Cows in deep mud after winter grazing went wrong (Image: Radio NZ/Supplied)

The Bulletin: Winter grazing in the spotlight

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Winter grazing in the spotlight, teens smoking much less weed than they used to, and stats show big acceleration in Auckland house building.

To lead us off today, a look at a relatively long running farming issue which has burst into the spotlight in recent weeks. Winter grazing, or winter cropping as some call it, is basically when cows are given a small area of pasture crop to live on, and they eat it until it is entirely gone. It can cause severe animal welfare issues if cows are left standing in mud, and can also be pretty bad for runoff and waterway pollution. But it’s also something of a proxy war for the wider questions around whether dairying can be sustainable.

The government announced a taskforce to look into it last week, with MPI to ensure good practices are followed. But what are good practices? Dairy NZ have a guide, and heavily stress that the key is planning ahead. Cows standing in mud is what happens when you don’t plan well enough, in their view. In animal welfare group SAFE’s view, some of the pictures that have emerged could even be in breach of the law, let alone being good practices or otherwise. They’re urging that the taskforce include people from outside the farming industry to assess it.

There have been plenty of tensions around winter cropping since the launch of the campaign. The most notable so far is a standoff that took place between farmers and a van of environmentalists in Southland – Radio NZ has a report on it. The farmers insist they weren’t trying to intimidate the environmentalists who were investigating the practice, but the way the environmentalists tell the story, that sure isn’t what the effect was.

One notable development is that farming leaders are actively speaking out against bad winter croppers. Fed Farmers in Southland say that some areas are “simply too wet” for the practice to be safe, reports Farmers Weekly. Provincial president Geoffrey Young blasted “laggards” – a favoured term among farmers to talk about other farmers who are making the rest of them look terrible – as did Otago president Simon Davies in this opinion piece on The Country. As a strategy, it concedes part of the point to the environmentalist campaign, and suggests improvements will be coming. But it doesn’t address the real point a lot of environmentalists are making right now, which is that there are simply too many cows for the land to handle.

Finally, if you think it’s only a problem for farmers and environmentalists to battle out, you’d be wrong. Longbush Kindergarten in Southland had to be closed earlier last week, because winter grazing runoff had swept through the grounds. A salient reminder perhaps that things that happen on farms around New Zealand don’t necessarily just stay on farms.

Young people are using a lot less weed than in the past, with Māori leading the decline, reports Don Rowe for The Spinoff. Multiple universities participated in the study, which found that weekly weed use among teenagers had halved in the space of a decade. The researchers say it’s a positive trend, and that legalisation won’t necessarily reverse it, provided it is done right.

An update on how housing in Auckland is going, and things are actually looking a lot better than they were. Interest reports that more than 10,000 homes were completed in the year to June, which was moderately up compared to last year, and way up on years before that. And with the number of consents also rising sharply (and an estimated two year time between consents being issues and builds completed) there might actually be a time in the future when Auckland doesn’t have a housing crisis.

Extremely well attended consultation sessions over changes to Oranga Tamariki legislation are taking place at the moment. The Rotorua Daily Post reported on one in their patch, and it gave a good overview of both the changes being made, and the significant concerns being raised by the public. The biggest change that will be made is providing “a practical commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi,” which will probably require a lot of ongoing work to get right.

European trade negotiators are demanding more trademark protections for ‘geographic indicator’ food names, reports Radio NZ. It could cause problems for local specialty cheese producers here, and they’ve expressed concerns. Regardless, one thing NZ could potentially get in return is market access, which would perhaps soften the blow of no longer being able to call your cheese feta.

Native bird species are at risk in the Waitākere Ranges, because of record rat populations, reports the NZ Herald. It had already been predicted that there would be large rat populations this year, but the scale is taking everyone by surprise. Kōkako are particularly threatened, as rats (and potentially stoats and weasels to boot) are at levels higher than is safe for healthy bird breeding.

A group of parents have pulled their kids out of a Queenstown primary school, over concerns that their kids aren’t doing enough of core subjects, reports Mountain Scene. The principal has responded by pointing out that the school teaches the nationwide curriculum. It’s a really interesting one, because by the sound of it the Principal understands the concerns of the parents, but also cautions that it’s more a matter of the changing nature of education.

Today would be a really good day to enrol to vote in the local elections. If you do so by midnight, you’ll get your ballot papers in the post and can vote that way. Of course, you can still enrol and vote later on, it’ll just be more of a hassle. To explain it all, we asked electoral law expert Graeme Edgeler for a guide to both that, and the STV voting system many elections will use.

And while we’re at it, a reminder that we’ll be doing heaps and heaps of local election coverage, all of it funded by The Spinoff Members. The more people chip in, the more journalism we can do with it. As well as that, members also get access to the Bulletin World Weekly, which I’ll be sending out later today.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Rebekah Jaung criticises ignorant use of the Imperial Japanese rising sun flag, as a symbol of hate. Alex Casey reports on a study that shows education about periods should begin in primary school. Former public servant Tony Burton lays into Stats NZ, a hardworking organisation which he says has a “tiny and distant” brain. Robyn Hunt explains why writers have to make disability more than just a narrative crutch in their work. And a whole bunch of us wrote about our favourite episodes of television, and what made them so perfect.

For a feature today, a rather striking and strident opinion piece from one of the country’s top media executives. Newshub’s Hal Crawford has absolutely hammered out a piece that lays bare the crisis facing the big newsrooms right now, and what that could mean for the future of the country. I’ll largely let it speak for itself, but here’s an excerpt:

Look at news across the board. It’s said to be a good thing that Stuff can’t find a buyer, because that means Nine has had to hang on to their accidental Kiwi purchase.

Nine is a media company, right? If this gives anyone any relief, they are deluding themselves. The first and key part of the story is that no one in the world wants to buy New Zealand’s premiere digital news company. That isn’t a good thing.

Don’t think NZME are off the hook. No one reports on their regular staff culls because there’s no one there to pull a Herald on the Herald.

These guys are enthusiastic chroniclers of every other media company’s woes but are naturally silent when it comes to their own inch-by-inch subsidence. They are closing papers. They are up to their necks in trouble.

The Tall Blacks are building nicely ahead of the Basketball World Cup in China. Newshub reports they’ve come away from a warmup tour of Japan with a win and a loss, and the next side they’ll be taking on is a dangerous Canada. The World Cup starts for the Tall Blacks on the first of September, against Brazil. Getting out of that group at all could be tricky, as they’ll be competing against a star-studded Greece, and the fast-rising Montenegro.

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.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, pass on this signup form to them.

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