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A planet called Earth.
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The BulletinSeptember 16, 2019

The Bulletin: A week of covering climate change

A planet called Earth.
A planet called Earth.

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Covering Climate Now week begins, hate crimes in focus six months after Christchurch attack, and scale of house flipping laid bare. 

Over the course of this week, you’re going to see a lot of climate change coverage. The Spinoff will be one of the organisations participating in Covering Climate Now, a worldwide initiative aimed at strengthening the media’s focus on climate change. Hundreds of organisations are taking part, including some of the biggest news organisations in the world, and in New Zealand, the ranks will also include our friends at StuffRadio NZ, One News, Newshub, the NZ Herald and Newsroom. I’ll be linking a lot to their work over the coming days, and look forward to seeing each of their unique voices coming through.

As for our coverage, we’re starting the week with three pieces. The first is a report from Mirjam Guesgen, which outlines in detail what Auckland and Southland will feel like in 2050 on current warming trajectories. Climate change minister James Shaw has penned a letter to students participating in upcoming climate strikes. And Sam McGlennon writes about the concept of seizing the moment, and really acting on these seemingly insurmountable problems when the will is there.

Of course, it’s not like this sort of climate coverage is unusual any more. It has become increasingly apparent that stories that never would have been considered in this way are now being seen through the lens of climate change. You can rest assured that we won’t just do this week and then go back to ignoring it, because we haven’t been ignoring it for a long time now.

What you won’t see in these pages over the week is needless doom. Yes, these are enormous problems, with difficult solutions. But to wallow in the idea that there’s no hope, or that we may as well just give up, would be pathetic and stupid. We do still have time, and we owe it to future generations to work hard to give them a world they can inherit.

Sunday marked six months since the day of the Christchurch mosque attacks, in which 51 people were killed and many more injured. This editorial in The Press takes an uncomfortable look at the hate crimes that were taking place beforehand, and have taken place since, targeting ethnic minorities. However, there is still no hard data on exactly how common they are, because it simply isn’t recorded anywhere – despite that having the potential to give warning of future atrocities.

The concept of ‘house flipping’ is one that has dominated plenty of discussion about the housing market, and how it rose so high so fast. Thanks to the NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Kirsty Johnston and Keith Ng, we now have a much better idea of how it worked in practice. Over a six-year boom, more than 14,000 homes were flipped – on-sold for a big profit in the space of a few months – around the country. Some of those has absolutely no work done to them either, raising questions about whether such flipping was a cause or symptom of a market spiralling out of control. Meanwhile, the number of sales on that same market have now slumped to record lows, reports Interest.

The issue of homelessness in Wellington is one that plenty of political promises have been made on. Stuff’s Dileepa Fonseka has looked back on one from the 2016 election – mayor Justin Lester’s plan to build a ‘wet house’ that would allow people to drink while getting treatment – and questioned why it never ended up happening. By asking the question, it forced the mayor and councillors to defend what they had actually done on the issue instead.

Something of a theme is developing around consultations for the government’s freshwater plans. Farmers turn up in huge numbers, and leave unsatisfied with what they hear. Another one in Queenstown has been reported on by the ODT, while I can report much the same thing was evident at Friday evening’s consultation in Wellington. The consultation period has been extended another two weeks to October 31.

Remember the media merger between NZME and Stuff that the Commerce Commission rejected? There are rumours floating around that there could be another attempt. But as the NBR’s (paywalled) Dita de Boni writes, the financial position of Stuff is now in a much more dire state, despite owning by far the biggest news website in the country. Currently the company’s owners – Nine over in Australia – have made unsuccessful efforts to sell it off.

A huge election is about to take place in the Wairarapa town of Carterton. Radio NZ reports voting is now open in the race to decide what colour the iconic clock tower will be painted, with one vote per rate-paying household up for grabs. And while some might say it’s simply cosmetic, the options being put to the public would significantly change the tone of the tower. Voting tokens have gone out with the Carterton Crier, and will close on October 5.

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National’s agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller, next to an office shelf filled with American political paraphernalia (Alex Braae)

Right now on The Spinoff: Leonie Hayden looks at the Māori innovators and entrepreneurs at Matariki X, and the increasing strength of the Māori economy. Hayden Donnell reports from Hamilton on a debate that shows change could be coming for the city. I interviewed National party agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller, on the topic of compromise and bipartisanship. The Gone by Lunchtime podcast returns to survey the situation for Labour after their last week. Matt McAuley meets Miss June, a band whose frontwoman manages to balance music and medical school. And Toi Kai Rākau Iti, who is running in the Eastern Bay of Plenty Kohi Māori constituency, finds something to like about his crudely defaced billboards.

For a feature today, a look into the unexpected physical challenges that come with being a chess grandmaster. This piece from ESPN has been doing the rounds, in part because it cuts against the premise of one of the biggest debates around chess – whether or not it’s a real sport. As the piece shows, it’s an irrelevant question, because the immense physical and mental challenges of it happen regardless. Here’s an excerpt:

To combat it all, today’s players have begun to incorporate strict food and fitness regimens to increase oxygen supply to the brain during tournaments, prevent sugar-related crashes and sustain their energy. In the 1980s and ’90s, smoking, drinking and late-night parties were common on the chess circuit — that’s right, chess had a “Boogie Nights” phase — but that scene has all but disappeared.

“Physical fitness and brain performance are tied together, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that grandmasters are out there trying to look like soccer players,” Ashley says.

In basketball, the Breakers have slammed the door on offers for shooting guard Corey Webster, reports Guy Heveldt at One News. Webster had a fantastic World Cup, and an offer came in from a Turkish club – though it didn’t come with a buyout attached to it. Even though Webster wanted to go so much he offered to pay the buyout himself, the club said it still wouldn’t have made sense at their end, with two years remaining on Webster’s contract. It could make for something of an awkward start to the season, which gets underway pretty soon.

And finally, what a crazy year for Katrina Rore. The netballer has just won a third Grand Final of the year, adding a Super Netball title with the NSW Swifts in Australia to her World Cup with the Silver Ferns, and ANZ Premiership with the Pulse, reports Radio NZ. I think looking at her career as a whole, with many years of toil in teams that failed around her, it’s fair to say she deserves these trophies. Hopefully the Halberg Award selectors are watching.

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