Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Local government proposals raise support and concerns, Wellington buses have been a mess, and Te Papa’s CEO defends job cut restructure proposals.
We touched on the Local Government NZ conference a bit at the start of the week, but I think it deserves further exploring. The top line is this: LGNZ argues that political power and government spending is too centralised in NZ, and more of it should be devolved down to Councils – here’s a report on that from Radio NZ. They’re calling it ‘Project Localism,’ in partnership with the NZ Initiative, and say that local leaders know what’s best for a region better than Wellington bureaucrats do.
LGNZ leader and Dunedin mayor Dave Cull also told Newstalk ZB that councils want powers to raise taxes in ways other than property rates, including potentially local tourist taxes, which would be a boon for Councils in areas with high service demand but a low ratepayer base. If the proposals went through it would mark a pretty massive change in how New Zealand is governed.
But not everyone’s on board with the idea. This is an excellent piece of commentary on Interest from David Hargreaves, who argues that the LGNZ plan should raise serious concerns. The nub of it is this: Are councillors really the wisest among us, and the institutions they’re part of democratic and accountable enough? Obviously there are some exceptional local government leaders and councillors, but Hargreaves argues that currently that’s not the case across the board.
Another potential concern would be the possible erosion of representation for Māori if more powers were devolved. In multiple places around the country over the past few years, voters have gone against the creation of Māori wards in referenda. LGNZ say their proposals would give Iwi a greater say in local service delivery, but without Māori wards, the question has to be: How? On Waatea News, Bonita Bingham from LGNZ says progress is still being made despite the defeat of Māori wards.
There was another interesting bit out of the conference too. Plans are afoot (from central government) to overhaul how ‘three waters’ services are delivered, reports Stuff, in what could end up taking responsibility away from local councils. The bill to upgrade drinking water infrastructure around the country is cumulatively about half a billion dollars – money that is basically beyond the reach of councils. Minister Nanaia Mahuta told the conference that privatising water delivery is not on the agenda, but dedicated water providers taking over responsibility from Councils is.
New Wellington bus services have been a bit of a mess since launching on Sunday, reports Radio NZ. The Regional Council say another six months were probably needed to get everything sorted out ahead of radical changes, but the problems are just teething problems. Now, it’s been a while since I’ve lived there, but confusing routes and long waits kind of just sounds like the Wellington buses I remember.
Te Papa’s CEO is defending proposals to restructure the museum, which will result in job losses if they go through. CEO Geraint Martin went on Nine to Noon yesterday and said the proposals are about modernisation and renewal. But scientists fear that expertise could be lost, particularly in the area of collections research, reports Stuff. Around 20-25 full time jobs are on the line.
The really interesting part of the RNZ interview takes place about 8 minutes in, and concerns the finances of the museum, and whether there is a directive to cut jobs across the board. Mr Martin denies that there’s anything of the sort, and it all gets a bit heated.
US President Donald Trump is being accused of treason after his Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin, at which he agreed that the Russian regime was innocent of electoral interference, which goes against the views of Trump’s own intelligence agencies. Even members of Trump’s own Republican party are saying it, reports CNN, though the leading critics, like John McCain, Paul Ryan and Bob Corker are all on their way out soon anyway.
The Washington Post reports that the whole palaver has heightened suspicions that the Russians have some sort of dirt on Donald Trump (over and above, you know, all the other terrible things he’s on record doing and saying) And here’s an interesting detail: the word treason is currently the number one looked up word on the Merriam-Webster dictionary, reports Stuff.
A New Zealand born 17 year old has won his visa back, after spending four months being held in an Australian immigration detention centre. The NZ Herald reports that the young man has a criminal record, and Australia was planning to deport him, despite the teenager living in New South Wales for the past seven years. Acting PM Winston Peters had earlier spoken out about the case, saying it breached the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. He welcomed the decision, saying it was a chance for the teenager to turn his life around.
New Zealand’s banks have made a lot less money than they normally do, reports the NZ Herald this morning. Total net profit for banks over the March quarter was down about 11%, a sharp drop that leaves them with only about $1.24 billion in profits for the quarter.
Private medical records of around 800,000 Aucklanders may be at risk, reports the NZ Herald. The issue has been flagged with the Privacy Commissioner by four healthcare IT companies, who say “primary health organisation (PHO) ProCare Health was putting private information of up to 800,000 Auckland patients into a large database, including patient name, age, address, and all financial, demographic, and clinical information.” ProCare strongly denies anybody’s private information has been compromised.
Here’s a news report on a report into regional news reports, reported by Stuff. The NZ on Air cash went to a group of news organisations, who then spent it making video stories for the regions. The most well known is probably the NZ Herald’s Local Focus series. The report found the spend wasn’t a failure as such, but the product quality and journalistic merits of some of the stories didn’t really stand up. On the other hand, the report found some of the work was really strong.
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Right now on The Spinoff: Mike Chunn writes about the difficulties autistic teenagers have to play music. Haimona Grey writes about the non-drivers among us, and learning to drive through video games. And Adam Mamo rates the pros and cons of Saturday morning sport.
Some people in this brave new world are what is called ‘extremely online’ – where basically a lot of their real life happens on the internet. But this New Yorker feature is about a guy that takes that to a completely different level. His pseudonym is ‘Ice Poseidon’ and he’s a full time, professional streamer of his own weird life. That life is basically a roving ecosystem of trolling – he’s a troll, his thousands of fans are trolls, and most of his activities revolve around trolling. The difference with this and other forms of trolling though is that it’s all real. Here’s an excerpt.
“The fact that people can now broadcast live video from wherever they are seems like a relatively small development in the history of technology, but for streaming fans it is as exciting as the invention of television. Live streamers laud the way the medium allows them to connect directly with their viewers. Most streams are accompanied by a chat room, where viewers can offer instant feedback, and a stream often plays out as an extended conversation between the streamer and the audience.
To Denino and his fans, social media, once hailed as the gold standard of authenticity, now appears artificial. Denino told me that he hates the whitewashed, feel-good version of life portrayed in the Instagram posts of online influencers. Every moment of uncontrolled chaos that unfolds on Ice Poseidon’s stream emphasizes that he is showing his viewers how things really are.”
We talked about Vladimir Putin earlier in the Bulletin, but there’s a sports angle here too. Noted UFC stable and sensible guy Conor McGregor has been criticised for praising Putin, while he was a guest at the Football World Cup, reports the NZ Herald. McGregor described Putin as “one of the greatest leaders of our time,” which is certainly one point of view on the guy.
From our partners, Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha writes that while making and selling electricity from the comfort of home might sound like some dodgy online scam, it’s not as far-fetched as you might think.
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The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.