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Parched grass during the last heatwave, at the start of 2018 (Radio NZ – Ian Telfer)
Parched grass during the last heatwave, at the start of 2018 (Radio NZ – Ian Telfer)

The BulletinJanuary 29, 2019

The Bulletin: Serious side of record breaking heatwave

Parched grass during the last heatwave, at the start of 2018 (Radio NZ – Ian Telfer)
Parched grass during the last heatwave, at the start of 2018 (Radio NZ – Ian Telfer)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Serious side of the heatwave in focus, significant concerns about water quality in Wanaka, and NZ won’t join US policy on Venezuela.

You may have noticed it’s pretty warm out there. In fact, new temperature records have been set in a few parts of the country, reports Radio NZThe Guardian might have had a bit of a laugh with the full force not setting in yet, but the heatwave is going to continue over the rest of the week. So while there will be plenty of soft, fun in the sun news about it – the Herald has literal flames on their front page today, for example – there will also be a lot of really serious coverage to keep an eye on.

Top of the list – the extreme fire danger these weather events cause. Newshub reports that danger is now considered extreme in some parts of the country, particularly Canterbury, Marlborough, Tasman and Northland. There are parallels with the devastating heatwave being experienced by Australia here, where wildfires are raging in Tasmania.

People in Marlborough are also being urged to conserve water, as voluntary reductions in use will be necessary to avoid hard water restrictions. It’s not a bad idea for the country as a whole, really, given summer could have a long way still to run. The easy ways to conserve water include not washing the car, not watering the garden outside of early morning or late evening, and making sure any leaks or dripping taps get fixed.

It’s a great chance to unpack the science behind these sorts of events too. This analysis from Stuff does a great job of that, reporting that warm air from Australia isn’t being cooled because of the marine heatwave. It’s not necessarily the case that the heatwave is caused by climate change – rather, climate change makes these sorts of events more likely, and marine heatwaves are a symptom of that.

Finally, two crucial bits of advice for staying safe. One message being pushed heavily by health authorities is to keep your water intake up, as dehydration can set in unexpectedly quickly. And the other one is one that gets pushed across the Tasman during these events – maybe consider checking on ill or elderly people you know who might be struggling with the heat. For people whose health is more vulnerable, these sorts of events can be genuinely deadly.

There are serious concerns being aired in Wanaka over the state of the region’s water. Crux has hosted and reported on a forum, in which blunt warnings were given by decision-makers that development in the area would need to slow down. This is despite Wanaka not being an intensive agricultural area – the most common activity to degrade water quality. The story is also a good chance to share this documentary put out by Crux recently, about the “chronic environmental crises” affecting the picturesque Lake Hayes.

New Zealand won’t join the USA and others in recognising a Venezuelan opposition leader as that country’s legitimate President, reports the NZ Herald. Winston Peters says that’s not how the country’s diplomats operate, and says while the government had concerns about Venezuela’s recent elections, they remained the method by which legitimate governments should be chosen. The USA has been pushing extremely hard for regime change, in a manner that the Venezuelan government describes as an attempted coup.

Over the last couple of days, there’s been a lot of speculation on a possible new Blue-Green political party. Vernon Tava, who has previously stood very unsuccessfully for both the Green co-leadership, and pre-selection for National in Northcote, has been floating himself as a potential leader of the party – for example in this interview on Newstalk ZB. And National leader Simon Bridges, who strategically is desperate for new allies, has been talking up the possibility of an environmental party that could work with National.

The Green Party’s James Shaw told Newstalk ZB that environmental voters already have a party in government, and that Green voters have overwhelmingly called on the party’s leadership to back Labour governments. Of course, he would say that. But from a tactical perspective, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense for environmental voters to potentially split that vote, with the threshold remaining at 5%. As this republished analysis from Radio NZ’s Chris Bramwell argues, the Greens have actually been relatively successful in making environmental ideas mainstream. And finally, the data from 2017 shows there was actually very little Blue-Green vote splitting going on – the constituencies don’t really overlap at all.

