The foundations are being laid. Photo: Getty

The Bulletin: Effects of RMA reform still years away

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: RMA reform timeline unveiled, warning about avoiding the water after an earthquake, and Green MP explains why he went back to Mexico.

It’s not exactly breaking news, but the repealing and replacing of the Resource Management Act is going to be among the biggest things done this term of government. Yesterday environment minister David Parker outlined the shape of what the replacement legislation would be, and the timeline for how it would be put in place. I’ve got a cheat sheet on all of that you can read. In short, it’s a huge legislative overhaul, with the government trying to change the settings to get more houses built, better protect the environment, and start responding and adapting to the effects of climate change.

The fact that it will take so long isn’t down to slowness or laziness – it really is that big of a project. Analysing it, Politik described it as “probably the most fundamental and complex legislative reform put before Parliament in decades.” We’re unlikely to see the effects of it until at least 2024, but that article suggested there will be applause for the government trying to take it all on at once, rather than constant smaller moves to tinker with bits here and there.

Another important feature of the law change will be an increased role and recognition for Māori, under Te Tiriti. Te Ao News reports “this includes recognising the concept of Te Mana o te Taiao; giving effect to the principles of Te Titiri o Waitangi, providing for specified Tikanga Māori outcomes and promoting effective participation by mana whenua.”

In response to the package, National called for more urgency. In a release, spokesperson Nicola Willis said the government is not moving fast enough to make house building easier, and pointed to an offer made by the party to work with the government on emergency legislation to bridge the gap. “Now Labour plans to spend another three years moving RMA legislation through Parliament. Given the time it will also take local councils to amend their plans, it could easily be the late 2020s before any of these changes take effect.”


Don’t go in the water today around Northland down to the East Coast, with strong and unusual currents and patterns predicted. Radio NZ reports a 7.7 magnitude earthquake has hit near New Caledonia, and there may now be tsunami activity. Other islands around the Pacific are under a tsunami watch. According to NDTV, there have been no official reports of casualties as a result of the earthquake at the time of writing.


National leader Judith Collins has heavily criticised Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March over travelling to Mexico, reports Newshub. She questioned why he would go when spaces in MIQ are limited, and said that “MPs have to set a better example.” Also on this story, it was reported by Radio NZ that a request had been made for the MP to get an emergency MIQ spot to return, but the request was declined by MBIE.

But to put the full story in context, Menéndez March released a long statement on his facebook page outlining the circumstances of his trip. His step-mother is battling breast cancer, and has not been given long to live. The flights back to Mexico were booked after he was elected to parliament, and that party co-leader had “rightfully” made it clear to MBIE that he shouldn’t get special treatment through MIQ. A relevant quote: “I understand that many New Zealanders do not have the resources or the available leave from work to go and visit their very sick and dying parents. I understand the collective loss in that and I acknowledge that the difficult decision I made to return to Tijuana was also one grounded in good fortune.” He’ll be on Morning Report today to answer questions about it all.

*Correction: The email version of today’s Bulletin said the flights were booked before the election – they were booked after Menéndez March became an MP.


Rocket Lab’s next launch will include a military satellite designed to improve targeting capabilities for US warfighters, reports Ollie Neas for The Spinoff. The US military is currently looking at ways to make space power translate to more effective battlefield capabilities, and it would appear the Mahia Peninsula launch site will soon be complicit in that. Rockets launched from New Zealand need to be signed off by both the NZ Space Agency and economic development minister Stuart Nash, with a range of tests including whether the launch is in the national interest. The US military is currently at war in no fewer than seven countries. Green MP Teanau Tuiono criticised the launch, saying “the way Rocket Lab was seamlessly integrated into US spy imperatives is alarming and counter to us being an independent and principled voice in the world.”


