Mayors Phil Goff and Justin Lester (Getty Images, Radio NZ)

The Bulletin: Incumbents launch mayoral campaigns amid stern challenges

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Mayors launch bids to return in Auckland and Wellington, Hamilton’s skyline could change significantly, and support for cannabis legalisation plummets in poll.

Two incumbent mayors have launched their re-election campaigns over the weekend, with a bigger fight on their hands than they may have expected. In Auckland, mayor Phil Goff opened his campaign with a warning to supporters that the race could end up very close, reports the NZ Herald. His main rival, John Tamihere, believes momentum has shifted, and the withdrawal of John Palino (and subsequent endorsement of Tamihere) means that much more of the right-wing vote is now consolidate around the challenger.

Goff sought to differentiate his campaign with a strong environmental focus, reports Stuff. He announced plans to convert the bus fleet to renewable sources, and replace Council cars with electrics and hybrids. It follows three years which have seen a million trees planted by the Council, major pushes on public transport infrastructure, and a promise of cheaper public transport for school students. In contrast, John Tamihere proposed on Friday to make the harbour bridge multi-level, and 18 lanes wide. It’s another in an increasingly long list of policies where it’s questionable whether any actual policy analysis has gone into their development.

Neighbourhood issues could also dog Goff, as the incumbent who anger gets directed at. That was clear from this incredible story by The Spinoff’s new local elections editor Hayden Donnell, who went along to a North Shore Grey Power meeting to see the mayor get booed. There’s a wave of conservative ratepayer anger towards the Council, and it could well be that it ends up sweeping over the Goff administration.

Meanwhile in Wellington, mayor Justin Lester will face a familiar foe for the top job. Veteran councillor Andy Foster, who has been in office since 1992, will be making his third bid for the mayoralty. In this case, his run will be well supported financially. Foster has ended up on the same side of a stoush over a controversial development in Shelly Bay as Sir Peter Jackson, reports Stuff, and Sir Peter has ‘encouraged’ employees of his various companies to get in behind the campaign too.

Finally, I’ll finish this section with something of a plug. I mentioned Hayden Donnell above, because between here and the final votes being tallied he’s going to be flat out managing coverage from all around the country. It’s all going to be funded by The Spinoff Members (and of course we’d love your support on that too) and I know Hayden would welcome your ideas for where should be looked at, if you email him at

Hamilton’s skyline could change significantly if height limits on buildings are removed, which looks likely, reports Stuff. Currently buildings can only be about ten storeys high, but according to an architect quoted in the story, people might soon be able to “build to the moon.” The aim is to bring more residential property into the centre city, which would also have benefits for businesses. However, there could be issues with the earth Hamilton is built on, which is relatively soft peat.

Support for cannabis legalisation has absolutely plummeted in a poll conducted on the issue, reports the NZ Herald. It’s down to 39% in the poll, well below where it was earlier in the year. The poll was commissioned by Helius (New Zealand’s largest licensed medicinal cannabis company) and they say they’re alarmed by the prospect of non-medical cannabis remaining as a gang-controlled, black market product, and have accused those against legalisation of running a campaign aimed at whipping up fear through misinformation.

A UN report has found dozens of New Zealanders are being accepted for asylum overseas, reports Radio NZ. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being persecuted by the state – personal circumstances can also be the cause of an asylum claim. Very little other detail was provided.

Tarakihi levels have dropped alarmingly low, prompting concerns about the health of the fishery. Our food editor Alice Neville has a cheat sheet explaining the situation, after some people decided to stop selling or eating the fish in response. Stocks off the East Coast are particularly low, by some estimates down to 16% of what they’d be were no fishing at all taking place.

Eradication has been ruled out as a solution to the widespread Potato Mop-Top virus, reports Newshub’s rural editor Angie Skerrett. After it was discovered in Canterbury last year, a nationwide survey was conducted, which has concluded that it has spread too much throughout the country to be wiped out. Instead, the industry will now take over long term management of the virus, which can affect production levels.

