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Z Energy has partnered with electric vehicle charging company to install six units at Z stations in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch (Image: Getty Images).
Z Energy has partnered with electric vehicle charging company to install six units at Z stations in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch (Image: Getty Images).

The BulletinJune 14, 2021

The Bulletin: Emissions levy or new tax by stealth?

Z Energy has partnered with electric vehicle charging company to install six units at Z stations in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch (Image: Getty Images).
Z Energy has partnered with electric vehicle charging company to install six units at Z stations in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch (Image: Getty Images).

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: A rebate scheme for electric vehicles has been labelled a ‘new tax’ by the Opposition, the backlash to a film about the Christchurch mosque attack continues, and concern Melbourne’s Covid outbreak could still get worse.

Over the weekend, the government announced a rebate scheme for electric vehicles. As explained by RNZ, the scheme will see people who buy new electric and hybrid vehicles able to claim up to $8625 back from the government. People will be able to claim the rebate from the start of next month, while a levy on higher emitting vehicles – the way the rebate is paid for – will kick in from the start of next year. According to the government, the scheme will help ensure uptake of EVs and lower-emitting vehicles increases. “Our transport emissions are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand so we need to start taking action now if we are going to meet our 2050 targets,” said transport minister Michael Wood.

The Green Party are claiming the announcement as a victory that was only achievable without NZ First in parliament. “As Associate Transport Minister last term, this was one of my highest priorities. Ultimately we were prevented from getting it over the line by NZ First, but not this time,” Julie Anne Genter wrote on Facebook. James Shaw, the climate change minister, says electric vehicles are often unaffordable for people. “As technology develops and more manufacturers decide to stop making petrol and diesel cars, the cost of low emissions vehicles will come down,” he said in a statement. “However at the moment they are still more expensive to buy. [This] announcement helps to address that. It will ensure more families can enjoy the benefits of low emission vehicles and their lower maintenance and running costs.”

But, the Opposition has slammed the scheme and claimed it breaks the government’s promise not to introduce any new taxes. Both National and Act were highly critical of the announcement, with Judith Collins labelling it a “punitive car tax” and accusing the government of prioritising Tesla owners over ute users. The party’s transport spokesperson Michael Woodhouse agrees. “Labour’s car tax policy will unfairly hurt farmers, tradespeople and low-income earners for whom low-emission vehicles will still be too expensive or unsuitable for their lifestyle,” he said in a statement. “We don’t think it’s fair to make tradies pay more for a Hilux so wealthy executives can get a discount on their next electric car.”

According to Act’s David Seymour, the government has brought in a new tax by stealth. “Labour is breaking its promise to not introduce new taxes by slapping new taxes on tradies, farmers and large families,” he said yesterday. “The social justice wing of the Green Party should ask why the party is prepared to tax people who drive cheap, reliable cars, just so the well-off environmental wing can buy a Tesla.”

And if you’ve been thinking about buying a Nissan Leaf, The Spinoff can help you out. Last month, Joe Canham explained the pros and cons of buying the most recognisable electric vehicle. As he writes, the key concern is around the battery:

Aside from a limited cooling capacity using airflow, Leaf batteries are at the mercy of nature.

As you’d expect, this results in accelerated degradation. It’s not uncommon for earlier model Leafs to suffer up to 23% energy loss in the first six years. That may not sound like a ton, but for a car that started with a potential 135km range on a full battery, that’s a reduction to 104km before it’s even celebrated its seventh birthday.

The debate over whether a film about the Christchurch mosque shootings should go ahead continued this weekend. The controversial project was announced on Friday morning. As I reported in the live updates, Australian actress Rose Byrne is lined up to play prime minister Jacinda Ardern in a film titled “They Are Us”. Little detail is known about the project at this stage, but it’s expected to be set in the aftermath of the terror attack and address the political response that followed.

The Muslim community has expressed concern about centring the film on Ardern. Writing for The Spinoff, Anjum Rahman says that while the tragedy of March 15 should be told on the big screen, placing Ardern at the epicentre is wrong. “There is much to be brought to public attention around the demonisation of a community, the rise of white supremacy, the impact of viral disinformation campaigns, and how these led to the kind of radicalisation where 51 people lost their lives in a meticulous planned act of cold-blooded execution,” they write.

There is also concern the film will end up in white saviour territory. On RNZ, journalist Mohamed Hassan wrote a compelling piece titled: “They are not us and it hurts to be props in a Hollywood movie” in which he criticised the film for selling March 15 as a feel good story. “In its essence, it is a story about an act of white supremacy that is centred around white voices, white feelings and white heroism. The irony is nauseating. The lack of self-awareness is profound,” he said.

