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(Photo: Radio NZ / Diego Opatowski)
(Photo: Radio NZ / Diego Opatowski)

The BulletinMay 17, 2019

The Bulletin: Some day Wellington’s transport woes might get fixed

(Photo: Radio NZ / Diego Opatowski)
(Photo: Radio NZ / Diego Opatowski)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Major transport plans announced for Wellington, fears some forests will be unprotected from mega mast, and complexities of drug driver testing outlined. 

A major, decades long investment has been announced for Wellington’s transport network. It’s a mix of incremental short term upgrades focused largely on those not in cars, and in Radio NZ’s words, there are “vaguer plans” for ideas like some form of mass transit network, and various options to do something about the roads around the Basin and Mt Vic. It comes from the Let’s Get Wellington Moving report, a group made up of the NZTA, Wellington City Council, and Greater Wellington Regional Council.

In terms of the scope of the Let’s Get Wellington Moving report, the Talk Wellington blog pointed out a few flaws. For one, it stops at the Ngauranga Gorge, north of which is where a huge number of commuters drive in from every day. But overall the transport advocacy blog welcomes it as a huge opportunity to reshape Wellington’s transport network towards mass transit and public options.

Regarding mass transit systems, there’s a lot of interest at the moment in trackless trams, which are touted as much cheaper and less permanent than light rail. The wider arguments around them are unpacked in this very useful post on the TraNZport blog. Light rail being built has been persistently floated as a solution to Wellington’s choke point traffic system, but progress on actually confirming plans or building anything has been much slower – that hasn’t really advanced much in this latest announcement, and construction beginning will still be years away.

For the Basin Reserve road generally, it continues an incredibly long roundabout of various plans. Stuff has a short recent history of them, particularly since the cancellation of the flyover road. A persistent trend for roading around that part of town is that some parts get multiple laned roads built, but other sections drop to one lane and quickly clog up – particularly Mt Vic tunnel.

As to the wider announcement, there was a bit of a kerfuffle in the afternoon over Treasury advice being ignored. Not so much in terms of the projects being wrong, reports Checkpoint – rather Treasury wanted the announcements to be delayed until they had been properly vetted for costs and benefits. Transport minister Phil Twyford said in fact a lot of work had gone in there, and that the government wanted to signal that investments would be coming, and that the government would put up 60% of package worth $6.4 billion over twenty years.

So what will happen from here? Stuff’s Dileepa Fonseka has looked into the future, and there’s still a lot of Council wrangling and business case approval for major projects to get through. There could also be legal action of the type that doomed the Basin Reserve flyover, and the issues will all be live as of the local body elections later in the year. But for Wellingtonians – especially those hit by the bus debacles of recent months – the idea that someone might some day do something about the city’s transport woes could be a welcome one.

There are fears pest populations will roar back in forests that aren’t being protected from the upcoming ‘mega mast’, reports Newsroom. That’s when trees and tussocks put out huge amounts of seeds and fruits all at once, and so there’s an abundance of food for rats and stoats to gorge themselves on. DOC is launching a massive programme of 1080 drops and trapping for large swathes of forest, but 300,000 hectares of forest deemed to be high priority won’t be protected. The result could put a few native species at risk.

Testing of drug drivers has been in the news recently – in particular what the government plans to do about it if marijuana becomes legal. The Spinoff’s Don Rowe has taken a look at some of the strange issues which have to be ironed out with the implementation of any regime. As such, politicians are wary – the government have announced they’re looking into it, but former transport minister Simon Bridges also had a look back in the day and didn’t implement roadside testing too. The key point with whatever comes out of it is that drugged drivers simply don’t get on the road, and as such police minister Stuart Nash said on Newstalk ZB that they would also be looking for the public to tell each other to not drive while high.

Students are questioning whether the price is right on a work placement course at AUT’s business school, reports Debate news editor Dan Brunskill. It’s a nine week course, costing more than three grand, and is almost entirely just an internship that students find for themselves, many of which are unpaid. AUT has defended the course being the same price as those that are directly taught by staff, saying it’s about students learning skills over content. But the students quoted in the story wonder – of what is being taught, how much teaching is AUT actually doing?

Documents have revealed MPs have long been considering how to allow rocket launches that potentially contravene the peaceful use of space, reports Ollie Neas for The Spinoff. Almost every commercial rocket launch from New Zealand to date has included payloads for US military organisations, and plays into the wider US network of nuclear deterrence. And while Rocket Lab have insisted they would never allow the launching of weapons from their sites, it arguably makes New Zealand a legitimate military target were the USA to go to war.

