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The most hacker-looking stock photo we could find (Getty Images)
The most hacker-looking stock photo we could find (Getty Images)

The BulletinMay 19, 2021

The Bulletin: Hospitals hit by hack attack

The most hacker-looking stock photo we could find (Getty Images)
The most hacker-looking stock photo we could find (Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Waikato hospitals hit by hack attack, asylum seekers double-bunked alongside violent prisoners, and Wellington bus drivers offered controversial settlement deal.

Something very wrong has happened to the computer systems at the Waikato DHB, and it’s not yet clear how long it will last. Yesterday what is believed to be a hacking attack was launched, taking down information systems from Hamilton down to Taumarunui. In terms of the effect, it has left hospital workers relying on a lot more paper copies of records than would normally be the case, and some patient services have been affected. The NZ Herald reports the National Cyber Security Centre has been called in, on the grounds that they monitor and defend against threats to organisations of national significance.

According to RNZ’s news this morning, patients are still waiting to hear when postponed services will go back to normal. Some procedures had to be cancelled at very short notice.

The local DHB boss has been adamant that no ransom will be paid, reports One News. There has been speculation that it might be a ransom attack. Chief executive Kevin Snee said police were currently trying to verify that, after a message was received. There has also been speculation that the attack is similar in nature to those that hit the NZX and other organisations last year. Radio NZ has a good explainer on what ransomware and ransom attacks involve.

Meanwhile in unrelated news (though it is a story about health system capacity) the Auditor General is concerned about vaccine rollout timeframes. Our live updates reports a number of recommendations have been made to ensure that all New Zealanders who want one can be vaccinated by the end of the year. In response, the health ministry said some of those recommendations had already been put in place. Both Dr Ashley Bloomfield and minister Chris Hipkins described the target as challenging but achievable.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International is criticising the practice of locking asylum seekers up in prisons. Newshub’s Amelia Wade reports that people fleeing their countries have then found themselves double-bunked with prisoners who are violent and dangerous. Immigration NZ said most asylum seekers aren’t detained – and those who are is because of questions around their identity. But Tim Maurice from the Asylum Seekers Support Trust said that doesn’t make sense as a policy, because in some cases the only way asylum seekers will be able to get to safety in New Zealand is on false documents.

Meanwhile, the Chief Ombudsman is criticising Corrections for not making improvements to prisoner welfare, despite many calls for them to do so, reports Radio NZ. Ombudsman staff regularly make surprise visits to prisons, but the recommendations haven’t gained much traction – Peter Boshier said this is in contrast to other, more proactive government departments. “I want to find out why problems continue to exist across the whole prison network and how the department is genuinely taking action to address these,” said Boshier in announcing a new investigation into Corrections.

Wellington bus drivers involved in industrial action have been offered a deal of big money upfront in exchange for much less down the line, reports Joel Macmanus for Stuff. Drivers with more than five years service would be offered $10,000 to take the weakened collective agreement – those with less service would be offered $5000. The tactic is considered to be an unusual one in collective negotiations, though is more widely used in individual agreement negotiations. Drivers will vote tomorrow morning on whether to accept it.

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A majority of parliamentarians hold interests in some form of investment property, reports Susan Edmonds for Stuff. That information comes from the Register of Pecuniary Interests, which has just been updated for another year. Almost all are homeowners generally. And who can blame them – they’re intelligent people who are good at making systems work for them, so it’s not overly surprising they’ve figured out the most effective way of making money in the New Zealand economy.

Queenstown tourism is buzzing at the thought of hosting PM Ardern and Australian PM Scott Morrison at the end of the month, reports the ODT. The visit is being seen by the industry as a shop window to exactly the people who they want to attract to the town, for both business and tourism. A few weeks ago, when the bubble was first opening, the NZ Herald reported that Queenstown was still doing okay with domestic tourism, even if not a lot of Australians had arrived yet. Radio NZ reports economics firm Infometrics found lower tourism spending in key markets over summer.

MFAT has confirmed an employee in India has died of Covid-19, reports Radio NZ. The person first started at the High Commission in 1986, when Sir Edmund Hillary was the high commissioner. Foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta expressed condolences to the person’s family and colleagues. Six other staffers tested positive, half of which have since tested negative.

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Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: Getty Images)

Right now on The Spinoff: Justin Latif reports on the strange emptiness of the Māngere birthing unit, despite high need for services. Duncan Greive writes in appreciation of his favourite local TV comedy, about a group of hapless entrepreneurs performing challenges to impress local real estate titan Mike Pero.

And four pieces about the upcoming budget: CTU economist Craig Renney looks at an economically well-off country governed by a big progressive majority that used the budget for sweeping new social spending. Terry Baucher writes about how the budget could fix broken aspects of the tax system. Gavin Lennox looks at how the budget could support small businesses to get bigger. And Michael Andrew looks through some digital data to see what’s on the country’s mind ahead of the budget.

Sad to say in a competitive industry, but NZ Geographic is just too good right now. So for the second time in the space of just a few weeks, today’s feature will be one of their pieces from the May-June edition. Bill Morris has gone to Waitaki to learn about the outbreak of wallabies, the sometimes kind of gruesome ways locals deal with the pest animal, and whether anything can slow the invading army down. Here’s an excerpt:

The government set up the South Canterbury Wallaby Board to tackle the problem. Employing a dedicated team that went farm to farm, killing wallabies with poison and shooting, the board succeeded where the cullers had failed. For more than a decade, wallabies were held at very low numbers. When the board’s government funding was cut in 1989, farmers baulked at covering the cost—people with fewer wallabies on their land resented subsidising those with more. In any case, numbers by this time were so low that the animals no longer seemed like a threat.

So, in 1992, the Wallaby Board was scrapped in favour of a user-pays system. A 900,000-hectare containment zone between the Waitaki and Rangitata rivers was established, and farmers within it would be required to control wallabies on their land—or face penalties. The problem: some farmers were more motivated than others. And some “controlled” the animals by chasing them onto neighbouring land. “We were telling [farmers] they had to reduce the population,” says Brent Glentworth, the biosecurity team leader from Environment Canterbury (ECan), the regional council. “And we explained to them that poison is the best option to do that. But it would often be cheaper for them to move the wallabies rather than to bait them. We were chasing our tail trying to get farmers coordinated.”

Remember the Sandpapergate saga? It has reignited after one of the banned Australian batsmen – Cameron Bancroft – suggested that it was “probably self-explanatory” whether or not the bowlers knew the ball was being tampered with. The Guardian reports that in turn prompted the bowlers to issue some angry denials of having any knowledge, in a statement published on Mitchell Starc’s website.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme.

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