A prefab house being constructed in Auckland (Supplied – Fletcher Building)
A prefab house being constructed in Auckland (Supplied – Fletcher Building)

The BulletinOctober 17, 2019

The Bulletin: Prefab factory promising but huge need remains

A prefab house being constructed in Auckland (Supplied – Fletcher Building)
A prefab house being constructed in Auckland (Supplied – Fletcher Building)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Prefab housing factory opened amid huge need, worrying new measles developments, and public shows common sense on drug testing.

A new factory has been opened to produce building materials, which if scaled up could have a significant impact on construction time and costs. Anne Gibson at the NZ Herald has reported on Fletcher Building’s new Clever Core factory in Wiri, which can cut the lead time of a house from 22 weeks down to just six. It will produce prefabricated components for Fletcher developments, initially for several Auckland projects, and aims to be cranking out 500 homes a year. It also aims to cut a huge share of accumulated building waste.

Having many more of these factories would certainly be a massive boost for Kiwibuild, and Stuff reports housing minister Megan Woods told those at the factory opening that it could transform the industry. The government also recently announced law changes to streamline the consenting process for prefabs. Getting the factory in place has been fairly capital intensive for FletchersIt cost $15 million, and is made infinitely more viable with building contracts signed and underway.

The country’s current housing crisis is obviously hugely severe. A recent report from Kiwibank put it at around 130,000, and having got worse since it was previously measured. Colliers International countered that with a report saying it could be as low as half of that, though it would still present a huge shortfall.

With the houses that end up being produced from this factory, supply will increase. But it won’t necessarily happen at the end of the market with the most need, considering houses at some sites in the Fletcher portfolio go for close to a million dollars. For an insight into the dire need for more social housing to be built, the must-read is Kirsty Johnston’s piece in the NZ Herald(paywalled) this morning, which follows the journey of a solo mother through the state house waitlist. The new factory is a promising development, but if it becomes a white elephant it will barely dent the housing crisis.

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Worrying new developments in the measles outbreak have taken place. RNZ Pacific reports an epidemic has been declared in Samoa, and one child is believed to have died as a result. And Radio NZ reports those who attended a Seventh Day Adventist holiday camp in Rotorua are being asked to quarantine themselves until the 21st of October, because a person with measles was there. More than 1000 people from around the North Island attended the camp.

The general public has shown itself far more capable of common sense than certain politicians, if a recent poll on drug testing is to be believed. One News has reported on one of the big findings from the latest survey they did with Colmar Brunton, in which the question was put as to whether those intended to take illegal drugs should be able to have them tested legally. And a full three quarters of people polled said yes, that should be allowed to happen. Some argue that testing drugs sends the wrong message about whether it’s okay to use them – I’d argue blocking drug testing sends the wrong message about whether it’s okay for young people to die needlessly.

Farming lobby groups intend to hold a march to parliament next month in protest at pine plantations, reports the Wairarapa Times-Age. The protest is being organised by 50 Shades of Green, who say that too much pressure is being put on rural economies by forestry conversions of good farming land. They believe Wellington isn’t listening to them, so that’s where they’ll go – in echoes of previous farmer protests like the time a tractor was driven onto the steps of parliament.

There’s conjecture in the coalition over the government’s new anti-terrorism bill, with the Greens opposing it, reports Newshub. They say there are human rights concerns with the laws, and apply too broad a brush to what the definition of terrorism is – as well as that, MP Golriz Ghahraman described it as “dog-whistle law-making.” However, PM Jacinda Ardern rejected that, and the law is almost certain to pass, as National say they’ll back it in place of the Greens.

UPDATE: National may not back it after all.

I haven’t really followed the wider story around a developer’s fight with Whenuapai Airbase, but this is a good wrap of it all. The stoush, which has gone as high as the minister of defence, has been covered by The Detailpodcast, which goes into the various angles and competing interests around national security, urban growth, and NIMBYism vs YIMBYism. The interview with planning expert Dr Lee Beattie was particularly interesting, in considering the growth of housing in Whenuapai, far away from Auckland’s main centres.

I saw Mediawatch’s Jeremy Rose tweeting about this, and thought it would be great to share some of the fruits of the new Local Democracy Reporter programme. These stories come from Charlotte Jones, who works at the Whakatāne Beacon. The first is published on Radio NZ, and concerns the lack of Eastern Bay of Plenty representation on the BOP DHB. The second is a great interview on the Whakatāne Beacon with the only new member of Kawerau District Council, and it’s a fascinating look into the challenges of representing people in a small town. They’re exactly the sorts of stories that have been buried with newsroom cutbacks, and it’s great to see them getting told.

Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz, or subscribe now to get The Bulletin free and direct to your inbox every morning.

Axe throwing in action (Photo: Supplied)

Right now on The Spinoff: Local elections expert Julienne Molineaux outlines why she’s deeply suspicious of online voting as a solution to low turnout. Hannah Yang writes about the sadly predictable response to a racist clue in the newspaper crossword. Greta Yeoman gets amongst with the axe-throwing hobby taking off in Wellington.

And some great TV stuff to share: Alex Casey interviews Karen O’Leary, the remarkable and funny star of Wellington Paranormal. Josie Adams sat in on a filming of Have You Been Paying Attention. And Alex Casey again talked to an academic who wrote a fascinating sounding dissertation about Youtuber Logan Paul, which sort of became of the culture it was critiquing when Logan Paul himself noticed it.

The question of what weight is healthy has long been grappled with. One of the measurements, the Body Mass Index or BMI for short, often gets thrown around as a solution. But there are some troubling aspects of how BMIs get used which are quite troubling, and as I discovered from this excellent piece on Medium, based on a racist outlook on the world. Here’s an excerpt of this history of the BMI concept.

But more than that, science has repeatedly demonstrated that a measure built by and for white people is even less accurate for people of color — and may even lead to misdiagnosis and mistreatment. According to studies published by the Endocrine Society, the BMI overestimates fatness and health risks for Black people. Meanwhile, according to the World Health Organization, the BMI underestimates health risks for Asian communities, which may contribute to underdiagnosis of certain conditions.

And, despite the purported universality of the BMI, it papers over significant sex-based differences in the relationship between body fat and the BMI. That is, because so much of the research behind the BMI was conducted on those assigned male at birth, those assigned female may be at greater health risk if their diagnosis hinges on a measurement that was never designed for them.

The Silver Ferns have been outplayed by Australia in their second Constellation Cup match, reports the NZ Herald. The 48-42 margin indicated problems for the Ferns in the shooting circle, which came up in the story – Ameliaranne Ekenasio struggled to get free, leaving too much for Maria Folau to deal with. It squares up the series with two more games to play. The Silver Ferns haven’t won a series against Australia outright since 2012, and last tied a series up in 2015.

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