Good morning, and welcome to the last edition of The Bulletin for 2018.
Well, crikey. It’s the end of the year. I’ve got some thoughts on that down the other end of the page, but you’re here for the news and there’s still heaps to get through here. I thought what might help people out the most for making Christmas lunch conversation is a guide to where a collection of key news issues are likely to go next year.
Where we stand between China and the USA
At the moment, it would appear that our foreign policy is drifting more firmly towards the USA. That’s based on China not being able to find time for PM Ardern to visit, foreign minister Winston Peters’s call at a US university for that country to be more active in the Pacific, and the denial of Huawei technology from the 5G network. There’s no telling if there will be a more serious confrontation between the two superpowers next year (though the leader of one of them seems a bit, uh, erratic) but if it does happen, there could be some seriously tough decisions for New Zealand.
Climate change politics
This is an area where the government is likely to make a big push in 2019. There’s the Zero Carbon bill to pass, after all, which has been slow going to date. But what exactly will the parameters be, particularly when it comes to methane? That’s the gas that is produced in heavy volumes by farming, and while climate campaigners want deep cuts there too, any moves with economic implications for the sector will be met with heavy resistance. See also the oil and gas industry, and the near certainty of continued opposition to the exploration ban.
There’s also the longer term question of what the government intends to do about the looming problem of uninsurable coastal houses. Sea levels are coming up, and as Stuff’s Andrea Vance reported recently, work has been going on behind the scenes to figure out what the implications of that are. More should be made public in the coming year.
Finally, there’s a good chance the nature of climate change protesting may change a bit in New Zealand over the coming year. A protest in Canterbury that cut off the water supply at Environment Canterbury’s headquarters was – as far as I’m aware – the first reported direct action from the group calling itself Extinction Rebellion. Similarly militant protests have been breaking out in the UK, amid rising frustration at the fact that little to no actual action is being taken to reduce emissions worldwide. Despite a lot of talk this year – emissions actually went up.
The big one for the start of next year. Industrial disputes with primary and secondary teachers remain unresolved at the end of this year, and there’s the possibility of a ‘super-strike’ by both groups in term 1. There will also be negotiations with early childhood education teachers for the government to navigate.
Mayoral and Council elections
There’s probably not really a unifying theme that sums up all of the mayoral and council elections on next year. But generally speaking, Local Government NZ is pushing for less centralisation of powers, and a paper on the subject is due to be published next year. Will that make local government more relevant? Actually, it’s a bit of a misconception that it isn’t relevant at the moment – people bemoan low turnout rates, but that’s more of a city problem than a nationwide problem, as these figures show.
In Auckland, there aren’t yet any declared candidates with a realistic chance of beating mayor Phil Goff. Labour has already formally endorsed their former leader, even though there’s the possibility of former MP John Tamihere running. A lot will probably depend on whether Auckland’s political right can remove the knives they’ve buried in each other’s backs – they blew it in 2016 with division in the ranks.
Kiwibuild and housing supply
The government never promised their Kiwibuild policy would see the same rate of housebuilding year after year. Regardless, they need to start ramping it up to meet their targets. As always, the Stuff tracker is the best place to measure this – the first major deadline is to have 1000 new homes build by July 1, 2019. There’s a new super-ministry in place for housing and urban development, so the performance of that organisation will be crucial for meeting the targets.
Nailing down the referendums
It was recently confirmed that there will be a referendum on cannabis legalisation alongside the next election in 2020. But what will the wording of the question put to the public be? What process will the referendum take? Will a bill be passed first that needs to then be affirmed by the public to take effect?
None of those questions have immediate, easy answers, and next year is realistically when a lot of the work on them will need to take place. Along with that, there’s the question of a possible referendum on euthanasia, and even a possible referendum on aspects of the MMP voting system itself. The way referendums are set up are inherently political and thus easily become controversial, so expect some battles to be fought here.
Just, you know, things happening
Labour wouldn’t have planned for anything like the Karel Sroubek saga, or Clare Curran botching her ministerial responsibilities this year. National wouldn’t have planned on Jami-Lee Ross driving a bulldozer through the party room. People are people, and the nature of these things is that they’re inherently unpredictable. We could see fractures among the coalition partners, or a leadership challenge in National. And you can guarantee that individual scandals will come up – it’s just that it’s impossible to pick what they’ll be.
The state of the media
Look, there’s literally nothing I could add to the forecasting done by Duncan Greive in his series on the state of every major media company, so just go read those.
The global brand of the All Blacks
The Rugby World Cup will be on in Japan, and it’s going to be a huge, all-consuming for sports media. While the recent Northern Tour suggests it could be a challenge on the park, off the park NZ Rugby will be doing everything they can to leverage the worldwide audience it will bring. And there’s a real possibility that there will be another more serious attempt to get government funding to retain top players on the grounds of protecting that brand – that’s one of the conclusions drawn in this recent column by the NZ Herald’s Gregor Paul.
