Teachers on strike picketing in Ponsonby in 2018 (Radio NZ, Katie Scotcher)

The Bulletin: Primary teachers, government at a stalemate

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Another teacher strike looms after offer rejected, Crusaders sources say PM’s office is pressuring for name change, and warnings sounded over prescription drug.

Negotiations between the NZEI and the government have hit another roadblock, with primary teachers overwhelmingly rejecting the offered deal. In a release, they said the ball was now in the government’s court to improve the offer – with the total package costed at around $700 million. If not, they’re warning that a campaign of strike action will begin in the middle of May, with two weeks of ‘work to rule’ policies followed by a national day of strike action.

The arguments that the union is making have been well covered, and the negotiation positions are reported on in the most depth by the NZ HeraldTeachers say the sector is dangerously under-resourced, and pay and conditions need to be fundamentally and structurally improved to keep teachers in the profession. There’s a huge shortage of teachers, and teachers say the current offer won’t make a difference.

So with the government saying there isn’t any more money, where to now? A ministry spokesperson told the NZ Herald they were open to discussing how the package got allocated. But they say it can’t really be improved, and especially not to the level that the NZEI is asking for. That was pointed out in this interview on Checkpoint last night, with NZEI President Lynda Stuart being reminded that the Employment Relations Authority has previously sided with the government over whether the offer was fair. Ms Stuart countered that they didn’t agree that their request was unrealistic, and pointed out that teachers just aren’t lasting long in the job before leaving under current conditions. It isn’t clear whether there can be a forced mediation or settlement to end the dispute.

Strikes were set to take place at the start of the month, but were cancelled after the Christchurch attacks. But now they’re back on the table, and could involve secondary school teachers as well, who also have an unresolved dispute. And for the government, it’s a continuation of a headache that lingered throughout pretty much all of last year.

For education minister Chris Hipkins as well, it’s another serving of pain on a plate. He gave a wide ranging interview to Q+A last night (part one and two here) and it was notable how much the topics jumped around. His workload already included rolling out a fees free policy for Universities, trying to reform the ITO and polytech sector, and dramatic changes to how schools are governed. Somehow as well he’s also got to find the brain capacity to think about whether Victoria University’s name should be changed, and and other flare-ups that occur. Mr Hipkins came into office with the fresh features of a Head Prefect. By the time this term is up, he might look more like a long-serving deputy Principal, such are the pressures he’s under.


Crusaders sources have told Newstalk ZB’s Alex Mason that PM Ardern and Minister for Sport Grant Robertson are pushing behind the scenes for a name change. That could contradict what the PM says her role has been, which she says has been to merely observe the process. The report also indicates there is a feeling within the Super Rugby franchise that a name change is basically a done deal, with the consultation process “about being seen to do the right thing.” The write-up of the story has been published on the NZ Herald. (UPDATE) Woah, huge and heavy denials from all of the PM, Grant Robertson, and Crusaders CEO Colin Mansbridge, who all say there is no truth to the story. Full update in tomorrow’s Bulletin.


Warnings are being sounded about a prescription drug linked to overdoses in the US opioid epidemic, reports StuffGabapentin​’s popularity among addicts is reportedly rocketing up, and the deaths of people who had taken it led to it being more strictly controlled in some US states. However, in New Zealand it can be prescribed for any condition, after a decision from Pharmac last year.


Bad weather is closing in on the West Coast again, putting at risk rubbish cleanup efforts. One News reported last night that despite a huge volunteer turnout, there’s still an enormous amount to do, and more rain could stir up rubbish that got trapped on riverbeds and under the sea floor. Much of the coastline is inaccessible, which will also make life difficult for those pitching in. Witnesses are reporting seeing sea birds and other wildlife eating the plastic as well, which for many could be fatal.


Terms of reference for the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch mosque attack have been released. Supreme Court Justice Sir William Young will chair it, and it is expected to report back in December. Stuff reports it will look at “the specific circumstances leading up to the mosque shootings on March 15 that left 50 people dead.” PM Jacinda Ardern says the appointment of a Supreme Court judge ensures it will be able to operate independently of the government.


