Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Record number of remits debated at LGNZ conference, details announced on how school property boost to be spent, and historic Tasman dumps at risk.
A range of remits passed at the Local Government NZ annual conference could see significant pushes for new law changes. The conference is currently underway in Wellington, and includes leaders from 78 different Councils and territorial authorities. Their organisations control more than $120 billion in assets. While the remits don’t directly change laws, they underline the influence local government has over the everyday lives of New Zealanders. So what do they want changed?
Some of the remits passed are headline grabbers, while others could have a more subtle effect. Stuff has a good wrap of the former, which includes a call for a ban on private fireworks, legislation to allow registration of Air BnBs, and the development of more tools to finance the construction of social housing. The failed remits included one asking for a law change to allow mayors more powers to select deputy mayors, and a call to prohibit parking on berms.
Another remit that passed was a call for Resource Management Act reform, “to adequately consider the impact of greenhouse gases when making decisions under that law.” As The Spinoff recently reported, that’s a tool that would allow the many climate emergency declarations made recently to actually have an effect. A full list of the remits that passed and failed to pass can be found here.
In the speech made by PM Jacinda Ardern to the conference, she assured the audience that central government wouldn’t push any more forced amalgamations. Recent examples show that the creation of Super-City type Councils isn’t particularly popular with voters – for example, Hawke’s Bay rejected amalgamation back in 2015, and Wairarapa voters did the same in 2017.
The conference also comes at a time when elections are looming. The angle that Newshub has picked out is that at the moment, local government leaders are overwhelmingly older, but that could change with large numbers of young candidates coming forward. In previous elections apathy among young voters towards local government has been a significant factor in results. Writing on The Spinoff, Shehara Farik says it is long past time for young voters to force Councils to hear their voices, as the citizens who will inhabit the cities and towns long after the typical current councillors are gone.
Finally, one of the strangest ideas from a figure central to one of the country’s strangest councils didn’t make it over the line. It wasn’t a remit, but Horowhenua mayor Michael Feyen has called for a political party to be formed by local government leaders, so that they might stand together in central government elections, reports Newstalk ZB. He says he can’t ever get MPs to meet with him, or listen to his concerns – but then again, he can’t really seem to get his fellow Councillors to do that either. If they want a bigger voice in Wellington, it would seem local government figures will just have to content themselves with passing remits.
Details have been announced about how the billion dollar budget allocation for school property will be spent, reports Radio NZ. Around 100,000 new students are expected to enter the school system over the next decade, many of them in growth suburbs around the Auckland region. A significant number of new classrooms will also be built at existing schools. However, as the NZ Herald reports, in this announcement only one new school has been directly funded, despite plans for 61 new schools around the country by 2030.
18 historic dump sites around the Tasman region are at risk of rising sea levels, reports Stuff this morning. There are deep concerns about such sites, since a dump was ripped open by flooding and rubbish was strewn along the length of the Fox River. Advocates are calling for nationwide consideration of historic landfalls, as many weren’t exactly built to modern standards, and the environmental damage caused by them opening up is terrible.
Dozens of Tenancy Tribunal complaints have been made since new rental insulation laws came into force, reports Stuff. It is estimated that many thousands of properties remain uninsulated, despite the extremely long lead in period given to landlords. More worryingly, it appears some tenants are facing retaliatory notices for bringing the matter up.
The boom in the dairy industry might finally have peaked, according to this excellent feature from the NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Jamie Grey. The number of dairy cattle is dipping slightly, and production growth appears to have stalled. Farm conversions to dairy aren’t really happening any more either, which is a major signifier of whether there will be future industry growth. We had a bucketload of feedback last week on methane production from cows (it’s still coming in too) and a natural decline in the number of them might not be such a bad thing.
Developments appear to be taking place in New Zealand’s defence relationship with China, reports Radio NZ. Minister Ron Mark has made a first trip over there, and says ties between the two countries are getting stronger. It’s an interesting one, because the stereotype goes that NZ’s closest defence relationships are with the US and Australia, but our closest economic relationship is with China – this story shows it’s all a bit more complicated than that.
