Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Further America’s Cup funding already signalled, NZ organisation links to Uyghur persecution revealed, and IT panic as files deleted at Victoria University.
Well, they won the boat race. If you tuned into the news bulletins at any time last night you’ll already know that Emirates Team New Zealand beat Prada Luna Rossa 7-3, after winning all of the sailing, engineering, logistical and rule-setting aspects of the competition. Which is lovely for them, and good for people who are fans etc etc, happy for you all. But there’s another news line out of it all worth paying attention to.
After the win, the government immediately committed further funding to keep ETNZ together, reports Stuff. One of the more controversial aspects of elite yachting in recent decades has been the team consistently tapping the government up for more support – at times the negotiations more closely resembled ransom demands, to be fair. As yacht race minister Stuart Nash outlined, some of the $136.5 million of public money set aside for the cup has not yet been spent, and in principle that would be made available to the team to build towards the next event.
Which will be held – where exactly? One of the most defensible justifications given for public money going towards the America’s Cup is that it acts as an economic development stimulus for various industries – tourism, hospitality, boat building and so on. It’s probably worth noting that take was heavily contested even before Covid closed the borders, let alone an event with limited superyachts and spending. There was also a credible report from the NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Caroline Meng-Yee that ETNZ has been shopping the event to other potential host cities around the world, before they even had their hands on the mug.
The syndicate has said they want to host the next event in New Zealand, but that is a long way away from a firm commitment. Getting access to that money will depend on it – and any future money the government could be asked for. In the government’s statement, PM Ardern said it “would be subject to a number of conditions, including an expectation the Cup will be defended in New Zealand.” Auckland mayor Phil Goff is keen too, and Stuff reports talks will start soon between the syndicate and other stakeholders. Many might be wondering – how high could the bill end up being this time?
A range of New Zealand organisations have been implicated as connected to the persecution and human rights abuses of Uyghur people in western China. That came out as part of a Stuff documentary which takes both a general view of the current situation in Xinjiang province, as well as taking a closer look at with the company iFlytek and their New Zealand links. Several of those links include NZ government-backed companies.
Victoria University has accidentally wiped all the files stored on desktops on campus computers, reports Erin Gourley for Critic Te Arohi. The incident happened last Friday, and as of the report yesterday the IT team are still trying to fix it, while also being overloaded with requests for support. Some academics and students may have lost some seriously important documents as a result.
A report out this morning heavily hints that a trans-Tasman bubble from mid-April is on Cabinet’s agenda.Stuff’s Luke Malpass understands a concept is currently being discussed by a cabinet committee ahead of next Monday’s meeting. Airports would need about ten days to get ready once the announcement is made, in part because they’d need to be separated into ‘green’ and ‘red’ zones to avoid mingling between passengers from different countries.
The police are currently sitting on empty properties around the country, but have no intention of selling them, reports (paywalled) Business Desk’s Brent Melville. Mostly they’re shuttered former stations, which didn’t make the cut for a programme of upgrades several years ago. But the strange part about this story is that some have potentially massive resale value – including a lovely potential do-up in St Heliers – which real estate agents would be salivating to try and sell in the inflated housing market.
The long-promised review into the Official Information Act has been deferred because the justice ministry policy team is overloaded, reports Stuff’s Nikki Macdonald. It might now be considered later in the term, or might not. That information came out through an OIA request, which was itself delayed for two weeks longer than it should have been, apparently without explanation. Seven other projects have also been deferred, but they were redacted in the documents released. Some important context to get across – under the spirit of the law, public information should be released by the government unless there is a very good reason not to. It feels like contempt against journalism – and by extension the public too.
A very exciting personnel announcement for us at The Spinoff: First of all, Alex Casey is back and better than ever – she’s going to be our new features editor. And we’ve also secured the services of Bernard Hickey, arguably the sharpest commentator about New Zealand’s political economy right now. More info on their projects can be read here. And of course, we couldn’t have made these moves without the generous support of Spinoff Members, whose contributions allow us to do our best work.
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Right now on The Spinoff: Angela Woodward writes about a major defence policy review in Britain, and the folly of doubling down on nuclear weapons. Mirjam Guesgen reports on a new scientific development in fertility that New Zealand scientists may not be able to adopt. Rebekah Holt reports on a massive march in Australia against gendered violence, amid a range of aggravating stories currently in the headlines. Alice Webb-Liddall went along to O-week in Otago, to see hundreds of first year Māori students and their families gathering at Ōtākou marae to be welcomed onto the whenua of Ngāi Tahu. Amanda Peart writes about how the Warriors have turned to technology to keep themselves connected to home over their long Australia-based NRL campaign. And Charlotte Muru-Lanning reports on questions around a campaign to save a cafe that serves the homeless in Auckland.
We haven’t suffered the same pandemic effects in New Zealand as a country like the USA, but some of the phenomena people have experienced will be similar. So for a feature today, a piece from The Atlantic about how long periods of stress and lockdowns is affecting people’s brains, and the general sense of scatteredness that can come from it. Like I say, while we haven’t had months on end of lockdowns, some people here might be able to relate to it. Here’s an excerpt:
“We’re all walking around with some mild cognitive impairment,” said Mike Yassa, a neuroscientist at UC Irvine. “Based on everything we know about the brain, two of the things that are really good for it are physical activity and novelty. A thing that’s very bad for it is chronic and perpetual stress.” Living through a pandemic—even for those who are doing so in relative comfort—“is exposing people to microdoses of unpredictable stress all the time,” said Franklin, whose research has shown that stress changes the brain regions that control executive function, learning, and memory.
That stress doesn’t necessarily feel like a panic attack or a bender or a sleepless night, though of course it can. Sometimes it feels like nothing at all. “It’s like a heaviness, like you’re waking up to more of the same, and it’s never going to change,” George told me, when I asked what her pandemic anxiety felt like. “Like wading through something thicker than water. Maybe a tar pit.” She misses the sound of voices.
In sport, a big media development: SEN from Australia will be setting up a major new radio network in New Zealand, taking over the old TAB frequencies. As their press release noted, it’ll focus both on sport and racing. And they’ve bagged a huge name to front the breakfast show – former cricketer and pony punter Brendon McCullum. The implications of this could be pretty big for the industry, particularly if they start gunning for commentary rights for key sports, like they currently hold in Australia.
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