Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Farmers square off with Shane Jones at parliament, tax rebates for Chinese propaganda film criticised, and ructions over future shape of public media.
Now first of all, I just want to make it clear rednecks isn’t the term I’d use. But it was certainly the term used by NZ First MP and cabinet minister Shane Jones, in talking to a protest of several hundred farmers who turned up at parliament. And it was the call that dominated the news afterwards – Stuff, the NZ Herald, Newshub and One News all used a variation of the word in their headlines for stories about the protest. It could end up being a word that rings in the ears of farmers for a while.
In fairness to Jones, the protesters were there primarily to speak to him. Jones has been the government’s leading proponent of the billion trees plan – which credit where it is due – is resulting in a lot of trees going into the ground. Farming lobby groups like 50 Shades of Green have long been concerned that overseas investment changes from this government has resulted in huge tracts of previously farmed land being bought up by international foresters – more information on that subsequently came to light from Radio NZ. Federated Farmers have also been talking about the issue.
Along with the provincial growth fund, the purpose of the billion trees programme was in part to deliver an economic boost to the regions. Rightly or wrongly, farming lobby groups say the opposite is happening, with communities now under pressure from the loss of their previous economic base. In one of two speeches from protest organisers published by The Country, Jones was called out by name. Farmer Sully Allsop argued tree planted plans needed to be formulated and decided in a much more localised way, saying “Shane Jones, if you’re still trying to work out how to plant half a billion trees, you don’t need to be up all night researching on your laptop in a hotel room, you just need to pop over the hill and ask the farmers and land managers in the Wairarapa.”
It could be politically disastrous for NZ First to be targeted by such a highly motivated voting group, and National will be looking to capitalise. National’s agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller took the side of the protesters, along with a large group of other National MPs. In his speech he also asked the protesters whether they thought it was more important “to meet a particular Paris agreement or protecting the lives of you and your communities?” It’s the sort of rhetoric that shows National still isn’t exactly full steam ahead on climate action, despite signing on to the Zero Carbon bill.
Because the problem is, there is a massive need to plant trees. And it’s important not necessarily because of some international treaty or other, but because trees absorb carbon dioxide and prevent it heating the planet to unlivable temperatures. There is broad agreement that the impacts of climate change will hit rural New Zealand as hard as it hits the cities. But the ongoing need to find land for forestry means rural resentment on the issue is likely to fester and grow. Having a bit of empathy for them could go a long way.
The tax rebate system for films has been criticised for aiding the production of a Chinese action propaganda film. Stuff’s Thomas Coughlan reports the producers of Wolf Warrior 2, a militaristic film with an extreme body count, received back about a quarter of a spend worth just over a million dollars. But the real question we should be asking – was the film any good? Sam Brooks has a brilliant review of it which you should read. I had a look at the first half hour and tbh, it was maybe a tiny bit overblown but overall pretty funny and watchable.
An early stage cabinet paper about public media organisations has caused huge ructions around their future shape. The proposals for Radio NZ and TVNZ were broken by RNZ’s political editor Jane Patterson, who reported that the two entities could end up brought together in a new entity. Business Desk (paywalled) reports that TVNZ is moving to reassure advertisers that the market won’t change any time soon, though they are also now in a position where dividends don’t look likely. For more on what these proposals could mean, Duncan Greive’s five questions have a lot of answers.
The journalist who told the world about horrific conditions from within Australia’s torturous offshore detention centres is free in New Zealand. The Guardian reports Behrouz Boochani has been granted a visa for a month, sponsored by Amnesty International and in order to speak at WORD Christchurch. He fled Iran after being persecuted for being both a journalist and Kurdish, and hopes to be let into the USA. However, he has vowed to never go back to the Australian detention centre on Papua New Guinea.
A controversial event that some are describing as transphobic will be held at parliament. The Spinoff reports ACT leader David Seymour has offered to host the Feminism 2020 conference, which had previously been scheduled for Massey University, but then that venue cancelled on them. The controversy is around the organising group Speak Up for Women’s stance on transgender people. They insist their views are ‘gender-critical’ and that they aren’t anti-trans, others disagree with that characterisation and say their views are dangerous.
