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The BulletinJuly 12, 2018

The Bulletin: Battle lines drawn in renters’ rights war

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Lobby group wants to fundamentally reshape tenancy laws, nurses go on strike, and business leaders pledge action on climate change.

Tenant rights group Renters United have put out a 36 point plan that they say will dramatically improve the lot of renters in New Zealand, reports Newshub. They are breaking their plan down into four areas – stable homes, fair rent, safe and healthy homes, and meaningful enforcement – effectively strengthening the powers of the Tenancy Tribunal to ping bad landlords. One of the major things they want is more tenure security – giving tenants significantly greater decision making power over when and why they leave a property.

Are such changes needed? There’s a strong case in favour. The other day The Wireless published this piece (you might remember it from The Bulletin) about the unbalanced number claims being taken, and outcomes from the Tenancy Tribunal. It comes across at basically an endless stream of evictions, with only a small number of claims being brought by tenants. In part this is because it is well understood by tenants that taking a claim to the Tribunal can get them blacklisted by other landlords. This story from Stuff also notes that tenants are much more likely to live in damp, mouldy homes, compared to owner-occupiers.

Naturally, landlords absolutely hate the Renters United plan. Andrew King from the NZ Property Investors Federation wrote this opinion piece for Stuff, in which he basically went through the 36 point plan line by line, and disagreed with almost all of it. In fact, Mr King does want to see laws changed – to make it easier for landlords to chase down tenants for rent in arrears or property damage costs.

Regardless, many people will be glad to see an organisation that acts on behalf of tenants start making noise. Remember, it was only a couple of years ago that multi-millionaire landlord Ron Goodwin was telling landlords that they “shouldn’t be too kind” to tenants. But the positive reaction to the Renters United programme from organisations like VUWSACPAG, the Disabled Persons Assembly and the Council of Trade Unions shows that there’s a pretty broad range of support for these sorts of measures.

So will Renters United be able to get these measures past the government? Yes and no. This Stuff story has a few details right at the end about what the government has committed to, and what will likely be too far for them. The European-style model of secure tenancies is incredibly unlikely, but along with a Rental Warrant of Fitness system, there is likely to be a series of small nudges to laws in favour of tenants.

At about the same time this email hits your inbox, nurses will be going out on strike for 24 hours. Mediation failed late afternoon yesterday. Newshub have a good rundown of what to expect today if you need to go to hospital.

There’s been a fair bit of commentary around how much exactly nurses get paid, relative to the job they do. Stuff has a very useful breakdown of starting pay rates across industries, and by that measurements, nurses are certainly underpaid. Of course, it could be argued that all sorts of front line public service professions are underpaid – I suppose we’ll see that argument put to the test now that teachers have announced they too will strike.

Not every nurse will be on strike. Some will be engaged in life preserving services and emergency work, to mitigate risks to patients. Stuff spoke to two Christchurch nurses who will be on opposite sides of the picket lines today, but on the same side of the dispute.

Business leaders have pledged that they will join together to take action on climate change. Z Energy is one such company that have joined up, and their CEO Mike Bennett spoke to The Spinoff about why. It will be self-regulating, and companies will release the results themselves. So some might feel it’s fair enough to be a bit cynical about this, but climate scientist James Renwick says this is a real opportunity. Dr Renwick says he’s excited by the pledge, but it will be crucial that the companies are held to account, so that they actually follow through.

I missed this story yesterday, but here it is today: Despite being eligible, many families are waiting months to get into social housing, reports Stuff. The average and median wait times families face are detailed in the story, and the ministry of social development stressed that each individual wait time was influenced by unique factors.

E-Commerce giant Shopify plans to create 100 jobs in Wellington, reports Stuff. Mayor Justin Lester is chuffed about it, and it’s a nice boost for a city that is keen on growing employment from sources other than the public service.

Plastics are piling up in Southland, after China’s decision to stop taking the rest of the world’s rubbish, reports the Southland Times. WasteNet Southland, who have a recycling processing contract with three councils, say they’re having to sell plastics at a loss, or simply stockpile them while they find a new buyer.

Just as an aside about this – it feels like this story has been a bit under the radar, which is surprising, because it’s really a moment of reckoning for how the world deals with waste. For a long time, we were able to feel good about ourselves because we recycled, even though the actual plastics were all really just sent out of sight, and out of mind. But there is literally only one way out of this problem – we need to dramatically reduce how much plastic gets used in the first place. So I want your suggestions: Send us any quick and easy tip you know for reducing plastic consumption, and I’ll put it out to the rest of the readers –

Last year, the Labour Party pledged an extra $38 million to fund Radio NZ. What has now been delivered is most definitely not $38 million. Rather, $15 million has been divvied up between RNZ, NZ on Air, and a new “innovation fund.” Mediawatch has a handy analysis of what it all means. Duncan Greive has also had a look at the funding, and says it’s an exercise in how to spend $15 million, without giving anyone what they really want.

Even that funding boost for Radio NZ could be unpopular with privately owned media companies. A heavily funded RNZ does, after all, pose an existential threat to their businesses. As Newstalk ZB political editor Barry Soper noted airily on Larry Williams Drive yesterday afternoon, “Radio NZ is the only one that relies totally on taxpayer funds, and as we know by ratings, not everyone listens to it.”

You might have heard that acting PM Winston Peters and Three’s AM Show got in a massive row, and now Mr Peters won’t be doing the standard weekly interview. Either way, this column from Jane Clifton on Noted is an exceptionally good analysis of what the episode means in the context of New Zealand’s relationship between politics and the media. An absolute must read for politics nerds like myself.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Angella Dravid investigates: Who, and what exactly is Leighton Smith? Theologian Aaron Hendry argues that despite what many Christians believe, Jesus would have baked a cake for a same-sex couple getting married. And Adam Goodall reviews the new TV show Wellington Paranormal – a spin off show from the film What We Do In The Shadows.

The Bhopal gas tragedy took place in 1984 in India, but the effects are still being felt by thousands of people. That’s the central thesis of this long read on The Atlantic. Largely, the contamination caused by the gas leak hasn’t been properly cleaned up, because of the mismanagement and indifference of authorities. Here’s an excerpt that sums it up:

“These are reactive solutions to an enduring—and expanding—problem, but the bigger question is: What would it take to clean up the waste?

When I posed this question to Vishvas Sarang, the state minister charged with caring for these communities, he told me plans for the cleanup are underway. He said he had written to the Central Pollution Control Board, India’s equivalent of the EPA, and that he was confident it would be finished quickly. “It’s just a matter of two, three months. It will get done, it’s not a big job.”

That was more than a year ago.”

Teenage wunderkind Sarpreet Singh has been re-signed by the Wellington Phoenix on a new two year deal, reports Newshub. It’s a huge signing, because of what it represents. Singh has been impressive for the All Whites in their recent Four Nations tournament, and could’ve probably had options with other teams or in other leagues. But for Singh to sign up with the Phoenix shows that he thinks the club has a future. Long-suffering fans of the Nix take heart – this year may actually be better than the last.

Football World Cup results and spoilers

It’s coming home! Possibly, that is. England are playing Croatia right now for the chance to meet France in the final, and scored within the first couple of minutes, and at half-time it was 1-0. Now you might remember I put out a call for picks as to who will make the finals – it’s looking like we might have two bragging rights winners, but I won’t give their names yet.

From our partners, Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha writes that while making and selling electricity from the comfort of home might sound like some dodgy online scam, it’s not as far-fetched as you might think.

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