Health minister David Clark in Parliament contemplating the gordian knot of health spending (Radio NZ)

The Bulletin: No money, more problems in health

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Health budget feels the strain, National eyes up Green voters, and a gravel shortage looms for big infrastructure projects.

Health minister David Clark has been put under the microscope by TVNZ’s Q+A. The theme that ran through the interview was that there simply isn’t enough money to cover promises Labour made during the election campaign in health. Early in the interview, Clark admitted that pay equity for nurses was a long way off, and there was a $4 billion difference between what has been put towards infrastructure upgrades, and Treasury’s estimates of what will be needed over the next 10 years.

A crucial detail of the interview was picked up by Newshub, who noted that GP visits possibly won’t soon be cheaper, despite a promise to cut fees by approximately $10. National’s health spokesman Michael Woodhouse called it a broken promise. Hampering the government are their own Budget Responsibility Rules, which aim to reduce core Crown debt. But even economists are now saying that may be better off breaking them to fund their policies, outlined in this report from the NZ Herald‘s Liam Dann, adding their voices to those on the left who also want the BRRs gone.

It’s all a rather nightmarish position for David Clark to find himself in, and more evidence to the idea that the health portfolio is an unwinnable battle. He doesn’t even have Jonathan Coleman around any more as a visible reminder of what he inherited. He comes back to the idea of being in health to make a difference in this feature on Stuff, but he runs the risk of not being able to move quickly enough.


National wants to win over Green voters, and reckons it can do it too, reports the NBR (paywalled) National’s Scott Simpson said the party is the home of “practical environmentalists,” ahead of the Bluegreens conference for the year. Politik was also there, and reports leader Simon Bridges wants to redefine the party as one that cares about the environment.

I’d be a little skeptical of their chances of winning over Green voters who don’t like the party’s social justice focus, given National have opposed core environmental policies like ending government subsidies for irrigation projects, and the ban on oil exploration. This line from the Politik article seems pretty pertinent: “Bridges offered no detail on the changes he wants to see to climate change policy but said he was planning a major speech soon.”

Meanwhile there was a storm in a herbal-infused teacup about former MP Kennedy Graham speaking at the Bluegreens conferenceStuff reported that Parliamentary staffer and former candidate Jack McDonald criticised the appearance, saying it was a betrayal and likening it to Graham’s opposition to former leader Metiria Turei. That then prompted Stuff‘s Stacey Kirk to accuse the party of “faux outrage and political tribalism.”


New Zealand is facing a shortage of gravel, which could put big infrastructure and housing projects at risk, reports One News. The price of gravel is rising as supplies are depleted, and the quarrying industry says its getting harder to get site consents, particularly in urban areas. On the other hand, the Canterbury town of Templeton is currently considering ‘Texiting’ from the Christchurch City Council over a proposed and unwanted quarry.


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Auckland Council are likely to decide today on whether to press ahead with a regional fuel tax of 11.5c a litre, reports Radio NZ. Some councillors say the process has been rushed and lacks detail, but others say it’s needed to fund a 21st century transport system for Auckland.


A full and comprehensive picture of the sale, use and effects of methamphetamine in New Zealand has been published this morning by Radio NZ. What works really well about this piece is the use of many short stories, each adding a thread to the wider picture. It’s incredibly comprehensive too, stories of P babies, meth cooks and destitute addicts run alongside stories of advertising executives who use P to party, and the health workers trying to save lives.


This is a really interesting take on Māori economic development from Ward Kamo, which could be described as advocating for a kind of Māori libertarianism, on the NBR. Kamo argues the history of relations between Māori and government have been consistently and overwhelmingly to the benefit of the Crown, rather than Māori, and the success of iwi like Ngāi Tahu shows Māori are best off when left well alone.


Stuff’s weekday newspapers are going to be smaller from this morning. Depending on which word you prefer, they’re either going to be ‘compact’ or ‘tabloid’ format. If you’re in one of the cities with a Stuff paper, let me know what you think of the new designs – email thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz.

Marama Fox is in it to win it.

Right now on The Spinoff: We’ve got exclusive new political polling from Stephen Mills and his company UMR. Sam Brooks power-ranks the first batch of Dancing with the Stars contestants, and hits out at some overly harsh judging. And NZ artist Luke Willis Thompson has been shortlisted for the Turner Prize. Who? What? Henry Oliver has you covered.


North and South Korea have agreed to work towards disarmament, denuclearisation and peace. It was a significant development in one of the world’s most dangerous diplomatic flashpoints. For a comprehensive overview of the agreement and context, read this report from South Korean news agency Yonhap.

For a view from South Korea, read Patrick Thomsen’s piece on Radio NZ. He writes about the overwhelming hope among Koreans, when for the last decade war has seemed more likely than peace. Thomsen warns that Western geopolitical thinking and analysis – that Kim Jong-un cannot be trusted and agreements have been broken before – is counterproductive, and should not be prioritised over the views of Koreans.

On the other hand, superpowers will play a massive  role in any negotiations. China and the USA hold diplomatic and military sway over the North and South respectively, and have their own priorities to pursue. This opinion piece from the South China Morning Post argues China and the USA would be best to present a more united front to North Korea, so they can’t exploit divisions to win greater concessions.

And, because we all believe in diversity of views, here’s an that has been sweeping around the American influenced world since the announcement. Should Donald Trump now get the Nobel Peace Prize? Fox News opinion writer Harry J. Kazianis says yes.


It appears a deal has been struck for Auckland Rugby League to buy the Warriors, the NZ Herald understands. The news is a mixed blessing for fans of the sport in Auckland. It means the consortium run by Richard Fale won’t be taking over, though he strongly disputed that to One News. It also means millions of dollars will now be tied up with a professional sports club, that could otherwise potentially have gone towards grassroots footy.

Meanwhile in soccer football, Team Wellington have knocked Auckland City out of the Oceania Champions League, reports Stuff. The semi-final defeat means Auckland City’s remarkable seven year run of tournament victories has come to an end. Team Wellington will now face Lautoka from Fiji for a place in the Club World Cup.


And from our partners, Vector’s Karl Check analyses Australia’s progress when it comes to shifting away from coal and gas fired power plants and onto renewable energy sources.


That’s it for the The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, please forward it on and encourage them to sign up here. Thanks for joining us this morning.


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