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Phil Twyford looking out the window of a new Kiwibuild house (Getty Images)
Phil Twyford looking out the window of a new Kiwibuild house (Getty Images)

The BulletinMay 10, 2019

The Bulletin: Will Phil Twyford’s career survive Kiwibuild?

Phil Twyford looking out the window of a new Kiwibuild house (Getty Images)
Phil Twyford looking out the window of a new Kiwibuild house (Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: National calls for housing minister to be sacked, iwi vows no more children will be taken by Oranga Tamariki, and Christchurch businesses fear hard winter.

Housing minister Phil Twyford hasn’t been the happiest camper during this term of government. He came into office with vast, visionary plans for housing. One of the biggest root causes of inequality in New Zealand would be utterly transformed. That was 18 months ago, and now he’s facing another absolute debacle of a backtrack on Kiwibuild.

Interest reports that the full target of 100,000 new Kiwibuild houses in a decade is now no longer something that he can give his full support to. You might remember that earlier in the year, it came out that Kiwibuild wouldn’t be meeting the interim targets set for this year, but at the time Mr Twyford insisted the final target would still be met. Now there’s going to be a reset of the government’s whole approach to housing, at some unspecified time in the future. He says the mood has changed since the government came in, when the major focus was on getting first home buyers into houses, but now he’s doing a lot of thinking about matters like rental affordability. But as Radio NZ reports, that recalibration and reset won’t go to Cabinet until after the Budget, which will be on the 30th of May.

In the meantime, Mr Twyford is a huge, walking target for the National party. Newshub reports that National MP Judith Collins has called on him to resign, saying Kiwibuild had failed. That’s a reference to earlier statements by Mr Twyford that he’d stake his career on the success of Kiwibuild. Judith Collins also offered some unsolicited advice to the government that their housing reset would go a lot better if they got rid of both Mr Twyford and the Kiwibuild programme.

The problem is, many of the issues with Kiwibuild and housing generally are completely outside of the control of any minister – after all, look at what a poor job the previous National government did on the issue. That’s a conclusion drawn by this editorial in the Listener, who say that Mr Twyford made his own bed “having arrogantly sneered at all those who dared question his strategy and timetable.”

Way back in January, PM Jacinda Ardern said there’d be a reshuffle of the ministerial ranks after the Budget – here’s a report on that from Newstalk ZB. She’s standing by Mr Twyford at the moment, and deputy PM Winston Peters appears to be as well. But one wonders if the PM has read the ministerial report card from NZ Herald (paywalled) political editor Audrey Young. She gave Mr Twyford a rating of 4 out of 10 – the lowest equal rating for the whole bunch – but had an interesting final comment on his future prospects: “Too senior to be ditched but can’t be feeling secure in his portfolios.”

Hawke’s Bay iwi Ngāti Kahungunu have vowed to not led any more children be uplifted by the state, reports Hawke’s Bay Today. About 3 Māori babies aged younger than 3 months old are uplifted every week by Oranga Tamariki. It follows a Newsroom report into one of those attempted upliftings, in which a standoff developed between midwives and the mother of a baby on one side, and police and Oranga Tamariki on the other attempting to take the baby. Mothers often have no chance to defend themselves against the sometimes anonymous accusations that lead to children being taken.

Christchurch CBD businesses are fearing that their toughest winter since the earthquakes is about to hit, reports Radio NZ. Hospitality businesses have been closing all year, which is a bad sign because normally the trend is for places to have to close nearer the end of winter. On paper, it has been a positive start to the year with consumer spending up, but that’s tending to go towards places that are already doing fine.

A few announcements have been made at a ‘Just Transition’ summit in Taranaki, reports Radio NZ. The summit is aimed at reassuring the region that they won’t be left behind with the increasing untenability of fossil fuel exploration due to climate change. $27 million has been put towards a clean energy centre, along with another $20 million for a new energy research fund.

Meanwhile, it always pays to remember that climate change is a global problem, so let’s check in how it’s going for one of our mates overseas. Canadian environmental publication The Narwhal reports that because of rising temperatures, drought, and die-offs, forests there are no longer acting as carbon sinks. In fact when forest fires are factored in, they’re actually emitting more carbon than they’re storing. In case anyone was in any doubt, yes, that is incredibly bad news.

