A worker spraying Roundup on weeds (Photo: Radio NZ)

The Bulletin: Time’s up for Roundup?

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Major US decision on weedkiller has NZ implications, ACT wants to abolish the Māori seats, and NZ and Saudi Arabia strengthen trade ties.

Here’s a story from overseas that could have big implications for New Zealand. A jury in California has awarded a former school groundskeeper $289 million, after he successfully argued that he developed cancer after using the weedkiller Roundup for years, reports the Los Angeles Times. The product is made by controversial chemical company Monsanto, which is run independently after being acquired by Bayer this year. Monsanto plan to appeal the decision.

Why does it matter here? Anyone who’s done any sort of work outside knows that Roundup is a pretty commonly used product in New Zealand. The active ingredient – glyphosate – has long been considered suspect, and there was criticism here last year when the Environmental Protection Agency disagreed with an EU ruling that the chemical was harmful. A later study found that glyphosate could be ingested after eating crops sprayed with roundup.

Now Conservation minister Eugenie Sage is saying the EPA needs to have another look, reports Stuff. She says the organisation should consider adding it to the hazardous substances list, and says she personally doesn’t use it in her own organic garden. The EPA says at present, they are maintaining their current advice, which is that glyphosate is safe so long as the correct instructions are followed.


The ACT Party is putting forward a member’s bill that would put abolition of the Māori seats up for referendum, and reduce the number of MPs to 100. I went along to their conference yesterday and wrote up this report on The Spinoff. Because it’s a member’s bill, it would need to come out of the ballot to go through Parliament – and as well as that, it would require the support of both National and NZ First.


New Zealand and Saudi Arabia have agreed on a ministerial accord to strengthen trade ties, reports Arab News. Trade between the two countries is currently booming, and probably puts a bit more context behind this report from Newshub, which questioned why New Zealand hadn’t spoken up on behalf of traditional allies Canada, who are currently embroiled in a bitter diplomatic dispute with Saudi Arabia.A

So just for context about where Saudi Arabia is at right now: There are some tentative reforms going in the theocratic Kingdom, to open it up to more liberal ideas. They’re also prosecuting a war in neighbouring Yemen, which completely outside of the murderous battlefields has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, from starvation and cholera.


Auckland house prices – that staple topic of bad dinner party conversation – are back on the agenda. Economists say prices could drop dramatically, reports One News, following the example of relatively comparable cities like Sydney and Melbourne. Some would frame this as a negative, but RBNZ governor Adrian Orr says not to worry – because they’re currently so high relative to incomes, a drop wouldn’t be a crisis.


Finance minister Grant Robertson has turned criticism of his government’s economic performance back on itself, accusing the previous National government of being at fault. He made the comments on Newshub Nation, in relation to the nurses strike and falling GDP. Mr Robertson said National’s offers to nurses were symptomatic of the profession being neglected, and said the GDP slide started before Labour took office.


Financial woes at Fonterra have been forced to the fore after a dividend cut, and a slight shaving of the farm gate milk price paid to farmers. Andrea Fox at the NZ Herald has an insightful piece on what it will mean for the cooperative, particularly with new chairman John Monaghan taking over right at the moment of crisis.

And meanwhile in dairy farming, Forest and Bird have released a report this morning that could get some traction. Radio NZ reports the environmental group is accusing regional councils of failing to enforce effluent management rules on dairy farmers. Waikato in particular came in for a hammering, scoring an F. Waikato Regional Council has hit back, saying the report was inaccurate and misleading – though as Stuff reports, they also admit providing misleading data.


Residents of Lumsden and the surrounding areas of Southland say their concerns aren’t being taken seriously, after the closure of the local maternity centre. There are warnings that there will be “roadside deaths” without the facility. The Southland Times has been following this story closely, and has a useful timeline of events.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Dr Jess Berentson-Shaw writes about ways to keep lies on the fringes of our public discourse. Psychology researcher Kris Taylor writes about the best approaches to preventing harm from pornography among teenagers. And Sam Brooks has a take on Wile E. Coyote and the meaningless of all pursuits.
Speaking of Sam Brooks, a bunch of us went to go see his play Burn Her at Q Theatreon Friday. It was astonishingly good, and you should go see it. I understand tickets are moving pretty fast for the final week, but I reckon the Venn diagram of Bulletin readers and people who would enjoy the show would be pretty much a circle.

This is a really interesting interview profile of a politician who has had an immense impact on New Zealand, in particular the relationship between Māori and the Crown. E-Tangata’s Dale Husband has spoken to Dame Tariana Turia, about her life, her career and her take on politics, and it’s particularly revealing on that last point. But the section I want to highlight is an answer to a question about speaking te reo. Here it is:

“I don’t have the reo, although I can understand it. But I don’t have the confidence or the competence to speak Māori. None of my mother’s generation had the reo and that’s because they were hit when they spoke it at school. When I think back over my mother’s life, I believe it was almost like she was traumatised by the experience of being hit with a strap at school — and she never got over it.

And, naturally, when they had children, they never wanted them to have that experience. So generations here in Whangaehu have missed out, and it’s really sad. And now, with the next generation, we’ve been focusing on reo regeneration.

It’s not easy, and I think that, as I’ve got older, it’s got harder, so I’m really sad. And if there was one thing that I would’ve wanted in my life it would’ve been having the reo. I went to all the classes that they had but, you know, I just couldn’t get into it even though I love it. And I love it when people are speaking in te reo. It kind of resonates through my body. But can I do it? No.”


The Southern Steel are NZ’s domestic netball champions, after a dramatic last gasp victory over the central Pulse. Here’s Radio NZ’s live blog, to give you a sense of just how dramatic: The first time the Steel took the lead in the match was with the last goal of the game. Astonishing stuff, and a wonderful reward for Southern stalwart Wendy Frew, who is signing off on her career. Champion.

New Zealand is putting forward a bid to host the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup, reports the NZ Herald. The two host cities would be Auckland and Whangarei (no Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch etc) and the government has put backing behind the bit. Australia are also in the running for the event, and the two unions considered putting in a joint bid before deciding to go it alone.

And in football, here’s a story of amazing incompetence from the former boss of NZ Football. The NZ Herald reports that Andy Martin made something of an approach to former All Whites coach Anthony Hudson’s assistant Peter Taylor, about potentially taking over if Hudson were to go. Taylor immediately told Hudson about it, and the relationship between the Head Coach and CEO immediately soured, basically irretrievably.


From our partners, Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha writes that sometimes looking back on the past can make you glad you’re alive today, particularly when it comes to the safety of lines workers. 


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