(Photo: Getty Images)
(Photo: Getty Images)

The BulletinOctober 8, 2019

The Bulletin: Meth prices drop to dramatic lows

(Photo: Getty Images)
(Photo: Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Meth prices drop to record lows, dozens of arrests at Extinction Rebellion protests, and an excellent data dive into land sales to overseas forestry interests.

In a worrying sign for wellbeing, the price of meth in many parts of the country has plunged to new lows. Research conducted by Massey University and released this morning shows that the median price for a gram of meth is now down to $500, with record lows of $450 seen in some places like Auckland, Waikato and Wellington. Just last year, the nationwide median price was $538, so it’s a significant drop. In almost every part of the country, they’ve come down, and what’s more users of meth have been far more likely to report price drops than users of other drugs.

Why do lower prices matter? Associate professor Chris Wilkins, who led the study, had this to say. “The price of illegal drugs are important determinants of who uses them, the level of consumption, and the related individual and social harm. Declining prices can stimulate higher consumption and more harmful use, particularly among ‘at-risk’ groups.” Having the price of meth come down while other drug prices are stable is particularly concerning, because of the immensely disproportionate harm caused by meth relative to other drugs. It also reflects the changing character of the drug trade, as expert NZ Herald reporter Jared Savage discussed in this interview, it is increasingly taking hold in poorer and more vulnerable communities.

Lower prices have been linked to proximity to smuggling routes. However, as this report on Stuff notes, we’ve also entered an era of ridiculous, massive seizures of the drug by police and customs officials. More than ever before is being stopped, but the drop in price heavily implies more than ever before is also getting through.

It is certain that this will become a political issue. National leader Simon Bridges put out a press release on the matter blaming the government’s “soft” approach to drugs and gangs. PM Jacinda Ardern will almost certainly be asked about the topic on the round of morning interviews today. But amid it all what might get lost is whether or not “soft” or “hard” approaches to the issue are the right way of defining what will reduce harm. That’s something to keep in mind with the related issue of drug-testing at festivals also in the news.

Just quickly, a note here from The Spinoff Ātea editor Leonie Hayden, about the work and kaupapa of her section of the website.

“In my work for The Spinoff I routinely ask myself two questions: who does this give power to, and who does this take power from? I’m incredibly proud to work somewhere that asks those questions of itself as a matter of course, ensuring we’re not adding to the harm that negative stereotypes can cause to entire communities, and that we’re regularly giving a voice to powerful, smart, kickass people that have been denied a platform for ages.

We don’t always get it right, but we are absolutely dedicated to trying to be the best Treaty partner we can be. If that’s important to you, please support our members fund so we can continue to uphold this kaupapa and the mana of people everywhere.”

The Extinction Rebellion direct action around Wellington has culminated in dozens of arrests. Newshub reports more than 30 people were arrested, all of whom went quietly, and the police have confirmed that the protest was largely peaceful. Further actions are expected over the week. Before the arrests were made, I spoke to one very interesting person there – a teenager who was temporarily removed from his school roll because he insisted on spending sixty straight days at parliament calling for a climate emergency to be declared. Meanwhile, this is a really interesting argument from long-time activist Alastair Reith, about whether demonstrations like Extinction Rebellion’s can be considered successful.

This is an exceptional piece of data diving into the sale of land to overseas forestry interests. Radio NZ’s Kate Newton and Guyon Espiner found the country’s four biggest landowners all met that definition, and dominate the top ten largest landowners – much of those holdings being sold through a new streamlined Overseas Investment Act test.

The figures point to three different but related conclusions. The first is that farming groups like 50 Shades of Green were right to be concerned at a significant uptick of previously farmed land being planted with trees. The second comes from the wider figures, and shows that land ownership is densely concentrated in not a lot of hands. And the third is that it shows the government’s tree planting targets for the country will be getting a lot closer – though the manner by which that is happening will concern many.

Changes to immigration laws will reopen the parental reunion visa category, but only for migrants who earn above $100,000. Stuff reports it reverses the category being suspended in 2016, but with new criteria and a cap on 1000 places. One of those changes is that it puts the burden on earning on the children, if they want to bring their parents over – conversely, it doesn’t make it any easier for those not earning twice the median wage to bring their parents into the country.

A Tauranga Council candidate has admitted assaulting an elderly woman in a road rage incident, reports the NZ Herald (paywalled.) David Wayne Grindley pleaded guilty to the charge, and was given a discharge without conviction and was ordered to pay reparations. When approached by reporter Samantha Motion, he actually questioned why it was being considered a story.

Fonterra has had some shockers recently, but it isn’t all doom and gloom. Farmers Weekly has looked at some of the numbers underlying the big losses suffered by the cooperative, and found plenty of reasons for hope for the farmer shareholders themselves at least. The new strategy, more focused strategy is also likely to be of some benefit to those farmers based in NZ.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Gabrielle Baker learns what is being done about the dramatic iniquities in dental care in New Zealand. An anon essayist relates the experience of Listen In, a festival at which untested drugs hospitalised multiple people. Flick Electric CEO Steve O’Connor writes about the Electricity Price Review, and why it needs to be put into action now. Duncan Greive gets excited after watching a new reality TV show in which the “seething passions of small-town restaurants explode”.

And the local elections stuff: I’ve put together a cheat sheet on the latest spending scandal swirling around Porirua mayor Mike Tana. Hayden Donnell has come out with an excellent feature on the Far North mayoralty. Hayden and Toby Manhire chew over the local elections in a special podcast episode. And John Tamihere and Phil Goff have delivered their final pitch to voters on why they should be Auckland’s next mayor.

This is a really interesting article about the stripping out of culture and homogenisation of surf brands. The NZ Herald’s Damien Venuto (paywalled) has written – partly from personal experience – about some of the clothing brands that got big off the back of a new sporting industry, while losing touch with those who actually lived it. It’s a really good example of the concept of co-opting of culture. Here’s an excerpt:

That might sound a little pretentious, but surfers are territorial creatures – as evidenced by the blight of localism in the most crowded spots around the world.

Someone who understood this intrinsically was Michael Tomson, a colourful legend from the surf industry who in the 1980s founded the brand that kicked off all the hype, Gotcha.

Gotcha’s fluorescent colours assaulted the senses and its marketing offered no apologies. In one of its most famous campaigns it proudly showed its allegiances, growling at consumers with the phrase: “If you don’t surf, don’t start.”

In sport today, an incredible story about geopolitics and basketball. The Houston Rockets, once the home of globally relevant star Yao Ming, have swiftly become pariahs in China. Why? Deadspin has a good rundown of what happened, all of it beginning with a mere tweet from Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of Hong Kong protests. Now the team is facing a blackout, which would be an absolute disaster for any pro sports team trying to cash in on such a lucrative market.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, pass on this signup form to them. And if you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme.

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