Meanwhile, the film’s producers – and Byrne herself – are defending the project. Producer Philippa Campbell told Newshub that the story was complex, but claimed it was in safe hands. “We have a deep respect for the communities at the heart of the tragedy. We want to assure them and New Zealand audiences that we understand the responsibility of telling this story,” she said. Byrne was asked about playing Ardern during a promotional interview with the Associated Press. She called Ardern a “fascinating character” and said she was excited to play her on screen.

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Three people were seriously injured, and a fourth suffered moderate injuries, after a helicopter crash on Saturday. A bride and groom were among those injured when, as Newshub reports, the helicopter crashed down onto the Terrace Downs Resort golf course in Canterbury. A wedding was being held at the venue at the time and the incident occurred when the bridal party went to take photographs from the sky. The cause of the crash is currently unclear.

The director general of health and the government were in disagreement over how to stop Covid-19 spread following the February Auckland outbreak. New documents released to Newsroom show that Ashley Bloomfield did not believe people outside of Auckland should have had to wear masks on public transport at alert level one. It’s one of several revelations in the released cabinet documents, with the government also admitting its communication with contacts of Covid-19 cases could have been better.

Meanwhile, there were no new community Covid-19 cases over the weekend. According to the Ministry of Health, four new cases were reported in managed isolation facilities since Friday, all linked to international travel. The total number of active cases in New Zealand today is 27.

Two people continue to be treated for Covid-19 in Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital. The pair were both residents of the Jet Park quarantine facility and are in a stable condition. “[Both] were taken to hospital safely using strict infection prevention and control measures which are in place for all hospital transfers from managed isolation and quarantine facilities,” said a ministry spokesperson.

The quarantine-free travel pause with Victoria will continue until at least Thursday. Health officials and the government will review the pause on Wednesday. In Melbourne, Nine News reports that lockdown restrictions have loosened slightly with outdoor gatherings now restricted to groups of 10 people maximum. But there is growing concern that the Covid-19 outbreak that caused the lockdown may not be under control. This weekend saw a Melbourne man test positive for the coronavirus, despite no known links to previous clusters. It’s prompted a warning from health officials to get tested as undiagnosed cases are likely circulating in the community.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Laura Walters writes about the way NZ Police is promoting outdated and harmful alcohol messaging. Labelling cyclists as “rats” and “cockroaches” is giving environmental sociologist and cycleway user Kirsty Wild deja vu. Tara Ward is finally free of recapping The Masked Singer NZ as the insane reality show concludes. Nic Sampson farewells his character detective constable Sam Breen from The Brokenwood Mysteries. Sharon Lam writes this week’s Sunday Essay: What it means to miss Hong Kong. Sam Brooks power ranks another bizarre week on RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under.

It’s Gossip Week on The Spinoff. Our features editor Alex Casey explains why we’re tackling the oft-taboo subject of goss:

We hope there is something for everyone during Gossip Week. In the lead-up, we’ve spoken to people who have had their careers ruined by the gossip pages, and others who have had their livelihoods sustained by them. Academics who have devoted decades to studying gossip. Lawyers who can explain the complexities of name suppression in plain English. And journalists who have seen the real-world impact that paparazzi and women’s magazines can have.

That said, many gossip week stories have already fallen over due to their very nature. Gossip is sensitive, personal, sometimes traumatic, often attached to powerful NDAs. So we might not have tonnes of fresh goss for you, but I do hope this week will be a chance to examine gossip as it has evolved and changed, and the unique role that it has played in everything from te ao Māori to the MeToo movement. All of this, along with some good, splashy, gossipy fun.

Gossip week will kick off a little later this morning with a couple of pieces published every day.

Read Alex’s full piece here and get you ready for some hot goss all week long.

In sport: UFC fighter Israel Adesanya has dedicated his latest win to Fau Vake, who recently died in Auckland after being hit from behind on a night out. “I love you, man. This fight I dedicate to you Fau,” he said. “Even in his last sparring with me, he whipped my ass. I have to give you credit, Fau. I’m never going to get that one back, but I’m glad you whipped my ass in your last sparring.”

And in celebration of Alex’s return to Bulletin duty tomorrow, some cricket news. The Black Caps have beaten England in the second test – their first test series win in England since 1999. England’s lead had been reduced to just 38 on the fourth day of the test.

Have a great Monday – Alex is back tomorrow.

Keep going!