Physical landscapes have been altered by the cyclone and it’s now clear that it will alter the country’s trajectory on big issues like climate change adaptation and infrastructure investment, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.
The cyclone will dominate our politics for some time
A large portion of the Waipawa river in Hawke’s Bay is now running down a river bed it hasn’t travelled in 120 years — the sheer force of Cyclone Gabrielle has rerouted it. It’s one example of a landscape transformed overnight. It also stands as a slightly tortured metaphor for the ways the cyclone will alter our economic, social and political landscapes. This morning, Toby Manhire outlines the ways the ongoing response to the cyclone, and “the critical questions that have been unearthed, intensified or expedited by the disaster” will dominate our politics for some time”. Infometrics now expects “a reluctant 50-point increase” to the official cash rate next week as the Reserve Bank factors in the effects of the cyclone.
“A very good look at infrastructure resilience”
The forecast electoral battle grounds of cost-of-living, health, education and law and order won’t melt away. They were a strong feature of a speech from Act party leader David Seymour’s speech last night but the cyclone will force a focus on issues many would argue have been ignored for too long. Yesterday prime minister Chris Hipkins said the government will be having a “very good look” at the resilience of all infrastructure in preparation for future disasters. Resilience is one thing, but “infrastructure” is a catch-all for some huge areas of work and this country already has what Treasury estimates to be a $210b infrastructure deficit. The flooded Redclyffe substation, responsible for much of Hawke’s Bay’s power outage, was identified as critically at risk in 2020 (paywalled).
Climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation are required
There have been expressions of hope about the emergence of a bipartisan approach to climate change response. It is undoubtedly positive to have National party leader Christopher Luxon being so categoric about his inability to comprehend how anyone could be a climate change denier. In saying that, a few people including Manhire and Politik’s Richard Harman, have already noted that the term “adaptation” is dominating recent comments from politicians on climate change investment. There is an important difference between climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is clear that both are required. Whether a bipartisan approach plays out as support for climate change mitigation measures like agricultural emissions pricing, is yet to be seen.
The effects of chronic stress on an entire nation
Someone recently observed to me that all their mates in Melbourne talk about the impact lockdowns had on them and that people in Auckland don’t do that. To map that singular observation onto an entire country is extrapolation but as Stuff’s Bridie Witton writes, those impacted by the floods haven’t had time to recover and recuperate from the stress of lockdowns, illness and other factors caused by the pandemic. Clinical psychologist Dougal Sutherland says that while chronic stress and its effects on a person are understood, the same can’t be said for its effects on an entire nation and that is what we are now dealing with.