(File photo, Radio NZ)

The Bulletin: Should prison mail laws change?

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Law changes likely over prison mail system, sharp drops in Northland vaccinations, and PM still has no plans to visit Ihumātao.

Law changes are looking likely over what mail prisoners can send and receive. One News has reported on the announcement made by PM Jacinda Ardern, which she insisted was not solely about the letter sent by the accused Christchurch mosque shooter which later ended up on an extremist message board. Instead, and in general terms, the changes would be aimed at tightening up hateful messages from prison getting out, and being broadcast. Prisoners have the right to send and receive messages, which is not currently in dispute. But it’s not just a matter of extremists sending mail – last week RNZ’s Katie Todd reported that a woman had been sent dozens of abusive and threatening letters from a family member in prison, despite asking Corrections for the letters to be blocked.

The thing is, it’s not exactly clear whether the law needs to change in order to prevent such situations occurring. That’s the view of barrister Graeme Edgeler, who was quoted by Newshub. The reason for that is that Corrections can already screen mail. They just screwed these examples up. Corrections boss Christine Stevenson admitted the “totally unacceptable” failing and apologised, and said that she didn’t have confidence in the processes around prison mail. One idea which might seem an obvious solution – simply stopping the mail rights of one particular prisoner – wouldn’t actually be legal, reported Marc Daalder for Newsroom.

Could a law change be avoided? One of the best ideas raised on the subject so far came up on Newshub Nation, where it was suggested that Corrections hire people who are experts in extremist ideology, so they know what they’re dealing with regarding such letters. And under the current law, the letters could and arguably should have been withheld, had Corrections had someone in place who could understand the coded language used in it. Regardless, corrections minister Kelvin Davis will be bringing possible changes to a cabinet committee in the next fortnight, reports Radio NZ.


Health authorities in Northland have noticed sharp drops in vaccination rates for dangerous diseases, reports the Northern Advocate. In particular, Māōri immunisation rates are down, with poverty also a correlating factor in the drop. It’s much more complicated than just people choosing not to vaccinate their kids, with access issues also common.


The PM says she has no plans to visit Ihumātao this week, despite urgings from those occupying the land, reports the NZ Herald. A protest is planned at her Mt Albert electorate office if she hasn’t visited by Thursday. However Jacinda Ardern says she’ll be in Wellington on Thursday, as it is a sitting week of parliament. She will also be visiting Ngāruawāhia for the annual Koroneihana celebrations for King Tuheitia on Tuesday.


‘Bring your own device’ tablets are starting to go out of fashion for schools, reports Tess Nichol for Metro. The problem is, educators are finding, is that putting kids in front of screens doesn’t necessarily result in good technology learning outcomes. Rather, adaptability with technology is seen as a more useful skill to develop.


An update on the winter grazing taskforce, which was discussed in a Bulletin last week. Radio NZ reports quite a wide range of expertise has been included, with vets, farmers, environmentalists and scientists all involved. The group is expected to report back by the end of the month, with a plan of action ready by the end of September.


If you live in the Nelson/Tasman area and care about waste reduction, this piece is absolutely must-read. Stuff reports a target of reducing waste going to landfill by 10% has been adopted by committee, though it still has to go through full Council approval is still necessary. However, it’s a lot weaker than what many submitters asked for, which was a zero waste target.


There has been significant tension around Australia, the Pacific and climate change refugees in recent days. This column in the NZ Herald (paywalled) by Fran O’Sullivan brings to light an issue that doesn’t often get discussed – where will Australia’s own entirely possible climate refugees go? That country is as likely as anywhere to be hit hard by drought, rising sea levels against coastal cities, bushfires and storms. Their government may wish to reflect on that, rather than deriding the hopes and fears of Pacific nations.


Finally, an extremely well-known Dunedin drinking institution will be closing the doors forever, reports Critic Te Arohi. The Captain Cook, first established more than 150 years ago, will soon become a pizza shop. The venue had been suffering from something of a downturn generally due to changes in student culture. An upstairs room for hire in the building will hold onto the name belched out by generations of Scarfies.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Business editor Maria Slade has uncovered the strange story behind Fashbae, a startup backed by high-profile multi-millionaires that sank without a trace, leaving angry and out of pocket users in its wake. Hayden Donnell assesses the strangely invisible mayoral campaign of Phil Goff. Emma McInnes writes about the dangerous reality of riding a bike in Auckland – “crash, cry and carry on.” I interviewed a visiting expert with big ideas about how rail could unlock the economic potential of the regions. And Yvonne Lorkin, a person with the job title ‘chief tasting officer’, has some tips for training your palate for wine.


For a feature today, an in-depth piece about an iwi looking at eco-housing which goes well beyond just the buildings themselves. Writing for the NZ Herald (paywalled) Rod Emmerson has been to see the site of a new off-the-grid village being built by Tūhoe, an iwi that has become deeply accustomed to sorting things out for themselves. They’re also an iwi that has a deep understanding of how to live in balance with the natural world. Here’s an excerpt:

The multi-purpose sprawling complex is predominantly made with local timbers and rammed earth. It generates its own electricity, selling it back into the grid. Warm in winter and cool in summer, it collects rainwater, treats its own greywater and sewerage, and provides kai for the kitchen from the gardens at the back.

With “net-zero energy, water, waste and toxicity” it’s become one with the environment. Complete with an outdoor amphitheatre, libraries and meeting rooms, you’ll also find Colin McCahon’s The Urewera Mural. Commissioned by the Urewera National Park Board and hung in the visitor centre in Aniwaniwa, near Lake Waikaremoana, it was stolen in 1997, before Tūhoe member Tame Iti negotiated its return.

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All Black halfback TJ Perenara has been given the backing of his coaches to express support for Ihumātao protectors, reports Stuff. He wore a wristband during the game, and visited the site the day after. It’s not the first time Perenara has made his views known, having also made comments recently in support of LGBT and Muslim people.


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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