Fears are being voiced that domestic violence has become normalised in New Zealand. That comes out of a feature from North and South’s Venetia Sherson, who has taken a long term look at the issue. Sherson writes that often domestic violence is downplayed in the media, compared to other forms of violence. And it’s a fair point – there’s not a lot of day to day reporting on domestic violence – it’s often hidden away. The only counter example I can think of is the powerful Better Than This series run a few years ago by the NZ Herald.

Head to head debates have started between the two likeliest candidates for Auckland mayor. Mayor Phil Goff and John Tamihere joined the AM Show yesterday morning, chewing over in particular the clean-out Tamihere is proposing for Auckland Transport. That sort of seems like a bit of a proxy war between them though, symbolic of how they’d go about actually governing. Tamihere’s slogan is that he wants to “shake it up”, whereas Goff is pitching himself as a competent achiever with more to do.

There are some fun bits and pieces in the latest Pecuniary register of interests. The Spinoff’s Don Rowe has picked out some of the weirder numbers, including for example the MP that owns 3 different family homes. One of the most topical discoveries in the register is that Huawei gave Labour MPs tickets to All Blacks games – that comes out of a Stuff report – Huawei of course being the company that bid and was then blocked from getting the 5G network contract.

A delegation of Wairoa’s finest have made their way to parliament to ask the government for a new approach to supporting the town. Hawke’s Bay Today reports the delegation want to set up a community trust, partially funded by the government, which would then push money towards projects with local backing. They got a pretty strong reception too, with government MPs, ministers and MP advisors hearing them out. Local Ikāroa-Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri said successive governments had either forgotten about towns like Wairoa, or taken a top down approach to solving their problems, and neither had worked.

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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Right now on The Spinoff: Asher Emanuel has a really interesting piece on sentencing for class A drugs – those are the hard ones – and whether the tide is turning on the punitive approach to them. Business is Boring talks to the people behind an innovative co-working space, which hopes to unlock the potential of South Auckland. Miriam Moore wonders why Dancing with the Stars is so harsh towards women contestants, and whether the show has a problem with women. And Sam Grover looks into the strange case of a small group of pensioners trying to block a major new apartment building on Dominion Road.

Today’s feature is a majestic piece of food writing, and it works so well because it’s not really about the food at all. It’s by Metro editor Henry Oliver, and it’s about the chef behind Pasture, the Auckland fine dining restaurant that the magazine gave their top award to this year. And it goes deep inside what trying to keep a restaurant going can do to a talented and creative person – it both gives them a vital outlet to express their art, and destroys their life in the process. Here’s an excerpt:

Months after opening, Verner had a nervous breakdown and had to shut the restaurant for three days. “I was trembling, I was crying,” he says. “I was like, ‘I can’t do this’. For months, I’d wake up with nausea, like I was going to throw up every morning, just from the pressure of it all.”

Later, Pasture’s entire staff, other than Ed and Laura, quit at the same time. The atmosphere in the kitchen could deteriorate in conflict. Verner developed a reputation as someone difficult to work for. Some chefs worked a single day and never came back. “I certainly wasn’t equipped at the start,” he says. “It’s tough to be great in every area — to be a creative person, the cook, the manager, the leader. And I’d never been a head chef before. So I’m the first to admit I was never the best leader. I know people don’t say great things about me, but I don’t feel it’s because I treat people out of turn, or badly, it’s just because I’ve got my head down, going so hard, I’m not managing or looking after things I should be, thinking about things I should be, and then people’s wheels start to come off. It makes me sad.”

There seems to be a disproportionately large number of Tottenham fans in New Zealand, if twitter is anything to go by. And they were in raptures yesterday morning, when the London club somehow came from three goals down on aggregate against Ajax to win a place in the Champions League final. It’s pretty incredible for two fixtures in a row to go so close, with Liverpool also somehow pulling off a miracle against Barcelona. Now fans of both English clubs have a new challenge, reports the Guardian – price gouging for flights and accommodation to the final in Madrid.

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