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Face masks will be mandatory for public transport passengers from alert level two and up (Photo: Getty Images)
Face masks will be mandatory for public transport passengers from alert level two and up (Photo: Getty Images)

The BulletinSeptember 15, 2020

The Bulletin: Alert levels given another short extension

Face masks will be mandatory for public transport passengers from alert level two and up (Photo: Getty Images)
Face masks will be mandatory for public transport passengers from alert level two and up (Photo: Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Alert levels given another short extension, National candidate under fire over business record, and possible evidence of alien life discovered on Venus.

In a week, the country outside of Auckland will move out of level two and into level one. As our live updates reported, that will be contingent on whether cases appear outside the biggest city. Cabinet will have to meet again in a week to confirm the call. There is no such timeframe for Auckland’s move out of the current state of 2.5, in part because a trickle of cases from the Mt Roskill cluster are still being seen.

One change that has now taken place: Physical distancing requirements on public transport have been relaxed, though mask wearing will continue to be compulsory. That has led to Air NZ releasing thousands of fares in an attempt to get bigger numbers flying again. Domestic tourism has been hit reasonably hard by this latest outbreak, in part because of a shortage of Aucklanders getting out and spending in the regions.

But there are some risks to this, in terms of the ongoing elimination strategy, as Stuff’s political editor Luke Malpass explains in an opinion piece. However, he noted that there were still some big questions around the move, especially in light of Ardern’s admission that there was still a reasonable chance cases could spread outside of Auckland. That effectively means that the reconfirmation of the decision on Monday next week isn’t a formality at all.

Politically, the extension of alert levels has not been well received by other parties. NZ First leader Winston Peters invoked the ‘agree to disagree’ provision in their coalition with Labour, freeing them from collective cabinet responsibility to say they thought the rest of the country should be moving to level one immediately. And National leader Judith Collins described it as an “increasingly political” decision, reports One News, also calling for the South Island to be moved to level one.

In terms of the expert response, the Science Media Centre gathered up a range of views. There was a strong consensus that it remains a cautious approach from the government, with some experts lauding that as the right approach, and others questioning whether the economic impact would end up being too severe. Meanwhile, polling reported on just before the alert level announcement showed a majority of the country continue to back the government’s approach.

Just days before the cutoff for candidate selections closing, National’s man in Upper Harbour Jake Bezzant is under severe scrutiny over his backstory. Business Desk’s Victoria Young has been asking around about Bezzant’s exit from a tech firm he claims to have co-founded, which the other founders say simply isn’t true. There are also allegations from his time there that he pushed ‘fantasy’ projects, and has overhyped his contributions in other areas. Some speculation was included in the story that his candidacy may not continue, however Stuff reported later in the day that the party was sticking by him. Upper Harbour is considered a fairly safe National seat, so Bezzant will likely become an MP in a month.

No big deal, but scientists may have just discovered evidence of alien life on Venus. The Verge reports that small quantities of phosphine gas have been discovered in the clouds around the planet – on earth, it is produced either through technological processes, or as a byproduct of living organisms. Put it like this – we don’t know that this means there is life on Venus, but if that’s not the case, then scientists don’t have an explanation for why the phosphine gas is there.

DHB debt is one of those issues that is often under-discussed, but is burning a hole in the health system. Writing on Newsroom, Oliver Lewis has gone around every DHB and come up with a figure not far shy of a billion dollars in current deficits. Experts quoted in the story say it is a symptom of long term underfunding, along with more acute pressures from Covid-19. On the subject, it’s also worth re-sharing this excellent piece from Justin Latif that looked at the Counties Manukau DHB, which showed how flawed census counts led to shortfalls.

Six arrests have been made regarding allegations of historical sexual offending at Dilworth School in Auckland, reports the NZ Herald. It follows an investigation that began last year, over complaints that spanned several decades until the early 2000s. The Dilworth Trust Board Chair Aaron Snodgrass said the school was saddened to learn of the allegations, offered an apology to anyone who may have been a victim, and said they had not sought to have the school’s name suppressed, so that there might be an open conversation with the school community.

More than a million people are understood to have taken part in a Māori Language Moment event at noon yesterday. It marked the moment that a landmark petition on supporting te reo was presented to parliament in 1972. For an example of how widespread these events were, have a read of this Stuff story about a school in Blenheim that enjoyed the moment by singing a waiata.

An interesting story about student activism: Critic Te Arohi’s Erin Gourley reports that a move by Dunedin fertiliser giant Ravensdown to stop reporting emissions has been blocked, solely because a group called Students for Environmental Action submitted against it. That in turn led to a meeting with Ravensdown, in which they were accused of being the only people against it – leading to other groups being contacted to also get involved. For their part, Ravensdown say they never wanted to stop reporting emissions, only to postpone this year’s report.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Criminology professor Elizabeth Stanley argues why money spent on criminal justice should instead be put towards social justice initiatives to strengthen communities. Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris look at how to communicate with someone who has been pulled in by disinformation. Mihi Forbes outlines the house rules for the TV debates she’ll be conducting for each Māori electorate – these will be must-watch, I reckon. Jihee Junn reports on a warning being added to a Netflix documentary that includes a short clip of the Christchurch terrorist before entering the mosque. Justin Latif speaks to Konei, who are combining e-commerce with learning te reo. Steven Moe asks why more Aucklanders don’t make the move to Christchurch. And Leonie Hayden talks to Toke director Kewana Duncan about stoners, super-strains and stereotypes.

I saved this one up because it’s worth sharing as a feature. Writing on The Spinoff, Michelle Langstone has profiled 17 year old Aigagalefili ‘Fili’ Fepulea’i-Tapua’i, the head girl of Aorere College and a poet with profound things to say about her world. Here’s an excerpt, about what has and hasn’t changed since her work started going viral.

Despite Fili’s voice in the news, despite the likes on her Instagram feed, and her appearances on TV, nothing appears to have changed; Fili and her friends are lauded for their courage, yet life returns to normal. She shakes her head and laughs at the absurdity. “It’s really jarring having people calling my friends, or students who are going through this inspirational. It’s cool that you find inspiration from the sacrifices that they make, but at the same time, you’re kind of just letting them go through these things, instead of offering help.” Fili is fortunate – she doesn’t have to work a part-time job as well as study, but many of her friends and fellow students do, and it keeps her up at night. 

I ask, perhaps naively, if anyone has come forward to help them. “People who have power in the education sector? Not really. It’s a bit kind of exploitative. Like, they invited me to do a webinar! And talk to a bunch of influential educators!” Her expression is incredulous. “I know that they did have a plan for Pacific people, but it’s just the whole disconnect between how long those things take to put in place, and like, what’s happening in real life.”

It’s hard to believe that the pandemic has been good for sport anywhere, but golf clubs beg to differ. The NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Lachlan Waugh has spoken to clubs who have seen a major boost in membership and participation, in part because – well, it’s something to do at a distance. That has helped the sport weather what for other codes has been a very damaging crunch in revenue, and look towards coming out stronger on the back nine.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme

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