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Dame Cindy Kiro and PM Ardern at the announcement of who the next governor general will be (Mark Tantrum, Getty Images)
Dame Cindy Kiro and PM Ardern at the announcement of who the next governor general will be (Mark Tantrum, Getty Images)

The BulletinMay 25, 2021

The Bulletin: Service highlighted by Dame Cindy Kiro

Dame Cindy Kiro and PM Ardern at the announcement of who the next governor general will be (Mark Tantrum, Getty Images)
Dame Cindy Kiro and PM Ardern at the announcement of who the next governor general will be (Mark Tantrum, Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Service highlighted by Dame Cindy Kiro, Sāmoa has two parties claiming right to govern, and Melbourne cases don’t close trans-Tasman bubble.

New Zealand will soon have a new governor general. After her five year term finishes in September, Dame Patsy Reddy will step down and make way for Dame Cindy Kiro – our live updates (3pm) has the details. Dame Cindy spoke of service at the announcement. “This idea about service is a really old fashioned idea, but I think it’s still an important one,” she said. “This notion of service has really gone to the heart of all that I have done… it’s been a career of service mainly for children and young people, and those who cannot speak for themselves.”

If the name isn’t familiar, Kiro has had a long career in academia and public life. She spent five years as the Children’s Commissioner, and has held significant university roles, particularly in public health. Kiro is of Māori (Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Hine) and British descent. Even though it is a non-political role, Kiro’s career has been very much in line with the stated priorities of the Ardern government, and her life story is one of remarkable achievement and success.

And while Kiro hasn’t been a politician as such, some of her work has been political in nature – though as more of an activist and advocate. That’s reasonably unavoidable in public life, because there’s very few people who only have reason to say things that everyone agrees with. But it could cause some tension. The NZ Herald reports Act leader David Seymour used the appointment to both congratulate Kiro, and also took a swipe at Dame Patsy for “lecturing the public with politicised speeches”. Family First’s Bob McCoskrie also pointedly rehashed some of the disputes he and others in that space of politics have had with Kiro in the past.

There’s no suggestion that Kiro can or would use her powers for political ends. But without wanting to draw unwarranted analogies to Sāmoa (more on that below) the recent troubles they’ve been having there shows that sometimes constitutional powers get used in controversial ways. In more simple times, they also hold the power to invite potential PMs to form governments, based on whether they can command the majority of the house. On this point, I’d like to throw back to this fascinating excerpt from a speech made by former governor general Sir Jerry Mateparae about this process, and what he took into account when deciding if a grouping had the numbers to govern.

So, Sāmoa. The country now has two rival groupings claiming to be the legitimate government. I’m happy to be guided on this, but I believe the most correct terms to use for the two party leaders is PM-elect for Fiame Naomi Mata’afa of the Fast party, and caretaker PM for Tuila’epa Sailele Malielegaoi of the HRPP.

But the fact that this needs to be clarified at all is really worrying, because there has been another day of significant developments. RNZ Pacific reports Fast MPs turned up to be sworn into office, and were quite literally locked out. So instead, they held the ceremony out front, and took their oaths of office. That in turn has been described as “treason” by caretaker PM Tuila’epa, who is steadfastly refusing to go. Sapeer Mayron in Apia reports for Stuff that he made a “blistering” speech, describing the would-be government as a joke. The Samoa Observer reports that police have insisted that they will not take sides, and are only intending to uphold the law, in a confrontation with Fast. New Zealand’s government has urged both parties to “show respect for their constitution and democratic processes”, though as Newsroom’s Sam Sachdeva reports, PM Ardern said New Zealand will not intervene.

By all reports, the situation on the ground is calm and non-violent. But as this excellent commentary from top Sāmoan journalist and editor Mata’afa Keni Lesa shows, the emotions on the ground are heightened, and the situation remains unpredictable:

“For it was the day parliament, under the rule of the HRPP party, rejected the judiciary. It was the day the caretaker government showed disdain for the rule of law. It was the day people were denied access to a building that represented their dreams of their ancestors and their hope for the future of Sāmoa.” 

Covid cases in Melbourne have not caused the trans-Tasman bubble to close, reports One News. The health ministry sought assurances that the North Melbourne cluster was being “appropriately managed”, and are satisfied that it is. However anyone currently in the country who has been in Melbourne since May 11 is being asked to monitor themselves for symptoms, and to call Healthline if any develop.

Speaking of bubbles, here’s an interesting piece on how the Cook Islands bubble is being experienced. RNZ Pacific’s Jamie Tahana has reported on concerns about whether the tourism rush will come in too strong, and what the effects of that might be. The industry might have brought in wealth with record visitor numbers just before Covid, but as we’ve seen in many parts of New Zealand, those high numbers meant high levels of pressure placed on the environment, infrastructure, and social fabric of the community.

