Soul kaiwhakahaere Pania Newton, speaking at Ihumātao (Radio NZ/Dan Cook)

The Bulletin: Protests spread around Ihumātao

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Protests spread around Ihumātao, activists furious about ship coming in with Saharan phosphate, and Sleepyhead plans massive company town in north Waikato.

As the standoff between police and protectors at Ihumātao continues, protests have spread to other parts of the country. Land that is culturally significant to Māori has been occupied by activists for the last few years, in an effort to prevent Fletchers building a housing development on it. However, when police moved in earlier this week to evict those there, the issue exploded onto the political consciousness.

The site itself has drawn many more activists in recent days. Radio NZ reported last night that several busloads of supporters would be making their way from Ōpōtiki, Northland and Wellington. Musicians like Stan Walker and Coco Solid have backed them. The Green party have also thrown their support behind the protests, with co-leader Marama Davidson speaking to a large rally in support in Wellington. Another rally, organised by Ihumātao Solidarity Ōtepoti, will take place in Dunedin today.

Further arrests were made last night, after a small group of activists tried to blockade the Southwestern motorway near the Ihumātao site. The Spinoff’s Leonie Hayden reported on, and took video footage of the incident. It is unclear whether they had the backing of Pania Newton, who is the kaiwhakahaere of the group Save Our Unique Landscapes, which is leading the occupation. The activists belonged to socialist group Organise Aotearoa, who I profiled last year.

Complicating the protests is the fact that many kaumatua are in favour of the development going ahead. That’s explained in this piece by Radio NZ’s Meriana Johnsen, who reports on the conflict as a generation battle between rangatahi and elders. Te Warena Taua, the chair of iwi Te Kawerau a Maki who holds mana whenua rights over the land, told Waatea News that those occupying it need to go, “and they need not return.” He added that many of the protesters don’t have any connection to the land. But to bring it full circle to the opening paragraph, that’s sort of the point of solidarity within activist networks – people who don’t necessarily have direct connections to an issue mutually support each other, to increase the overall strength of many causes.

Pleas have also continued to be made to PM Jacinda Ardern by the protectors. She said neither she, nor the government, will intervene, reports the NZ Herald, which scuppers the suggestion that the government could buy the land back from Fletchers. She did say the government was “falling on the side of local iwi and their position”, meaning Te Kawerau a Maki. However, it is pretty clear that the situation is escalating, and that neither side is looking likely to back down.


Activists have accused a ship carrying Saharan phosphate of trying to disguise that it was heading to New Zealand, reports Stuff. New Zealand is one of the last countries in the world to accept phosphate from Western Sahara, which the occupied indigenous Saharawi people consider to be stolen from them. Many African countries disagree, so ships have to take convoluted routes here. Farmer co-op Ballance Agri-Nutrients, who chartered the ship, say they doubt there was any deliberate attempt to hide the journey or that its destination was New Zealand.


This is an interesting one from earlier in the week I missed, but Sleepyhead will be building both a new factory and housing in North Waikato, reports the NZ Herald. If it sounds like they’re trying to build a company town, that’s pretty much exactly what is happening – it’ll even be called the Sleepyhead Estate. The company says they’ve been unable to grow in Auckland because of space constraints, but that’s not really an issue in rural Ohinewai. They’ll also be looking for other businesses to set up shop around the estate, so it doesn’t just become a dormitory suburb.


There’s plenty to watch out for at the National party conference over the weekend, writes Richard Harman at Politik. He reports that unease is once again building over the leadership of Simon Bridges, but that relatedly there is also an undercurrent of debate over whether the party should try and court NZ First as an ally. There are also Board elections to get through, which is always a low-key but interesting way of divining the direction of travel for a party.


New Zealand appears to have pushed too hard in trading bloc negotiations dominated by China, reports Farmers Weekly. Talks for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal have been dragging on since 2012, and China is fed up, calling for countries like NZ, Australia and India to be removed. The reason for that is that NZ also wants free agricultural trade (for obvious reasons) but that goes too far for many of the 16 members. India meanwhile is pushing harder against China, because the latter is somewhat vulnerable amid their trade war with the USA.


Submissions on the Zero Carbon bill have been dominated by the question of agricultural emissions, reports Stuff. Dairy NZ say the targets that have been set are “unattainable” and that more research into technology is needed. Buy Forest and Bird’s Kevin Hague told the select committee there isn’t really any time to spare. The problem is, neither of them are wrong – farmers can’t currently immediately reduce emissions (in any significant way) except by reducing numbers. But as the BBC reports, the IPCC says worldwide emissions really need to peak by 2020.


Cheryl Gwyn has resigned as the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, to take up a job as a High Court judge. As with much stuff that happens relating to spies (or in this case, the main watchdog of the spies) it feels like a big deal, but I can’t put my finger on why. In any case, she regularly offered robust criticism and oversight of what the spies were getting up to, and this profile of her on Stuff from 2015 is a very good read.


A story that will hit a Venn diagram of Spinoff readership: TV show The Block has been caught out in an apparent building code violation. Stuff reports the show had footage of a gas bottle basically suspended on the wall, and near a potential igniter. The Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board have blown the whistle. It’s fortunate nothing went wrong, after all, The Block’s format doesn’t require explosive eliminations.


By the way, if you’re a Spinoff Member, there’s an announcement coming later today about what your funding is going towards. Without giving anything away, it’s going to be a project that I’m really looking forward to reading. Keep an eye on your emails for that, and also the Bulletin World Weekly later on this afternoon. If this is the first you’ve heard about membership, you can find all the details here.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Denis Muller writes about the “gratuitous and excessive” coverage Australian TV networks gave the video of the Christchurch mosque attacks. Esme Hall writes about what happens to the health-sci students who realise they’ve made a terrible mistake and don’t want to do medicine. Don Rowe reports on Family First being rebuked for lying/misrepresenting cannabis research. And Alex Casey reviews the new TV show which could soon be a rival to 7 Days.


There are many moments when looking at American healthcare, you can’t help but feel utter dismay. Reading this article from Buzzfeed was one of them. It might seem astonishing, but for many sufferers of type 1 diabetes, simply turning 26 can be an effective death sentence if they’re no longer insured. Here’s an excerpt that gets the absurdity of it across.

She had a small surplus of insulin stored up and was also able to obtain samples from a family friend who worked at an endocrinology office. However, as it became clear that resolving the insurance issue would take months, not weeks, she had to find a more permanent solution. In July 2017, she turned to the black market.

She purchased 10 vials of insulin for $1,000 “from a guy who had really good insurance,” she said. It wasn’t a “terrible” price and was cheaper than what Wyrzuc would have paid over the counter. She was using insulin from this stockpile when, a few months later, she went into “severe DKA.”

“I’d never felt that terrible in my life,” Wyrzuc said. “I was throwing up for 12 hours; I couldn’t even sip water.”

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Another good sports long-read to close out the week: Dana Johannsen at Stuff has told the story behind the story of teenage sprint star Edward Osei-Nketia, and how he came to be a New Zealander. It all started at the 1990 Commonwealth Games, when two Ghanian athletes decided to make a run for it, rather than going home.


From our partners: A two-tier system of energy use is developing, with those on high incomes much more able to reduce their bills than households on lower incomes. Vector’s Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer Kate Beddoe outlines what the company plans to do about that.


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