The Bulletin: Rapid public support for midwife petition

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Strong public support for midwife petition, Waipareira Trust defends massive Tamihere campaign donation, and most of the bodies on Whakaari now found.

A petition for community midwives to get better funding and pay has absolutely taken off. Radio NZ reports the petition, which is hosted on the official parliament website, has now been signed more than 11,000 times. The campaign is specifically based around community midwives (rather than core midwives, or those based in maternity centres.) Community midwives are contracted by the ministry of health, and provide lead maternity care services.

Part of the petition is aimed at a new funding model, because midwives say the existing one isn’t working or sustainable. For an outline of why, this piece from last year by Kimberley Davis is a must-read. It’s brutal, and makes a difficult job much more so to manage from either a financial or lifestyle point of view. Burnout in the job is high, but there aren’t a lot of new people coming into the profession to compensate, according to College of Midwives chief executive Alison Eddy. That in turn stretches the level of service midwives can provide mothers.

It means maternity services generally will increasingly take on political importance. There have long been stories about a crisis in midwifery, but the petition underlines that there is a huge depth of public feeling out there too. Eddy says it was launched specifically over frustration with years of stalled progress on the issue, and while she acknowledged that “there have been some wins, we continue to wait for midwives’ work to be fully recognised and properly supported and funded.” It is notable that National made a major deal out of midwife services in their health policy discussion document, and it is highly likely to be an election issue. And for the government, the scale of anger in the profession will be very difficult to resist – as an example of this, when there was a catch-up rise in community midwife fees in last year’s Budget, many said it didn’t go nearly far enough.

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The Waipareira Trust has defended donating $100,000 to the failed mayoral campaign of their CEO John Tamihere, reports Bernard Orsman for the NZ Herald. The trust supports social services for Māori in West Auckland, and Te Whanau o Waipareira chairman Raymond Hall say they have the right to participate in the political process. Tamihere himself dismissed questions on the topic by asking if “only white folk support mayoral candidates” – which is certainly a defence, but appears to miss the point slightly. In case you were wondering, yes, the Trust receives taxpayer funding. Meanwhile, among the other donations to both Tamihere and Phil Goff, property developers featured heavily.

The effort to recover bodies from Whakaari/White Island has mostly been completed. However, as this dramatic Stuff piece shows, there wasn’t anything easy about it. It took a gruelling and risky expedition from highly trained soldiers to make it possible, and two people are still missing and presumed dead – for recovery personnel much of the weekend was spent searching for them. The number of deaths is now 16, with more people still in critical condition.

Mixed news for those planning on driving a lot this summer – Radio NZ reports NZTA plans a massive amount of maintenance and renewal – twice as much as normal in fact – over the coming months. Part of the reason for that is to both manage the impact and further open up major roads to bigger and heavier freight trucks, and overinvestment in the road network is almost certainly safer than underinvestment. But for motorists, the message is pretty simple – expect a few delays.

Some interesting stats have been pulled out of last week’s Crime and Victims Survey, by Newshub’s Dan Satherley. The study shows that poor people and Māori are much more likely to be victims of crime, and it correlates with other negative indicators. Meanwhile, the majority of those surveyed experienced no crime at all in the past 12 months.

If I may be so blunt, there has been a pathetic end to the latest round of climate talks in Madrid. Radio NZ has republished a BBC report on the compromise deal that has come out of them, with many decisions deferred until the next one in Glasgow. The story includes this line, which about sums it up – “All parties will need to address the gap between what the science says is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change, and the current state of play which would see the world go past this threshold in the 2030s.” As Reuters reports, positive action was blocked by a small handful of rich nations, including Australia, China and the USA. I’m not really sure what the solution to such obstructionism is (trade sanctions? an International Criminal Court prosecution?) but such countries will be the death of us all.

Say Something Nice about a Journo 2019: It was a pretty outstanding year all round for the team at TVNZ 1 show Sunday, but one story in particular stands out. Murdoch Stephens, a refugee advocate, highlighted Jehan Casinader’s story about racist discrimination within our country’s refugee policy. It wasn’t the first time the issue had been raised, but after the Christchurch mosque shooting, the impact of the story was powerful and vital. And it directly contributed to the racist aspect of the refugee policy being overturned, so let the record show that journalism can make a difference.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Professor Shaun Hendy calls on universities to adopt non-flying ways to get around, to reduce carbon emissions. Emily Writes looks at the people who struggle to find joy at Christmas, and what can be done to help them. Catherine Delahunty writes about the leadership shown by tangata whenua at times of national tragedy. Laura O’Connell Rapira writes in frustration about a new justice report containing solid advice that has been ignored by politicians for decades. Jenesa Jeram has a brilliant analysis of what studies of porn use actually tell us about regulatory and policy responses. Ben Martley writes about casual job platform Sidekicker, and how it makes it easier for gig-economy workers to be exploited. Nicola Kean, an NZer in Britain, writes about the bizarre democractic distortions created by the UK’s electoral system.

If you still need to find someone a Christmas gift (and haven’t just gone for The Spinoff Book for every friend and relative) then consider checking out this guide from Alex Casey. It has a whole lot of stuff listed on TradeMe with a $1 reserve.

Finally, it has been at times a pretty bad year in news, with a lot of tragedy and loss. Kamahl Santamaria, a Kiwi journalist based in Doha, has written about what it was like to see his country so frequently in international headlines. It’s a really good perspective to get on our part of the world.

For a feature today, a must read column about the winners and losers of economic growth. In the NZ Herald (paywalled) Liam Dann has analysed the decade across the NZX, the housing market, and wage growth. What the numbers show is brutal – those who were rich at the start of the decade are much wealthier now, and those who work for a wage have barely seen any improvement at all. Here’s an excerpt, starting from where things were at this time in 2009:

On paper things were unambiguously worse. What wasn’t so clear then was how the solutions being put in place to prop up the financial and economic system would change the world for years to come.

Interest rates were slashed, money was printed, inflation fell and productivity stalled and wage growth stagnated. Meanwhile, capital poured into higher-yielding assets – property and shares – driving an historic asset boom which stood in stark contrast to an otherwise sedated, low-growth global economy.

We got through it but there was a price to pay, one we are still paying in political upheaval and intergenerational conflict.

In sport, there’s lots to cover today: We’ll start with the cricket, because it’s good to get bad news out of the way first. The Black Caps have been thrashed under lights in Perth by Australia, with this nation’s cricketing nemesis Mitchell Starc dealing out heavy damage. The series now moves to Melbourne for the Boxing Day test.

The Aussies have also nicked off with the Netball Super Club title, with the Collingwood Magpies beating New Zealand’s best and Wasps from England. The NZ Herald reports the Magpies managed to edge out the Northern Mystics in the final – the latter a bit of a surprise given how poor their last season was.

In much better news, Sarpreet Singh’s journey in German football has continued, with the young Kiwi running on as a substitute to earn his first cap in the Bundesliga. Stuff reports he had a handy couple of touches in an eight minute spell, after coming on for Bayern Munich’s star midfielder Philippe Coutinho. While it’s nice to see him get some time on the park, in the context of the match it was pretty academic – Bayern thrashed Werder Bremen 6-1.

Finally, Sir Peter Snell is being remembered as an athlete both great in talent and humble in personality. The legendary runner and Olympic gold medal winner passed away over the weekend, at the age of 80. His life and career is contained in this lovely obituary from sports journalist James McOnie, who interviewed him several times.

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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