(File photo: Radio NZ)

The Bulletin: Skifield snowmaking a sign of the future

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Skifield snowmaking a sign of the future, vaccination rates fall alarmingly, and construction industry encouraged to lower emissions.

Snowmaking has saved the ski industry from disaster this year, after the weather didn’t create the desired winter wonderland. The ODT reports that South Island mountains have seen very little natural snow this season, in what could be considered a sign of things to come. NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson said it was fortunate that nights have been cold enough for large scale snowmaking, because The Remarkables in particular have been incredibly busy with visitors. Ruapehu has had better luck, reports the Rotorua Daily Post, but as of the 10th of this month there still wasn’t enough snow on the upper slopes for skiing.

Data from Niwa predicts that climate change will have an effect on skifields, but it will be relatively gradual. At higher elevations, there won’t be much decrease of natural snow, but at lower elevations it will be quite pronounced. Ironically, over time climate change could give New Zealand’s mountains an advantage over those in Europe and Australia, which are predicted to be more severely affected. Of course, it shouldn’t be forgotten that flying to New Zealand contributes to the emissions that cause climate change, so it’s not exactly a cause for wild celebration. And artificial snowmaking being a necessary component for the ski industry to survive in a warming world is rather on the nose, as symbolism goes.

The goal for the industry is to have 2 million skier days each season by 2020. As well as that, one initiative being taken by Ruapehu is to get more tourists visiting in summer with the opening of a new gondola. Mountain activities generally are a pretty crucial source of tourism income for the country – not everyone wants to go and see Lord of the Rings stuff after all. And while towns like Ohakune, Queenstown and Wanaka have diversified their tourism offerings away from just snow activities, they remain an important linchpin of the local economies.

But there are other, more immediate concerns that could hurt the industry, covered in this Stuff piece. The Australian economy is looking like slowing down, and they’re a significant source of tourists. If as some predict there is another global financial crisis in the next year or two, that could put a huge squeeze on tourism to New Zealand generally. Skiing is a more expensive activity that attracts higher value tourists, so a global crunch could have an acute impact on the economy of regions around the mountains.


Vaccination rates are falling alarmingly, but it isn’t necessarily because of anti-vaxxers, reports the NZ Herald (paywalled.) More than 1 in 5 babies aren’t getting fully vaccinated on time, which is below the level needed to maintain herd immunity in a population. But those numbers are more driven by people not having access to healthcare for poverty-related reasons, rather than being driven primarily by misinformation around vaccines. Either way, health system leaders are calling for more to be done both on bringing the rates of vaccination up, and in countering the falsehoods put out by the anti-vax movement.


The construction industry is being encouraged to look at ways of reducing cement use, along with wider emissions reductions, reports Radio NZ. Cement itself is highly carbon intensive to produce, and research is underway into alternative materials. Emissions from the construction industry have leapt along with the boom in building, which will be a major challenge to address in a country that still needs plenty of house and infrastructure building to take place.


The Opportunities Party has taken the slightly unusual step of publicly releasing data showing the state of their finances. Interest reports they’re staying afloat and attracting donations, however the party acknowledges that at present they don’t have the resources to mount an effective election campaign. It follows a tumultuous year for the party, which included the permanent departure of founder and funder Gareth Morgan, and internal conflicts – in part over the health of the accounts.


A step from Fonterra on walking the talk on their carbon emissions, reports the NZ Herald. They had previously committed to not installing any new coal boilers, or increasing their capacity to burn coal, by 2030. But rather than wait a decade, they’ve announced that will simply take place from now. Fonterra remains a large user of coal to power their processing plants, but say they’re making plans to phase it out.


Despite a building boom, Kiwibank economists say the housing shortage will continue to get worse, reports Interest. Population growth is outstripping supply, and it is estimated the country is about 130,000 short as a result. Having said that, the rate at which the shortage is growing is itself slowing. Paradoxically though, the economists expect prices in Auckland to keep slipping down, even though supply is down.


A correction: I was wrong yesterday to say the 1969 mission was the only time people had been to the moon, because as we all know that was in fact a hoax. Kidding, kidding, but seriously, there have in fact been quite a few missions to the moon that have resulted in people setting foot on it – here’s a Wikipedia list.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Eloise Callister-Baker reviews a new audio exhibition based on the ‘Unfortunate Experiment’ – one of the darker chapters in New Zealand’s medical history. Jordan Hamel pays tribute to the Kiwi icons that helped get him through his life. Fashion designer Grace Stratton speaks to Timothy Giles about how accessibility for people with disabilities is much more complex than just building ramps. Don Rowe ranks every single fish from that poster that was on the walls at seemingly every single chippy back in the day.

And I’m quite happy to endorse the idea behind this article. 14-year-old Oli Morphew makes the case for lowering the voting age to 16, arguing it would be better for both democracy and society as a whole. I reckon if we’re going to ask teenagers to solve the problems of tomorrow, we should be giving them more of a say today.


Ed Sheeran has a new album out. This is information that probably won’t be news to a lot of readers, given the popularity and ubiquity he has. Now I’m not a fan of Sheeran’s music in the slightest, but I’ve got nothing against people who are. And this piece from The Atlantic I think is a really good piece of cultural commentary, because it assesses his music on its own terms, and analyses it on both a musical and cultural level. Here’s an excerpt: 
Sheeran’s songs thus tend to give off two opposing feelings. On one hand, there’s control, simplicity, and calm. The arrangements don’t ever get very busy, and Sheeran’s voice is always the LED-lit, easy-to-follow main attraction. He might emphasize a somewhat surprising syllable or tone—part of engineering catchiness is finding ways to smuggle surprise into the familiar—but the melodies always resolve in neat, satisfying patterns.

Yet he also wants to create a feeling of veering near wildness, or of losing composure, or of yearning so hard, he might break. More than anything, he gives the impression of trying for something—a note, a memory, a person—that’s out of his reach.


They might have lost overnight, but the Silver Ferns have shown they’re serious contenders at the Netball World Cup. Stuff reports the team went down 50-49 against Australia, but perhaps more importantly, the Ferns managed to pull back a six goal deficit from half-time. In fact, they even had a chance to shoot for a tie in the final seconds, but Maria Folau’s effort hit the rim. It sets up a likely clash with England in the semifinals.

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And all of a sudden, the All Blacks season is upon us as well. The team has travelled to Argentina to play Los Pumas, who look suspiciously like Los Jaguares – the vast majority of the Super Rugby franchise will be in action for the national team this weekend. As RugbyPass’s Alex McLeod writes, there’s a decent chance of the All Blacks being tipped up, particularly without a large cohort of Crusaders players resting after their win a fortnight ago. This could well be a game getting up at 6 on a Sunday morning for.


From our partners: A two-tier system of energy use is developing, with those on high incomes much more able to reduce their bills than households on lower incomes. Vector’s Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer Kate Beddoe outlines what the company plans to do about that.


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