Personally, I’m incredibly skeptical that a party could like this could get off the ground, because there’s no apparent movement behind it. It seems to be little more than an academic exercise at this point – one of those fantasies dreamed up by political obsessives that normal voters take little notice of. For my money, there are only two potential parties that could ally with National showing any signs of having the sort of movement that could propel them to Parliament. TOP showed promise in 2017 and still exist, but may now be too damaged by internal fights. And the New Conservatives are genuinely growing under the radar, but may be considered too extreme for National to cosy up to.

The cost of school uniforms are causing hardship for families, reports the Nelson Mail on yesterday’s front page. School is back in this week, and along with the growing cost of ‘bring your own device’ policies, the start of the school year can cost parents up to $1000 per child. For people in places like Nelson, where rents and living costs are steadily rising, this time of year can be financially daunting.

Calls are being made to turn a big chunk of central Dunedin into a pedestrian only area, reports the ODT. The suggestion is that the central city is currently hostile to pedestrians, and the city would have a better future if parts of George St and the Octagon were changed along these lines. However, city councillor Jim O’Malley poured some cold water on the proposals, saying it couldn’t go ahead straight away.

There wasn’t enough space for this yesterday, but I think it’s quite an important business story. A lot of gluten free food in Auckland cafes isn’t actually suitable for those with allergies, reports the NZ Herald. Just over 1% of the population has coeliac disease, and the woman who spoke to the Herald says she has this experience regularly.

A proud Wellington tradition is under threat, reports the NZ Herald this morning. Councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman wants signage placed around Mt Victoria tunnel to discourage tooting, which they find annoying. There are various theories as to why Wellingtonians toot in the tunnel, but the tradition has been remarkably persistent and widely observed for decades.

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A tui in song (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/ Getty Images).

Right now on The Spinoff: Alex Casey reports on a furious stoush exploding between Sue Nicholson from Sensing Murder, and James Mustapic – formerly of The Spinoff TV. Jihee Junn has written an amazing feature on the very young and very rich Jake Millar. And Henry Oliver spent the night at an island bird sanctuary to experience the dawn chorus, one of the great wonders of the natural world.

Here’s an interesting piece on an idea doing the rounds among Brexiteers at the moment. It is about the CANZUK concept – basically the idea that Canada, NZ, Australia and the UK should have much closer ties – and was published on the London School of Economics blog. The piece argues that such ideas are basically a colonial legacy, which is why more conservative forces have started looking towards it. Here’s an excerpt:

Seen from this perspective, while the vocabulary of “kith and kin” unificationism evolved over time, from “the Anglo-Saxon race” to the “English-speaking peoples” to the “Anglosphere,” most of the basic ideas have not. We think it essential to acknowledge this historical trajectory for two reasons. First, such recognition helps us situate CANZUK in the history of British political ideology, highlighting its notable precursors and its evolution. Dreams of settler colonial unity, whether Victorian or contemporary, reveal much about the ideological practices of the British political elite.

This history also helps explain the idea’s magnetic appeal to some – and fierce rejection by others. In particular, it explains why so many critics see CANZUK as a problematic reincarnation of the old “white” colonial world. CANZUKers, unsurprisingly, are keen to insist that their project has a very different foundation. Although the imperial origins of the idea do not determine its meaning today, they do condition it, shaping the reception of CANZUK projects.

Here’s a lovely example of a life after rugby story. During his playing days, former Michael Hobbs never quite nailed down a place in Super Rugby. But now, he’s accomplished something truly remarkable. The NZ Herald reports he’s raised $350,000 for a school in a Nairobi slum, overcoming some tremendous hurdles to do so. You might remember, Hobbs wrote a piece in the New York Times about how the NFL’s pettiness over protest stymied his efforts to raise money with a football player. The money raised will allow the school to have things like electricity and running water.

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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