The Bulletin: Call for sunlight at Hit and Run inquiry

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Call for Hit and Run inquiry to be open and transparent, scale of risk from rising sea levels revealed, and paracetamol supplies could run short.

The long-awaited inquiry into the events described in the book Hit and Run has got underway. To recap: Hit and Run was a book by journalists Jon Stephenson and Nicky Hager, that alleged that New Zealand soldiers raided a village in Afghanistan looking for insurgents, but instead caused multiple civilian casualties, including children, and it was subsequently covered up. Here’s a rundown of the key points of the book from when it was released.

Naturally, those are pretty serious allegations for the Defence Force. They prepared an opening strike by saying that there were no fewer than 105 factual errors in Hit and Run, reports the NZ Herald, and that the inquiry would clear the organisation of wrongdoing. Part of their case rests on eight hours of classified US drone footage from the day in Afghanistan. But as it is classified, the public isn’t allowed to see it – and at this stage, even Mr Hager and Mr Stephenson aren’t allowed to see it.

That has earned a furious response from Mr Hager. Stuff reports that he has told the inquiry it should be open to the public, and evidence should either be presented openly or not be used at all, because otherwise the Defence Force might be able to use evidence selectively. The NZDF have also been extremely slow to provide documents relating to the mission to the lawyer representing the Afghan villagers, Deborah Manning. Out of more than 17,000, only 324 have been provided to the inquiry.

Mr Hager has also accused the Defence Force of trying to reframe the inquiry around protecting the NZDF’s own reputation, rather than getting to what he sees as the heart of the matter – civilians died. Were New Zealand soldiers responsible?

The first two days of the inquiry – yesterday and today – will determine whether the rest of the inquiry will be held in secret. There has already been an indication from the co-chairs of the inquiry that some confidentiality of witnesses will have to be maintained. As well as that, some government agencies fear disclosure could compromise security and international relations,” as per the previously linked Stuff story. The villagers themselves believe, however, that it should be an open process. It is expected to be a highly complex and technical process, and could last up to a year.

The scale of risk to coastal properties from rising sea levels has been revealed, reports Newsroom. A rise of just 1 metre will put 125,000 buildings at risk of flooding, all up worth about $38 billion. Around 20-30 centimetres of rising sea levels due to polar ice melting is basically already locked in, due to the lag time of emissions having an effect on climate. Interestingly, this data was presented to the Insurance Council conference, who will be keenly aware that they may not be able to continue to back coastal properties.

There’s a possibility the country could run short of paracetamol supplies by the end of the year, reports Radio NZ. There was a fire at one of the factories that produces the active ingredient of medicines like Panadol, meaning production is down. Soft restrictions on sales are in place at pharmacies, and people should probably consider how they’re using it – i.e rather than using it as a hangover cure, save it for people with chronic illnesses. It’s also part of a growing worldwide trend of medicine shortages that I hadn’t been aware of, but apparently pharmacists talk about it all the time.

The series of midwife strikes starts today, and will run for the next two weeks, reports the NZ Herald. Each strike by DHB employed midwives will run for two hours, in a balancing act to both send a message, but also maintain the safety of mothers and babies. Midwives say low pay means there’s currently no future in the profession in NZ, and many younger midwives are heading straight to Australia where they can earn much more.

Here’s an interesting glimpse into the inner workings of coalition government politics. Stuff reports that NZ First have blocked a scientist from being appointed to a fisheries review panel, because she’s seen as being biased against the industry. Greenpeace boss Russel Norman has accused NZ First of being rather too cosy with fishing companies, an assertion NZ First rejected. It is also understood by Stuff that NZ First MPs feel they have a veto power over the thousands of ministerial appointments made each year, because those aren’t part of the coalition agreement.

A mixed response from market analysts as to how TradeMe shareholders should see a takeover bid, reports the NBR (paywalled) London investment firm Apax Partners has offered $6.40 a share, and want 100% of the company. Apex is considered a reputable firm, and one that could potentially help TradeMe move forward and grow. But some are concerned that it would probably mean TradeMe would leave the NZX sharemarket, which is already looking a bit thin.