I haven’t found space for this story yet, but it’s pretty significant for the rural world and water quality. Radio NZ’s Farah Hancock reports Fonterra cleared the cows off 16 farms, and then used them to dispose of wastewater from milk processing sites. That in turn is suspected of raising nitrate levels in drinking water to potentially dangerous levels. In a follow-up story, the cooperative said they were investigating new ways of reducing nitrate levels in wastewater, and had bought water filtration systems for some of those who had been affected.


China has suspended imports from two New Zealand seafood processing company sites, and the exporters aren’t quite sure why. The NZ Herald’s Andrea Fox reports the most likely explanation is a difference in interpretation of WHO Covid guidelines, but that doesn’t really make any sense to the companies themselves, who say they’re operating at the highest possible standards. They’re working with the government to try and get it resolved.


Good news from parliament – we need never think about ties ever again. After the story hit both the New York Times and the Washington Post, speaker Trevor Mallard opted to make ties optional in the house. My big hope is that we can avoid future brouhahas like this by simply abandoning parliament’s dress code altogether, and let MPs decide for themselves how to respect the institution. But given this change took more than a century to make I won’t hold my breath.


Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz

An architectural rendering of the proposed Olive Leaf building, Arrowtown (Image: Architecture van Brandenburg)

Right now on The Spinoff: Kirsty Frame reports on calls from those with alopecia for more government support. Ben Fahy talks to The Mind Lab’s Saskia Verraes about teaching humans how to use technological disruption to do good, and how to evaluate what ‘doing good’ really means. Hal Crawford writes about a crucial battle between the Australian government and tech companies, and how Microsoft stole a march on their rivals. Justin Latif interviews Vui Mark Gosche about holding leadership roles at the apex of the two great challenges facing South Auckland. Joshua Hitchcock explains the disconnect between the Māori economy and Māori unemployment.

And this is one of the greatest small town yarns I’ve seen in years. Oliver Lewis reports from Arrowtown about the long-running battle over the design of a new church building, and how it has completely divided the community to the point where the matter has gone to court.


For a feature today, a buzzy piece about food grammar, and why cultural knowledge makes some items just seem flat out wrong together. The piece on Atlas Obscura opens with an anecdote about spaghetti and meatballs being bad grammar, along with serving up a samosa as an appetiser, and as a lover of both I was instantly hooked. Here’s an excerpt:

Such “mistranslations” are perhaps nowhere more evident than in chain restaurants offering an idealized vision of a foreign land. In his semiotic analysis of the Italian-American restaurant chain Fazoli’s, Davide Girardelli, a communications researcher and faculty member at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden), identifies color codes (red, white, and green) and other stereotypes of “the basic structure of the myth of Italian food in the United States” as strategies to make the restaurant seem more Italian to American diners. But much like someone speaking English with a fake Italian accent, something about the Fazoli’s experience just doesn’t ring true.

Restaurants like Fazoli’s at once denature Italian food and lock it in time. In these spaces, much like on Ocracoke Island, where locals still speak a version of Elizabethan English, cuisines become divorced from the natural progression back home. At Fazoli’s, writes Girardelli, “Italy is depicted as a place inhabited by huge and fertile families, a country that is ‘frozen’ in a rural preindustrial reality, where the produce is still handpicked and delivered to the closest market.”

Such devotion to a now-defunct tradition, says Albala, can have strange repercussions on a cuisine taken out of its homeland. “Sometimes it becomes ossified,” he says. “It stays the same, because people think, ‘Oh, this is the way the recipe is made, it has to be done this correct way.’ Whereas back in the home country, it’s evolved and changed already.”


Gymnastics NZ has formally apologised to those in the sporting community who suffered abuse, after a serious independent review. Stuff reports that abuse included “psychological, physical and verbal abuse, fat shaming, ongoing issues with mental well-being and body image, and athletes expected to compete on serious injuries.” Gymnastics New Zealand chief executive Tony Compier commended the bravery of those who came forward to speak out about it, and said a lot of hard work would go into addressing it going forward.


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