An ambulance with a campaign message scrawled on the front (Facebook – Ambulance Professionals First)

The Bulletin: Paramedics call for full govt funding

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Poorly paid paramedics call for full government funding, Andrew Little signs off more surveillance warrants, and Christchurch accused links to far-right confirmed.

An open letter from a paramedic for the government to fully fund ambulance services has sparked a major wave of reaction. Speaking to Newshub, paramedic Dean Brown said it’s time it was recognised that the service being reliant on donations is wrong, given the work it does. “The fact that in my view we’re one of three core emergency services along with police and fire and emergency, and we rely on communities to provide donations to fund the service, along with part-charging, to us it just doesn’t make sense.”

It’s one of those issues which on the face of it seems mind-bogglingly simple and easy to get behind. The job paramedics do is intense and highly skilled – most have a fair few qualifications too. And on the demand side, almost everyone needs an ambulance at some stage in their life. Even small government advocates like Larry Williams on Newstalk ZB are incredulous about the situation – yesterday afternoon he and political editor Barry Soper agreed that it was ridiculous.

Calls are also being made from politicians – for example NZ First backbencher Darroch Ball wrote last month that the upcoming ‘Wellbeing Budget’ should fully fund the St John service. He blames the last government for the funding shortfall, though it shouldn’t go unnoticed that paramedic advocates were hopeful that services would be fully funded by the current government at the time they took office. But the health budget has been groaning for decades under the strain of spiralling costs, and more government funding for ambulances only tends to get handed out in increments that don’t come close to covering the shortfall. Currently St John gets about three quarters of their funding from the government, with the rest coming from benefactors.

And for the workforce, that’s a huge problem. Australian ambulance services are actively targeting New Zealand trained paramedics, reports Stuff (an excellent and comprehensive piece, by the way.) They’re having a lot of success too, with about four out of every ten emergency medical technician graduates heading overseas. Why? The pay for paramedics is woefully low in New Zealand compared to countries like Australia and Britain – for example, a paramedic here starts on about $54,000 NZ, whereas in Victoria the starting rate is $86,000 AUD.

Paramedics have been locked in a bitter dispute with St John over pay rates for months now. There have been work to rule conditions, strikes, a ban on working certain types of events, and famously ambulance staff even scrawled messages on their vehicles. St John spokespeople say they want to pay their staff in a way that matches their skills, but it’s dependent on a bid for government funding that they’ll hear more about later in the year.


GCSB and SIS minister Andrew Little has signed an increased number of warrants for “intrusive” surveillance since the Christchurch attacks, reports Radio NZ. The minister didn’t go into much detail, but said the number of people currently under surveillance would be more than 30-40. He reiterated that work on building up a picture of far-right extremism had started last year, and was continuing.

Meanwhile, the question of whether security services have the tools and legislation to surveil and stop online threats has been hotly debated recently. This feature in the NZ Herald by David Fisher sheds a lot of light on it. Underlying all of it is the nagging hypothetical of whether the Christchurch attacks could have been prevented. Many have argued subsequently that it isn’t a matter of what tools were available, the problem was that the spies weren’t looking in the right direction.


The man accused of carrying out the Christchurch terrorist attack gave money to an extreme far-right ‘Identitarian’ leader in Austria. Reuters reports that Martin Sellner, an Austrian neo-Nazi, received 1500 Euro from the accused in 2018. Mr Sellner says he had nothing to do with the attack, and was just the recipient of the donation, which he now intends to give to a charitable foundation. For those wondering why an accused white supremacist terrorist would have given money to an Austrian, read this from Bharath Ganesh on The Spinoff about how this sort of extremism has gone worldwide online.

A quick note for clarity around exactly who this guy is. Above, I described him as a neo-Nazi. Mr Sellner has previously stated that he has broken with neo-Nazism, but still holds pretty much identical views, so in my opinion the term remains perfectly applicable.


Flooding on the West Coast has caused the death of a 66 year old woman, reports Stuff. Initial examinations suggest she tried to get out of her car to cross the floodwaters, but was swept away. The flooding has done significant damage to infrastructure in the area, including a bridge being destroyed, and the telecommunications network being damaged.


An update on the measles outbreak from Radio NZ61 cases have now been confirmed nationwide, and Auckland health authorities are contacting hundreds of people who may have come into contact with an infected person. 59 people are currently in quarantine.


