The Bulletin: Spies in the spotlight

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin: In today’s edition: Spies in the spotlight, support from freight CEO for government’s rail strategy, and Housing NZ lose same tenancy tribunal case twice.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn has put together a reference group for oversight of NZ’s spy agencies, reports Stuff. Their job will be to watch the watchmen, as it were, and provide updates to Gwyn on relevant legal, social and security developments. Members of the group won’t need a security clearance, as not classified material will be released to them.

National’s Gerry Brownlee is alarmed at some of the members named, reports the NZ Herald, as they include critics of spy agencies like investigative journalist Nicky Hager, and lawyer Deborah Manning. Hager said in response he believes he was appointed because he has experience reporting on spy agencies, and holding them to account. Andrew Little, minister responsible for the spy agencies, said on Radio NZ he was surprised to see journalist David Fisher on the list, but on balance said the formation of the group was healthy for democracy. The other members of the panel include experienced figures from the legal, advocacy, academic, media and security worlds.

Meanwhile, the GCSB boss says there are signs New Zealand has been targeted by Russian state sponsored hacking, reports Stuff. The details provided by the spies are scarce, but director-general Andrew Hampton said for the first time that it was believed some of the 122 “serious incidents” included in last year’s annual report were carried out by Russians. Other questions from Stuff were directed to a statement issued by the United States Computer Emergency Response Team. In Radio NZ’s 6am news bulletin this morning, PM Jacinda Ardern was quoted as saying she was waiting on advice before commenting more fully.


There’s support for the government’s rail strategy from the boss of one of the largest logistics firms in the country, reports Stuff. It was one of the less widely reported aspects of the wider transport plan, but it includes big investments in rapid rail instead of building some of the roads of national significance. Mainfreight’s CEO Don Braid says even though the fuel tax will cost his company money, more freight needs to come off the road, and to do that better rail capacity is needed. Funding has already been announced to get the Napier-Wairoa line operational again.


Housing NZ have been slapped down over a bizarre case taken twice against a tenant and their table, reports Radio NZ. Housing NZ took a pensioner to the tenancy tribunal twice, threatening eviction if she didn’t remove a small table outside her front door. The two cases ended up costing pensioner Vivienne Wright more than $2485 in legal fees, which she is hoping to get reimbursed by Housing NZ.


Tauranga city councillor (and former MP) Larry Baldock is backing a $580 million plan to save the city from Auckland-like gridlock, reports the Bay of Plenty Times. The money is for completion of the ‘ring road’, and would likely require either a general or targeted rate to raise the money. Baldock argues less congestion would assist in the continued success of the Port of Tauranga, the largest port in the country.

And in the other big city in Auckland’s orbit, Hamiltonians in suburbs with rapidly rising house prices are being warned they’re in for a rates shock. The front page story on the Waikato Times, which at the time of print doesn’t appear to be online, notes house values in the northeastern suburbs are booming, and rising at a faster rate than the rest of the city, which means they’ll have to take on a greater share of the rates burden.


Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has given the NZ Herald an exclusive, front page, interview about his heart attack. The mayor is recovering well, and expects to soon be able to resume doing 13–hour work days. It had not previously been explicitly reported that he had had a heart attack, (as far as I can tell) rather that he had been in hospital for “unplanned cardiac surgery.”


Dairy prices are up at the latest global dairy auction, which took place overnight. Overall, the index is up 2.7%, with a more detailed breakdown available here.


And from our partners, Vector’s Karl Check analyses Australia’s progress when it comes to shifting away from coal and gas fired power plants and onto renewal energy sources.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Uber drivers are calling on fellow drivers and passengers to join a day of action on May 14, over bad pay and conditions. Guest writer Emily Holdaway has some advice for parents who don’t get enough sleep. And we’ve got a brand new books podcast! It’s called Papercuts, and the first episode is out now.


This is a really good long read about a mountain climb that went wrong, and an against the odds rescue. It’s published on Outside, an American Outdoors magazine and website which I had never previously come across, but appears to have some really good pieces, such as this one on the recent Cape Town water crisis.

This story takes place on Nanga Parbat in Pakistan, the ninth highest mountain in the world, and it’s a story of risk, death, persistence and ambition. It reinforces the danger of climbing, while giving meaning to why mountaineers attempt such dangerous peaks. Here’s a sample that introduces two of the central people in the story:

“By 2015, Marek had decided he was done with the mountain. But Tomasz wouldn’t give up. Without Marek, he decided he’d just climb solo and alpine style—fast and light, without setting up multiple camps filled with supplies. That’s when he met Elisabeth Revol, a rising star on the French national climbing team. Elisabeth was five years younger than Tomasz and his complete opposite. He was a talkative, eccentric anarchist; she was a quiet phys ed teacher from the small town of Saou. He was a former heroin addict; she avoided alcohol and gluten.”


And in sport, Super Rugby hasn’t been covered all that much in The Bulletin this year. Partly that’s been because the Warriors have been in such hot form, and dominating headlines on and off the field. But this story from the NZ Herald jumped out at me – half of the Blues squad is now injured.

The Blues are currently 14th out of 15 on the Super Rugby ladder, and with such a horror injury toll and more NZ derbies to play, they’ll struggle to improve on that much. If the Blues could call on the likes of Jerome Kaino, Augustine Pulu, Sonny Bill Williams and George Moala, their season may have been salvageable. Other teams are also facing an injury crisis – for example, the Chiefs have lost all 6 of the props they started the season with.


That’s it for the The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, please forward it on and encourage them to sign up here. Thanks for joining us this morning.


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