Simon Bridges addresses the 83rd Annual National Party Conference at Christchurch Town Hall. (Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

The Bulletin: National floats sanctions in welfare crackdown

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: National releases discussion document on social services, new sea level rise research raises inundation fears, and updates from Wellington’s messy mayoralties.

National has released a discussion document on social services, in order to shape their policy into the election. It’s the latest in a series of discussion documents this year, the fifth for those keeping score on the expected eight over 2019. This one is both a restating of the ideas of their previous stint in government, and an outline of new areas of policy.

Many of the ideas represent a harsher approach to welfare services, reports Stuff. They include limiting the amount of time those under 25 not working or in education can get the dole, restarting tenancy reviews for those in social housing, and asking whether the baby bonus should be scrapped. There would be a crackdown on those who don’t vaccinate their kids, oddly in part seemingly aimed at sole parents. National leader Simon Bridges says they would also bring back targets as the preferred way of measuring outcomes, and targeted sanctions to drive them.

However some of the questions point in different directions. Social investment is still being stressed, which is the term used to describe more intensive but tightly targeted support, as opposed to widespread access to benefits. The party has proposed increased access for low income women to long term reversible contraception. And in an interesting passage, they both claimed ownership of Whanau Ora, and also put out a fairly open question about what their feedbackers wanted to see change.

One of the more punitive ideas have been dropped, though it is possible that was always a so-called dead cat. That was the fledgling idea to fine parents of school leavers who become NEETs, of which all mention has now been cut. ACT condemned the discussion document as following too closely in Labour’s footsteps, a critique which both parties may be uncomfortable with. After all, Labour themselves only implemented a few of the dozens of recommendations from their welfare working group.

Much of the commentary in the leadup to the discussion document release was focused on gangs. That was largely because National’s media strategy was to focus on gangs. Very tough measures around benefits were aimed at them, reports Radio NZ. Black Power spokesperson Eugene Ryder said that would harm families, who are disproportionately Māori and poor. Auckland Action Against Poverty also weighed in, heavily criticising the effects such a policy would have on those in hardship. Simon Bridges in response pointed to the social harm caused by gangs, particularly to victims of crime. Labour too have campaigned in the recent past on a crackdown against gangs.

Will any of it work? That depends on what the desired outcome is. Radio NZ reports Simon Bridges says the overall strategy is based on lowering welfare dependency, and being more fair towards taxpayers. The other reason why politicians promise welfare crackdowns – because there’s probably votes in it – went unstated. But it cuts entirely against what the recent welfare working group recommended, which urged a completely different approach be taken to welfare to improve social outcomes.

New research on sea level rise has put hundreds of thousands of homes in line for inundation under the worst case scenario, reports Stuff. That is based on 2m of sea level rise by 2100. That’s not necessarily locked in yet, because global emissions cuts could slow the rate of sea level rise. But one thing is certain – the seas are rising, and hundreds of millions of people around the world will face devastating effects as a result. Meanwhile, the NZ Herald reports legislation will be introduced today which will require companies to disclose climate change risks to their shareholders.

An update on the various happenings in Wellington region mayoral elections: Stuff’sJoel Maxwell reports that Mike Tana supporters are currently trying to get his ouster in Porirua overturned, on the grounds of an investigation into him being leaked. And in Wellington, Andy Foster has been sworn in, though a potential recount still hangs over it all. The NZ Herald’s Georgina Campbell was there to see Justin Lester hand the chains over, and says the two men shared an awkward hug. Finally Daran Ponter has been unanimously elected chair of the GWRC, after Roger Blakeley pulled out of the race.

Warnings are being sounded that February’s Tasman fires won’t be a one-off, reports Newshub. New Zealanders are being asked to prepare accordingly by Fire and Emergency, particularly those living in fire prone areas. Overall, the fires cost around $13 million to fight, and at one point the 3000 strong town of Wakefield had to be evacuated.

Dunedin’s Hillside workshops will be revived thanks to a $20 million boost from the government, reports the ODT. The facilities will be reestablished as a mechanical hub for Kiwirail. Most of the activity at the workshops ended in 2012 when the work was sent offshore to China, and Hillside became something of a symbol of outsourcing. The Hillside announcement was one of several relating to the provincial growth fund yesterday, listed in the linked story.

A much-hyped Auckland food precinct has failed to fire, leaving empty shops and disappointment in its wake, reports Alice Neville for The Spinoff. Queen’s Rise was supposed to be Auckland’s answer to trendy dining areas in Melbourne and New York, but those who have set up shop say the landlords have ruined it with “mismanagement, unreasonable expectations, broken promises and lock-outs.” As a story, it is a fascinating look at a part of the business world we don’t often see.

Britain is going to the polls, for the third time in relatively quick succession. Here’s a cheat sheet on their upcoming election, but more importantly, what will it mean for us? Lewis Holden at Noted has analysed the situation, and argues that while the latest round of Brexit extension and uncertainty will hold up a free trade agreement with Britain, there could be better options for New Zealand currently in the works.

Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at

Right now on The Spinoff: Emily Writes discusses coming to the realisation that no parent of a young baby knows what they’re doing, and wishing she realised that sooner. Ti Lamusse continues his series on racism in the justice sector by looking at parole figures. Alex Casey might well have bagged another big scoop on the reality TV beat about who is going to be The Bachelorette. Alice Neville again has some topical ideas for Halloween costumes. Tara Ward has tips for those planning on visiting beautiful Taranaki this summer. And Madeleine Chapman takes a look at the rich and famous saying they’ll move to New Zealand, and what price each of them should pay to get in.

For a feature today, a devastating look at the damage being done to a publication in the USA. Sports blog Deadspin is currently being stripped of what makes it matter, and what makes it unique. This denunciation of the process from The Outline shows how it is a classic example of private equity owners knowing only the cost of something, rather than the value. Here’s an excerpt:

For the past several months, the new owners have paid seemingly unique attention to diminishing Deadspin. Most egregiously was the request — long rumored, and made official on Monday — that the site “stick to sports,” in line with the completely facile line of logic that sports fans only want to know about the score and the game and not anything else.

Besides the fact that sports themselves are frequently political, Deadspin also specifically flourished as an umbrella for topics often beyond the purview of straight sports. Its readers overwhelmingly responded positively to this, as verified anecdotally — is there a better writer on Donald Trump in this country than writer/editor David Roth? — and officially by traffic numbers published by former editor Timothy Burke.

In domestic cricket, Wellington’s Devon Conway has played a magnificent knock to put Canterbury on the ropes. Conway bashed 327 not out, after rescuing Wellington from 4-54, and taking them to a first innings total of 525. In response, Canterbury finished day 2 on 207-5, with opener Tom Latham unbeaten on 102. South African born Conway has long been talked up as a potential future Black Cap, and will become eligible next year.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme.

The Spinoff is made possible by the generous support of the following organisations.
Please help us by supporting them.