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Right now on The Spinoff: To mark the year, we’ve put together a whole lot of numbers and facts about The Spinoff itself in this super cool Year in Review interactive. It’s made by Vanishing Point, and it looks amazing.
Other stuff: Aaron Hendry writes that the calls for harsher punishment for hit and run driver Rouxle Le Roux are about revenge, not justice. Researcher Raven Cretney has compiled and analysed the increasing severity of climate change events over 2018. A reminder – you can find all of our Year in Review stuff generally here. And with Christmas approaching, the hot take advent calendar is reaching thermonuclear levels of heat.
There’s another piece I wanted to mention, on a very different note. A writer working under a pseudonym has a personal essay on how their serious illness this year has doing what has always come so naturally such a struggle. I won’t say who it is, but the author is one of the most impressive people I’ve ever come across, and they’ve been dealing with this the entire time I’ve known them.
Best Journalism of 2018: Thank you so much for sending in all your suggestions on this. I’ve compiled them all here, and it was notable when reading through them again just how many good stories weren’t included. That rather proves my point though – we’ve got an immense amount of good journalism happening in this country, as shown by the incompleteness of this collection.
Today is the last Bulletin of the year, so please indulge me – I’ve got some reflections.
I remember the rush that came with sending the very first edition of The Bulletin out. It was a moment that had been building for a couple of weeks, but when you hit send on an email newsletter, it’s gone. You can’t take anything that’s been written back, and there are no corrections to what’s in the inbox. That was exhilarating, and I was absolutely flying. And then another feeling started to set in – the realisation that now I just needed to do this again… every weekday… forever. But it wasn’t quite true – I’ve had one morning off since then.
100 editions, 150 editions, 3 months, 6 months, I don’t think any of them were marked in any meaningful way. But why bother marking arbitrary mornings like that? Writing The Bulletin just became part of the rhythm of my life, day in, day out. I came to love the light outside the window in the early morning and the sound of the coffee machine under the Morning Report jingle. It became my routine.
And from what I understand from a lot of your feedback, reading The Bulletin has become an essential part of many of your morning routines too. That is heartening beyond belief – the idea that people get out of bed looking forward to reading something you’ve put together. Because everyone has ups and downs, and some mornings are tougher to get through than others. But the knowledge that people are relying on you to keep them informed is a massive motivation.
Your numbers have grown considerably over the year. To the few thousand people who were signed up and ready for the very first edition, thank you so much for being curious about it. To the many thousands more who have signed up since, welcome, and thanks so much for being a part of it as well. And to everyone who told people about it and got them to sign up, I am incredibly grateful.
When I say being part of it, I really do mean that. I mean, what is news, but people telling other people about things they reckon are important? One of the coolest things about this is that you all really do give me your thoughts regularly, and tell me what’s important. The two-way, conversational nature of this I think has been one of the big reasons why it has succeeded. Friends sometimes tell me they feel like we talk every day, and to be honest, the feeling is mutual. I often feel like I’m just telling friends some stories every morning as well.
To the people at Vector, the partner we’ve had on this project from day one (and into next year too) we couldn’t have asked for a better organisation to work with on this. They’ve provided us with loads of really strong, interesting partner content to publish on The Spinoff, and speaking personally, their people have been wonderful.
There’s one group of people who deserve the most thanks for the success of this whole thing. That’s the journos, reporters and producers who do the mahi to make the news. I cannot stress enough how highly I respect and value what they do, especially knowing how difficult and taxing their jobs can be. It might be fashionable to rubbish the quality of our news, but in New Zealand we as the public are extremely well served by our journalists. Even if I wasn’t doing this job, I’d still wake up in the morning keen to read their work.
On everyone at The Spinoff: I don’t reckon The Bulletin would have worked anywhere else in the industry. The culture that these people have created is a daily inspiration. Working there, you come in knowing that you’re going to be surrounded by some of the best writers in the country, and that means you really have to care about what you’re writing, and you really have to try. But rather than make that competitive, they’re wonderful, supportive people who raise each other up. It’s a privilege to be among them.
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And one other person to thank: When my alarm goes off at five every morning, it also wakes my lovely partner up. Without her support this year, I probably would have fallen off the grind a long time ago.
So that’s it for The Bulletin for 2019. I’m off for a while, and the next edition will be sent out at 7.00am sharp on Monday 21 January. In the meantime, wear Consumer NZ-approved sunscreen, drive safely, be kind to each other, keep an eye out for your mates, and try not to end up in the news for the wrong reasons. It’s been a pleasure talking with you this year. I’m already looking forward to talking again soon.
Mā te wā,
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The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.