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A gas rig off the Taranaki Coast (Photo: Radio NZ)
A gas rig off the Taranaki Coast (Photo: Radio NZ)

The BulletinSeptember 25, 2018

The Bulletin: Grappling with climate action costs

A gas rig off the Taranaki Coast (Photo: Radio NZ)
A gas rig off the Taranaki Coast (Photo: Radio NZ)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Stories show complex costs of climate action, Simon Bridges attacks Housing NZ evictees, and Auckland wharfies are raising safety concerns.

A range of stories have come out in the past few days and weeks that illustrate how complex the economic costs of fighting climate change will be. In some ways, it’s money that simply has to be spent – either action is taken on climate change, or the world cooks. And politically, PM Jacinda Ardern has famously described climate change as “my generation’s nuclear free moment.” But that’s still not going to make it any easier to put money where mouths are.

Climate change minister James Shaw is promising the government will sweeten the deal for those wanting to buy electric cars, reports Newshub. He wouldn’t go into detail, but has earlier floated the idea of a ‘feebate’ – that would be where owners of high polluting cars would pay a fee, and electric car owners would get a rebate. The major problem with that though is that cheaper, higher polluting cars tend to be owned by lower-income people, who would barely be able to afford the fee, let alone upgrading to an electric car. Taxing the poor to incentivise the rich would make for a deeply economically regressive policy, and Mr Shaw has said whatever the final version is will have to make sense for lower-income people too.

Then there’s the Zero Carbon bill, currently going through Parliament, and reports about the need to cut methane emissions. It probably won’t be possible for New Zealand to meet Paris Climate Accord targets without cutting methane, but that could also seriously hurt farming.

Then there’s the incoming ban on offshore oil and gas exploration, which as Politik reports this morning is going to cost the country huge amounts of money, and could push electricity prices up. There’s conjecture about what that will do for emissions – critics say it will just encourage dirtier emissions production in other parts of the world, while supporters say the oil and gas simply needs to be kept in the ground and not used.

And finally, Consumer NZ is warning that households that install solar panels will find that it will take decades for them to pay for themselves, reports Stuff. Installation costs are into the thousands of dollars, and there have been calls for government backed interest free loans to help people switch over.

The point with all of this is that none of the actions that can be taken on climate change will be easy, or quick fixes, or cheap and painless. But perhaps more alarmingly, various world powers seem completely unwilling to do their bit at all, to the point where major climate change reports are being watered down so as to not appear too frightening – the theory being that it’s better to present the problem as manageable rather than engender a sense of fatalism. PM Ardern will be widely praised for her words on climate change while at the UN this week, but it’s the actions of her government, and all the others around the world, that will matter a lot more in the long run.

National leader Simon Bridges has fired up in relation to Housing NZ tenants who will get compensation after being evicted over meth tests. He told Radio NZ that it would result in payments to “meth crooks,” despite the fact that housing minister Phil Twyford has ruled out compensation for anyone who was prosecuted with meth production or supply (ie, the crooks) Mr Bridges was also on shaky ground in that in many of the cases, there was no baseline testing done on the property, meaning there’d be no way to prove that the tenants themselves had been the ones using or cooking meth, rather than a previous tenant.

Other parties have savaged the comments, reports Radio NZ. Green co-leader Marama Davidson saying it showed Mr Bridges wasn’t fit to lead a party or the country. And deputy PM Winston Peters said the comments were made to try and shift the blame from how the previous National government handled the issue.

Wharfies at Ports of Auckland are raising concerns that safety is taking a backseat to shifting cargo quickly, reports The Spinoff. Workers can make bonuses of up to $600 a month for moving more containers, but older hands say that has resulted in workers “pushing boundaries.” The concerns follow the death of a young father working on the wharf last month.

The NZ Herald has secured a pretty big interview this morning – dumped Govt Chief Technology Officer candidate Derek Handley is speaking out. Mr Handley says nobody from the government has explained to him in person why the job offer was withdrawn, and says he feels like it has been “open season” on him, following criticism from the tech sector. He’s also releasing all the messages and communications he had with PM Jacinda Ardern and former minister Clare Curran, to show “there’s no smoking gun.”

The share value of A2 milk has plunged after the CEO sold all of her stock, reports Stuff. The stated reason Jayne Hrdlicka sold the stock wasn’t at all dodgy – she needed to meet tax obligations. But she’s also only been in the job two months, and some investors have looked askance at it as a result.

