The BulletinSeptember 19, 2019

The Bulletin: Much more still to come on Ihumātao


Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Difficult decision looms for govt over Ihumātao, NZDF story scrutinised at inquiry, and innovative new bus service to be trialled in Timaru.  

This is far from the end of the story about what will happen to the land at Ihumātao. A major development took place yesterday, with various mana whenua groups agreeing that they want the land back, as outlined in this excellent cheat sheet by Alice Webb-Liddall. The statement came through the Māori King, Kiingi Tūheitia, who has been facilitating discussions between iwi groups and SOUL protectors.

However, Fletchers still owns the land, which means someone will have to buy it from them. At the moment, the groups named above want the government to be involved. As Politik reports, that puts the government in a really difficult position. They had originally hoped Tainui would buy it, so that they could avoid the perception of compensation outside of the Treaty settlement process, or within ongoing negotiations with Te Akitai, one of the mana whenua groups. Deputy PM came out after Kiingi Tūheitia’s statement, and said it still wasn’t clear to the government what was being asked of them.

The fact that Ihumātao is stolen land shouldn’t be forgotten here. And writing on that point, Morgan Godfery in Metro (before the announcement) is a must read. The government purchasing the land wouldn’t have to be part of a Treaty process, if it was purchased to be put into the national estate in some way. That would still be a generous gift from Māori to the rest of New Zealand, argues Godfery, given the redress for Māori in the Treaty settlement process has been a small fraction of what was stolen from them. But taking such an option would potentially give the government a political and legal way out, in a dispute they actively inserted themselves into weeks ago.

The Operation Burnham inquiry continues, and Stuff’s Thomas Manch has been there for the whole thing. He’s written a measured and forensic comment piece about what he has heard so far, and it’s fair to say he’s not overly impressed by the narrative being put together by the NZDF – that of a series of mistakes, rather than a conspiracy. When it all gets laid out as it has been in the piece, the series of events being laid out does rather stretch credibility.

An innovative new bus service has been approved for a trial in Timaru, reports Radio NZ. Rather than running on a set timetable, it will be an on demand system, in which people can call or book through an app – because of the confusion that could create, a lot is being spent on public engagement. There was some conjecture over the funding of this project reported by the Timaru Herald last week, with the regional council ECan hoping the NZTA would put up a bigger share than it eventually has.

Chinese owned banks are pushing hard in the retail home loan market, reports Interest. In fact, they’re offering some of the lowest rates in the country right now, despite having a relatively small presence. It’s likely that presence will grow.

It’s either just political argy-bargy or full on bullying, but either way National MP Maggie Barry has apologised for it. Newshub reports she was accused of “openly and aggressively verbally and physically challenging” assistant speaker Ruth Dyson, after a ruling went against her during a contentious euthanasia debate. Barry said she “was overzealous in expressing my disappointment with the way things were progressing.”

What is likely to be the most expensive TV production in history will be filmed in New Zealand. And as you may have guessed, it’s the Lord of the Rings again. The NZ Herald reports production will largely take place in Auckland, and ATEED are over the moon at the possibility of long term tourism opportunities that might come out of it.

Did you think we had plumbed the lowest depths of stupidity in the Auckland mayoral race? Oh no, there’s still a long way to go. The latest, reported on by Hayden Donnell for The Spinoff, is candidate John Tamihere responding to a debate spiel about diversity from Phil Goff by saying a widely-known Nazi phrase. Tamihere later clarified that he was making a reference to Goff’s ban on those Canadian grifters from using a council venue last year. Anyway, they’ll both be on Morning Report after eight this morning, to continue thrashing it all out.

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Right now on The Spinoff: We’ll start with Covering Climate Now. Zack Dorner, environmental economist, writes about the genuine value in individual actions to address climate change. Catherine Leining writes about the need to broaden our measures of success if we want to have any chance of reaching blunt targets for reducing emissions. And Carys Goodwin writes about rediscovering her passion and fury for climate activism.

And the local elections: Hayden Donnell writes about two very angry single issue campaigns which could swing the Auckland mayoralty race. Alice Webb-Liddall covers the race for the Māori wards on the BOP Regional Council. And I wrote about media gatekeeping in election campaigns, after moderating a debate for some Wellington mayoral candidates who weren’t invited to be part of Radio NZ’s version. Fair warning – there is also a video of the debate we did in the article.

‘Healing crystals’ at worst might seem like a harmless bit of fun for the gullible. But as this astonishing feature from Tess McClure for the Guardian shows, the reality of where they come from is quite a bit more grim than that. Someone may have quite literally died to mine them. Here’s an excerpt:

“Be careful,” he said, as we trod over the edge of the crater, “the rocks are sharp.” Rose quartz cracked underfoot: jagged, gleaming, a little translucent, shining like the flesh of a fresh-filleted tuna. Later, he lifted a worn trouser leg to show the scars he had acquired from a lifetime of mining: on the right leg, where falling stones crushed his shin, and on the left where a sharp edge split the skin, requiring six stitches.

At other times, this crater would have been busy with the sound of men at work – his sons and nephews, who would come to dig and then split the cost of stone they sold – but today it was silent except for Rakotondrasolo’s careful footsteps. They had stopped work: rains had been heavy, and they worried that the water made the cavern less stable. “I was afraid, and was afraid for my children because of this soil. It can collapse on them. I asked them to stop working here,” Rakotondrasolo said.

Remember the name Paris Lokotui. She’s the subject of this LockerRoom profile, and it’s easy to see why she was picked out to be highlighted – Lokotui is a 17 year old star of multiple sports, along with being a top student and cultural leader. Her goal is to be a Silver Fern, but I think it’s fair to guess that will be just one of many things she goes on to accomplish.

Finally, a quick comment on the ‘story’ about family members of Ben Stokes being murdered decades ago. A lot of New Zealand media outlets are running pieces right now, based on Stokes’ comments hammering trashy tabloid The Sun for bringing it all up. Some of those very same outlets also breathlessly repeated The Sun’s original story. It’s pretty shameless, and you can only hope it will cause a bit of self reflection.

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