Brian Tamaki being interviewed at Waitangi (Getty Images)
Brian Tamaki being interviewed at Waitangi (Getty Images)

The BulletinApril 30, 2019

The Bulletin: Destiny rejection furthers outsider status

Brian Tamaki being interviewed at Waitangi (Getty Images)
Brian Tamaki being interviewed at Waitangi (Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Destiny Church rejected for prison rehab programme, Kāpiti Council sends sea level message to homeowners, and funding boost to solve Census snafu.

Corrections minister Kelvin Davis has ruled out working with Destiny Church’s Man Up programme in prisons, reports Newsroom. Destiny says the programme can help turn lives around, and has a proven track record of success. But there are also concerns about what any government money would end up being spent on by the prosperity gospel church, and a history of Man Up leaders being found to promote misogynistic attitudes among participants.

Government money, and significant amounts of it, have gone to Destiny Church before. Back in 2011 it was confirmed that the government had given them close to a million dollars in fact, to run programmes for young people. At the time as well, a range of senior politicians were comfortable with either speaking at Destiny events, or endorsing their work. “I would never, ever discriminate against Destiny Church. My firm belief is that they do a really great job,” said then Whanau Ora minister Dame Tariana Turia. But that was also at a time when figures like Bishop Brian Tamaki had toned things down somewhat, after the initial burst of publicity the church received for their frankly warlike and threatening rallies against the civil union bill. Other defences of Destiny have been mounted, such as this one on E-Tangata which argued that the church really had helped change lives for the better, and is a genuine indigenous movement. Others, like commentator Morgan Godfery, argue that the claims to turn lives around are a sham.

So what is different now? In the past few years the rhetoric coming out of Destiny has become a lot more inflammatory again – for example saying sin caused earthquakes back in 2016. The church has also participated in a range of protests against events like the memorial service for the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks, and buy into violent language about a battle for society. As if to underline the point, Bishop Brian Tamaki has threatened the government with prison revolts if the programme isn’t given access, reports Newstalk ZB.

Regarding those threats, law professor Andrew Geddis says Bishop Tamaki has neatly given Corrections an excuse to never allow Man Up anywhere near the inside of a prison. And this has been a stated goal of the church for quite some time too – but according to the government they’ve never actually gone through the proper application process to make it happen. There’s almost a sense that Destiny members intend to simply turn up outside prisons and rev their motorbikes until they’re let in.

Politically though, Destiny has long thrived on having an outsider status. Their brief foray into electoral politics back in 2005 was a disaster, pulling in a pretty negligible number of votes. It’s still not clear exactly how many members the church has either. But they also manage to make far more noise than probably any other religious group in the country, and for the people they’re looking to recruit, official condemnation could well be a useful selling point.

It would be very easy for Destiny to argue that they are thought leaders in the conservative Christian space, if the finance minister of a socially liberal government is attacking them like Grant Robertson has (in a banner week that also involved a mud-flinging match with crackpot English racist Katie Hopkins.) So while the Man Up programme won’t be getting any government money, the church hasn’t exactly lost this particular skirmish in a PR sense. It’s not a bad outcome for a church which is estimated to have fewer than 10,000 members.

Homeowners are being sent a message by the Kāpiti District Council that public money will not be used to help save private property from rising seas, writes Virginia Fallon for Stuff. Around 1800 properties will potentially be affected in the region, and plans for a managed retreat have been proposed. The actual amount of potential sea level rise sounds small on paper – perhaps a metre by the end of the century under present projections. But as this Listener article points out, that would dramatically increase the likelihood of annual coastal flooding, and the consequences that will come with that. Within a few decades, some low lying areas of coast will be simply too dangerous to live on.

The government has put $16 million towards fixing problems with the 2018 census, reports One News. But there will be some pretty big problems still with the data when it is released in September – most importantly, it will not include iwi affiliation. Other data aimed at measuring economic and social wellbeing will be likely to have issues, because of what is understood about which segments of society were less likely to fill out the census. The iwi affiliation one is particularly crucial, reports Māori TV, because treaty settlement offers could be affected.