There’s been a bit of talk around recently as to whether the Super Fund should invest more in New Zealand. Here’s a really good, balanced opinion piece from Stuff journalist Hamish Rutherford that goes through the implications of what that would mean – particularly if it came as a result of directives from politicians. In particular, the government is understood to want to use the Super Fund as an ‘angel investor,’ who can give new companies the capital they need to get off the ground.

In local government watch, National MP Simon O’Connor is considering a run at the Auckland mayoralty next year, reports the NZ Herald. A potential field of challengers to Phil Goff is starting to emerge, with former MP John Tamihere and former candidate John Palino also considering a tilt. Simon O’Connor has been the MP for Tāmaki since 2011.

Multiple sponsors have pulled out of the Auckland Pride parade over the police uniform ban. Vodafone have pulled their involvement, along with Westpac, the Rainbow NZ Charitable Trust, and a few others. A special general meeting has been called for the Auckland Pride Board, in which it is expected those who were against the decision will try and mount a challenge against some of the board members. That’s the nature of politics though – the better organised side generally wins, and so far that has been the side in favour of the uniform ban.

Here’s a report from Stuff on some of the members of that faction, and why they pushed for this uniform ban. One of them, Emilie Rākete, says the police have behaved cynically and in bad faith – “they will only march on their terms. They were told they could still come along, just not in their uniforms, but they’ve refused.” PM Jacinda Ardern has also confirmed she’ll still be marching, reports Newstalk ZB, saying it’s not up to her how the parade is organised.

Finally, and just on a personal note, I think I’ve heard enough opinions on this topic from heterosexual men to last a lifetime. Perhaps it’s best from here on in to just listen to LGBT voices discuss it?

The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed, free daily curated digest of all the most important stories from around New Zealand delivered directly to your inbox each morning.

Sign up now

Right now on The Spinoff: Hayden Eastmond-Mein questions why Lime, the company behind all those scooters, refuses to say whether they’re paying GST in NZ. Paul Buchanan writes about New Zealand’s current diplomatic stance, and why it is “pure fantasy” that the government thinks we can be a broker between the USA and China. And Glen Herud – the Happy Cow guy – he’s still trying to make it work, and has just filed his latest diary about what other dairy farmers think of his work.

Here’s a first person account of staggering bureaucratic insensitivity, in the wake of the death of a loved one. It’s by Nikki Mandow at Newsroom, and she talks about how various government departments and institutions responded to the recent death of her husband. I have no doubt a lot of people will find the experiences described very relatable. Here’s an excerpt:

The same week I received the IRD letter, the Ministry of Social Development sent me a text asking me to ring them urgently. The text was from MSD’s “debt management” service. This is the first I’ve heard about any debt, but just the words “debt management” make me think about burly repo men coming to take the furniture. I shut the front door, just in case.

I ring the number. Katie, the debt collector, is pleasant enough. The problem she says is with the benefit I applied for and received on Geoff’s behalf when he got the diagnosis and I stopped work to look after him.

Unfortunately, Katie says, WINZ overpaid us. I owe a bit over $400. But I don’t have to pay it back all at once. Whatever I can manage. She doesn’t mention Geoff’s death or offer any sympathy.

The Auckland Tuatara baseball team will play their first home series this weekend. But as TVNZ reports, they’re in a bit of a rush to get McLeod Park up to standard for Friday’s game. So far in the season, the Tuatara are yet to win, after going to Perth for a 4 game series last weekend and losing every single time. But on the other hand, they’ve got perhaps the coolest team name in NZ sport, so would be worth getting along to support just for that.

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.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, pass on this signup form to them.

This content is brought to you by Vector. If you live in Auckland, they also delivered the power you’re using to read it. And they’re creating a new energy future for all of us, as showcased by the incredible Vector Lights in partnership with Auckland Council.

The Spinoff is made possible by the generous support of the following organisations.
Please help us by supporting them.