Here’s something to ponder if you’re on the bus or train this morning – why should you pay so much for doing the right thing? That’s the message being pushed by Generation Zero with their new Freeze the Fares campaign, which is aiming to get central and local government to radically restructure fare costs (and in some cases make public transport travel free) in a bid to boost patronage. Newshub reports it has come in response to recent rises in fares in Auckland, in line with AT’s ‘Farebox’ policy that requires them to recoup a share of operating costs from fares. AT say they’re “looking at a number of options but it is too early to make a commitment.”


A few small bits of good news for those that want to continue living on a habitable planet: There will actually be changes to the emissions trading scheme (unrelated to the Parliamentary Commissioner’s report) that will further incentivise tree planting, reports the NZ Herald. The changes are highly technical, but Jamie Morton has done an excellent job of breaking them down. And the bottom line is this: more trees.

And the other one: Newstalk ZB reports that a massive new wind farm is going to be built near Palmerston North. It’s considered one of the best areas for wind power generation in the world, and once it is connected to the grid in 2020 will be the third largest wind farm in the country.


The official cash rate has stayed the same, but the Reserve Bank is indicating the next movement is likely to be down, reports Interest. That’s a change in stance from the more neutral position of governor Adrian Orr, who says it’s because of poorer global prospects, and reduced domestic spending. The OCR currently sits at 1.75%, which is the lowest it has ever been.


A correction: Email readers might have noticed that there was a repeat story from Tuesday in yesterday’s edition, so sorry about that – it was a mistake in the frantic formatting rush that happens at approximately 6.43am. But on that story itself, it said that the idea for a Royal Commission into the Christchurch attacks came from the National Party. Reader Jack got in touch to say it actually came from ACT, and that it’s important for democracy to note when minor party ideas get picked up by major parties, as this one was. Fair point Jack.


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Thorvald dairy sheep in more verdant times; and a selection of Thorvald cheeses (Photos: Nikki Prokop)

Right now on The Spinoff: Bill O’Boyle says the massive incentives for people to put money into property is depriving start-ups of cash. Tax expert Lisa Marriott calls out recent comments from a Fed Farmers leader that farmers are being treated like an ATM. Teuila Fuatai meets the former kura kaupapa kids who went on to become Te Matatini winning kapa haka group Ngā Tūmanako. Ali Nissenbaum writes about why there needs to be unity between those against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. And Alice Neville reports on an award winning sheep dairy company has been pushed to the brink of going out of business by the crushing Tasman drought.

We’ve also just released a new video series called Two Sketches, starring Toby Morris. The format is Toby interviewing interesting people while they both draw something meaningful to themselves. Episode 1 is now out, featuring comic book artist and former pro wrestler Michel Mulipola. It’s beautiful and relaxing, and if it wasn’t for the visual side of it would make a great podcast too.


Today’s feature is a strange but alluring feature about the dreams a writer had while unconscious for several weeks. Writing for Kotaku, Mike Fahey writes about where his mind went after he was put under for surgery, but then because of complications didn’t regain full consciousness for a long time. It’s a pretty buzzy piece. Here’s an excerpt:

A recurring dream theme that makes perfect sense, given my medical condition at the time, was the struggle between life and death. My wife tells a story about a nurse who was present during one of her early-morning visits to my hospital room. The nurse told her that he spent most of the night trying to wean me off the sedation. He’d start reducing the amount of drugs I was getting, I’d start to crash, and he’d up the dose again to stabilize me. With that sort of action going on, it’s no wonder I dreamed of playing games of chance with my life on the line.

One vision involved a battle between myself, a representative for humanity, and an anthropomorphic chicken. In this bizarre scenario, scientists had supposedly cloned animal hybrids that were perfectly fine being used for food. Why create sentient food beings? I don’t know, man. Point is, this weird chicken thing with arms and legs and armor and metal claws wouldn’t let us eat him unless we earned his respect in life or death combat. I don’t recall much of the actual battle, but the leadup to the fight was excruciating. Days of posturing. Birds are weird.


New Zealand will have a representative in an elite, invitation-only sporting event this weekend. Māori TV reports that Matt Edwards will be heading to Gibraltar to compete in the World Pool Masters. The 31 year old is the first ever New Zealander to be invited. He’s been playing since he was 12 (the sign of a well-spent youth) and says it’s a special milestone for him, because it will be the first time his mother has watched him play overseas.


From our partners: Climate change has already affected how electricity gets delivered to customers, and it’s only going to get more challenging. Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha outlines what the lines company is doing to respond.


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