Passengers from New Zealand arriving at Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport on October 16, 2020 (Photo: James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

The Bulletin: Australia’s outbreak and the bubble

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Australia’s outbreak and the bubble, Wellington council makes changes at punishing spatial plan meeting, and Treasury making noises about big philosophical change on government spending.

Over the course of this week, the Covid situation in Australia has started to look increasingly uncomfortable. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that 11 new cases were announced yesterday in New South Wales, and that the outbreak has spread to neighbouring Victoria. A lockdown hasn’t yet been put in place in NSW, though someexperts believe that with the Delta variant on the loose, such a move would be justified – particularly if it was a ‘hard and early’ lockdown rather than something delayed and dragged out. 9News reports there are also several cases in Queensland, but they are believed to be contained. To sum up the general picture, it is one of concern rather than panic – but this can change quickly.

So it was not surprising that last night the travel bubble pause with NSW was extended by a further 12 days. Our live updates covered that news, with Covid-19 minister Chris Hipkins saying “the government strongly believes a cautious approach is the best course of action while these investigations continue.” That in turn is raising questions about whether the travel bubble is worth it. Newshub reports medical expert Des Gorman, who argued that the risks of keeping it open at all are too high.

Meanwhile in Wellington, no cases in the community have yet been reported. The NZ Herald reports that if the person who came through Wellington did pass Covid on to anyone, today or tomorrow are likely days for those cases to emerge, given that people can still test negative in the early days after being exposed. In the meantime, residents of the capital are advised to keep scanning everywhere, because if there are cases hiding in the community that’ll make tracing them much easier.


Various issues around the development of Wellington were thrashed out at a marathon council meeting last night. The NZ Herald’s Georgina Campbell and Stuff’s Damian George were both there, and their stories capture the tension and anger around the council table that also came through loud and clear on the live-stream I watched in Auckland. The key points are that moves to massively increase character protections have been largely defeated, and the way ahead for more densification is now clearer. The ‘walkable catchment’ areas – in which six storey buildings can be put in the suburbs so long as they’re near a train station – will be increased. But a proposal to remove height restrictions altogether from central city housing developments was voted down.


Treasury is currently considering how to create a greater role for government spending to support the economy. Interest’s Jenée Tibshraeny reported from a rare public speech by Secretary to The Treasury Caralee McLiesh, in which she said it reflected a shift in thinking within economics towards more interventionist policy. That in turn included a relaxation in the thinking at the agency around government debt, particularly while interest rates are low. This point was tempered by a warning that the conditions could flip reasonably quickly, making paying back government debt more onerous.


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An incredible inside story of how former National leader Todd Muller was forced to announce his retirement: The NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Claire Trevett has sketched out a “brutal” caucus meeting in which Muller was confronted about briefing against a colleague to a journalist, and given an ultimatum – either go quietly or be suspended from the caucus. The suggestion is that leader Judith Collins wanted to make an example of someone, to send a message to MPs about the wider pattern of ill-discipline that has plagued National of late.


The average wage in retail has leapt by 6% in the space of a year, reports Radio NZ. That is being attributed to a combination of supply and demand in the labour market, along with regulatory changes. I’d wager the strikes that have taken place in this area recently might also have had an effect. The average wage for a retail worker in a nationwide chain is now up to $26 an hour.


Southlanders are concerned at not getting their full request of roading money from the government, with the shortfall meaning some bridges may close. Stuff’s Rachael Kelly reported this last week, and earlier this week Central Otago mayor Tim Cadogan went on Newstalk ZB to raise concerns that the roads would become more dangerous. Southland’s road network is vast, and Cadogan said it is currently maintained very efficiently. He also argued it was unfair, given Auckland is getting a new cycle and pedestrian harbour crossing. It goes to show that even though some form of non-car harbour crossing is desperately needed in Auckland, for those in the regions good roads are still by far the most important bit of transport infrastructure.


Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Get in touch with me at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz

Image: Tina Tiller

Right now on The Spinoff: First of all, you simply must read Bernard Hickey tell the economic story of his own life: How he lucked into having assets that have since appreciated in value way beyond his income, and how he is now part of a minority of that social class that supports this sort of windfall being taken away.

Meanwhile, Ethan Neville assesses the new plan to protect the Hauraki Gulf. Jihee Junn reports on how online bank transfers are being used for harassment and abuse. Data analyst Emma Vitz has the maps to prove how broken the housing market is around the country. Duncan Greive writes about the start of the adaptation era when dealing with climate change, with the effects increasingly being seen and unable to now be stopped. Chris Schulz bids a very cheerful good riddance to music events at the Logan Campbell Centre. And Catherine Woulfe has gone and ranked every pudding in the Edmonds book, after first making them.


For a feature today, a shocking story of waste that is probably just the tip of the iceberg: ITV News has revealed footage of massive piles of perfectly good products being destroyed in an Amazon warehouse in Britain, simply because it hadn’t sold. Here’s an excerpt:

Products that were never sold, or returned by a customer. Almost all could have been redistributed to charities or those in need. Instead, they are thrown into vast bins, carried away by lorries (which we tracked), and dumped at either recycling centres or, worse, a landfill site.

An ex-employee, who asked for anonymity, told us: “From a Friday to a Friday our target was to generally destroy 130,000 items a week.

“I used to gasp. There’s no rhyme or reason to what gets destroyed: Dyson fans, Hoovers, the occasional MacBook and iPad; the other day, 20,000 Covid (face) masks still in their wrappers.


In sport, is the glow of victory still warming for anyone else? It certainly is for Samuel Scott, who wrote a great piece about the unbridled joy he’s feeling after so many decades of disappointment with NZ cricket. We also recorded an episode of The Offspin in the immediate moments after the winning runs – you can have a listen here. Savour the feeling.


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