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John Tamihere is challenging Phil Goff for the mayoralty of Auckland (Image: Twitter/ Radio NZ – Diego Opatowski)
John Tamihere is challenging Phil Goff for the mayoralty of Auckland (Image: Twitter/ Radio NZ – Diego Opatowski)

The BulletinJanuary 28, 2019

The Bulletin: Tamihere looms as serious challenge for Goff

John Tamihere is challenging Phil Goff for the mayoralty of Auckland (Image: Twitter/ Radio NZ – Diego Opatowski)
John Tamihere is challenging Phil Goff for the mayoralty of Auckland (Image: Twitter/ Radio NZ – Diego Opatowski)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Real contest looms for Auckland mayoralty, meeting between Sir Peter Jackson and PM Ardern revealed, and NZ First holding up climate change bill. 

A new contender has entered the arena for the mayoralty of Auckland, in the form of John Tamihere. The former Labour MP, talkback host, and (probably most important for this campaign) CEO of the Waipareira Trust has declared he’s running, at an event in Henderson. Regardless of your thoughts on whether he’s likely to win the election, to be held in October, he represents a genuine challenge against sitting mayor Phil Goff.

Why does this need to be taken seriously? Partly, it’s because of the people around Mr Tamihere. He’s joined as a running mate by former MP and mayor, and leading sitting councillor Christine Fletcher, who the NZ Herald reports has already unleashed a heavy attack on the mayor. She comes from the centre-right Communities and Residents ticket, and her decision indicates Mr Tamihere can count on the support of that wider grouping for his campaign.

Of course, John Tamihere comes into the race with a tremendous amount of baggage. He ended up on the outer while as a Labour MP for horrendous comments, including about his own colleagues, recorded and published in Investigate Magazine. Then there are his comments as a talkback host during the first round of Roast Busters news, when he suggested the women alleging rape may have been either lying, or at fault. Hard questions about that baggage were put to him by the NZ Herald’s Simon Wilson – Mr Tamihere didn’t exactly walk them back. For some, that lack of contrition will be unforgivable. For some, it won’t be seen as relevant to his new ambitions.

But what does he actually want to do as mayor? He put his five platforms in a press release, but they’re all the sort of generic statements that nobody could possibly disagree with: ‘crack down on waste and incompetence’ or ‘open the books and clean the house’ being two examples. It’s not a million miles away from ‘drain the swamp’, and look at how well that has turned out.

Probably the firmest concrete action he has promised is to put an elected Councillor on the board of every Council Controlled Organisation – think ATEED, Panuku, Watercare etc. There was also an attack on the regional fuel tax, which prompted a defence of it from Mr Goff, who said it was a vital revenue raiser for infrastructure, and that such attacks would just be part of election year.

The campaign may well follow a similar formula to when Mr Tamihere last went to Council to fire some salvos – I reported on that event for The Spinoff. He put on an incredible show, and was fantastic media talent, but it wasn’t clear from any of it how he’d actually get on with the day to day business of running the Council. It’s already obvious that his campaign will be more exciting than Mr Goff’s, but whether that means the public will consider John Tamihere to be a better potential mayor remains to be seen. And the media-excitement ground is clearly not something Phil Goff plans to concede without a fight, if his recent salty comments made about the unruly tourists are anything to go by.

A meeting took place between PM Jacinda Ardern and Sir Peter Jackson, just before a decision was made to not curb film industry subsidies, reports the NZ Herald. That decision was made against official advice, and film industry subsidies now come in at about $40 million a year. The PM says the decision was not made as a result of the meeting or lobbying.

A quick reminder here too – the so called ‘Hobbit-laws’ for film industry workers still haven’t been repealed, despite Labour pushing for that in opposition. It’s almost like the film industry possesses some kind of object to bend governments to their will – perhaps some sort of small but powerful golden ring. It sounds absurd, but I’m struggling to see why else governments of both stripes have been so accommodating for this one particular industry.

Sources have indicated to Stuff that coalition tensions are the reason for slow progress on the government’s flagship climate change law. An announcement on the shape of the Zero Carbon bill is now long-overdue, a bill on which the Greens are seeking wide cross-party support. But rather than the opposition National party holding things up, it is NZ First, who are pushing concerns held by agribusiness. Widespread cross-party support is considered necessary for the bill, so that it can survive changes of government.

Here’s a symptom of the hot summer we’re seeing around the country – NZTA is having to spray down roads to prevent them from melting, reports Newshub. The heat is bringing the bitumen up to the surface, which makes the roads more dangerous to drive on. Expect the heatwave to get a lot of coverage this week – Stuff have a live blog running at the moment, for example. We had an intense heatwave at almost the exact same time of last year too, and published this on The Spinoff about how little climate change is discussed when talking about heatwaves.

