A section of the Waitaha River near the hot pools (Supplied)

The Bulletin: Waitaha River saved, but many Coasters furious

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Environment minister blocks Waitaha River power scheme, Britain shaken by parliament suspension plan, and measles outbreak spikes in South Auckland.

The government has made an important decision to not allow a West Coast hydro power scheme to go ahead. Stuff reports environment minister David Parker declined the application for the scheme across the Waitaha River – about 50kms south of Hokitika – on the grounds that it would have impacted the natural character and intrinsic value of the area, along with the enjoyment people have of it. The area around the Waitaha is almost entirely untouched by human activity, which makes it really quite unusual for New Zealand. The dam would have seriously affected the flow of the river, which would have had serious conservation implications.

For many Coasters though, the decision is a blow, reports the ODT. Westpower, a community owned organisation who were going to run the scheme, said it would have provided more than 10,000 households with renewable energy, and given a boost to both regional growth and efforts against climate change. And Westland mayor Bruce Smith was particularly cutting, saying in the Stuff story “it’s just another move by this Government to lock up the West Coast as a playground for others.” Minister Parker said it was not possible under the legislation for his decision to consider economic impacts to the Coast.

Why is this area considered so environmentally important? It’s hard to overstate just how beautiful and wild the Waitaha River is, but seeing is believing. Here’s a brilliant feature from NZ Geographic, written by Kennedy Warne in 2017, which outlines the backstory to it all in full detail. But it also includes beautifully shot pictures, which show what would have been lost, even though Westpower promised to create as small an environmental impact as possible.


A huge development in British politics, with PM Boris Johnson asking the Queen to suspend parliament, reports the BBC. That will dramatically cut the time MPs have to stop a no-deal Brexit. It has provoked fury from a wide range of people – to the point where some are calling it a coup – and it will provoke feverish activity and commentary over the next few weeks before the mid-September suspension begins. At the time of writing, protests are breaking out across the UK.


The number of reported measles cases has rocketed up again over the past week, reports Radio NZ. Most of the new cases are in Auckland, with a particularly worrying outbreak in South Auckland. Health authorities are advising that those travelling to Auckland should make sure their immunisations are all up to date. And Newshub reports that a meet the candidates event planned for tonight at Manurewa High School has been cancelled because of cases at the school.


Warnings are being sounded about patients being left for hours in ambulances, because of overcrowded emergency departments, reports Emma Russell for the NZ Herald (paywalled.) The practice, known euphemistically as “prolonged offloading”, is understood to be happening on a daily basis, and getting worse. Those spoken to said it wouldn’t happen if a patient was in a critical condition, but it can lead to worse outcomes for patients it does happen to.


A major Waitangi Tribunal report on governance of waterways was released yesterday, suggesting co-governance between iwi and the Crown, reports Te Manu Korihi. The report also hammered the Crown for failings in protecting waterways from pollution and degradation, and for “essentially blocking Māori from helping to fix the problem.” With the calls made by the Tribunal, it could potentially be a huge deal for how freshwater is managed into the future – watch this space.


National is considering whether to include cutting both the personal and company tax rates in their election manifesto, reports the NBR (paywalled.) Speaking to the publication, their spokesperson Paul Goldsmith acknowledged that even business community opinion on cutting the company tax rate was mixed, because it might not leave much to invest in infrastructure that business needs to operate. Goldsmith added there are more decisions that need to be made about what sort of spending would be cut to pay for it.


A Burger King manager has been accused of asking staff to continue working after clocking out, reports Radio NZ. The message, which was provided to the broadcaster, included a strong encouragement for a worker who did so, followed by an exhortation that everyone else should be willing to as well. It might seem like a small incident, but wage theft isn’t exactly unknown in the fast food industry. An employment lawyer quoted in the story said that if it would be “clearly illegal” if it happened, and the worker would have the right to file for lost wages.


A day of developments for the Shelly Bay saga’s passage through the Wellington City Council. The NZ Herald’s Georgina Campbell reports that a motion that would have required chief executive Kevin Lavery to go through it again in detail (which would have slowed things down) has been narrowly defeated. The motion was put forward by Cr Andy Foster, who is currently running for mayor, with the backing of Shelly Bay development opponent Sir Peter Jackson. That angle is gone into in more detail in this article by Stuff’s Felix Desmarais and Tom Hunt.


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Clarke Gayford and a haku (photo: Simon Day).

Right now on The Spinoff: Sam Brooks speaks to Pop Up Globe founder Miles Gregory about the company deciding to head overseas. Kate Underwood speaks to Clarke Gayford about how to fish in ways that doesn’t destroy ocean life. We’ve republished a ferocious and much-needed speech by Lani Wendt Young to the New Zealand Book Council. Don Rowe continues his very cool 1000 Words series, this time speaking to photographer Chris McKeen, who took the iconic snap of Pania Newton at Ihumātao. And Jai Breitnauer writes a beautiful essay about her family leaving New Zealand and going back to Britain, and the question of where home is.


For a feature today, a piece I’m picking as the strangest candidate profile of the local elections so far. The Rotorua Daily Post have gone all out to convey the key messages of Whakatāne District Council candidate Kay Boreham. Here’s an excerpt in which they quote those messages at length.

Aware that running a “don’t vote for me” campaign could have the opposite effect as to what was intended, Boreham said she could not stress enough she did not want a role as a councillor.

“It is absolutely imperative people don’t vote for me,” Boreham said. “I am not doing this to raise my profile, I do not want to be elected.”

With the approval of chairs, Boreham will be asking for a statement to be read at any candidate meetings asking people not to put a tick beside her name, and will also be using social media to get the “don’t vote for me'”message out.


The All Blacks have picked the squad for the Rugby World Cup in Tokyo. Many of the inclusions have been signalled a long time in advance, but there are a few surprise omissions. Veteran prop Owen Franks won’t be going, and centre Ngani Laumapi feels like a bit of a cruel omission. The full squad is here. And among the players who were selected, this was a lovely piece from Matt Manukia at One News about the moment Nepo Laulala heard his name read out.

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There’s a lot of consternation in English football about the governance systems for clubs. The Guardian reports Bury has been kicked out of the Football League for financial problems, and the once mighty Bolton Wanderers are facing similar issues. It has led to questions about whether the way football finances work is sustainable, particularly with many other clubs under pressure.


From our partners: With several high profile government objectives in the spotlight, a single ministry could drive better outcomes across them all. Robyn Holdaway, senior policy advisor at Vector, makes the case for a Ministry for Energy.


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