Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Christchurch stadium funding in the spotlight, more trouble for NZ First, and medical students caught in rort.
Construction hasn’t even come close to starting on the new Christchurch stadium and the money is looking shaky. Stuff’s Michael Hayward reports a business case is currently in the works, and it is looking at the prospect of a public-private partnership to make up a $60 million shortfall. Currently both the government and Christchurch City Council are committed to more than $200 million each. And earlier reporting from Stuff found that Council was in the process of trying to find savings on the project, but over time the costs are escalating – and the business case is now months overdue. Under the current proposal, it would be a 25,000 seater covered stadium, as opposed to the currently used Orangetheory Stadium (the Addington one) which seats 18,000.
Because of all of this, private funding in a partnership makes a lot more sense. Under such a proposal, a private company would also operate the stadium, because they’d need to make their money back somehow. For the Council – who currently anticipate much of the operating costs would be offset by revenue generated – that could make it a less risky proposition. On the one hand, they’d miss out if the stadium becomes a massive money spinner – probably an unlikely proposition. But they’d also avoid being on the hook for the sort of financial strife currently being faced by Eden Park.
As for what a new covered stadium would host, rugby looms large. Credit where it is due – Super Rugby crowds at the Crusaders were the best in the country, even accounting for the fact that their stadium was the smallest out of all five franchises. But then again, the Crusaders play relatively entertaining rugby and win constantly, which brings in crowds – hypothetically, that could collapse any year, if for example a highly successful local coach was snapped up by the All Blacks. No other sports teams would give the stadium any serious regular use, and is the place of rugby within New Zealand really as secure as it once was? Apart from that, the proposed cover on the stadium would lead to severe competition with Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin for concerts. It’s worth going back and reading Christchurch local James Dann’s piece making these points in much more depth last year.
Political support however is fairly strong. Central government requires a business case for approval for it to proceed, but they have put in place a $300 million fund for major projects, of which the stadium would currently take the lion’s share. The stadium is seen as being essential in getting people to come to the centre city, which is currently having difficulties getting people in. And mayor Lianne Dalziel vowed to press on with it when she was recently re-elected. Currently it is meant to be finished in 2023, which unless something happens soon is going to start looking very ambitious very quickly.
An NZ First-linked forestry company sought more than $100 million in government money from funds overseen by NZ First MP Shane Jones – who recused himself from the process. Radio NZ’s Kate Newton and Guyon Espiner report that came in two different chunks – one an application for a $15 million provincial growth fund loan, and the other consisting of discussions with officials over $95 million in funding from the billion trees programme to buy farmland to convert. The latter, to be clear, was not a formal application, and neither process resulted in money being paid out. Winston Peters’ lawyer and close confident Brian Henry is a director of the company, and Peters yesterday unleashed typical rhetoric on journalists asking questions about it.
Meanwhile, another donation scandal could be brewing for the party. Stuff’s Matt Shand has followed up on the NZ First Foundation, and spoken to experts who conclude that there has likely been a breach of the Electoral Act. I’m loathe to summarise more of the story, given the legal issues potentially in play, but encourage you to read it.
Dozens of Otago medical students will have their qualifications withheld over an overseas placement rort, reports the ODT. It appears some of the students went on holiday instead of actually doing the placement, and those who did so won’t be able to graduate in December along with the rest of their class. However, most will probably end up in the medical workforce, because a remedial work programme will be put in place, and the overseas placements are about broadening general skills, rather than the clinical skills necessary to do medicine.
The PM has put pressure immediate pressure on the NZDF to clean up their former firing ranges in Afghanistan, reports Stuff. It is fair to say that the move came about entirely because Stuff have also just released a documentary about the matter, which alleges that children have been killed at the site because of dangerous material left behind. PM Ardern also revealed she had known about the issue since last year, and Defence says the reason work didn’t start earlier was because it got bureaucratically messy. It could still take several years to get it done.
