Good morning and welcome to the Bulletin. In today’s edition: Collins outlines the plan forward for National, no spread of Covid spotted yet in Northland, and students return for climate protest.
In front of a Rotary Club at the Ellerslie Racecourse in Auckland, National leader Judith Collins yesterday set out her party’s priorities for the year. Both Justin Giovannetti and I went along, and he put together a piece that captured the somewhat glum mood of the room. Her speech – a serious address delivered to a mostly silent crowd – focused heavily on the argument that border security needed strengthening so as to avoid the economic and social costs of further lockdowns. That’s been well canvassed already, but there was plenty of new stuff to get into around housing and regulation.
Namely, Collins made a pitch to the government to put through a temporary law change, which would allow central government to override local government zoning. This in turn would be used to free up greenfields for development, and encourage intensification. The plan is based on that used after the 2011 Canterbury earthquake, which allowed a lot of fast-tracking. Interestingly, it used the language of an ’emergency’ around housing – language National typically uses pretty sparingly – which reflects the prioritisation the party intends to give the issue.
Her housing pitch included a letter sent to the PM, offering to support the government if it used National’s plan. As Newshub reports, the response from the PM was polite indifference – a ‘thanks but no thanks’. Analysing the speech as a whole though, Politik saw the policy suggestions and the way they were framed as a move to the centre.
While the pitch itself is unlikely to be picked up, it does set up some battlelines on the Resource Management Act – the behemothic piece of legislation which is coming up for another round of reform, or even full-scale abolition and replacement. There’s an interesting feature on that to read below, but in brief, the RMA exists to manage competing interests. When asked whose interests should be deprioritised in the rewrite, Collins took aim at NIMBYs who stop housing being built. And when she was asked if that included any potential NIMBYs who may have been right there at a well-to-do event in a leafy Auckland suburb, she said “you know what I think? I think they’re really in favour of their kids being able to buy a house”.
To date, no spread of Covid-19 has been spotted in Northland. Our live updates by Stewart Sowman-Lund had the details of a big day of developments, including fifteen out of sixteen close contacts returning negative tests – the other one is still in the oven. Widespread testing has also taken place of staff at the Pullman Hotel (where the case was staying) and with hundreds of people who left the facility since early January. Even so, iwi checkpoints will be set up again in the region, reports the Northern Advocate, with local group Tai Tokerau Border Control expressing concern about the government’s handling so far.
We also got a timeline update on vaccine approval and delivery. Medsafe, who regulate medicine, will be looking for advice on whether they can provisionally approve the Pfizer vaccine, which could take place as early as next week. The jabs themselves aren’t expected to arrive in the country for a few months yet. The speed of the rollout has been a contentious political issue, with a few other countries seeing vaccination programmes already underway.
Ahead of the Climate Change Commission’s draft emissions budget being released, students have again been protesting climate inaction at parliament. Stuff reports a rally on the front steps drew about 150 people, and was addressed by MPs of a few different parties. The participants made the entirely fair point that its their futures that are screwed if insufficient action is taken.
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Immigration NZ managed to mistakenly send thousands of people letters saying their visa extensions had been approved, reports Gill Bonnett for Radio NZ. The technical bureaucratic process by which the blunder happened is explained in the story, but the point is this – it will have created intense stress for people waiting on a decision, and for some recipients might have stopped them bothering for a new visa – meaning they’d now be in the country unlawfully. Those directly affected were the partners and dependant children of certain categories of work or student visa holders.
Māori critics of Oranga Tamariki will now be on a ministerial advisory board for the organisation. The NZ Herald reports the group, set up by children’s minister Kelvin Davis, will include the likes of Dame Naida Glavish, and will be “at the forefront” of reform. Davis said the group will provide independent advice on Oranga Tamariki’s “relationships with families, whānau, and Māori; professional social work practices; and organisational culture.”
Wairarapa commuters rejoice: The Times-Age has done a bit of mythbusting, around the “thick and fast” rumours that buses would replace the train line into Wellington over the next two years. However, Kiwirail has come out and unequivocally shut those rumours down. The spark for the rumours has been the planned upgrades to the Remutaka tunnel.
A quick plug for one of my pieces: You might (or entirely fairly might not) remember I spent the election campaign driving around the country in a Jucy van. I also came out of it with a huge list of some great local radio stations, which you can read more about here. The piece is produced in partnership with Jucy, who’ve offered readers a promo code if they want to get out and about too.
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Right now on The Spinoff: Danyl McLauchlan writes about a new book that examines the massive amount of science which could be basically garbage. Justin Latif reports on a gang war in South Auckland, and the community leaders trying to prevent a cycle of violent retribution. Josie Adams reports on new research which looks at the impacts of interactions between parents and healthcare providers. Emily Writes muses on the new season of Drag Race being shot in NZ, and asks whether it will represent the local community. I make the unpopular but true argument that there should be more MPs in parliament. And Josie Adams writes about the increasing uptake of weighted blankets for sleeping.
For a feature today, a somewhat unnerving look at the complexity of the upcoming round of resource management act reform. Business Desk’s (paywalled) Pattrick Smellie has looked at the areas in which the act is now badly out of date, and the reports with recommendations for changes. But as he points out, there’s a hell of a lot of contention over the direction of the reforms. Here’s an excerpt:
Arriving as it did in the midst of the covid-19 crisis, shortly before what was to have been a September general election, the Randerson report seemed almost to be some sort of last straw.
The lawyers, planners, local body policy wonks, property developers, farming lobbyists, miners, climate change activists and anyone else who lives and dies by core planning and environmental legislation have produced almost no public response.
After all, Parker had promised to do nothing before the election. It’s almost as if everyone thought: ‘we’ll deal with that next year.’ Well, it’s next year.
The Black Caps will be heading to England over winter for a two-test series, including a game at Lords. While New Zealand has been utterly dominant at home over summer, this is probably the best gauge of where the team is at in terms of playing a strong opponent in conditions that’ll suit both teams. As Stuff reports, it’ll take place before the World Test Championship final – New Zealand currently has a strong but not certain chance of being in that, depending on whether South Africa can hold off Australia, and England can spark an upset against India – if you want all the permutations, cricket stats legend Michael Wagener has crunched the numbers. Suffice to say, the next few months are going to be very exciting for the format.
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