A member of the NZ Air Force leaning out the side of a helicopter (Getty Images)

The Bulletin: The long war goes on

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan extended again, homelessness census takes place, and an interesting way of measuring the building boom.

New Zealand’s deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan has been extended yet again. Around 121 personnel will be deployed to Iraq, military trainers will stay in Afghanistan, and there will also be three peacekeeping deployments to the Golan Heights and Lebanon, South Sudan, and the Sinai Peninsula on the border between Egypt and Israel. The deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan will be in non-combat training roles, and will be reassessed again next year.

Here’s a quote that illustrates the government’s thinking behind the latest extension in Afghanistan: “The New Zealand Defence Force has made a very significant contribution to peace and stability in Afghanistan since 2001. After nearly twenty years, it is time to assess New Zealand’s longer-term presence there, including alternative military and civilian contributions.” It comes from foreign minister Winston Peters, and hints at one of the major reasons why some are opposed to New Zealand re-upping again.

Namely, the deployments appear to be exercises in Sisyphean futility. It has been almost twenty years, and Afghanistan is really no closer to peace and stability now than it ever has been, despite (or perhaps because of) so many years of outside countries deploying troops. Every year there’s a new fighting season, the Taliban’s power over large swathes of the country continues, the western-backed government is largely seen as corrupt, and the current vice-president is a warlord who is accused of war crimes. Perhaps the country would be in even worse shape if all foreign troops were pulled out, but it’s hard to see how.

In terms of the politics of the extension, it is in some ways a backtrack from Labour. As Stuff reports, they had previously criticised extensions as “mission creep.” NZ First – the party of defence minister Ron Mark – had also previously opposed deploying to Iraq. The Greens remain opposed to the deployments, and would prefer to see such interventions confined purely to humanitarian and development aid. According the Radio NZ’s morning bulletins, National leader Simon Bridges says the decision is “responsible but hypocritical.” On Politik, Richard Harman argues that it will show NZ’s allies that the new government is willing to engage in realpolitik when it comes to international relations.


The homelessness census for Auckland took place last night, with around 1000 volunteers signing up to take part, reports Newshub. The count will be aimed at finding out how many people are sleeping rough, rather than at broader measures of homelessness, so that a better picture of where social services funding is acutely needed can be developed.


Here’s a stat that illustrates the building boom going on at the moment – a record number of fixed construction cranes are currently in use, reports Interest. About two thirds of the 140 around the country are in Auckland, and generally they’re used for vertical construction – tall buildings, in other words. The comments on the article are interesting though, with some readers suggesting high crane counts indicate a building bubble could be forming.


Breaking news at pretty much the time of writing: Radio NZ reports “foreign investors have managed to buy sensitive land at least 16 times in the last two years without getting the required official consent.” Another 30 cases are under investigation by the Overseas Investment Office.


Former PM Dame Jenny Shipley is among former Mainzeal directors denying allegations of reckless trading in court, reports Stuff. Plaintiffs are bringing a $75 million claim against former directors of the failed construction firm, which went into liquidation in 2013. The case is being heard in the High Court.


The Whau River in West Auckland has been polluted with some gross looking white stuff, but nobody is quite sure what it is. Newshub reports that Auckland Council staff have been seen arriving at the scene, and a witness told them he thought it may have been paint, because it wasn’t diluting and stretched a long way up and down the river.


Stuff’s senior Auckland journalist Todd Niall has broken down some of the issues at play in the Entrust elections, for which voting papers will be out soon. Around 320,000 Aucklanders can vote in the elections for the organisation which owns 75.1% of the lines company Vector. (Disclosure – The Bulletin is produced in partnership with Vector)


A range of measures have been drafted up to make the Auckland corporate boxing scene safer, reports the NZ Herald. They’ll include boxer registration, to ensure there aren’t horrible mismatches between fighters of different experience levels, and compulsory headgear. Fighters over 100kg may also have to use bigger gloves, so that their punches have less power.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Hayden Donnell has continued his deep dive into 1080 with a cheat sheet on the science, risks, and effects of it. Veronika Meduna writes about some eye catching new climate visualisations, which are an effective way of showing a warming world. And Madeleine Chapman has been looking at some weird politician tweets, that if they haven’t already been, should probably be deleted.


This is an interesting opinion piece from Radio NZ about the Chief Technology Officer role the government has tried to fill. Just to catch you up on some details from last week of this saga – entrepreneur Derek Handley was offered the job, but that offer was then rescinded, and he was paid out to compensate for messing his life around. Tech commentator Paul Brislen writes that what is needed is basically two completely different jobs – an officer who can get systems working smoothly and efficiently across government, and an advisor/futurist who can think big picture. Here’s an excerpt:

“That kind of CTO – a futurist – is necessary because our political representatives have not exactly covered themselves in glory over the years when it comes to legislation relating to the big ticket items, such as privacy, or security, or copyright.

We need someone who can calmly explain to them that blockchain is not the solution to all the world’s ills, that online voting has its challenges and should raise concerns, that developing a computer game industry could result in a valuable business activity for the country, that connectivity is not a luxury item but an essential.

That role is more akin to the Chief Science Advisor, and as such needs support, a budget and a team of people. The office of the Chief Science Advisor has half a dozen PhD level folk working hard on key issues that will affect New Zealand as a whole.”


Scott Dixon is once again champion of that most American of motorsport pursuits – the IndyCar Series. The Kiwi driver has now won five titles, and is just the 2nd person to do that, in what must make him one of the most successful NZ sportspeople in their discipline of all time (though that’s a pub debate for some other time) It certainly puts him in the frame for another sportsman of the year award – or even the supreme award – at the next Halbergs, writes Stuff’s Duncan Johnstone.


From our partners, Vector’s Beth Johnson writes that if you get a cheque in the mail, no, it isn’t a scam. It’s just the Loss Rental Rebate system in action.


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