A disinformation network which has appropriated the titles of defunct NZ news outlets has been making waves online. Newshub has a report on it here, with the suggestion from the EU Disinfo Lab that it is being run for pro-Indian government interests. Of course, we probably shouldn’t overstate the effectiveness or importance of such a network – but also worth keeping in mind that these sorts of campaigns are out there. A good rule of thumb – always make sure you get your news from a trusted source.
The scale and scope of an RMA oversight and enforcement unit is way below what campaigners were hoping for, reports Farah Hancock for Newsroom. Currently there are huge inconsistencies around how different councils enforce the Resource Management Act, and a unit within the Environmental Protection Agency was set up as a result. But that unit now basically consists of two Wellington-based investigators, “with a meal allowance” so that they may travel the country helping councils with cases. It sounds like the makings of an incredible buddy comedy, but unfortunately it’s also real life and their lack of resources makes the important work rather ad-hoc.
Women – far be it from me to tell you how to live your life, but you should probably take a few extra breaks each work day until the end of the year. That’s because, thanks to the gender pay gap, you’re now basically working for free, reports Stuff. There was research done on this phenomenon recently, and it found the difference between women and men in terms of how much value they added to their firms was “statistically indistinguishable”.
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Right now on The Spinoff: I had a day at a Fonterra Open Gates event, and came back with this piece about dairy industry PR. Shaun Robinson writes about how arming the police is a huge concern for those with a mental illness, and could wrongly cost lives. Maria Slade meets a ‘corporate undertaker’ who explains how to avoid the worst of the fallout from failed businesses. Sam Brooks interviews the three guest curators of the New Zealand Festival of Arts: Bret McKenzie, Laurie Anderson and Lemi Ponifasio.
And two pieces to share about the utterly bizarre interview Prince Andrew gave about his friendship with one of the worst people in the world, Jeffrey Epstien, and the Prince’s alleged disgusting actions which can’t be spelled out because of email filters. Alice Webb-Liddall brings you up to speed with what is being alleged, and what the reaction to the interview has been. And PR expert David Brain writes about how much of an unmitigated disaster this all is for a royal family that is all spin over substance.
For a feature today, a long hard look at a shocking abuse of a small Pacific nation by a major world power. It is from the LA Times, and concerns the Marshall Islands and the nuclear testing carried out by the USA there. That ended decades ago, but now a new problem looms – the giant concrete dome housing the waste left behind is looking increasingly vulnerable. Here’s an excerpt about memories of the bomb testing.
On March 1, 1954, Joseph recalls waking up and seeing two suns rising over Rongelap. First there was the usual sun, topping the horizon in the east and bringing light and warmth to the tropical lagoon near her home. Then there was another sun, rising from the western sky. It lighted up the horizon, shining orange at first, then turning pink, then disappearing as if it had never been there at all.
Joseph and the 63 others on Rongelap had no idea what they had just witnessed. Hours later, the fallout from Castle Bravo rained down like snow on their homes, contaminating their skin, water and food.
According to Joseph and government documents, U.S. authorities came to evacuate the Rongelapese two days later. By that time, some islanders were beginning to suffer from acute radiation poisoning — their hair fell out in clumps, their skin was burned, and they were vomiting.
The running of amateur sports clubs is almost entirely done by people over 30, according to a new survey reported on by the ODT. The job has gotten more difficult over time, with increased regulatory and technical pressures to be worked through. But along with that it probably reflects the diminishing place of sports clubs within New Zealand society, and the risk for many clubs of dying off along with their current generation of administrators.
Finally, an update on yesterday’s story about the Breakers: Glen Rice Jr has now been suspended indefinitely, with club boss Matt Walsh saying new information on the matter had come to light. The Breakers will continue to pay for Rice Jr’s costs, including legal, as he approaches a court appearance on assault charges. His career with the club has so far lasted two games.
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The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.