Environmental groups are pushing for changes to regulations around forestry, reports Radio NZ. It comes from an analysis conducted by the EDS and Forest and Bird, in the wake of disasters like the one that hit Tologa Bay last year, where massive volumes of logging debris was sent flying by heavy rain. The groups say forestry comes with high risks, both for worker safety and environmental effects, and regulation needed to be tougher.


Here’s a story that could send interesting ripples through the business world. The head of the Financial Markets Authority has savaged the principle of shareholder primacy in business, reports Interest, saying instead companies should be anchored in what’s good for the community and the country. It remains to be seen whether the words are a statement of intent towards action, though Rob Everett assured his audience that he hadn’t “gone Communist.” But it does reflect what seems to be an increasingly popular mood around the world that the ruthless aspects of capitalism have gone too far.


If someone on Waiheke Island isn’t getting back to your emails, this might be why. The NZ Herald reports a sea cable has been cut, badly affecting cellphone and broadband coverage. It could take days to repair. (UPDATE, 7.22am) Actually, it has been fixed after all, and the fault was on land, so please disregard the earlier version.


Finally, if there’s a journalist in your life who seems especially tense and irritable this morning, there might be a reason for that. Finalists for the Voyager Media Awards are expected to be announced today. Good luck to everyone in our industry, but in the fine tradition of journalistic competition and pettiness, hopefully the luck of people from other organisations isn’t too good, you know?


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Rod Duke’s unfinished helipad at Sentinel Beach as it looks now. (photo: Instagram/leelorat)

Right now on The Spinoff: PM Jacinda Ardern speaks to Toby Manhire in a wide ranging interview about her response to the Christchurch attack. Veteran Hamilton councillor Dave Macpherson gives his version of the work the organisation does, amid bad headlines for many of his colleagues. Maria Slade takes on the helipad monstrosity Briscoes boss Rod Duke has built into Sentinel Bay in Auckland. Danyl Mclauchlan explores the concept of effective altruism, and why it both encourages and concerns him. And Maria Slade (again) interviews Recorded Music New Zealand CEO Damian Vaughan about the fact that artists are making money again.


Today’s feature is a subtly brutal column from Stuff’s Auckland Council specialist Todd Niall. He has castigated Auckland’s Councillors for their lack of vision in getting behind a high-tech and environmentally friendly ferry building company, when it could become a world-leading firm based in Auckland. It’s an opinion piece, but one based on many decades worth of building up knowledge about the city and its systems. Here’s an excerpt:

Finding a way to put several e-ferries onto the harbour by 2021, you’d think would be a task the council could and would want to greatly assist. But instead of asking, “How can we help?” councillors asked minor technical questions of Eaglen.

Mayor Phil Goff asked how far they could travel and how long it took to re-charge a ferry.

Eaglen sees the market as one with few overseas competitors at the moment – a chance for Auckland and New Zealand firms to move quickly and get a jump globally.

Councillors thanked him for his presentation.


A set of intense bouts have got the roller derby season underway for Nelson’s Sirens of Smash, reports the Nelson Mail. If you don’t have the faintest clue about how Roller Derby works, don’t worry, the story has some details on that. What jumped out at me is that Levin’s Whenua Fatales (who beat the Sirens) are ranked in the top 10 in the country. I could be wrong, and Levin locals please correct me if so, but does that make the Whenua Fatales the town’s most successful sports team across all codes?

Meanwhile the ANZ Premiership playoffs aren’t quite a done deal yet, reports Stuff. There has been a huge gap between the top 3 and bottom 3, but that has been narrowed somewhat with the Waikato BOP Magic seeing off the Northern Stars last night. More worryingly for the Stars, who are pushing for a first ever playoffs berth, their shooting was appalling, and they’ve got to try and recover before their next game which is against the mighty Southern Steel.


From our partners: Climate change has already affected how electricity gets delivered to customers, and it’s only going to get more challenging. Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha outlines what the lines company is doing to respond.


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