A side view of one of the Freedom flotilla boats at sea (Facebook)

The Bulletin: NZ union leader detained by Israel

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Union leader detained while part of Gaza aid flotilla, another school ditches NCEA level 1, and the future of community halls in the spotlight.

The National Director of the Unite Union in NZ has been detained by Israel, reports Radio NZ. Mike Treen was part of a Freedom Flotilla, which are groups of boats that attempt to run the naval blockade around the Gaza Strip to deliver supplies to Palestinians. He had a pre-recorded message ready to go in case of interception, which was published on The Daily Blog.

This all happened about 24 hours ago, and it is not entirely clear what has happened to Treen since, though it appears the boat he was on was towed to the Israeli port city of Ashdod. This (extremely partisan) report from Mondoweiss indicates that two Israeli crew members have been released, but the rest of the group remains in custody.

Why pre-record a message? By and large the Freedom Flotilla vessels don’t fare all that well. There have been terrible incidents on earlier Freedom Flotilla trips, including the killing of nine activists in 2010. And Green MP Marama Davidson was also detained in 2016 when she was on a boat trying to break the blockade.

Israel maintains that their blockade of Gaza, first imposed in 2007, is legal, to prevent weapons being smuggled to enemy groups like Hamas. Conditions in Gaza remain dreadful – a UN report released a decade after the blockade began described them as “unlivable.”

The boat itself, called the al-Awda (The Return) included people of a range of nationalities, and some of the reporting on the incident from around the world is focused on compatriots. For example, the New Straits Times reports that the Malaysian government is working to secure the release of a Malaysian doctor on board. It is not clear if the New Zealand government has issued any statement on the matter, though acting PM briefly mentioned it during his post-cabinet press conference yesterday, saying the government was working with MFAT staff in Ankara, Turkey.


The 4th largest school in the country – Macleans College in East Auckland, has decided to ditch NCEA Level 1, reports the NZ Herald. A few other schools have also dropped Level 1 amid wider disquiet about the government’s proposed reforms in the sector. Those will be thrashed out next week at a closed door ‘NCEA Summit’ in Wellingtonnext Monday.

And speaking of schools, new guidelines have been released on when guns should be handled by students, reports Newshub. It may surprise you to learn that those guidelines aren’t “literally never,” but in fact include specific circumstances such as “sports shooting activities, career days, and firearms safety courses.” A firearms safety expert described the guidelines as “really basic common sense.” And in fairness, the terrible school shootings that have been seen in the USA – both deliberate and accidental – haven’t happened in New Zealand.


This from Stuff brings together developments in quite a few regions to create a bigger picture. It’s about the decline and bleak future of community halls, and how some areas and Councils are facing the prospect of either selling them, or spending up on expensive repairs. But as well as that, where Councils are considering sales, some communities are fighting back, saying they belong to the people, not the bureaucrats.


A government report has found that Auckland will rely heavily on apartments for new housing, reports the NBR. By 2023, apartments are expected to account for about 60% of dwelling consents. It is anticipated Auckland will need about 320,000 new dwellings by 2050.


It’s currently Cook Islands Language Week, and the Waikato Times have done a cool piece on the so-called 16th Cook Island – Tokoroa. The South Waikato is a heartland of Cook Islander identity, with roots that go back almost 70 years. A range of community activities are also being planned around the area.


The Southern Ocean is currently having a slowing effect on climate change, by acting as a great carbon sink. But that could be changing, and could in fact start accelerating climate change, reports the NZ Herald. There’s not really any simpler way of explaining it than the job science reporter Jamie Morton has done, so read the story, but in the meantime put it like this: it’s extremely concerning, a piece of news of literally global significance, and it’s barely going to raise a ripple.

Why exactly is that? That’s been something that has been puzzling me a lot for the past couple of days. At the end of last week there was a ‘weather roundup’ in The Bulletin, all sorts of stories about extreme, record breaking heat and wildfires in the Northern hemisphere. And then I read this wholly depressing number from NY Magazine, by an author who has been screaming into the void about climate change for years now. They noted that “we already seem much farther along on those paths than even the most alarmist climate observers … would have predicted a year ago.”


From our partners, Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha writes that sometimes looking back on the past can make you glad you’re alive today, particularly when it comes to the safety of lines workers. 


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Right now on The Spinoff: Alice Neville has an interesting explainer on the current state of the country of origin food labelling bill. Sandra Ivanov writes about her journey from Serbia to Wellington and back again, through the lens of the refugee crisis. And we have a new app! And it’s free, and available to download now.


This is a fantastic long–form story from Stuff, which hooked me all the way through. It tells the story of a cult operating in New Zealand, and how they bring in members. And the visuals are used really well too – they draw you in and are even a little disorientating, perhaps a nod to the experience itself of being part of the cult. Here’s an excerpt:

“Despite all this, Amoutsias stayed, because she wanted to “get rid of my dark ego … to clear that selfish part of me” – right up to the point that she was given three days’ notice to leave and take all her belongings.

She says she had given all her money to the group (and spent up on her credit cards). One text message shown to us by Porumamilla shows Bhavsaar suggesting Amoutsias donate a month’s salary to the ashram to improve her spiritual standing.”


This is an astonishing story about the nexus of sport, politics and media. The Qatar 2022 Football World Cup bid has been accused of running a black ops campaign to smear hosting rivals, which included the use of ex-CIA agents, reports the BBC. The Qatar bid has long been mired in controversy, over the use of slave labour to build the stadiums, the complete unpreparedness of the Gulf nation to host the tournament when it was announced, and the excessive heat that players will face. Qatar denies the allegations.


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