Since leaving the regular grind of the press gallery, John Armstrong’s columns have been typically storming and brutally honest. So it was with this latest one on One News, which savages the timid and piecemeal response to a major report on some fundamental aspects of how politics in New Zealand is organised. He’s not correct on one point, in declaring that media coverage of the report focused almost exclusively on the question of a four-year term – other stories were written about other aspects by various outlets, including this from The Spinoff which took in many recommendations and focused on the theme of parliamentary scrutiny of governments. But Armstrong’s central point – that politics is dominated by myopic short term thinking – feels bang on.
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Right now on The Spinoff: Young Hamilton mayoral candidate Louise Hutt writes about the strangeness of facing eviction in the midst of an election campaign. Josie Adams writes about a last lunch at the Mercury Plaza, the iconic K Road foodcourt. Toby Manhire reports on a U-turn from Google in their policies towards name suppression orders, after breaching them in the Grace Millane case.
Finally, it’s hard to say which of these two absolute belters I enjoyed reading more over the weekend. Morgan Godfery has unravelled the sorry scandal around Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust misspending, and how elite figures (many of whom are still in public life) lined up to protect other elites. And Sam Brooks has put together a brilliant and textured feature on the rise of Laura Daniels, one of the most interesting people currently working in entertainment. I’d recommend reading both.
Today’s feature is about the ludicrous law by which beneficiary women are cut off if they end up in a relationship. It’s from the personal experience of Sarah Lin Wilson, on the Writehanded blog. Obviously these policies are in place to prevent benefit fraud or the system being rorted, but reading this piece, it struck me how absolutely nonsensical and needlessly cruel that is. Why punish poor people collectively for the actions of a vanishingly tiny minority? Anyway, here’s an excerpt.
If you’re an able person, imagine yourself in this scenario. Imagine you met someone, and all of a sudden, your independent income was slashed. Imagine weighing up your desire to progress your relationship, with your need to survive. Imagine the pressure it would put on a new relationship, for one person to become entirely dependent on the other, from the moment you move in together. Imagine having to ask your partner for money for rent, food, the essentials you need to be comfortable. Imagine how both parties might feel about all this.
Imagining it? Good. Unhappy about it? Also good. Because this is discrimination – it’s a law that negatively impacts disabled and ill beneficiaries in a way this situation would impact no one else.
Because I fell in love, I am no longer eligible for any sort of financial support.
A great day for New Zealand on the world sporting stage, reports Newshub, with Pagan Karauria of Alexandra taking out the All Nations Open woolhandling final at the Shearing World Champs in France. Alex Smith of Rakaia also claimed the Senior shearing final to round out a highly successful third day. Other Kiwi competitors could well make finals as well, as the competition approaches the end stages.
In the cricket, the Black Caps will play India tomorrow night in the first semi-final. The fixture came about because of an unlikely Australia loss to South Africa, while India thumped Sri Lanka to take top spot. The key player to target if the Black Caps are to progress is probably Rohit Sharma, who has hit a casual five centuries over the course of the tournament.
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The USA have won the FIFA Women’s World Cup, beating the Netherlands 2-0 in the final. It’s their second straight win, and fourth overall. Megan Rapinoe, who has been in the midst of a storm of political controversy for being honest about her feelings towards Donald Trump, was among the scorers, and was also awarded the Golden Ball for player of the tournament. Incredibly, the US Women’s Team still doesn’t have equal pay with the men, despite being overwhelmingly more successful, and arguably more popular and lucrative.
And finally, the Crusaders won the Super Rugby title again. How nice for them. There will be a parade in Christchurch today – it’s not clear if the horses will be there.
From our partners: A two-tier system of energy use is developing, with those on high incomes much more able to reduce their bills than households on lower incomes. Vector’s Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer Kate Beddoe outlines what the company plans to do about that.
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