The story on today’s NZ Herald front page is a testament to an exceptional specialist sector journalists. Education reporter Simon Collins (paywalled) reports that changes appear to have quietly been made as to how kids learn to read, returning to an approach based on letter sound and “phonics”. The ministry says there hasn’t been a formal change – rather they’re just opening up more options for learning to read. The other main approach focuses on using pictures and context to learn.

This is an outstanding piece on the battle between development and preservation in an iconic seaside town, by Christina Persico of the Taranaki Daily News. Oakura currently has about 700 houses, but a planned new subdivision – a “monstrosity” according to some locals – would add about 400 more. It would cover over green fields, put a strain on infrastructure and likely significantly alter the character of the town, but it would also meet housing demand and bring in economic growth. What I loved most about this feature is that it took the idea of NIMBYism head on, and explored whether at times the NIMBYs might have a point.

A world story which I wanted to share, because it was particularly affecting. The Dhaka Tribune reports a massive fire has swept through a slum in the capital of Bangladesh. It’s not the first time this year the city has been hit with terrible fires, though after this one around 50,000 people are homeless. To quote the story, “the dwellers just fled their homes with whatever they found at hand. Their cries made the entire atmosphere gloomier, burdened with thoughts of their uncertain future.”

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Moseses Vea’ila as Jonah Lomu in Jonah, the first episode of which lands on Three on Sunday.

Right now on The Spinoff: Dejan Jotanovic writes about drug use harm reduction, and what approaches are needed in the LGBT world. Elle Hunt writes from London about the dreams of those around her to escape to New Zealand. Dr David Menkes calls for an end to advertising of prescription drugs. Rugby writer Jamie Wall reviews Jonah, the two-part series about one of the greatest footy players of all time.

Also, there’s three intelligent and insightful bits of media commentary to share: Trevor McKewen analyses Sky’s decision to acquire RugbyPass, and what it means for the future of the pay-TV giant’s battle with Spark Sport. Duncan Greive covers whispers that all of the state owned media organisations could be merged into one body. And Sam Brooks dives into the numbers of who is watching what on-demand on TVNZ’s streaming service.

For a feature today, a look at how some Americans are doing literally the opposite of gun control in an effort to stop mass shootings. America Magazine, a Jesuit publication, has looked into the increasing number of churches who are training their congregation in how to fight off a shooter, with guns of their own. As this excerpt shows, business for those who run the training is booming.

“Every time the news comes on and there’s another shooting in a school or church or something like that, the phone starts ringing,” Riggall said.

The 46-year-old police officer said that he and a colleague had the idea for the company after the 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. They started doing firearms trainings with parents and, after Riggall became certified under Texas law to train security guards, transitioned to churches.

The company incorporates Christian teachings into its courses and more than 90 people at 18 churches have completed the 70 hours of initial training and become state-licensed guards through its program, Riggall said. The so-called sheepdogs are insured and technically employed by the company. But they volunteer doing security at their own churches, which in turn pay Riggall.

Both New Zealand rugby teams delivered hammerings to teams wearing yellow on Saturday night. The Black Ferns closed out the Laurie O’Reilly Cup against Australia, and are once again unbeaten. And the All Blacks managed a dominant reversal after losing last weekend, even managing to hold the Wallabies scoreless in a one-sided rout.

And late last night, the Black Caps lost their first match of the new Test Championship, against Sri Lanka. Despite setting a relatively stern 268 to win, the New Zealand bowlers were unable to make early inroads, and the Sri Lankans eventually cruised to victory with six wickets remaining. That’s right, the bad days are back for the Black Caps, with difficult to watch performances in far-flung locations. It sure does make one grateful for the memories.

From our partners: With several high profile government objectives in the spotlight, a single ministry could drive better outcomes across them all. Robyn Holdaway, senior policy advisor at Vector, makes the case for a Ministry for Energy.

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