The Bulletin: Cyclone season starts early in the Pacific

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Cyclone season starts early in South Pacific, more political connections for Derek Handley revealed, and major hoki fishery declared “barren wasteland.”

Cyclone season has started early in the South Pacific, which could be a worrying sign for what the summer will bring. Cyclone Liua has developed from a tropical storm, and is currently over the Solomon Islands. While it is only forecast to develop to a category 2, that can still mean sustained winds well above 100kmh, and it is expected to also bring heavy rains to the Solomons. This one isn’t looking likely to be a monster, but whatever comes next might.

Radio NZ reports that it’s the first time a cyclone has formed in September in the South Pacific for almost 70 years. Significant damage to the region has been caused by Cyclones Donna, Gita, Hola, Josie and Cook in the past two years, and the chances are strong that there could be more intense season this year, if as expected an El Niño weather pattern develops. As Philip Duncan from Weatherwatch put it, “to see a cyclone form so early in the season may be an indicator of bigger storms to come this summer”.

As climate change warms the surface of the ocean, the evidence suggests cyclones will not necessarily become more frequent, but will likely become more intense. More importantly, sea levels are rising, and cyclones bring storm surges of the ocean, which can be devastating on low-lying islands.

That’s part of the many reasons why climate change is now considered by Pacific nations to be their most pressing security threat, as enshrined in a declaration made at the Pacific Nations Forum. The UN News is also reporting that Pacific heads of state are putting on a united front at the General Assembly, warning of the damage climate change will bring.

All of this, both over the coming season, and the coming years, will put the NZ government’s commitment to a ‘Pacific reset’ strategy for aid to the test. Last week $11 million in funding for the Red Cross was renewed, aimed at their disaster management programmes across the Pacific. There has also been a significant boost to the overall amount of aid being budgeted for the Pacific. The indications are that it will be called upon sooner rather than later.


More details have emerged of Derek Handley’s connection to politicians, as the saga drags on. The NZ Herald reports that the PM took a close interest in the appointment, getting regular updates from former minister Clare Curran. And Mr Handley also offered his services to the Labour Party (before the last election, when they were out of government) and met with party President Nigel Haworth, reports Stuff, along with Jacinda Ardern’s then-chief of staff GJ Thompson. Mr Handley is also silent on potential links between himself and former National Party President Michelle Boag, reports Stuff.


The country’s biggest hoki fishery has been declared a “barren wasteland” by an industry insider, reports Newshub. Fishing companies have announced they’ll cut their quota as their catch rate dwindles, and the decline has reportedly been evident for years. Sealord say this doesn’t mean the fishery has collapsed, but have put their support behind “rotational closures” to keep levels higher.


Former Labour cabinet minister John Tamihere is considering a tilt at the Auckland mayoralty next year, reports One News. He turned up at a Council meeting yesterday to accuse them of failing on social housing, and to accuse CCO Panuku of “extreme arrogance.” I went along to see the show and wrote about it for The Spinoff, and there was certainly a lot of sound and fury, but whether it signifies anything remains to be seen. Over on the NZ Herald, Simon Wilson reckons he might have a point about social housing, but the politics of actually running just don’t stack up.


Fonterra may seem like a corporate behemoth, but in financial terms it has actually flopped since it was born, reports the NZ Herald. That analysis is based on a report from a dairy industry advisory firm TDB, who say the current share price indicates that the promise of the early formation of the cooperative hasn’t been borne out. The owners of those shares are the farmers themselves.


Depending on when you read this, you may be able to watch PM Jacinda Ardern’s address to the UN General Assembly live through YoutubeAt the time of writing (about 6.30am) Georgia’s PM Mamuka Bakhtadze was speaking, with Vietnam and Jamaica to follow before New Zealand’s turn. Ardern says her speech will focus on cross-party values shared by New Zealand governments, and the NZ Herald reports it will be a speech of quiet opposition to the nationalistic and protectionist stance of US President Donald Trump.


Very little of excitement happened regarding the Reserve Bank’s official cash rate yesterday, but it’s still good to mark off anyway. Governor Adrian Orr kept the rate at the historic low of 1.75%, and still expects to keep it there into 2020. It’s “steady as she goes,” reports the NZ Herald.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Madeleine Chapman went along to a Derek Handley talk last night, called – and you couldn’t make this up – ‘making bold moves for your career.’ Kali Mercier writes that all the evidence shows the war on drugs has failed, amid it being revved up again by the USA. And Tara Ward is close to being able to down tools, with The Block about to come to an end.


Reporting in North Korea is an impossibly difficult assignment, not least because the entire state works in concert to prevent you doing so. That’s one of the conclusions of this fascinating feature from NPR, who went to North Korea in the wake of thawing relationships with the outside world. But even with that thaw, journalistic efforts are thwarted at every turn. Here’s an excerpt:

I wind up for one last swing. All week, we’ve been asking to visit the subway, to witness the city’s daily commute. There’s a station across the street.

“Can we go see the metro?”

“There’s not enough time.”

I check my watch. “There’s time.”

“I do not have time,” Mr. Kim clarifies.

“Ten minutes. Just to see inside. We don’t even need to ride it.”

He closes his eyes. When he opens them: “The metro is closed today.”

I teeter between exploding in frustration or in giggles. Neither seems wise. I try appealing to the second guide. Just a quick stroll on the train platform?

“You might get lost,” Mr. Ri says solemnly. “It is for your own safety.”


A shout out to former Black Caps spinner Jeetan Patel, who has just had another fine English county seasonStuff reports that Patel has just skippered Warwickshire to victory in the 2nd division of their first class competition, taking 56 season wickets in the process at 22.78. That’s a great season in anyone’s books, but for a spinner in England it’s astonishing. He’ll be back with the Wellington Firebirds soon.

And the All Blacks play in Argentina this week, in the rare position of coming off a loss at home. Part of their preparation has involved visiting a maximum security prison with a rugby club, and doing some training with them, reports Stuff. The staff member who took them along was mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka, and I’m sure there’s a message in there somewhere about overcoming setbacks.


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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