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Police officers standing outside court in Christchurch, May 2019 (Getty Images)
Police officers standing outside court in Christchurch, May 2019 (Getty Images)

The BulletinAugust 24, 2020

The Bulletin: Sentencing begins today for Christchurch mosque shooter

Police officers standing outside court in Christchurch, May 2019 (Getty Images)
Police officers standing outside court in Christchurch, May 2019 (Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Sentencing begins today for Christchurch mosque shooter, cabinet to decide on alert level moves, and polling shows public still largely behind government Covid response.

Sentencing will begin today for the perpetrator of the terrorist attack committed on March 15 at two Christchurch mosques last year. In March of this year, he pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder, and one charge of engaging in a terrorist act under the Terrrorism Suppression Act of 2002. The guilty pleas came as something of a surprise, as many had been expecting a drawn out trial. Even though it may have seemed obvious that he had committed the crimes, following the process according to the law would have been necessary to ensure justice was done correctly.

The sentencing itself is expected to last for several days, and there are strict rules on what can and can’t be reported from it. For example, media have been blocked from reporting live from the trial – because of the obvious sensitivities, the presiding judge will make it clear what can and can’t be reported on. Part of the reason for the time allocated towards the sentencing is because there will be dozens of victim impact statements to be read to the court – the murderer is likely to be present in the courtroom to hear some or all of them. Various issues around the sentencing are addressed in this piece on The Conversation by AUT law professor Kris Gledhill.

Many family members of the victims have travelled great distances to be here. One widow of the attacks who has done so spoke to Radio NZ yesterday morning. Dr Hamimah Tuyan is now based in Singapore, and has been through managed isolation to be in Christchurch today. She said “my husband is not here to speak for himself, so I am his voice. I am also my children’s voice.” Dr Tuyan also said she would appeal to the judge that a deserved sentence is imposed.

What sort of sentence is likely? New Zealand has no death penalty, for those wondering if this is one of those rare circumstances where it may be imposed. However, a minimum sentence of 17 years imprisonment is required for any murder that occurs as part of a terrorist act. It is possible that he will be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, which would effectively mean he would never be free ever again.

A major decision by cabinet will be announced today – will Auckland remain at level three, and the rest of the country at level two? And for how long? Toby Manhire has looked at the various considerations at play, both around the progress of containing the current outbreak, and how the various systems to deal with it are performing. It’s also possible we won’t see a clean move one way or the other – rather there could be a partial move to something like 2.5 or 1.5.

We’ve been out polling to gauge the country’s reaction to the events of the last two weeks, with a renewed outbreak of community transmission. And as the Stickybeak/The Spinoff survey reveals, there is still a huge majority of people who rate the government’s response as overall good, a smaller but still clear majority of people who have confidence in the managed isolation system, and a majority in favour of persisting with the elimination strategy.

In other Covid-19 pieces on our site from over the weekend: Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris have a reminder about what all the terminology means, like contacts and clusters. Dr Wiles again assesses what a robust future strategy might look like, and what actions would be involved with that. David Welch explains why rapid genome sequencing has become such a crucial part of the response to community transmission the second time around. And Sonya Nagels spoke to a bunch of kids around Auckland about how they’re dealing with a return to lockdown.

We’ve put an immense amount of energy into fighting Covid-19, but a poverty related disease continues to take more than a hundred lives every year. Stuff’s Virginia Fallon has reported on the persistence of rheumatic fever, which is far more dangerous for people in poor quality housing, and in New Zealand almost exclusively kills Māori and Pacific people. To be clear, this is a preventable disease, and isn’t widely seen in other socio-economic groups.

A gas producer is taking a court case against the government for the 2018 decision to halt new offshore oil and gas exploration permits, reports the NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Hamish Rutherford. The claim is around how the ban was given effect, allegedly without sufficient consultation, and with a law change only coming being made later in the piece. The firm – Greymouth Gas Turangi Ltd – is currently trying to get a permit through for off the coast of Northern Taranaki.

A fascinating trade story about how the CPTTP has worked in practice. Nigel Sterling of Farmers Weekly reports that Canada, Japan and Mexico still haven’t lived up to their commitments to open up market access to New Zealand dairy products, disappointing an industry which has only been able to fill up a fraction of the agreed upon quotas. Quota administration can often be a way of doing protectionism by stealth, and MFAT officials are raising the issue with their counterparts.

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(Image: Getty/The Spinoff)

Right now on The Spinoff: Laura O’Connell Rapira writes about the systematic inequalities that pervade the education system. Andrew Geddis explains what will and won’t happen in a High Court case arguing about the voting age. Gaurav Sharma reports on Indian New Zealanders who remain stranded overseas, and how it has disrupted their lives. Charlotte Muru-Lanning has a conversation with a friend who has got deep into conspiracy theories. Community composter Kate Walmsley says there is a false promise behind dealing with food waste through industrial anaerobic digestion. Alice Webb-Liddall writes about how sewing has taken over from sourdough as the preferred lockdown activity. Zoe Walker Ahwa writes about the changing tone of fashion magazines.

And there’s a brand new edition of The Side Eye to get into. Toby Morris has taken a look at the upcoming cannabis referendum, and compares the current legal situation to that of alcohol.

For a feature today, a piece about the slowly disappearing world of competitive woodchopping. No, really, that’s what today’s feature is about. I was lucky enough to stumble across a copy of one of last year’s NZ Geo print editions recently, and was really taken by Naomi Arnold’s feature on why the sport exists, and how it interacts with the forestry industry. Here’s an excerpt:

Woodchopping has its own code, its own ethics and its own standards of behaviour, according to the cheerful 1983 Australian book Axemen: Stand by Your Logs! by Richard Beckett.

“Sawyers and axemen have never come from the landed gentry, and while they may tolerate upper-class members of various agricultural and show societies within their own local clubs, one has the distinct feeling that they do not like them a great deal. By and large axemen have always been battlers.”

The sport hasn’t changed in a century, says Wayne. “But look at 500 axemen and you’ll see 500 different styles.”

A deserved ANZ Premiership win for the Central Pulse after a dominant season. The NZ Herald reports the Pulse easily closed out the Mainland Tactix to post a 43-31 win, with a very tight performance on defence playing a huge part. It brings the curtain down on an incredible tenure for coach Yvette McCausland-Durie, who had an unsuccessful run at the start of the decade, lost the job, took it over again in 2017, and reeled off a string of improved seasons, culminating in consecutive grand final wins.

Meanwhile, the A-League season has come to a disappointing end for the Phoenix. They lost 1-0 against Perth Glory in the first round of the playoffs, and because their resumed regular season went pretty poorly, that was enough to bundle them out altogether. Stuff reports coach Ufuk Talay is talking about next year being a better one, but they’ll somehow need to recruit a player to fill the boots of top young defender Liberato Cacace, who came into football through the Phoenix academy and is now heading to Europe to play in the big leagues.

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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