"A moral and fiscal failure." Image: Otisabi

The Bulletin: Three strikes law out

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Government plans major sentencing changes to reduce prisoner numbers, meth contamination testing scandal rumbles on, and Google pays almost no tax in NZ.

The government is planning to introduce major changes to sentencing in the next two weeks. Newshub reports the changes will include ditching the controversial three strikes law, and push for turning sentences less than two years into home detention. The changes are to counter an expected blowout in prisoner numbers, with the Labour government actively planning to reduce the prison muster. Corrections is pretty much at capacity right now, and there was funding in the budget put towards pop up prison cells to house overflow if needed.

National doesn’t like the proposed changes at all, saying the government has gone “soft on crime,” and that it will make the country less safe. National also contrasted the move with an increase in police numbers, saying the justice system will basically be a “catch and release” project.

But home detention isn’t an easy sentence at all – this Stuff feature from a decade ago outlines that. And last year Andrew Little told Radio NZ the three strikes law had “only ever been a gimmick.”

Incidentally, the news came out ahead of the planned announcement through Newshub chasing hard via the Official Information Act, and getting heavily redacted documents back hinting at major law changes.

And speaking of prisoners and news, this NZ Herald story yesterday was a really interesting microcosm of how rehabilitation efforts inside prisons can go awry. Newspapers being delivered to prisoners to keep them in touch with the world were being stolen by guards, who kept them for themselves. Corrections said they were unaware of any complaints and would ensure the newspapers got through.


The scandal around the meth contamination testing scam is likely to rumble on for a while. One News reports that social housing that was emptied because of contamination will be opened up again to tenants. Contamination has been found in 670 Housing NZ properties in the last 11 months, but 270 of those were at levels so low they don’t meet new guidelines.

The political fallout has been reported by Radio NZ, who had then–minister Paula Bennett on Checkpoint. She says Housing NZ was too cautious with their application of the standards, and she said she always had concerns. However, she did applaud Housing NZ’s zero tolerance policies at the time. The Green Party are describing the meth testing industry as a “total rort,” and former Māori party co–leader Dame Tariana Turia says tenants who were evicted should be compensated.

And how about the meth testing industry itself? The top line from this Stuff story is astonishing – to quote: “A Hawke’s Bay-based meth tester says his industry was well aware that there was no risk from meth smoking residue in homes, as outlined yesterday in a Government report.” People needlessly lost their homes because of the meth contamination panic pushed by this industry. It’s hard to know what else to say about it really.


Google paid a miniscule amount of tax in New Zealand last year, despite making potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue here, reports the NBR. Much of what they did make was invoiced through subsidiaries in countries like Ireland and Singapore, where tax is lower. Google (and facebook for that matter) both say in future they will book more of their revenue through New Zealand, which is nice of them.


The Salvation Army hopes the government will ease abatement rates for people on benefits, so they can earn more money if they work, reports Radio NZ. The Sallies say the current levels are a disincentive to work, and can even make going to work more costly than staying at home. Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft agrees, saying it’s no help for families trying to escape poverty.


Southland is counting the cost of mycoplasma bovis, as the region arguably hit hardest by the cattle disease, reports the Southland Times. So far more than 10,000 cows have been slaughtered, 22 farms is under biosecurity restrictions, and farmers fear the stigma of the disease will linger when they try and move stock north.

Speaking of that stigma, the ODT is reporting this morning on a case in which a Southland farmer had a contract to deliver 1000 calves cancelled, despite not having mycoplasma bovis on their farm. The farmer says in some ways, they’d be better off if they did have it, because then there’d be certainty around what needed to be done. Tomorrow is Gypsy Day – the day in which cattle is moved around the country.


The country’s water system may be centralised and taken over by the government, as local authorities are struggling to meet the demand for upgrades. Stuff reports the government is yet to decide on what the new model will be, and it may require legislation to change the current system, but a decision will be made next year.


NZ Herald journalist Nicholas Jones has continued his series of investigations into rest home conditions, with today’s front page story about an elderly man who had maggots in his wounds. The conditions the man was left in sound diabolical, but it’s not an isolated incident, as this earlier investigation shows.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Partnerships editor Simon Day has written a brilliant feature about people trying to fix the problem of rampant food waste. Angela Cuming reckons Hamilton should be the capital of New Zealand. Marama Fox has spoken to Leonie Hayden about being ousted from Dancing with the Stars. And I have generously provided some suggestions for meth contamination testers, who will now need to find some other house testing scam.


This is an amazing long read from The Cut, an offshoot of New York magazine, about a young con–artist who tricked their way into the city’s elite. Anna Delvey (not her real name) convinced whole swathes of people that she was an heiress with almost unlimited access to money and big plans for how to use it. And then, it all started to unravel.

What makes this story so remarkable is the self–reflectiveness of it, on moneyed culture generally. People who were used to huge sums of cash being flung around never batted an eyelid at some of the stranger things that happened before Delvey’s scheme fell apart, because why would they? The cash was being flashed, so why suspect a thing?  Here’s an excerpt.

“When you’re superrich, you can be forgetful in this way. Which is maybe why no one thought much of the instances in which Anna did things that seemed odd for a wealthy person: calling a friend to have her put a taxi from the airport on her credit card, or asking to sleep on someone’s couch, or moving into someone’s apartment with the tacit agreement to pay rent, and then … not doing it. Maybe she had so much money she just lost track of it.”

Be warned, it’s an incredibly long and involved read, so maybe save it for the weekend.


In sport, the Wellington Phoenix have a new coach. His name is Mark Rudan, he’s an Australian football stalwart, and if he fails he could well be the team’s last ever coach, given the tough metrics the club needs to meet to stay in the A–League. Stuff football journalist Liam Hyslop says the club has picked an impressive manager on the rise. And the reaction on the Yellow Fever fan forum is moderately positive – as one commenter summed it up, “he’s as good as we could expect.” And he really can’t do any worse than Darije Kalezic, provided he at least sees out the season.

And remember how I said you should go see the Central Pulse yesterday if you were in the Wellington area? They put a team–record 71 points on the Southern Steel last night, to now be five from five for the competition.


From our partners, Vector’s Bridget McDonald has looked at the government’s deep dig into the energy sector. What will the review look at, why should there even be one, and does it mean you might pay less for power?


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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