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Firefighters putting out hotspots after the Nelson fires (Radio NZ: Dan Cook)
Firefighters putting out hotspots after the Nelson fires (Radio NZ: Dan Cook)

The BulletinFebruary 13, 2019

The Bulletin: Nelson fires show climate future

Firefighters putting out hotspots after the Nelson fires (Radio NZ: Dan Cook)
Firefighters putting out hotspots after the Nelson fires (Radio NZ: Dan Cook)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Nelson fires give glimpse of climate change future, mystery over Air NZ flight seems to be solved, and working class suburbs experience house price boom.

The conversation around the Nelson fires, which have caused so much disruption and angst, has shifted to the future. There’s been a few strong pieces of reporting and analysis that outline the need to be prepared for these events becoming more frequent, and potentially harder to stop. And while we can’t say that the Nelson fires were caused by climate change, that will make these types of fires much more likely.

Basically, the risk is going to go up a lot because the conditions that fire likes will be more likely to be there. The country will be hotter and drier in many parts. That’s prompted reporting from the NZ Herald and Radio NZ, with RNZ’s report leading with the fact that areas that were previously at a lower or moderate risk will now be at a much higher risk. More scientific detail on the Nelson fires in particular can be found in this Science Media Centre release.

The complexity of the changes in risk different parts of the country will face is unpacked in this piece from Stuff’s Charlie Mitchell, who reports that areas like Dunedin and Wellington will have big relative increases in risk. That’s measured by the number of days per year of extreme fire risk increasing. Before the Nelson fires, Stuff’s Will Harvie covered a report that showed a lot of city fringes will also be in danger, with houses nestled into the bush at high risk. And as the destruction of the Californian town of Paradise showed, fires don’t necessarily stop when they reach the fringes.

How to fight these fires then? Traditionally, firefighters have travelled around the world during respective fire seasons, because these blazes tend to be beyond the resources of any one fire department. So you’ll get stories about New Zealanders going to California during our winter, for example. But those recent California fires also showed that with increased risk, the resources available are being stretched beyond their capacity. It’s weird in a way – we rightly call firefighters who travel to help save lives and homes heroes, but still produce a volume of emissions that make their job harder every year. And they were already heroic, we don’t need to make them prove it against tougher challenges.

It’s also important to note that wildfires themselves have an effect on climate, and carbon emissions. I’m not going to summarise too much of this research covered by InsideClimate News, because it gets quite technical, but the short version is that when forests burn, a huge amount of carbon gets released into the atmosphere – though the overall emissions from these sorts of fires continue to be dwarfed by emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Finally, an update on the Nelson area itself. Māori TV reported yesterday that the state of emergency has been extended in fire-affected areas. The NZ Herald also reports that around 500 people remain evacuated from their homes, and the ban on using farm machinery continues. Over a week of burning, it has become New Zealand’s largest forest fire since 1955.

The mystery surrounding the Air New Zealand plane turned back from China appears to have been solved. The story was broken by Stuff, who report that it was because Air NZ had references to Taiwan on their paperwork – which implies that the island that China claims is a seperate and independent country (which, let’s be real, it clearly is in practice, if not in diplomatic theory.) It’s something that the Chinese government is extremely sensitive about, and Stuff’s sources suggest there were warnings given to Air NZ over the issue.

Some call it gentrification, others call it a housing boom. Regardless, Stuff have put together an interesting report that shows property booms are happening in traditionally working class suburbs. The report focuses in particular on suburbs in the Wellington region, with places like Wainuiomata and Cannons Creek experiencing big lifts. It will be a bit of a mixed blessing though – because the whole market is shifting up, owners in those areas might have higher valued houses, but selling up won’t necessarily mean they’ve got more buying power. And rents across the wider Wellington region are also rising quite a bit, reports Interest, so for those who don’t own homes, it’s not really good news at all.

National won’t be chopping and changing their leader, according the their highest polling MP in the preferred PM stakes. Judith Collins went on Radio NZ last night to declare that she was planning on simply getting on with her job. But meanwhile, Newshub reported another nugget of information from their poll – more National voters prefer Collins over Bridges. In response to that, National MPs gave a range of answers that veered from enthusiastic to tepid support for Mr Bridges.

