Mourners in Christchurch at a vigil for those killed in the mosque attacks, on March 24, 2019 (Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)
Mourners in Christchurch at a vigil for those killed in the mosque attacks, on March 24, 2019 (Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)

The BulletinMarch 13, 2020

The Bulletin: A day to reflect

Mourners in Christchurch at a vigil for those killed in the mosque attacks, on March 24, 2019 (Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)
Mourners in Christchurch at a vigil for those killed in the mosque attacks, on March 24, 2019 (Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: March 15 memorial service to go ahead, more travel restrictions likely to be announced, and moves against migrant exploitation in spotlight.

Unless there is a last minute cancellation, commemorations of the March 15 mosque attacks will be going ahead this weekend. Stuff reports that because of a wet weather forecast, it has been moved from Hagley Park to the Horncastle Arena. The service will be jointly led by some in the local Muslim community, Christchurch City Council, Ngāi Tūāhuriri and the Government, and will be open to the public. The Indian Weekender reports that events will also take place in Wellington and Auckland.

For some in the Muslim community, their blessing for the service to go ahead has been reluctant. That came out of this ODT report by Daisy Hudson, with Otago Muslim Association president Mohammed Rizwan telling her that many affected families weren’t consulted, and weren’t happy it was going ahead. There was a culture clash around the concept of anniversaries, said Mr Rizwan – “We remember every day what has happened, and pray for those who have lost their lives every day. We do not need a fixed day to actually remember them.” Dunedin City Council decided against holding a ceremony after speaking to local Muslim groups, and the Canterbury Muslim Association are not involved with organising this weekend’s service in Christchurch.

It should never be forgotten which community was directly targeted in the Christchurch mosque attacks. And for those people, their lives have never been the same since. I’d recommend listening to this Radio NZ/Plains FM co-production called Widows of Shuhada, which has followed a group of women who lost their husbands that day. The series is explained in more detail in this Stuff article, but in short it goes into real depth about the sorts of challenges that have faced these women, both in terms of simple day to day life, and on the deeper level of how to make sense of what happened.

While the Muslim community was the target of the attack, it affected people all over the country, often in quite profound ways. That comes through really strongly from some of the stories that have been running this week, like Newshub’s piece on first responders, or the Media Chaplaincy’s series speaking to journalists who reported from the scene or in the aftermath. In both of them, people talk about seeing things that they still think about every day, and having to deal with that. And perhaps if there is value in an anniversary, it is that it will give the country as a whole a chance to reflect on that terrible day. As this phenomenal essay by Morgan Godfery about the many strands of racism that combined to make the attacks happen shows, there is a lot to reflect on.

More travel restrictions are likely amid the Covid-19 outbreak, reports Radio NZ. It can be difficult to keep up with it all, but yesterday the US put in place heavy restrictions on travel from Europe, and that’ll be a factor that goes into the NZ government’s decision making. The tourism industry is currently feeling immense pain from the restrictions and are calling for some to be lifted, but there’s every indication that they’ll more stringent, rather than less, in the coming days.

That would certainly follow what is happening overseas – particularly the US – in which there has been a massive swing in the past day towards more restrictions on gatherings and events, including for example a ban in California on gatherings of more than 250 people. Bloomberg reports that President Trump himself has been in close proximity with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus – an official in the Brazilian Bolsonaro administration.

Meanwhile, there’s still no more confirmed cases in New Zealand. Josie Adams reported for The Spinoff on a press conference given by Dr Ashley Bloomfield, who noted that 100 tests were administered the day before, and every single one came back negative. He also noted that self-isolation really works. “We still have a small number of cases in this country. We’ve applied quite assertive measures early: our border restrictions, our measures at the border to ensure everyone has information, and our requirement that quite large numbers of people travelling from overseas go into self-isolation.” With Covid-19 now officially declared a pandemic, Dr Siouxsie Wiles says people should start making pandemic plans. The suggestions are quite basic, but if everyone does them it will go a long way towards keeping the community as a whole safe.

And in our neighbourhood, there’s still a huge amount of worry about an outbreak. RNZ Pacific reports that the first case in Polynesia has been confirmed, with Tahitian parliamentarian Maina Sage testing positive for the virus. She is currently at home recovering. Strict border controls are in place in many countries.

