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The false alarm prompted evacuations from the Bay of Plenty coast (File photo, Radio NZ)
The false alarm prompted evacuations from the Bay of Plenty coast (File photo, Radio NZ)

The BulletinJanuary 21, 2020

The Bulletin: False alarm sparks tsunami alert concerns

The false alarm prompted evacuations from the Bay of Plenty coast (File photo, Radio NZ)
The false alarm prompted evacuations from the Bay of Plenty coast (File photo, Radio NZ)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: False alarm sparks tsunami alert concerns, new development in story haunting NZ First, and unaffordable housing problem getting worse.

A false alarm tsunami alert has resulted in changes to fix mistakes in the warning systems. Radio NZ reports a siren sounded on the Bay of Plenty coast, from Tauranga to Waihi, late on Sunday evening. The tone of the sirens matched that of a tsunami warning. The Bay of Plenty Times spoke to people in the area who moved immediately when they heard it, and it’s clear from one family’s account of leaving their campground, everyone else was thinking the same thing. There was no corresponding text alert to go with the siren, but people left regardless.

It’s still not clear what triggered the sirens, but Fire and Emergency do not believe their systems were hacked, reports Stuff. They briefed media on the event, and didn’t rule out human error, but it appears to be the result of a legacy system that unintentionally survived various rounds of organisational reorganisation, and was then forgotten about. A patch has been put in place over what has been found, but with similar systems in 23 other places around the country, it could happen elsewhere. As Fire and Emergency’s Rhys Jones put it on Morning Report, “we don’t want to get into a ‘cry wolf’ situation where too many false alarms come through.” This story from the NZ Herald goes into more detail about tsunami warning systems.

In terms of something going wrong with a disaster alert system, it’s sort of the best case scenario. It’s effectively a false positive, rather than being an actual disaster in which warnings failed. As well as that, the public by all accounts moved when they felt they were being told to, an instinct which could be a lifesaver in the future. But with these systems now under the control of the National Emergency Management Agency, it will be a test for the new organisation to see if everything is working properly.

A new development in a story that dogged NZ First last year, that appears to contradict what minister Shane Jones has told the public. Radio NZ’s Guyon Espiner reports that the forestry company at the heart of it all – NZ Future Forest Products, which has close links to NZ First – have declared a meeting with Jones that took place months before Jones said he first heard of the company. In turn, Jones said that meeting never took place, flatly denying that he had any conversations with the company over any Provincial Growth Fund applications.

Housing unaffordability is getting worse across the country despite a flatter Auckland market, according to new figures reported on by Stuff. The stats show that Dunedin, Wellington, Tauranga and Hamilton price rises are driving up the national average. The eight largest centres of New Zealand are now all rated as “severely unaffordable” for house prices, with only Christchurch slipping towards more affordability because of a big increase in supply coming onto the market.

The government is under pressure over their handling of Whānau Ora, reports the NZ Herald. Five Māori women leaders, including former Māori Party co-leader Dame Tariana Turia, have taken a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal alleging that the programme is being “destroyed by stealth.” Of particular concern is new funding for the programme bypassing the main commissioning agency for Whānau Ora. The claim also attacks the minister Peeni Henare, who noted in response that the Waitangi Tribunal claim was politicised through the heavy involvement of other figures who were part of the Māori Party.

The issue of Southern Response and the settling of outstanding Canterbury earthquake claims to settle rumbles on. One News reports that the state insurer says there are only around 200 left to settle, but an advocate for claimants reckons the actual number is potentially hundreds higher. There has also been a lot of anger over the offer of an apology from Southern Response’s new boss Casey Hurren, for those who weren’t treated well in the process. Advocate Ali Jones says it’s too little, too late.

Laptops have been stolen from a National Party office in Epsom in a burglary, reports Newshub. Deputy leader Paula Bennett said she understood three computers had been nicked, and suggested that the building would be an unlikely target for a purely opportunistic crime, so may be politically motivated. The NZ Herald had an update yesterday afternoon, in which a staffer confirmed that the laptops were encrypted. I’m sure those of us who enjoy conspiracy theories will have a lot of fun with this, but hopefully the laptops get returned intact and un-tampered with.

An interesting idea from the farming world for tackling forest fires, which are expected to become a bigger problem over time.One News reports Otago farmer and regional councillor Gary Kelliher has chucked fire hose fittings on his irrigation pipes, so that if a fire does break out in the bone-dry region the job of getting water to fight it will be quicker and easier. Already it has come in handy, with the equipment helping firefighters knock off a small blaze. Others around the region are very supportive of the idea, and hope more farmers will set it up as well.

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Right now on The Spinoff: David Larsen bemoans the decision by the National Library to purge an enormous swathe of overseas-written books. Morgan Godfery says atrocities in West Papua demand attention, and New Zealanders should take note when considering visiting Indonesia. Alice Webb-Liddall compares two academic views on cannabis legalisation, written decades apart.Richard Macmanus writes about the rise of ‘digital humans’ in health insurance.I write about some of the history of Kiwi Wealth, the firm formerly known as Gareth Morgan Investments. Emily Writes and her young lad Eddie review Wellington’s best swimming spots. James Renwick asks the hard questions on sustainability and climate change for the tourist industry. And Cate Owen writes a remarkable and honest piece about learning to love yourself and Lizzo.

I know, I know, you say you don’t want to read about the Royals, even if the click metrics of major websites say otherwise. But I think this piece from the Guardian’s former editor Alan Rusbridger is an insightful look into a reporting phenomenon that has relevance beyond the comings and goings of various members of the firm. In the piece, he questions whether the most vociferous critics of Harry and Meghan should be more upfront about their potential conflicts of interest, in relation to a massive UK press scandal that still hasn’t been fully cleared up. Here’s an excerpt:

Publicly available court documents detail the alleged involvement of Rupert Murdoch’s son James and the reinstated CEO of News UK, Rebekah Brooks, in suppressing or concealing the true extent of wrongdoing within the Murdoch titles. The Sun’s official position is to “not admit” any unlawful activity, while simultaneously shelling out enormous sums so that this position can never be tested.

Over at the Mirror Group, there is a similar shyness about allowing daylight into the activities of past executives. Former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, one of the most vehement critics of the royal couple, does not find time or space to let his readers or viewers know that his name crops up very many times in the generic phone-hacking litigation particulars of claims in front of Mann. Morgan may be entirely innocent, but if you spend your time pouring venom over a claimant in a case that might touch on your own conduct, you’d think there was at least an interest to declare – every single time you do it.

In sport, the Silver Ferns have put in a dominant performance to beat England in their Nations Cup opener. Stuff reports the star turn of the match came from young shooter Maia Wilson, who is one of several emerging players in the squad in a position to make a mark, with a group of senior players either retiring or being rested. South Africa and Jamaica are also involved in the four team tournament.

And the Auckland Tuatara have been enjoying huge improvements in the Australian Baseball League. After a hugely difficult opening season, they’re now right up the top of the Northeast Division, which provided they hold on will mean a home playoff game. Their final 4-match series of the regular season is taking place this weekend against the Brisbane Bandits, and basically, the equation is simple – one win and a playoff spot is assured, and three wins will guarantee they maintain top spot. If you’ve ever been curious about this team, now would be a great time to get on the bandwagon.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme.

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