Green Party MP and minister Eugenie Sage (Radio NZ - Phil Smith)

The Bulletin: Green members bottle MPs over water exports

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Green Party members furious at ministerial decision, China’s rubbish ban starts to bite, and what was really in that letter signed by Auckland councillors?

Green Party members are outraged at a ministerial decision to allow a Chinese water bottling and exporting company to expand, reports Stuff. The comments from members came in private facebook groups, but now co-leader Marama Davidson says she “doesn’t like” the decision made by party colleague Eugenie Sage. Minister Sage says her decision was guided by the Overseas Investment Act.

The original story is reported on Radio NZ here, and was already controversial. Locals near the Whakatāne plant say the consent shows the government is not serious about tackling water ownership issues. District councillor Mike van der Boom is also questioning whether the expansion will provide the promised boost of 60 jobs and associated economic development.

For the Greens, this is one of those extreme tests of party cohesion that being in government throws up, and that many warned about before they got into it. The party has a relatively strong and vocal activist base, and policy making structure within the party reflects that. But ministerial decisions don’t go through that structure at all, and so there will always be risks that they’ll infuriate the base in the course of simply doing their jobs. Now they’re being labelled sellouts by their supporters, and even being attacked on twitter by the likes of former MP Sue Bradford.

It’s also a test for new co-leader Marama Davidson, who was elected in part to be a voice for members on issues of conflict with caucus. She used supplementary questions in Parliament to give minister Sage an opportunity to explain just why her hands were tied. The Green Party as a whole, having made plenty of moves in the past to display higher ethical credentials than other parties, is also really susceptible to accusations of hypocrisy if they ever fall short. Witness for example the controversy around voting for the first reading of the waka-jumping bill earlier this year, or even the furore that erupted on Reddit earlier this week about the Green Party magazine being sent out in a plastic bag.


Plastic is going straight to the dump rather than being recycled, as China’s ban on waste imports starts to have an effect, reports Radio NZ. Basically, China doesn’t want to put up with the rest of the world’s garbage any more, because their own environment is badly polluted. So what kinds of plastic can still be recycled in New Zealand? Grades 1 and 2 are still all good – that’s coke bottles, shopping bags, and ice cream containers. But anything above that – like polystyrene, is just going to end up at the dump. So if this is a concern, the most important immediate thing to do is cut right back on how much plastic you use.

Meanwhile Auckland Council will start phasing in a third bin for roadside collection of food scraps, reports the NZ Herald. The system has been trialled in Papkura, and will be rolled out over the next few years.


Something of a revision here: The letter signed by Auckland Councillors was not a “letter of no confidence,” as it was described in yesterday’s Bulletin. It was more like a “letter of not a heap of confidence” in mayor Phil Goff – Toby Manhire outlines the differences in this cheat sheet. Still, it certainly isn’t good for Mr Goff that almost half the council has signed a letter expressing anger at him.

Simon Wilson in the NZ Herald has outlined exactly who the councillors who signed the letter are, and what their motivations for doing so are. As he explains it, they aren’t a meaningful bloc in any sense, except that they take issue with Goff’s performance and secrecy over the stadium report.


The plans for Waikeria Prison have finally, finally been announced. Under them the high security facility will be replaced, there will be slightly more beds than there are now, and a new initiative that includes 100 beds for mental health treatment. I’ve written a cheat sheet to explore when an expanded prison is and isn’t a ‘mega-prison.’

The major issue for Corrections is the lack of space for a growing prison population. Fortunately, there is apparently a plan if it all gets out of control – Minister Kelvin Davis says inmates could sleep on mattresses on the floor, reports the NZ Herald. He admits the plans do not make for pretty reading.


Auckland City Mission is going to get $16 million in funding for drug and alcohol treatment facilities, and it’s being sourced from the proceeds of crime, reports Newshub. Health minister David Clark said using money seized by the state for such purposes “feels right,” and that it would help the City Mission expand and refurbish their facilities.


Minister Shane Jones is at it again, taking aim at major New Zealand business bosses. This time his target is Fonterra chair John Wilson, reports Stuff, saying there is an absence of accountability in the money that the dairy cooperative presides over. National’s Paul Goldsmith has described Jones’ comments as about “about ego and publicity,” reports Radio NZ.


An AA study has found drug-drivers are now more like to be involved in fatal crashes than drunk-drivers, reports Stuff. The most common drugs found in the system of drivers in fatal crashes were cannabis and methamphetamine.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Branko Marcetic has had a look at some of the cases judged under the three strikes laws, and found some bizarre outcomes. Rebecca Stevenson outlines why wages might finally be about to go up. And a whole lot of new characters are being added to the cult Nintendo Super Smash Bros game – who are they? Sam Brooks has the details.


So this is interesting. In the USA, major governmental reforms often get passed through getting enough signatures to get on ballots at elections, like our citizen initiated referendum process. And a major one has just got the numbers to get on the ballot in California in November: A proposal to split the state of California into three different states. 

The LA Times reports that it’s being backed by a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, who wants to see states split roughly around San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. And even if it passes, there will still be a long process to make it actually happen – this will not be the first attempt to get it through. Here’s an excerpt:

“Nothing about Draper’s historic demarcation of democracy would be easy. Were voters to approve his ballot measure, the effort would need the blessing of both houses of the California Legislature — lawmakers who, in a sense, would be asked to abandon their posts. Draper’s proposal says the initiative, acting under California’s constitutional power of voters to write their own laws, would serve as legislative consent. It is almost certain that interpretation would end up in court.

From there, the plan would need congressional approval. Here, too, politics would presumably play a major role.”


White Ferns legspinner Amelia Kerr has cracked 232* in an ODI against Ireland, a record for women’s cricket and the second highest ODI score of all time, reports ESPN Cricinfo. Kerr, at just under 18 years of age, is also the youngest player across all formats to score an international double century. What makes it all the more remarkable is that she was initially brought into the team as a bowler, batting at 10 in her debut T20I. Unfortunately, the Irish opponents were completely outmatched yet again, losing another game by 300 or so runs. *EDIT* My apologies, there was an omission in this section when it was first published. I failed to note Amelia Kerr also took 5-17 in the match. Unsurprisingly, she was named player of the series.

Meanwhile a North American bid for the 2026 Football World Cup has just won the vote. Matches will be held in the USA, Canada and Mexico, and it will be the first 48-team tournament, reports One News.


From our partners, Vector’s Bridget McDonald has looked at the government’s deep dig into the energy sector. What will the review look at, why should there even be one, and does it mean you might pay less for power?


And finally, I’m taking a day off tomorrow! Around the time The Bulletin gets sent out, I’ll be halfway to White Island. But rest assured, we’ve got our very capable partnerships editor Simon Day stepping in, so no doubt it will still be the morning read you need. Have a great weekend, see you Monday.


That’s it for the The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, please forward it on and encourage them to sign up here.


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