Coastal erosion at Pakawau, at the top of the South Island (Radio NZ)

The Bulletin: Ocean creeps ever closer to coastal houses

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Pair of stories highlight coastal erosion, PM responds to allegations against Labour party, and report details complex Afghanistan operations for spy agencies.

Over the weekend, two incredibly similar stories were playing out on opposite sides of the country. Both related to the fact that coasts are being eroded away by rising seas. And above all, they’re both about people having to go inland to escape.

In Port Waikato on the West Coast, Stuff reported on a couple being told they couldn’t go back to a house that they have a deep sentimental attachment to, because erosion is taking place dangerously quickly. The sea got about two metres closer every year this century, a rapid advance that has also resulted in the Port Waikato Community Hall being red-stickered. The couple knew the risks when they bought the place, but thought they’d have more time.

Over at Wainui Beach on the outskirts of Gisborne, Radio NZ, a sea wall was damaged by heavy swells. But it highlighted how much erosion is happening there too, and how living on the oceanfront is now a question of managing the advance of the sea.

To highlight the point, it’s worth re-sharing this Stuff piece from 2016, which uses satellite imagery to mark the passage of time. It notes that erosion is a natural process with the sea, and there is a degree of inevitability about it. But the process is being exacerbated by climate change, which means like with the Port Waikato owners, it may happen much faster than those right on the coasts expect. The costs are piling up, and sea walls and other defences will only hold back the tide for so long.


Jacinda Ardern has responded to allegations of sexual assault made against a Labour party staffer, reports The Spinoff. The PM said she was deeply concerned and frustrated about the process followed by the party, and that she hadn’t been told that the allegations were of a sexual nature. She said she would now await the findings of a QC’s report, and would be expecting that to be delivered directly to her. It was also reported yesterday by Stuff’s Andrea Vance and Alison Mau that complaints about the staffer’s alleged conduct were not investigated for six months, after being brought to the attention of the Labour party.

I would also like to share this editorial on the matter, by Alex Casey, Toby Manhire and Duncan Greive. It highlights that it was the second time in as many years that the party has badly let down young people, and that it simply isn’t good enough.


A report has concluded NZ spy agencies weren’t complicit in CIA torture programmes in Afghanistan, but there’s more to the story than that. Politik has a good rundown on former Inspector-General Cheryl Gwyn’s report, which also found that spy bosses weren’t fully aware of the risks of becoming embroiled in unlawful activity, and in particular found shoddy record keeping on the part of the GCSB. The story also notes that former PM Helen Clark’s cabinet made the decision that any prisoners captured by NZ forces should be handed over to the US military, according to former GCSB and SIS director Dr Warren Tucker. Over on the NZ Herald, (paywalled) David Fisher notes that it will be the final report of Gwyn’s tenure, in which she never held back from holding spy agencies to account.


Auckland councillor Christine Fletcher has backed policy shifts made by running mate John Tamihere in her overseas absence, reports Stuff’s Todd Niall. It’s a diplomatically written story, as it always is from Niall, but shows some quite considerable reversals in positions held by Fletcher recently. They include her jumping on board the proposal to freeze rates, and also now agreeing to scrap the regional fuel tax that Fletcher herself voted for.


Despite service provision rising, it is still falling short of demand for disability support in schools, reports Radio NZ’s John Gerritsen. While the average time spent on the waiting list has remained at 80 days, the lists themselves have got longer. Part of the problem is that it is taking a long time for additional funding to filter through, particularly in finding and hiring qualified staff.


The NZ Shareholders Association is turning their gaze towards Fonterra, where the share price has plummeted, reports the NBR (paywalled.) In particular, they’re curious about a change in auditors. Speaking of Fonterra, to cooperative last week announced that their annual results will be delayed by two weeks.


It’s te wiki o te reo Māori, and this is a really interesting piece about a woman who had the language, lost it, and is trying to get it back. Radio NZ’s Te Aniwa Hurihanganui spoke to former kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa student Tewaia Nuku about being denied the chance to do Māori at high school because she was considered too advanced, but that meant that it slipped away. Now at university, she isn’t going to let another chance go.


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David Scott. Photo: RNZ/Richard Tindiller

Right now on The Spinoff: Andrew Geddis writes about the limits of the law when it comes to a Kāpiti District Councillor convicted of indecent assault. Emily Writes tears into some bizarre criticisms of home-births, published in the royal New Zealand Herald. Psychologist Dougal Sutherland writes about The Block turning into a show based on destroying relationships, rather than building houses. And Catherine Woulfe interviews journalist Gabrielle Jackson, who has written a book about why medicine needs a feminist reckoning.


Judging by the URL of this piece, the original title was pretty accurate – nobody loves radiata. Eloise Gibson at Newsroom has profiled the deeply unpopular pine tree (outside the forestry industry at least) and found that it has huge advantages over natives at sucking up carbon – but the comparisons can’t really be reduced down to any one factor. Here’s an excerpt:

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Right now, it’s hard for someone wanting to invest in planting natives to know what they are truly in for in terms of growth rates around the country, says Hall. “We’ve got ourselves locked into one kind of forest system,” he says. “One of the problems is the fact that there is a huge amount of knowledge gaps and what knowledge and data there is scattered about the place.”

The lack of long-term studies on indigenous forest make it hard to get rigorous comparisons on carbon, says Horgan. There is also the question of whether the native species that are studied have been planted on poor land, since people sometimes plant natives on land too scrappy to plant anything else. “You haven’t got a representative sample,” says Horgan.


The Women’s Black Sticks have confirmed their place at the Tokyo Olympics next year, reports Stuff. It came after a series win against Australia, and also pushes the Australians into a much tougher qualification track for Tokyo. For the Black Sticks, it shows they’re increasingly becoming a team capable of clutch moments – after all, they also beat Australia in Australia to win a Commonwealth Games gold last year.


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