The name change for Victoria University of Wellington has been confirmed by the University Council – it will now be known as simply the University of Wellington, reports Radio NZ. This came despite about three quarters of the submissions on the proposal being against the name change. Writing on The Spinoff, academic Dr André Brett outlined the reasons why the proposal provoked such opposition. Around the world, there are 15 other tertiary education providers with Victoria in their name, which was part of the reason for the rebrand. The decision still needs final signoff from education minister Chris Hipkins.

Otago University’s proctor is being accused of going into student flats and nicking marijuana bongs. Writing for The Spinoff, Joel MacManus reports that two sets of students have now made credible complaints of it happening, along with rumours of other cases. A legal note here – there’s nothing illegal at all about owning a bong, but it is illegal to use them to smoke marijuana – not that any of the students were actually caught in the act.

The Bird of the Year competition is back again, so to celebrate, here’s a story about some birds doing rather well for themselves. Wellington’s native bird population is booming, both within and outside the Zealandia sanctuary, reports Radio NZ. The Green belt around the city is where a lot of these birds like the kākā and tūi are making a home. Incidentally, I went for a walk through Ōtari bush last week, and it’s looking and sounding fantastic.

Now, there’s something we’d love your help with. Today The Spinoff commences the first of a series of surveys, conducted by UMR research, which aim to take the pulse of New Zealand across a range of political and social issues. These will be used to build and tell stories, help shape our strategy and give an insight into our audience’s values and worldview, comparing it to a control group of non-readers of The Spinoff.

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Right now on The Spinoff: The women of On the Rag look at the five types of TV ads that made them who they are today. White Man Behind a Desk is quitting comedy, and he explains why he’s now pivoting to the lucrative field of political commentary. And I wax lyrical about a remarkable seven minutes of political and social insight from the unlikely place of Radio Sport.

Here’s a provocative piece about the way that we do democracy, and whether the processes that underpin the will of the people being expressed are fit for purpose. Writing on The Guardian, David Van Reybrouck argues that elections – that take place in almost a ritualised form – aren’t necessarily the best mechanism to pursue democracy, though they have come to be seen as synonymous. The piece also reimagines what alternative versions of democracy would look like. I’m not sure I really agree with the position being put forward, but it certainly was thought-provoking. Here’s an excerpt:

Electoral fundamentalism is an unshakeable belief in the idea that democracy is inconceivable without elections and elections are a necessary and fundamental precondition when speaking of democracy. Electoral fundamentalists refuse to regard elections as a means of taking part in democracy, seeing them instead as an end in themselves, as a doctrine with an intrinsic, inalienable value.

This blind faith in the ballot box as the ultimate base on which popular sovereignty rests can be seen most vividly of all in international diplomacy. When western donor countries hope that countries ravaged by conflict – such as Congo, Iraq or Afghanistan – will become democracies, what they really mean is this: they must hold elections, preferably on the western model, with voting booths, ballot papers and ballot boxes; with parties, campaigns and coalitions; with lists of candidates, polling stations and sealing wax, just like we do. And then they will receive money from us.

Local democratic and proto-democratic institutions (village meetings, traditional conflict mediation or ancient jurisprudence) stand no chance. These things may have their value in encouraging a peaceful and collective discussion, but the money will be shut off unless our own tried-and-tested recipe is adhered to.

Tiger Woods has pulled off an astonishing comeback to win the Tour Championship golf tournament, reports the NZ Herald. Two years ago, when his world ranking was in the hundreds, his personal life was a mess, and he was suffering from back problems, it was conceivable he’d never win another tournament. But now he’s a champion again, and the sporting world loves it.

There’s two perspectives worth sharing on a proposed new 12 team international rugby tournament, being called the League of Nations (dreadful name, sounds weak) One of them comes from Scotty Stevenson on The Spinoff, who says it could be a huge help for the primacy of the international game over the club game. On the other hand, Patrick McKendry at the NZ Herald argues that such a tournament format would further entrench the gap between the haves and the have nots. I honestly think they’re both basically right.

From our partners, Vector’s Beth Johnson writes that if you get a cheque in the mail, no, it isn’t a scam. It’s just the Loss Rental Rebate system in action.

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