Have the government’s moves against migrant exploitation been effective? That’s the question addressed by this Dileepa Fonsecka feature at Newsroom, with lawyers and activists saying nothing of note has been done on the root cause – control of visas by employers. That’s not to say the government has done nothing, as the story also makes clear, but for many of those suffering in such circumstances, it’ll be a fairly simple question – are their lives any better now than they were three years ago?

If you’re flushing wet wipes down the loo at the moment, I’m urging you to watch this disgusting story to see why that’s a bad idea. Kim Baker-Wilson at One News has looked into the problem, which has been made worse by people using far more than usual at the moment. And it’s causing huge issues for wastewater treatment plants, which are unable to keep up with the volume of wipes. Just put them in the bin, where they belong, after you’ve used them.

Amid all the coronavirus news, another disease has been silently spreading through forests. Stuff reports kauri dieback has been confirmed in the Puketi Forest in the Far North. It is believed to have been spread by out of control populations of wild pigs, as the infected tree was found a long way from where people would naturally go. Strict hygiene protocols are now in place in an attempt to prevent further spread.

Here’s a brand new newsletter I’d encourage you to sign up for: It’s called Emily Writes Weekly, and is a collaboration between her and The Spinoff. Basically, she explains it all here, and I reckon it’s going to fill a really necessary space in the media landscape. Subscribers will also have to pay a small fee to get it, but it really is quite small (about a buck a week) and those of you who are Spinoff Members will get a 25% discount – email for details. If you want to sign up straight away, you can do that here.

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The sign, before its confiscation. Photo: Supplied

Right now on The Spinoff: Phil Vine writes about a friend having their sign confiscated at the cricket, and what it shows about sport still being unwilling to realise that it is a political space too. Toby Manhire speaks to the fine folks of Unity Books about their big international win. Eric Crampton writes about building a lab to test whether a school is really good at teaching, or just full of people from affluent backgrounds. And Amanda Thompson writes about the therapeutic power of baking, and how ‘sympathy snacks’ can help when you don’t know what to say to someone who is grieving.

For a feature today, an excerpt from a piece that was published a few years ago, but I still think about a lot to this day. On one level it’s a concert review, and on another level it’s a deep and thoughtful meditation on how those who are always flat out manage to keep going – and whether that’s even a good way to live your life. I’ll do the excerpt first and then tell you who wrote it:

I try to lie down and relax but instead take out a notebook and start scribbling in the dark. Good, I’m doing something productive. Tonight is just one of countless nights this year, beginning at 11pm with me trying to force some words out while blasting Richter’s repetitive compositions in my headphones.

In that time I’ve occasionally gotten an “are you okay?” from friends and colleagues, to which I would reply “just tired” without any real weight behind the words. As long as I preface my tiredness with a “just”, it doesn’t count as a complaint. I still plod around with the firm belief that were I to say “I’m tired” aloud three times, a new mum will appear to announce that I don’t even know what tired means. She’d probably be right but the cure for a headache isn’t the knowledge that others have experienced worse. It’s still a headache and it still hurts.

So, some of you probably already recognise the voice. It’s Madeleine Chapman, and the full piece is here. Alas, today is Mad’s last day at The Spinoff, after almost half a decade of relentlessly brilliant and pioneering writing. We’re really going to miss her, obviously, both on the site and just around the office generally. But she’s off to go and build and paint a garage, and not put all that many words out for a while – from a creative perspective, it will be a very well earned rest. And I really hope that one day she does come back to writing, because no matter what she comes out with, it’s definitely going to be worth reading.

The NBA has been suspended for the season, after a player tested positive for Covid-19. This piece from Bleacher Report covers how it was really the only move that could be made, because of the ripple effects of a positive test out through the league. And there was also probably a sense that continuing amid the outbreak would be irresponsible from a community perspective – it was notable in the recent marquee Los Angeles Lakers vs Clippers derby how small the crowd was. In news just to hand as well, CNN are reporting that a second player has tested positive, and in Spain, the top football tournament La Liga is also on hold. There could well be a cascading effect of cancellations in the next few days.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme.

Keep going!