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Christchurch councillor Deon Swiggs (RNZ, Conan Young)
Christchurch councillor Deon Swiggs (RNZ, Conan Young)

The BulletinSeptember 24, 2019

The Bulletin: Christchurch councillor under investigation comes forward

Christchurch councillor Deon Swiggs (RNZ, Conan Young)
Christchurch councillor Deon Swiggs (RNZ, Conan Young)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Christchurch councillor and candidate under investigation comes forward, census data finally released, and Ardern speaks at the UN.

The mystery – or rather open secret around Christchurch – over which Councillor has been under investigation is over. Councillor Deon Swiggs, representing the Central Ward, made a statement yesterday identifying himself. Stuff reports part of his stated reason for coming forward was to protect other councillors from having aspersions cast on them. He is accused of sending sexually explicit and inappropriate messages to young teenagers, and denies all wrongdoing.

The youngest complainant went on the radio last night. Checkpoint spoke to the 13 year old, who said Swiggs went in for unwelcome and uncomfortable physical contact. He spoke about a power imbalance being a particular reason for why he was so uncomfortable with what allegedly happened.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel had known for some time about some of the allegations, reports Stuff. But she says she didn’t know about the more serious accusations, and when made aware of the initial allegations, she banned Swiggs from events in which he’d be in contact with young people.

Now it may not have escaped your notice that there’s an election underway right now. Swiggs is running for re-election. Some may be tempted to draw parallels between him, and the former Kāpiti District councillor running for re-election, despite being convicted of indecent assault. The two situations are different – because to reiterate, Swiggs is only under investigation, and nothing has been proven beyond reasonable doubt at this stage. But as with the Kāpiti situation, the advice of law professor Andrew Geddis still holds – the decision about whether Swiggs should remain as a Councillor is entirely up to the voters.

Finally, a small correction from yesterday’s discussion of this story. I was incorrect in saying Radio NZ broke the story first – it was in fact Stuff’s Christchurch newspaper The Press. However, it is fair to say both organisations were working hard independently of each other to bring the story to light.

The census data came out yesterday, and in broad terms it shows there are a lot more of us, and we’re an increasingly diverse bunch. Large population growth has been driven by high rates of migration. Also of note – rates of home ownership have fallen, with increasingly crowded rentals, reports Stuff. And I picked out ten details that tell us something about ourselves.

PM Jacinda Ardern’s meeting with US President Donald Trump will not include media, or dinner. That’s a bit of a contrast to the sort of reception being experienced by Australian PM Scott Morrison, who has been welcomed extremely warmly. Stuff’s new political editor, Luke Malpass, has put together a useful piece outlining why, in particular because of the deeply personal brand of diplomacy practiced by the US President. Meanwhile the NZ Herald reports Ardern gave the keynote speak at a UN lunch this morning (our time) and talked up the value of trade and a collaborative approach in tackling climate change.

The Chinese NZ Herald (a joint venture with the NZME title) is allegedly operating under Chinese state censorship, according to an investigation by Newsroom’s Laura Walters. The evidence for that comes from experts in the operation of the Chinese state information machine, coming under the banner of being a ‘United Front’ type organisation – the term meaning overseas groups who support Chinese government activities. NZME completely rejects this assertion, though there have been incidents recently where shared content has had a markedly different lens across the NZ Herald and Chinese NZ Herald versions.

Both sharp rates rises and spending cuts are reportedly on the way at the Greater Wellington Regional Council. Stuff has reported on a leak from a public-excluded meeting, in which their source indicated that the financial situation was dire, and would need an immediate turnaround. The prospect was even raised in the story of Commissioners being appointed.

Careful environmental management will be needed with the growth of the aquaculture industry, reports Kaitlin Ruddock for One News. Fish farming is seen as an industry of the future, and it could even be relatively sustainable. However, that will only be possible if environmental management is prioritised in the process.

A study has found significant barriers against young people voting in local elections, reports Radio NZ. A major reason is because of the postal voting system, which advantages older voters both in a cultural and logistical sense – given that young people are much more likely to move around frequently and not be correctly enrolled. Additional provision of electronic voting was one of the options put forward to improve turnout rates – which in and of itself has other potential problems to consider.

A quick reminder about local elections: If you’re not sure what your local candidates stand for, go to Policy Local and find out. Voting papers should now be with you, and Local Government NZ are targeting Saturday October 5 as ‘Voting Day’ – that is, the best day to ensure you post your votes in.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Alex Casey reports on Mediaworks removing an episode of show NZ Today from all platforms, following serious allegations against someone who briefly appeared in it. Peter Fraser casts a brutally honest eye over Fonterra’s finances, and why their results may have been delayed. Trevor McKewen assesses how Spark Sports’ struggles will impact the overall financial position of rugby. Tamsyn Matchett writes about a Civics programme aimed at getting young people ready to vote. And has Hayden Donnell found a saviour for the Big Fresh animatronic fruits and vegetables that were put on sale last week?

Today’s feature is a very difficult read about a small group of people doing heroic work. Stuff’s Virginia Fallon has profiled the work of Te Whare Tiaki Wāhine, the Porirua’s Maori Women’s Refuge. Here’s an excerpt which outlines where their work begins.

Some aren’t here because they want to leave their partners, some come just to talk to Herewini.

Most of their stories can’t be written about because someone, somewhere, would know them. Those tales are so horrifying I can’t process them but I sit there and I hear them and I nod at the women when they look at me.

Two women are inducted today: their stories are widely different and heartbreakingly similar and the women who tell them turn up unannounced.

The English Premier League is back underway, with Liverpool opening up a clear lead after six games. They’re unbeaten so far, having beaten the relatively mighty Chelsea yesterday, while reigning champions Manchester City have now dropped five points, to sit in second place. Interestingly Leicester City, the Cinderella story of a few seasons ago, are up in third – though it is still early in the season so might not be able to be maintained. It could well end up as another duel for the title between a top two way ahead of the chasing pack.

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