Police minister Stuart Nash has backed the use of aerial poison drops to kill cannabis plants in Auckland and Northland, reports the NZ Herald. Even though the law was changed last year to allow a legal defence for those in palliative care to use cannabis, Mr Nash insisted that those police thought were growing for commercial purposes are still breaking the law.

Which is totally true – it remains illegal to grow, use or supply cannabis. But serious questions were raised last week on Public Address about whether these annual exercises are in fact a massive waste of valuable police time and money – even if the crops are for the illicit market. It all seems a bit small-fry too, given that it’s common knowledge that serious commercial growing takes place in indoor hydroponic facilities.

There’s skepticism from the Salvation Army about the government’s wellbeing agenda, reports Stuff. They’ve released their annual State of the Nation report, which argues that progress on reducing inequality and poverty has stalled. The Sallies say so far, the wellbeing agenda hasn’t been much better than business as usual, though they do acknowledge some areas they support, such as the winter energy payment, and spending on hardship grants. Radio NZ’s lead angle from the report is the call for more targeted funding, specifically to address Māori hardship.

Here’s a short but interesting story from Rural News Group, about a flashpoint in the fight against M.Bovis. Basically, dairy farmers are questioning whether they’re going to end up paying too big a share of the total cost. There’s an agreed split between dairy and beef farmers that dairy will wear 94% of that total, but among dairy farmers there’s consternation about being asked to pay $3.9c per kg of milk solids over the next two seasons. That would effectively double the levies they already pay to DairyNZ.

You may have noticed a lot of news stories about musician Scribe in the past year, with his court, mental health and drug battles. Radio NZ’s Gareth Shute argues it’s time for those stories to stop being reported, as they’re no longer in the public interest. When you consider how long it has been since Scribe actually released music, or made any attempt to be a public figure, it’s a pretty fair argument.

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The terrifying shapes of Mister Maker.

Right now on The Spinoff: Michelle Langstone, a cricket superfan, declares she will not watch the Black Caps play until their break their silence around the Scott Kuggeleijn situation. Thomas Nash writes about new solutions to the housing crisis being developed in the community housing sector. Emily Writes talks kids TV, and shows parents can turn to that won’t be excruciating to watch. And Simon Day writes about the time famous chef Al Brown said his cooking was great on tape… and then the tape was lost.

Also, I filed this report from the AMN9 conference about research done by Harvard professor Dan Nocera, on bio-fertiliser that if applied to New Zealand could have an enormously positive impact on our environment. The catch? The GE Free policy would have to change.

Finally, are you, or have you ever wanted to be a mid-level account manager at a fun media startup? If so, we’re hiring.

You may have heard about the absolutely bizarre situation going on in the US state of Virginia right now, with the top 3 elected officials all facing resignation calls. Basically, they’ve all been caught up in scandals involving pretty horrific alleged transgressions in their past. Salon have published an interesting argument as to how this has all come out in the way that it has – the author’s view is that it reflects both a decline in local journalism resources, coupled with an increase in resources available for political attacks. I’ll leave this excerpt to outline the finer points:

The result is that politicians simply don’t get the vetting they might once have received as they climb the career ladder from smaller offices to statewide and even national offices. Red flags that might have been noticed before a politician reached a position of significant power get overlooked, because local papers simply don’t have the resources to catch them.

That doesn’t mean such skeletons will remain in the closet forever. As both Napoli and Benton pointed out, the decline in local journalism has accompanied a corresponding rise in partisan blogging and well-funded opposition research, conducted by those with a strong incentive to dig for dirt — especially once a politician has risen to major office.

In fact, one could argue that the decline of local journalism, which tended to focus more on facts and policy issues, has created a vacuum that’s being filled by websites driven by an overtly political agenda and, in many cases, a loose relationship with the facts.

The NZ Herald reports this morning that minister for sport Grant Robertson has spoken to NZ Cricket about the Scott Kuggeleijn situation. Mr Robertson says in his opinion, NZC needs to respond clearly, and make it clear what their values as an organisation are. He added that he was not in any way commenting on the selection of NZ cricket teams. NZ Cricket say they believe they have handled the matter responsibly, and have introduced sexual consent education as part of their induction course for players.

From our partners: Barbecuing is one of New Zealand’s national summer past-time, but what are the nuances in our barbecue culture? Brenda Talacek, Vector’s Group Manager for Gas Trading, lifts the lid.

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