The Bulletin: Fractious Pacific Forum looms on climate change

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Climate change battles loom at Pacific forum, Corrections fails to stop Christchurch accused getting propaganda out, and details on Winston’s racing industry boost.

A fractious Pacific Leaders Forum is shaping up in Tuvalu, with sharp conflicts emerging between attendees. The interests of Australia and New Zealand on one side, and the Pacific Island nations on the other, are diverging sharply. As Barbara Dreaver reports for One News, New Zealand and Australia have huge concerns about the rise of China in the region, as a superpower who has been buying their way into the good books of the relatively impoverished island nations.

But Pacific Island nations have a much bigger concern – the impending brunt of climate change that they will have to bear. There was a fascinating detail in Jamie Tahana’s story on RNZ Pacific this morning – the choice of venue is at the narrowest point on the Funafuti atoll, which means that attendees will have to drive along “a causeway precariously positioned between thrashing ocean and blue lagoon – and in view of a coastline ravaged by a changing climate.” It’s not exactly subtle, but it is fair enough to make the point.

The place of Australia will be particularly closely watched. As Reuters reports, their PM Scott Morrison has rejected calls from Pacific Nations to phase out coal, and has indicated that Australia will try and cajole other countries into dropping the demand, and watering down the communique that comes out of the Forum. New Zealand is in a rhetorically different position, but isn’t exactly squeaky clean as a large per-capita emitter. The Guardian reports PM Ardern has told Australia they’ll have to “answer to” the Pacific. She added that New Zealand is doing our bit to reduce emissions – a more accurate phrasing might be that New Zealand is currently doing a bit to reduce emissions, with the promise to do more in the future.

One major problem is that the context of climate change is really different for different countries. We don’t remotely share the same reality of it. So to better understand what it’s like for people in the Pacific, read this on The Spinoff by Fijian litigator and activist Kya Raina Lal. It shows the deep thought that is going into dealing with the challenges of climate change – which for Pacific nations is far easier to already see than in other parts of the world. Of course, how much better would it be for them if the rest of the world stopped forcing them to meet those challenges?

Corrections has failed to prevent the Christchurch mosque shooting accused from communicating with an alt-right message board, reports Marc Daalder for Newsroom. The letter included what could be taken as an incitement to further violence. Corrections minister Kelvin Davis is considering law changes, based on the unique challenges thrown up by incarcerating the accused. All prisoners, regardless of their convictions or charges, have the right to send and receive mail, though it can be withheld with reason. Writing on The Spinoff, Anjum Rahman hammers the failing, and notes that it could cause genuine and global harm.

Deputy PM Winston Peters has secured a novel definition of the term ‘wellbeing’ – in the scrapping of a tax on the racing industry. In fact, as Stuff’s Thomas Coughlan reports, Treasury told him that repealing the levy on betting profits in the most recent budget could increase the harm caused by gambling. But Peters overruled them, and the levy which brought in about $15 million in revenue every year has been scratched.

New central government plans have been introduced to protect elite soils from further urban encroachment, reports Farmers Weekly. Basically, such soils are to be treated as what they are – a resource of national significance that can help feed the growing global population. An incredible statistic from the story about this kind of soil is that it accounts for just 5% of New Zealand’s soil profile, but produces almost 85% of the country’s high value crops. The consultation period will now begin, and the new policies could be in place as soon as next year.

This story has been making pretty big waves in the world of tech journalism. Juha Saarinen writes for IT News that IRD has declared once and for all that salaries and wages can be paid with cryptocurrency, but that those payments are subject to income tax as if they were regular money. However the IRD did have a warning about the extreme volatility of cryptocurrencies, so it might not be the wisest course of action to agree to be paid like that.

Upper Harbour MP Paula Bennett will be running on the National list only in 2020, reports the NZ Herald. She’s taking that job in order to run National’s campaign, a job that used to be done by Steven Joyce. Upper Harbour is a relatively new electorate, being first created in 2014, but appears to be pretty rock solid for National.

Moriori people have welcomed a settlement with the Crown, and say it represents a chance for a better future, reports Māni Dunlop for Te Manu Korihi. There probably isn’t a single group of people in the country who are less well understood by the population at large, and the story does a good job of going over what information is actually accurate. The settlement had been slowed down after an attempted injunction from Ngāti Mutunga, who were one of the iwi that invaded Rēkohu in the 19th century, as claimed mana whenua rights on those grounds.

Sorry to everyone who tried to open the paper about Huawei’s ownership yesterday. This was a technical glitch I’ve never seen before, and don’t know how to fix, but for some reason the link was correct in my master version, but not the actual sent version. So if you want to read it, I’d advise googling “Who owns Huawei” by Christopher Balding and Donald Clarke, and it’ll come up that way.

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Image: Toby Manhire/Supplied

Right now on The Spinoff: Andrew Geddis tells Simon Bridges to pull his head in over the census. Duncan Greive interviews the boss of Mediaworks, who says New Zealand needs to consider a future in which only state owned TV channels exist. A new episode of Jeremy Hansen’s podcast The Good Citizen is out, this time talking to Anahera Rawiri about a uniquely Māori solution to Auckland’s housing crisis. Caroline Moratti writes about what she learned about herself when she first tried nude modelling. And Sam Brooks has reviewed the first episode of the returning TV show Succession, describing it as “brilliant and brutal” – I quite agree.

And a reminder, we have a daily email with all of our best work at The Spinoff. You can sign up for it here, and it will turn up in your inbox at 5pm, right in time for your commute home.

Today’s feature is related to the main story. I heard someone suggest this recently as a way of thinking about climate change: It’s already here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet. It captures a lot about how people experience the phenomenon, and how different areas will be affected in different ways. This piece of data journalism from the Washington Post is a really good exploration of the idea, in that it tracks exactly where in the USA and how fast warming is happening – I’d love to see an up to date New Zealand equivalent if anyone has one. Here’s an excerpt:

Anthony Broccoli, a climate scientist at Rutgers, defines an unusually warm or cold month as ranking among the five most extreme in the record going back to the late 1800s. In the case of New Jersey, he says, “since 2000, we’ve had 39 months that were unusually warm and zero that were unusually cold.”

Scientists do not completely understand the Northeast hot spot. But fading winters and very warm water offshore are the most likely culprits, experts say. That’s because climate change is a cycle that feeds on itself.

Warmer winters mean less ice and snow cover. Normally, ice and snow reflect solar radiation back into space, keeping the planet relatively cool. But as the ice and snow retreat, the ground absorbs the solar radiation and warms.

If you can stomach seeing the Black Caps play again so soon, they’re back in action. It’s a test series against Sri Lanka, and on some big turning decks will be a severe spin challenge. So far, the Black Caps are navigating it adequately, finishing a rain affected day 1 at 203/5 in the first innings. Ross Taylor is close to a hundred, and Kane Williamson got a three ball duck.

From our partners: With several high profile government objectives in the spotlight, a single ministry could drive better outcomes across them all. Robyn Holdaway, senior policy advisor at Vector, makes the case for a Ministry for Energy.

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