Labour MP Meka Whaitiri has stood down from her ministerial roles while an investigation takes place (Radio NZ: Richard Tindiller)
Labour MP Meka Whaitiri has stood down from her ministerial roles while an investigation takes place (Radio NZ: Richard Tindiller)

The BulletinAugust 31, 2018

The Bulletin: Govt finishes week another minister down

Labour MP Meka Whaitiri has stood down from her ministerial roles while an investigation takes place (Radio NZ: Richard Tindiller)
Labour MP Meka Whaitiri has stood down from her ministerial roles while an investigation takes place (Radio NZ: Richard Tindiller)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Government loses another minister within a week, plans to override the Auckland Unitary Plan, and methane in focus for new climate change report.

Another minister has stood down from PM Jacinda Ardern’s government, just a week after she had to sack a minister from Cabinet. Customs minister Meka Whaitiri, who holds a range of associate minister positions, has relinquished her portfolios while an investigation takes place into a staffing issue in her office. Stuff reports that sources have told them there is a toxic culture in the office, though it is understood this relates to a single incident – which Newshub understands involved some physical contact. And as of this morning, Radio NZ’s news bulletins said the allegation was that she had assaulted a press secretary.

It’s horrible timing for the government, just seven days after Clare Curran was sacked from two of her ministerial roles. It hasn’t quite resulted in a reshuffle. Kris Faafoi will take the Customs portfolio, and lead ministers will take on the associate roles as well. It does leave the government two ministers lighter than it was this time last week, but as NZ Herald political editor Audrey Young writes, the backbench is “itching with ambition,” and PM Ardern can afford to be a bit fussier about who makes it to higher levels.

National leader Simon Bridges made hay over the issue on Radio Live (audio not online) suggesting that the staff troubles would leave the PM distracted, rather than focused on running the country. And it certainly takes the focus off what’s been going on in his own party, regarding the investigation into the expenses leak.

While nothing has been proven, it will also be a blow to Meka Whaitiri’s rise up the ranks. She came into Parliament through  a by-election in Ikaroa-Rāwhiti in 2013, and was widely tipped for higher honours. National-aligned pollster David Farrar wrote in the NBR after that win that he expected she would be “one of Labour’s better MPs,” and just last week columnist Alison Mau wrote on Stuff that Whaitiri should be looked at for elevation to Cabinet.

A very interesting NZ Herald front page today – the government plans to override the Auckland Unitary plan in order to sidestep restrictions that prevent more houses being built. It follows a denial of consent for a new development on Dominion Road – we’ve had a guest writer on The Spinoff who was absolutely furious about that decision.

A new report into climate change shows New Zealand must significantly reduce methane to prevent contributions to warming, reports Stuff. Methane is primarily produced by livestock, and the report indicates that current levels are unsustainable. The farming industry is currently searching for technological improvements or mitigations that would reduce the amount of methane produced, without reducing herd numbers. It will also be relevant as the Carbon Zero bill goes through Parliament, for which discussions are currently underway as to whether all types of gases will need to be reduced to net zero, or if some like methane will just need to be ‘stabilised.’

The headline business confidence figure is down down down again. Radio NZ reports that it fell 5 points in the monthly ANZ survey, though the outlook those surveyed have for their own businesses has stayed steady at a marginally positive level. The latter figure is the important one as an economic indicator, but even that isn’t at particularly good levels relative to the last few years. It’s too early to say if the charm offensive launched by the PM this week towards business will have the desired effect.

Dunedin’s mayor has hit out at proposals to freeze mayoral pay rises, saying it’s not fair on mayors from smaller councils, reports the ODT. While Auckland’s Phil Goff and Christchurch’s Lianne Dalziel have both expressed support for the idea, Dunedin’s Dave Cull says some mayors are “not even making the minimum wage for the hours they work.” It doesn’t appear Mayor Cull is talking about himself there, because he earns $157,798 a year, which means if he was on effectively less than minimum wage he’d have to be working about 180 hours a week (by my calculations)

Giddy up – a review into the racing industry has recommended radical changes. Newshub reports that it’s being described as a “blunt appraisal,” and includes recommendations like the outsourcing of the TAB’s operations, closing 20 thoroughbred racing tracks, and building three new all weather facilities. That all-weather tracks would have funding was reported last week by Radio NZ, along with a few other sweeteners for an industry that has long been championed by NZ First and Winston Peters. More detail on what could happen to the TAB and Trackside can be found in this Newsroom report, if their operations were to be taken over by an overseas company.

The referral competition is over! Thank you to everyone who got someone to sign up, warm welcome to all of our new readers, I’m going to tally up the results today and get in touch with everyone winning a prize. If that’s you, congratulations.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Toby Morris is back with a new Side Eye comic. Emily Writes talks about how Father’s Day can be very difficult for some. And the Real Pod is back with some scorching takes on the new season of The Bachelor Australia.

This is an excellent feature from Stuff that tries to quantify the economic costs and benefits of taking in refugees. Figures from overseas show that every $1 spent on refugees can bring a $2 benefit within five years, though those figures can’t necessarily be applied to New Zealand. And it’s a fraught subject to write about – how exactly do you economically measure the value of a human life? But this story treats such questions with sensitivity and humanity. Here’s an excerpt:

A life in Colombia would be no life, or as Juan Sebastian puts it, they could be dead by now. It took some time before Mosquera Daza stopped looking over her shoulder.

But before Wellington was Ecuador, across Colombia’s southern border, where they first fled and spent four years living essentially hand to mouth. Mosquera Daza, a lab technician in Colombia, began pushing a coffee cart.

She then opened a cafe, making Colombian food for fellow refugees. But there was no money, the kids ate on $1.50 a day, there was discrimination and, again, violence. In many ways it was as bad as their previous home.

Then came two New Zealanders, interviewing for suitability for the country’s refugee programme. Mosquera Daza had to search for New Zealand on a map, but was struck with one interviewer, a Māori woman.

“I have learned to recognised she was Māori. We felt we were being treated seriously, and with warmth and respect.”

Who says nobody cares about women’s sport? TV ratings obtained by the NZ Herald show the TV audience for the Black Ferns last weekend was five times higher than the TV audience for the Warriors in the NRL. It’s a little bit of an apples and oranges comparison, but you might remember there was some consternation in Auckland rugby circles when the Warriors outrated the Blues earlier this year. A bit over half a million people watched the Black Ferns live, I for one listened to a very good call of the game on Radio Sport.

Noeline Taurua has been formally unveiled as the new Silver Ferns coach, and as Stuff reports, she bears no grudges about earlier snubs from Netball NZ. Taurua will split her time with her duties coaching the Sunshine Coach Lightning, a top performing side in the Australian competition. She’s initially on a one year deal.

And finally, best of luck to Simon Mannering in his efforts to play one more game at Mt Smart. A good win in the final NRL round for the Warriors could mean a home playoff, which would mean the faithful would get to farewell him all over again.

From our partners: The chair of Vector’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Teina Teariki Mana, ponders the state of gender equity in an industry that still lags behind, and we hear about three women working in the male dominated work of energy generation and maintenance.

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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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