It’s a question that has largely gone un-asked, which is surprising given there are plenty of well known examples of pretty extreme cynicism in New Zealand’s rugby history.

And from our partners, Vector’s Karl Check analyses Australia’s progress when it comes to shifting away from coal and gas fired power plants and onto renewable energy sources.

That’s it for the The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, please forward it on and encourage them to sign up here. Thanks for joining us this morning.

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