The results of Auckland’s homeless census have been released. Te Manu Korihi reports that of the 800 people spoken to on the one-night census in September last year, almost half were Māori. It’s being described as a wake up call. The survey did not include those living in boarding houses, garages and the like – just people who were living on the street on the night of counting. Around 700 people took part in the counting, and Toby Manhire was one of them – he filed this report last year.

National MP Alfred Ngaro is exploring the possibility of setting up a socially conservative splinter party, reports Barry Soper for the NZ Herald. By the sound of the story, National don’t hate the idea either, with suggestions that the party could give Mr Ngaro a clear run in Botany. Interestingly Family First’s Bob McCoskrie is quoted heavily in the story as being supportive of the idea, which is a sign some power-brokers among that part of politics don’t see the New Conservatives as a realistic or desirable party to back as a National coalition partner. I wrote about National’s search for friends last year, and let’s just say I’m not wholly convinced voters will get behind any party that looks like it has National’s blessing.

A handful of Council organisations declared climate emergencies yesterday. They’re non binding pledges that recognise the emergency nature of climate change, and make decisions accordingly, reports Stuff. Councillors at the Nelson City Council, and Environment Canterbury, say it is about making a statement on the start of taking action.

Newsroom’s Farah Hancock has continued a strong series of reporting around the proposed mine in Middlemarch, highlighted in yesterday’s Bulletin. Today Hancock’s story is about whether or not the diatomite scheduled to be dug up will actually work all that well as an animal feed supplement. Some experts are deeply skeptical of the claim, with one saying “it’s no magic anything. It’s just a pretty straightforward, low-key, rather expensive way to supply a feed binder and some minerals.”

The Australian election will take place tomorrow, and it’s looking like PM Scott Morrison is heading for a narrow defeat. Here’s a cheat sheet with some of the various characters to watch out for for those planning to watch at home (guilty.) The poll will take place overshadowed by two major events, neither of which favour the current government. Beloved former Labor PM and noted schooner-sculler Bob Hawke has passed away. And the far right could get a boost over news that two Rwandans accused of being part of the murder of a group of tourists in Uganda were resettled in Australia, under a deal struck by the current government.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Tom Peoples assesses the merits of allegations that speaker Trevor Mallard is biased. Sam Brooks has a transcendent experience at a Writer’s Festival event for school students. We’ve republished an incredible speech made by Mt Albert Grammar student Takunda Muzondiwa from the Race Unity Speech awards. And Gareth Shute has put together a comprehensive and highly engaging history of the magazine Rip it Up.

Today’s feature is a deeply sad story by Radio NZ’s Susan Strongman about what has happened since the death of Kelly Savage, a man from New Zealand who died in restraints after a mental health episode in Japan. He was tied to a hospital bed for ten days in fact, in a case which echoed other deaths in the country. The Savage family have since been fighting to end the practice of restraining those having mental health episodes, saying it is barbaric and dangerous. As a personal note, Kelly was a good mate of mine. I’ll share this excerpt because even though I never saw him teach, the paragraph perfectly captures how he was such a wonderfully and joyously odd dude.

His students still talk about “Kelly sensei” with fondness. In the schoolyard, filled with clusters of tiny flowers that cascade from raised gardens like pink ice cream sodas, they reminisce. He told them that in New Zealand at Christmas time, Santa would be surfing, and taught them songs in English. There was the time it snowed in Shibushi – a rare occurrence that far south – when Kelly took them outside to make snowmen. There was the ‘fruit salad’ game – a cross between musical chairs and tag, and the time his family visited and taught a class about Halloween. The kids still remember some of the scary things they learnt about that day – they call them out: “Ghost! Bat! Witch! Devil! Spider! Mummy!” One of the girls dressed as a witch, and Kelly dressed as Yoshi – the dinosaur from Super Mario Brothers – in a green onesie.

Triathlete Andrea Hewitt’s career could be about to end, after her funding was cut by Triathlon NZ, reports Radio Sport’s Alex Chapman. She hasn’t officially retired, but since winning a mixed relay bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games her form has dropped off. Hewitt has spent a career at the top of the sport for more than a decade. She’s also not criticising TNZ for the decision, though there has been quite a bit of turmoil around the organisation in recent years – there was an update to that just the other day from Newshub.

From our partners: A two-tier system of energy use is developing, with those on high incomes much more able to reduce their bills than households on lower incomes. Vector’s Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer Kate Beddoe outlines what the company plans to do about that.

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