NCEA pass rates have come out, and they’re a bit of a mixed bag. The NZ Herald’s Simon Collins reports that the gap has widened between achievement rates for different ethnicities, which Māori and Pasifika students lower. As well as that, there has been a general decline for year 11 and 12 achievement rates. However, part of those stats could be explained by less emphasis being put on level one (generally year 11) and achievement rates for level three went up.

Dunedin climate change protesters are feeling the wind in their sails after a delay for Austrian oil giant OMV, reports the ODT. OMV had been expected at Council yesterday to front up about their offshore drilling plans, but had to delay for “logistical reasons.” Protesters who turned up regardless said it ended up being more of a celebration – they say more fossil fuel extraction would be the wrong way for the country to go amid the reality of climate change.

Feijoa growers are suffering from a fungal disease on the fruit they’re trying to send to market, reports Radio NZ. The anthracnose fungal disease sets in if there’s wet weather, and once that happens the fruit is unusable. It’s both heartbreaking and scary for growers, some of whom haven’t been able to use any of the fruit this season, and there are fears that the fungus is slowly creeping south too. Kerikeri has been particularly hard hit, because they’re also struggling with the guava moth.

Just a few dozen houses in Canterbury are now without power after wild weather, reports Radio NZ. Around 4000 houses went dark last night from 11 seperate outages, but that number is now down to 34.

There’s honestly few things better than reading a clear and direct piece of analysis about a technical infrastructure proposal. So it is with this from Stuff’s Todd Niall, who has covered the report into shifting some of Auckland’s Port operations up to Whangarei’s Northport. And it’s nowhere near as simple as just telling cargo ships to park somewhere else – there are going to be massive, enormous logistical challenges to make it all work, and probably require the biggest infrastructure investment in the country’s history.

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A very serious politician (Image: Tina Tiller)

Right now on The Spinoff: Max Rashbrooke casts his eye over what other, post CGT options exist for taxing wealth. Emily Writes tackles the family politics of the next Royal Baby, which is due – I don’t know, soon? Madeleine Chapman explains to all the man-children out there why they really really shouldn’t have a ‘work-mum.’ Alex Casey got up early yesterday to watch John Campbell’s debut on Breakfast. And I wrote an opinion piece about whether the Leader of the Opposition should be repeatedly saying the word “slushies.”

We’re all about giving balance and nuance a fair hearing here, and this piece from the New Yorker is a really useful glimpse inside the world of facebook moderation. It’s something that many have criticised the company for very harshly in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attack being streamed on the platform, and then staying online for a long time afterwards. With that in mind, it’s useful to get a look into the nature of the work people were doing behind the scenes on that day, Here’s an excerpt, and my thanks to David for sending it through:

Jay stayed up until 4 a.m. monitoring developments. During the “understand” phase, Facebook determined that the video qualified as terrorist content under its Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy, which bans “organizations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence.” Jay’s team removed the video, and, as soon as the gunman’s identity was confirmed, removed his account. But, after years of doing this work, Jay knew that the video would continue to spread in dark corners of Facebook, along with praise for the massacre. “We know, for example, that people will begin to create fake accounts in the killer’s name,” he told me. “We know people begin to role-play mass murders; we know we see merchandise that starts to capture this tragedy. Taking down the video is just one part.”

At 6 a.m. in Dublin, five hours after the shootings had occurred, a thirty-nine-year-old named Cormac Keenan rolled over to check his phone, saw the news, and rushed to the office. Keenan is the head of the local branch of Facebook’s market team, which, worldwide, includes a few hundred people who, collectively, speak more than eighty languages and translate the idiosyncrasies of specific cultural contexts for the company. A typical day might involve reviewing a post that uses slang from Thailand to determine whether it’s a harmless joke or a local form of hate speech. The market team often helps the escalations team, though working on the shooting was a bigger job than normal. “When I came into the office, it just took over my entire day,” Keenan said.

Something seems to have gone badly wrong in Lydia Ko’s golf game. She now hasn’t won a tournament in a full year, and Stuff reports she has been falling away in tournaments this year. She had to make significant changes to her swing in recent years, but it’s still a pretty dramatic decline, down to 16th in the LPGA. Then again, she’s also 22 years old, so there’s probably time to come right.

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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