The BulletinJuly 30, 2019

The Bulletin: Threat and opportunity of swine fever


Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Swine fever boosts meat export figures, SOUL whānau vote to stay put at Ihumātao, and National has another good poll.

The threat of swine fever has also provided an opportunity for New Zealand meat farmers. The NZ Herald reports meat exports are up as a result of the disease hammering the Chinese pork industry, which is the country’s most commonly eaten meat. China is now the biggest buyer of NZ beef, ahead of the USA, and the country also takes half of New Zealand’s sheepmeat as well. All in all, it’s a good result for the meat farming industry, even if it did come in part from the devastation of swine fever.

At which point you might be asking – hang on, what is swine fever? Here’s a cheat sheet from The Spinoff about it, and the first thing to make very clear – it doesn’t affect humans. You’re not going to die of swine fever any time soon. But the pig disease has resulted in both a massive animal welfare crisis in China, and forced the culling of at least a million pigs in an attempt to stop the spread. But the disease is incredibly persistent and can survive in frozen meat (which has sometimes then been fed to other pigs) so stopping the spread completely is really difficult.

As proof of that, it has now turned up in 10 countries in Europe, reports Global Meat News. And to understand the remarkable effect swine fever is having on global trade, Forbes have published an analysis that suggests China is buckling on their trade war with the USA because of the pressure swine fever is putting on their food production systems.

Should we be worried here? Yes and no. MPI says New Zealand doesn’t import live pigs, and pork can only be imported under strict conditions – as well as that they’ve “reviewed the safeguards” around other ways it could get in. But Stuff has also reported on recommended measures for farmers and pig hunters to take just in case, and urgings of vigilance around sick animals. After all, if we want an example of how much these situations can escalate, we could look at the $84 million paid out so far in compensation over the M. bovis outbreak.

Whānau involved with SOUL have voted to stay at Ihumātao until the PM’s promise is made to them in writing, reports Radio NZ. There is also disagreement over whether they have been invited to join talks, with the government saying the door has always been open to them. The government has given strong hints that it intends to side more with iwi Te Kawerau ā Maki than SOUL. Police presence at the site is being reduced, but some officers will remain in place.

Another good poll for National, staying a few points ahead of Labour as the largest single preferred party. However, the One News Colmar Brunton poll showed Labour and the Greens would still have enough to form a government, with NZ First dropping below the threshold. Apart from that, the Māori Party, ACT and New Conservative were all on 1%. Preferred PM saw a small drop for Jacinda Ardern, though she continues to hold a big lead over all other contenders.

Some inflammatory comments from acting PM Winston Peters, on the matter of Oranga Tamariki taking children from parents. Ahead of a planned rally at parliament today by the group Hands off our Tamariki, the NZ Herald reports Winston Peters has pointed out that three Māori babies have been killed since the controversy began. It’s very unlikely the words will calm tensions around the taking of kids by the state, even if his numbers are true.

For those who have been following the long war between Sky TV and Spark Sports over broadcast rights, this is a fascinating column. Tim Hunter at the NBR (paywalled) has looked at the role played in all of it by the Commerce Commission, particularly the whistle they blew on Sky’s merger with Vodafone. Spark submitted against that from happening, but that could then leave them open to a regulatory complaint, should they go for all international rugby rights when the current deal with Sky ends in 2020.

This will surely be among the strangest stories you’ll read today. Radio NZ’s Rowan Quinn reports Auckland Council organisations have spent close to $2 million dollars in court cases against… other Auckland Council organisations. Mayoral candidate John Tamihere says it’s a ridiculous waste of money, but mayor Phil Goff says the independence of CCOs acts as a necessary check on the power of Council.

And speaking of local government, here’s the big announcement I promised in Friday’s Bulletin: The Spinoff will be launching a two-month long pop-up section focused on local government elections all over the country. It’s going to be entirely funded by members, as part of our commitment to use that funding for good, useful journalism. I’m really excited about it, and we’re all really grateful for the support of members on it.

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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Right now on The Spinoff: Michelle Langstone writes about her waning love for the writings of Japanese author Haruki Murakami, and I can say I enjoyed this piece more than I’ve enjoyed my attempts at Murakami. Sam Brooks reviews the final season of Orange is the New Black, particularly focusing on how the show fundamentally changed who it was about over the years. Jihee Junn puts cheap novelty products from Wish to the test.

And I was pretty bloody steamed about the news yesterday that the tax department was chasing millions from people with extreme wealth. So I wrote about it, and argue that it’s time we as a society start setting maximum levels of wealth any one person can hoard, for both their benefit and ours.

For today’s feature, we’re going to jump into a series while it’s halfway through. Stuff’s Andrea Vance and Iain McGregor were among a group of people who went to clean up Henderson Island in the Pacific – a remote island which has become an epicentre of plastic pollution in the ocean. I’m including it at this part of the story – part 3 – because of how it outlines the shocking and direct connection New Zealand has to the rubbish. Here’s an excerpt:

Washed up on an uninhabited atoll, 200km from the nearest human settlement, its only users now will be the beach’s hermit crabs. Often they climb into the hundreds of plastic containers littering the beach, looking to make a home. But they can’t get out of the ‘crabitat’ and starve to death in the beating, hot sun. The decaying stench attracts other crabs, which also perish. One pesticide container upturned on the beach held the corpses of 500 creatures.

A crate from Cook Strait Seafoods lies battered and cracked from its long sea journey. The company was once a subsidiary of Ngāi Tahu, but doesn’t seem to have operated since 2007. A bin marked property of Sanford (South Island) Ltd, is turned upside down in a pile of coloured twine.

I’m very much looking forward to this whole series being rolled out between now and the Olympics. Writing on the NZ Herald, Radio Sport’s Alex Chapman will be doing a series of profiles on those either going, or hoping to make it to Tokyo, with a story to tell about how they’re getting there. The first is about rower Mahe Drysdale, who will be competing in an eight this time around after losing his lock on the single sculls spot. The profile is illuminating on the question of how any athlete could keep going for so long, at such a high level.

And the ride is over for another Olympic great. Sir Mark Todd has announced he will finally retire from the sport of equestrian, at the age of 63, reports Stuff. It brings to a close a remarkable career which included two Olympic gold medals, and he is considered to be one of the greatest riders the sport has ever seen.

From our partners: A two-tier system of energy use is developing, with those on high incomes much more able to reduce their bills than households on lower incomes. Vector’s Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer Kate Beddoe outlines what the company plans to do about that.

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Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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