Police have been accused of racially profiling Pasifika churchgoers, to find unlicensed drivers, reports Donna-Lee Biddle for Stuff. They’ve found quite a few as well, and rather than issuing fines are offering free licensing courses instead. But some parishioners are terrified, and are staying away from church as a result – after all, many Pacific Islanders have had negative interactions with police throughout New Zealand’s history. In a tweet, Auckland councillor Efeso Collins said it was like a return of the dawn raids. “Won’t be long then cops will be accompanied by immigration officials. This is racial profiling.”
World oil demand is expected to keep growing for decades, reports One News. It is being put down to a range of factors, including increasing air travel and plastic use, and the extreme swing in consumer car markets towards SUVs. All of this is going to have tragic and terrifying impacts for the climate, with emissions continuing to climb. Speaking about those SUVs, my personal view is that banning their import would be among the lowest hanging fruit the government could pick to actually lower emissions, without having any effect whatsoever on anyone’s quality of life – in fact it would probably have net benefits for cities to have fewer on the road.
This is an incredibly detailed story about a developing relationship between the Tairawhiti region and the Republic of Ireland, from the Gisborne Herald. In particular focus is the possibility of developing a more thriving tech industry in the region, in the manner that Ireland managed several decades ago. There’s a lot of optimism about that – perhaps to a slightly overblown degree given the various geographic and infrastructural challenges. But who knows, there are also some quality of life advantages for the place that could really help it take off.
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Right now on The Spinoff: Paul Winstanley writes about the need to reimagine Auckland’s waterfront, whether or not that includes a stadium. Sunfed founder Shama Sukul Lee writes about the powerful political and industrial lobbying to ban words like ‘milk’ for products like soy milk. Catherine Woulfe has a wonderful piece about the perspective that comes with the birth of a second child, after a tough time with the first. Amy Russell writes about the freedom that comes with no longer shaving her legs.
And just a quick plug here: The Bulletin World Weekly is normally a members-only publication, but just this once we’ve put it up on the site so you can get a sense of it. This week’s issue looks at the aftermath of Bolivia’s President being forced from office, and what is likely to come next, along with other important stories from around the world. If you want to get it in your inbox every Thursday, sign up for The Spinoff Members here.
For a feature today, a long interview with the author of a new book on the leaky home crisis. Conducted by Mike White at North and South, it allows Rottenomics author Peter Dyer the chance to really draw the connections between houses starting to let in water, and wider changes in economics, politics and society. Here’s an excerpt:
While Dyer describes it as a perfect storm (“It’s a hell of a cliche, but it seems to fit”), he’s quick to point out the scandal was the result of conscious decisions taken in the name of efficiency and cost saving, leaving thousands of buildings simply doomed to rot.
“It was 100% preventable. We did it. We caused it. We brought it on ourselves. It wasn’t an act of nature – unless you consider ordinary rainfall in New Zealand an unusual act of nature. And nobody really thought, ‘If we turn the building industry loose, it might not work out so well.’ It was just a leap of faith – faith that they would make things better.”
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The All Whites haven’t had much football at all recently, but they’re back in action this morning. They’ll be playing against Ireland, in their first match for more than a year. Also coming off a long hiatus is Winston Reid, who Stuff reports has been dogged by injuries. It’ll be the first game in charge for manager Danny Hay, who probably has a fair bit of goodwill built up from his apprenticeship with the U-17s, and will get a long run in the job as a result.
This could be a good boost for a whole lot of more obscure sports. The NZ Herald reports Sky Sport is going to be launching a new platform called Next, alongside 50 sports that will now have their games shown. According to the NZX announcement of the platform, there will be a focus on Olympic pathway sports, and programming will be balanced between men’s and women’s sport. There will also be more out-there codes like Ultimate (played with a frisbee) getting a bit of attention on the platform.
Finally, Paul Coll has marched on at the World Squash Champs. He’s now in the final, which will be played at 3.30am tomorrow morning on Sky, against world No.2 Tarek Momen from Egypt.
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The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.