British PM Theresa May. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

The Bulletin: NZ dragged into spy row over Russia

Good morning and welcome to the Bulletin. In today’s edition: Britain calls on New Zealand’s support after alleged Russian attack, there’s been another sexual assault allegation at a Labour Party function, and Dr Lance O’Sullivan could be about to join TOP.

Britain is calling on New Zealand to join diplomatic action against Russia, after British PM Theresa May gave Russia a deadline to provide a response to an accusation of attacking a former spy with a nerve agent. According to the BBC, Russia is refusing to comply unless provided with a sample of the substance used. New Zealand media were summoned yesterday to the British High Commission for a briefing on the case, which the NZ Herald‘s Claire Trevett said was a very unusual move. Britain’s deputy high commissioner Helen Smith outlined her government’s view to Newstalk ZB. The deadline for a Russian response expires at midnight in the UK (1pm in NZ)

In a statement released last night, foreign minister Winston Peters condemned the attack, but stopped short of accusing Russia of being behind it. In a text exchange, Politik gave him every chance to amend that position. Mr Peters also did not comment on Britain’s call for New Zealand to join diplomatic action against Russia. The National Party is warning that Mr Peters’ enthusiasm for trade with Russia is making European Union officials nervous, reports Interest. Helen Smith would not be drawn on whether New Zealand’s actions on this matter would have an impact on a post-Brexit free trade agreement with Britain.

Meanwhile in other international news, US President Donald Trump has given Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the boot. The Washington Post has ongoing coverage.


A second incident of sexual assault at a Labour Party function has emerged, the NZ Herald reports. The details released regarding this incident are vague, and the party’s General Secretary Andrew Kirton says the woman in question has been offered counselling and support if she chooses to go to the Police.

There have been a range of reactions to the original story, released on Mondayafternoon. NZ Herald Political Editor Audrey Young has written a furious column, asking why PM Jacinda Ardern herself hasn’t been more furious about how the party handled the original allegations. In contrast, survivor advocate Louise Nicholas told Newshub the Labour Party was right to not inform the victim’s parents, or Police, on their behalf. And writing on The Spinoff, an anonymous mother says it is entirely understandable that the victims didn’t want to go to the police, given their poor track record on sex crimes.


The Herald‘s front page leads with a political surprise – Dr Lance O’Sullivan is seriously considering joining The Opportunities Party. The Kaitaia GP has previously floated the idea of taking over the Māori Party, and it’s understood National are also interested in recruiting him. Despite TOP not making it into Parliament in 2017, Gareth Morgan will continue to financially support the party, but is unlikely to stand for election in 2020.


The terms of reference for a huge education system review have been released, reports Stuff. Minister Chris Hipkins says the review will be broad based, and in particular will focus on how schools are governed.

Hipkins has also said there will be wide consultation with teachers, parents and community groups as part of the review. Writing for Education Central earlier this month, Dr Nina Hood noted that successful education reform projects had significant buy in from those working in the sector, so that reforms do actually lead to changes in practice.


The Defence Force have admitted that photos used in Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s book Hit and Run were of the correct location of an SAS raid, RNZ reports. Yesterday’s report contradicts statements made by Defence Force chief Tim Keating last year, which cast doubt on the accuracy of the book. The Defence Force continues to deny that civilians were killed, the central claim of the book.


Mackenzie District businesses want exemptions from immigration rules to ease a skill shortage. The Timaru Herald reports that the district, population 4,600, is looking for similar rules that Queenstown operates under, to service the burgeoning tourism industry. Mackenzie District Mayor Graham Smith said the following on immigration policy:

“What is happening in Auckland is not happening in the Mackenzie. We need more people. The likes of Tekapo Springs and Earth and Sky struggle to get new local labour.”


New Zealand has been the setting for a trial of the world’s first air-taxi, reports theNew York Times. The tests of the fully electric, self-piloting flying taxi have been financed by Google co-founder Larry Page, and the company behind them hopes to have a commercial network of flying taxis in New Zealand within three years. The Press have more details on their front page this morning about what the trial means for New Zealand.


Here’s a conversation starter for the morning tea break – if you came across $30,000 that had seemingly been dumped, what would you do with it? The NZ Herald reports council contractors were presented with that situation, when they came across a safe left on the roadside containing a huge sum of money. The contractors handed it in to Police, and barrister Marie Dyhrberg says that was the right thing to do – in cases like this the legal situation is not as simple as ‘finders keepers’.

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Mike Joy of Massey University

Right now on The Spinoff: scientist Shaun Hendy reveals New Zealand’s environment regulator complained about high profile freshwater scientist Dr Mike Joy, prompting a disciplinary process by his employer, Massey University. Spinoff music editor Henry Oliver reviews the wandering brilliance of King Krule, who played in Auckland earlier this week. And David Farrier catches up with an old mate who once had sex with a dolphin.


The Waikato Times are currently running a remarkable series of features on life in Huntly. The town, known primarily to the outside world for the Huntly Power Station and an abandoned DEKA sign, is struggling, particularly on the western side. Donna-Lee Biddle’s articles have gone deep into the community, telling the stories of hard-up people with humanity and dignity.

So far, the series has covered multiple angles. The first article looked at the social breakdown and crime that has resulted in part from the dramatic loss of jobs since the closure of the Huntly East Coal Mine. The second looked at how the nationwide housing crisis has changed Huntly for the worse. And this morning’s story makes it clear that it isn’t all grim for Huntly West – there are pockets of success, in particular in institutions with strong kaupapa Māori values.


In sport, New Zealand is facing a talent exodus in a sport this country has traditionally dominated. Champion shearer John Kirkpatrick is concerned that there aren’t enough young shearers coming through, either to work or compete. RNZ reports Mr Kirkpatrick, currently the Rural Sportsman of the Year, says many talented youngsters who could be future champions are heading to Australia, because the pay is better over the ditch.


And in partnership with Vector, a reality check: while EVs are taking over the world, in the same way that cars left the horse and cart floundering in their petrol guzzling wake this will come with unforeseen consequences. Vector’s Steve Heinen discusses why that might be a brilliant, planet-saving, massive headache.


The Bulletin is brought to you by Vector. If you live in Auckland, they also delivered the power you’re using to read it. And they’re creating a new energy future for all of us, as showcased by the incredible Vector Lights.

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