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The BulletinDecember 11, 2018

The Bulletin: Shock, grief as Grace Millane murder-accused goes to court


Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Man appears in court charged with murder of British backpacker Grace Millane, little progress made on child poverty, and National responds to UN pact critics.

A 26 year old man has appeared in court, charged with the murder of 22 year old British backpacker Grace Millane. The exact circumstances of her death are still not clear, however the last confirmed sighting of her was with the accused man, at an Auckland hotel. Grace Millane was found dead in the Waitākere Ranges on Sunday afternoon.

The case has caused an outpouring of shock and grief at a level that isn’t often seen in New Zealand. PM Jacinda Ardern addressed it at her post-cabinet press conference, and One News reports that she apologised on behalf of New Zealanders to the family of Ms Millane, saying it had brought shame to the country. Ms Millane’s father David is currently in New Zealand, after flying out last week before police found her.

For many, the case represents the violence that women fear from the hands of men, writes Women’s Rights Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Dr Karanina Sumeo. The case has resonated hugely partly for this reason, and because many identify with those involved. It’s explained really eloquently by Waveney Russ on The Spinoff, who writes about identifying with Grace Millane, and the experience of trauma even if you didn’t know the person. Waveney Russ writes that those are normal feelings to have.

On the man accused of the murder, it’s important to remember that his name is currently suppressed. As such, it is in the interests of justice and a fair trial that you don’t publish the accused’s name or identifying details, until that suppression is lifted. That includes posting it on social media, or in the comments on websites. It doesn’t matter if overseas websites have published it – it remains against the law here. It also doesn’t matter that the judge initially denied his lawyer’s request for name suppression – because an appeal was made suppression orders automatically apply.

Vigils to mourn the death of Grace Millane will be taking place around New Zealand over the next few days. And there are many practical ways that you can offer support in the coming days, compiled here, to help the organisations that are trying to end violence against women. That includes actions and lessons that men can and should take on board in the wake of this tragedy.

The latest figures on child poverty show little progress has been made to reduce the numbers of kids growing up in deprivation, reports Radio NZ. The grim numbers come from the latest Child Poverty Monitor report, which had the alarming top-line figure that one in five children are growing up in households without adequate healthy food. The findings are particularly concerning for Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft, because of the inter-related nature of poverty related problems. They include worse educational outcomes and significantly increased risks to health.

Meanwhile, demand for food parcels from the Auckland City Mission has soared, reports Newshub. They’ll be distributing them from Eden Park this year for their Christmas drive, and say the increase in demand is “frightening.”

The government has pulled back from confirming it will sign the UN Global Compact on Migration, reports Stuff. The non-binding document has taken on significance after National announced they would pull out of the agreement if it was signed. PM Jacinda Ardern says the current meetings in Morocco are ceremonial, and there is time to seek more information before the official signing date of the 17th.

Speaking of which, National’s foreign affairs spokesperson Todd McClay has outlined why the party opposes the agreement in this post on The Spinoff. Mr McClay says the non-binding nature is a red herring, because “countries should only sign up to agreements when they are committed to putting in place the terms of the document they are signing.” Mr McClay’s piece is in response to Harvard Law School doctoral candidate Sam Bookman’s argument that National was pandering to the alt-right by opposing the agreement.

But writing on Politik this morning, Richard Harman argues that there’s really one target of all of this politicking, and that is NZ First leader and foreign minister Winston Peters. Mr Harman argues that National are trying to wedge Mr Peters out at the next election, and this is an issue they can use to embarrass him in front of his base.

The government is looking at new ways to protect businesses and consumers from “unfair commercial practices”, reports Interest. There’s a grey area which they’re concerned about, in which some businesses behave unethically or unfairly, but their actions are not technically against the law. Consultation will be happening on the subject, and a discussion document has been released.

The water in Napier is running brown again, reports Stuff. There was work on the pipes over the weekend so a small area was expected to have brown water. But the actual effect was wider than anticipated, and the Council fielded 125 complaints over the week. Local residents say they’re frustrated it keeps happening.

Refugees on Manus Island are suing the Australian government for crimes against humanity and torture, reports Radio NZ. Around 1200 people are covered in the two class action lawsuits that have been filed. The aims of the lawsuit are two-fold – to both get damages, and to stop the detention practices that led to the lawsuit in the first place.

The NZ Herald is reporting that Kiwibuild boss Stephen Barclay is embroiled in an employment dispute with the government department. Mr Barclay hasn’t been at work, but the ministry says he hasn’t resigned, and they won’t be making any further comment at this stage. The Herald says their source has revealed the dispute, and that it is over the transfer of Kiwibuild to a new ministry, away from MBIE.

This is a heartbreaking feature on the hidden mental health crisis among Pasifika people, by Indira Stewart for Radio NZ. People in those communities are affected by mental health problems at high rates, but few seek help. And few community leaders – particularly in the church – make their voices heard on the issue. Fair warning, this is quite a tough read.

From our partners at Vector: The pros and cons of putting solar panels on the roof of your home are well debated. But what about the empty rooftop spaces on commercial buildings throughout our country? PowerSmart’s Sam Vivian explains why more New Zealand businesses are adding commercial solar systems to their buildings.

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L-R: Hau Botanicals wāhine body oil, Tukau Legacy’s Mana i te Whenua crew, Rewa Rosé méthode traditionnelle from Tohu wines.

Right now on The Spinoff: Duncan Greive has taken on a ludicrously massive job – he’s going to spend the week outlining the state of each media company’s market position as of right now. Yesterday it was TVNZ’s turn, and there’ll be another one every day until Sunday. Leonie Hayden has some wonderful suggestions for a Christmas gift guide that will help support Māori businesses. And Alice Neville goes digging deep into ACC data to discover once and for all what the most dangerous vegetable is.

Best Journalism of 2018: Today we’re back to highlighting the work of a single journalist. It has been a popular suggestion that this champion of the people gets included. I’m talking of course about NZ Herald investigative reporter Kirsty Johnston, who in the past couple of years has broken some big, ongoing stories that reveal a side of New Zealand that had been hidden.

The feature for today highlighted the social stratification that the university system perpetuates. I’ll turn the floor over to Rosie, one of the nominators who suggested this particular story, as to why she chose it. “I still regularly think about Kirsty Johnston’s piece about universities being increasingly a place of privilege and the ramifications of that. Almost every week a story comes up about inequality in wider society and I find myself thinking – unequal access to university is contributing to that issue. It was an incredibly well-researched story that required massive data crunching and relentless chasing and, as a result, is still resonating with me months later.”

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Sports clubs in New Zealand are struggling to keep the lights on and the doors open, reports Radio NZ. This feature focuses in on the experience of one Wellington tennis club, to outline the wider trends that are hitting the community sport sector hard. Basically, they keep afloat because of the efforts of a few volunteers who continually have to pick up more.

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