Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Cleanup looms after Southern flooding, National party maintains volume of written questions barrage, and Fletcher shares take a hammering.
What the flood is going on in Dunedin? The city and surrounding region is facing a cleanup today, reports the ODT, after heavy rain caused flooding in parts of the city and some towns in the region. It’s a serious amount of water too – sandbags have been put up in shops in the nearby town of Mosgiel for example, to try and keep the water in the streets out.
It’s particularly concerning around rivers like the Taieri. Residents of the town of Henley, on the banks of the Taieri, refused to evacuate, reports Radio NZ, and as of last night were basically cut off by the water. They said they were fine, and there’s an update on Henley from Morning Report today. Over in the town of Middlemarch, raw sewage ended up floating through the streets, reports Newshub.
There’s a number of road closures around the region, and the NZTA keeps a constantly updated map of where you can and can drive. A reminder – driving through or around floodwaters is really dangerous – one dude got stuck around Kaitangata and had to be rescued by a tractor.
Why has the flooding happened? The rain coming down has been immense, basically, in an area of the country that is already more susceptible to flooding. Before yesterday, three times the average rainfall for November had already come down in Dunedin. And then yesterday was the rainiest day of the month by far. The flood risk in Dunedin is quite severe, as this Council outline on natural hazards shows.
As for today: One News reports that thousands will wake up this morning without power, and some roads are still closed. The rain is expected to ease but not stop completely, so with river levels at extreme highs, if more rain comes down the flooding could start all over again. So for all of our mates down south, stay warm, stay dry, and keep an eye out for warnings.
The National Party has maintained the intensity of their written parliamentary question blitz over the whole year. Radio NZ reports that more than 40,000 written questions have been received by ministers over the year, which has caused some of them to restructure their offices or even hire more staff. National maintained that it was justified in doing so, as the government had not being proactive about proactiveness and transparency.
Is this an underhanded tactic? Political commentator Ben Thomas had a worthwhile take on it when it first blew up at the end of last year, saying the written question system is an important mechanism for accountability, even if some of the use of it had been a bit cynical.
Fletcher Building shares have taken a hammering on the latest news about a drop in core first-half profit operating earnings, reports the NZ Herald. The shares are now at the lowest level since the Global Financial Crisis, and are now down almost 25% since CEO Ross Taylor took up the job a year ago. Is that his fault? Not necessarily, but as the story by business journalist of the year Jenny Ruth makes clear, some of his moves have also come unstuck.
The figures are out on how many students took up the first year of fee free tertiary education this year, and it’s down slightly on the total number of students last year, reports Stuff. That’s not necessarily a measure of failure though, as a drop in student numbers had been forecasted anyway. Education minister Chris Hipkins is however pointing to polytech numbers as a sign of success, with 9 of 16 polytechs around the country growing. The total cost in fees subsidies so far is $236 million.
The begging ban has gone through Council by a narrow margin in Tauranga, reports the Bay of Plenty Times. However, as yet no extra funding has been committed towards enforcing it. The process of getting the ban through has been divisive, with businesses in the CBD strongly pushing for it, and social agencies, community groups, and even the Council’s own legal advisers putting up opposition to it.
Medical students at Otago University are being investigated for potentially cheating on a practical exam, reports the ODT. Results are being withheld while an investigation is carried out into whether earlier groups of students being assessed passed on information to later groups. To be clear though, the class’s Professor acknowledged that there’s still no way the students could have passed without putting in the work over three years of study.
The police have been repeatedly busted breaking the speed limit “for no good reason”, reports Newshub, who have compiled the top ten worst transgressions. The officers were snapped by their own cameras, and will have to pay up out of their own pockets. The story reminds me a lot of one of my all-time favourite Newstalk ZB yarns, in which former chief political reporter Felix Marwick spent 10 months battling ministerial services to get GPS data from ministerial limos – it turned out they were speeding all the time too.
From our partners: Lithium-ion batteries are magnificent feats of engineering and vital for renewable energy. But if we’re not careful with them, they’ll create enormous environmental problems, writes Vector Senior Sustainability Advisor Juhi Shareef.
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Right now on The Spinoff: Dr Mike Joy argues we could go a long way towards addressing environmental and water problems by simply cutting the number of cows. Editor Toby Manhire has made the definitive ruling on when a government is no longer allowed to blame the previous government. Maria Slade writes about a controversial home-care service which pits a whole lot of rights against each other. Alex Casey has compiled dozens of stories which prove why a women-only ridesharing app is needed. Madeleine Chapman has written a brilliant essay about the nature and value of competitiveness. And I scream into the void about the open letter from scientists on the slowness of climate change action.
Being a creative is no easy career path, not least in a gig economy. And the sorts of ways people make it work is really interesting, when their art doesn’t pay the bills. Here’s a feature from Vice which interviews five creatives who don’t make a living out of their pursuit, but do it anyway because they have to. The stories each have are different, which really underlines how for each of them the particular challenges are their own. For an excerpt to get a sense of it, read this question and answer from rapper Diggy Dupé.
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“I hand out staff uniforms for a major company. Don’t want to say any names, just because my employer and my craft are on two completely different things. Shoutout to all my co-workers though, they cool.”
The Auckland stadium strategy is in disarray, after a Council vote halted Speedway’s move from Western Springs, reports the NZ Herald. Motorsport was meant to be leaving for Wiri, which would have meant cricket could move in at Western Springs. But those decisions are now going to be deferred, amid further discussions on the future of Auckland’s stadiums, and the possibility of a new stadium being built.
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