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Rates rises are being discussed at a few major local government institutions around the country, and they could be somewhat tense discussions. The NZ Herald’s Bernard Orsman reports Auckland Council is likely to agree to a new plan that will see both rates and water costs go up, in order to maintain spending on essential services and infrastructure. Meanwhile Wellingtonians are facing a larger than expected bump in their bills this year, and the commissioners in Tauranga are likely to implement even bigger rises than either of the other two.

New studies linking nitrate levels in water to adverse birth effects have led to calls for urgent action, reports Stuff. Green MP Eugenie Sage says the studies show these effects happen at much lower levels than WHO standards would indicate. Nitrate contamination in water is linked to the intensity of nearby agriculture, with the explosion in dairying of the 1990s seen as being a particularly significant moment for water supplies.

Two pretty massive bits of news for The Spinoff’s editorial team: The first one is that in the next couple of months, Toby Manhire will be stepping down as the editor of the site. Don’t worry – he’ll still be around, in an ‘editor at large’ type job, and the Gone By Lunchtime podcast will still be going. But on a day to day level, the writers at The Spinoff won’t be directly working for Toby anymore.

And I use that phrase quite deliberately, because it reflects the two-way loyalty Toby has with all of us. In a lot of media organisations, people just work for themselves. That’s normal – it’s the culture we all live in. But it’s not what The Spinoff under Toby has been like. He takes immense care both with the words that are put in front of him, but also the writers putting them there. Sometimes this profession really sucks, and sometimes life falls apart in a way that makes work impossible, but we all know that Toby will always have our backs. This is just to talk about who he is as a person, let alone the incredible journalist he is in his own right.

But this is not bad news for Toby to be stepping down, because of who is stepping up: The new co-editors of The Spinoff will be very familiar to you all – Madeleine Chapman and Alex Casey. They are both, in their own individual ways, generational talents. To be honest, their writing was one of the reasons why I first wanted to come to The Spinoff in the first place. And since then, they’ve both done all sorts of stuff – investigative journalism, satire, straight news reporting, beautiful profiles, hilarious listicles – that is of the highest quality, every time. In short, Mad and Alex are going to be very, very good at this, and I’m excited to be here for it.

For more on all this, read the post the three of them put together – those of you who are Spinoff Members will have got it early, a bit before everyone else yesterday. And if you think this is a direction for the site that you want to support, please consider becoming a member, to help us keep it all going.

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Young girl eating mandarin in school
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Right now on The Spinoff: Charlotte Macdonald, who co-convened the panel that critiqued the Ministry of Education’s draft NZ histories curriculum, writes about how to make this initiative rich and valuable for kids. Dr Julie Spray writes about her research into school lunches, and how it’s about much more than just filling empty stomachs. We’ve republished an essay by Kali Regenvan, which is part of the new book Sista, Stanap Strong! A Vanuatu Women’s Anthology. South Pacific Pictures founder John Barnett wants a rethink on TVNZ’s plans for a paid subscription service. Tara Ward checks out a new reality TV show about circus life. And our latest 10×100 survey asks people what they love and hate about reality TV.

For a feature today, a piece about athletes trying to find that little bit of extra performance in the sand dunes of Piha. Writing for Newsroom, Alex Chapman has profiled the unique work of Dave Wood, a former intensive care paramedic. What makes it interesting is how it pushes beyond the physical aspects of performance, to something much more holistic. Here’s an excerpt:

“Part of what we’re trying to do is get people to reconnect. We are so disconnected from reality because we live our lives through reality or we live our lives through our work and we aren’t connecting with the things we should be like the bush, the sea, the sand.

“It’s quite interesting, when I get clients in, with inflammation or stress or high blood pressure, one of the first questions I ask them is ‘in this entire week, how many times have your feet actually been in on the Earth’s surface?’”

It’s an intriguing question to ponder, one many may not have an answer to. Heck, even this writer doesn’t know. It’s an approach other sports teams and athletes the world over are using, most notably Australian cricket coach Justin Langer, who has his players walk barefoot around grounds before they play at them.

The talk of the NRL at the moment is the incredible impact Warriors teenager Reece Walsh is having on the team’s fortunes. Stuff reports the team is in awe of some of the plays he’s pulled off so far, and the coaching staff have indicated that Walsh will be a starter for the foreseeable future. The questions around that reflect the fact that Walsh is only 18, and as such his current ability needs to be balanced against protecting his longevity. After 11 games this season, the Warriors are right on the edge of the playoffs.

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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