Boy racers in Christchurch are trying to drive a hard bargain with police over hooning events, reports The Press on their front page today. Police want a meeting with the organisers, but the organisers say there won’t be any meeting until they have an assurance that police will leave them alone. The events can sometimes spiral out of control into mass disorder and public annoyance, and the organisers say they want a solution that would take the events out of town.

Not only is the government falling behind on Kiwibuild targets, they’re also at risk of falling behind the pace on building social housing, reports Newsroom. It has targeted building 1600 social houses a year for four years, but between July and December only built 273. Housing minister Phil Twyford’s office says it is an operational matter for Housing NZ.

If you came across the Roast Busters news last week, I strongly urge you to read this by Alex CaseyIt’s the account of one of their survivors, and is a harrowing tale of what actually happened to her at the hands of Joseph Parker and the rest of his group. Often when this case is discussed, the actual actions are referenced in oblique terms, and because of that, minimised. But a real account of what happened needs to confronted before anything else can be discussed about this case.

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I would honestly be looking at that gun with equally as much apprehension.

Right now on The Spinoff: Danyl Mclauchlan critiques whether referendums is the best way of going about creating drug policy. Sam Brooks reviews the new Oscar Kightley show about Mark Twain’s journey around NZ. Jai Breitnauer writes about the sheer volume of crap that tourists in campervans have to accumulate and then dump. And if you’re off to Laneway today, this handy guide should help you out with having a good one.

A quick roundup here on the naming of Sarah Dowie as the MP who had an affair with Jami-Lee Ross. She is under investigation for a possible breach of the Harmful Digital Communications Act, over a text allegedly sent to Mr Ross. First, the arguments made in favour of naming her were put most succinctly by Newstalk ZB political editor Barry Soper. He outlined the reasons why naming Ms Dowie was in the public interest, and also added that “it’s not the Parliamentary Press Gallery’s job to protect MPs when a police investigation is under way.”

That’s a fair point, but there’s a phenomenon with this whole saga that I want to unpack a bit more. One of the most common press gallery refrains when commenting on this whole story is that it shows the line between personal and political is being blurred. The way that idea is presented is almost always in the manner of a disinterested observer studying a scientific experiment, from a position of high neutrality and objectivity. But to report these things in the first place is in and of itself a choice. There are no objective rules to these things – you could just as easily make the argument that because at this stage it’s only an investigation (not a prosecution) to report it is unfairly prejudicial against an elected member of parliament, and therefore not in the public interest.

But given that Sarah Dowie had made anonymous accusations against Jami-Lee Ross, doesn’t that make it fair game? Possibly – it is understood that she was one of the women who spoke to Newsroom for their story that altered the course of the saga last year. But it should be stressed time and again – the public interest with that story wasn’t that an MP had sex, the public interest was in the allegations that he harassed women and behaved abusively. The text under investigation reads much more like the product of a bad breakup, rather than abusiveness, so I’m not convinced the two situations are analogous, and I think it’s fair to say the two situations speak to the character of those involved in very different ways.

As for the investigation itself, to my mind the most convincing analysis of it comes from National-aligned blogger David Farrar on Kiwiblog. He accuses Mr Ross of overplaying the effect the text had for his own ends, and notes that the text was sent two months before Mr Ross was sectioned. “I don’t know what is the truth, but I’m certainly not going to accept self-serving assertions as fact”, wrote Farrar.

I guess what rankles most of all is that once someone has been named in this way, they can’t be un-named, even if the police decide there’s no case to answer. But politically, that won’t matter – the day after naming her, the NZ Herald were syndicating an Otago Daily Times story that suggested that Ms Dowie’s “short-lived political career looks all but over.” But why? Perhaps she does deserve to go for this, and the people of Invercargill won’t want her as their representative. But it’s hard to escape the conclusion that her only transgression was having an affair – possibly a personal failing, sure, but one that doesn’t necessarily impact on her ability to do the job she was elected to do.

Both Black Sticks teams have lost their opening Pro League hockey games against the Netherlands, reports the NZ Herald. The men lost 4-3, and the women lost 1-0. The Pro League looks like quite a cool tournament actually, with double-header evenings between now and ANZAC Day, to be held in Auckland and Christchurch. If you’ve ever wanted to see some top field hockey live, this is probably the thing to go see.

And the Black Ferns Sevens have won their first ever tournament on home soil, romping to victory in Hamilton. One News used the word “annihilate” to describe how they beat France in the Fast Four final, which about sums up their dominance really. The tournament wasn’t part of the wider World Series, which the Black Ferns Sevens are currently leading with two wins from two tournaments.

From our partners: The government is digging deep into the price of electricity in New Zealand, with a review of the entire energy sector. What will the review look at, why should there even be one, and does it mean you might pay less for power? Vector’s Bridget McDonald has the answers.

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