Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Residents vow to rebuild after fire destroys dozens of Ohau homes, Christchurch stadium funding signed off, and complaint laid after EasyVote packs include campaign flyer.
The fire that ripped through the Lake Ohau village has destroyed 46 houses, and burnt out more than 5000ha of land, reports Stuff. Firefighters were still working overnight to deal with any late flareups, and Fire and Emergency incident controller Graeme Still “told media on a tour of the Lake Ōhau Village that the fire was the biggest in terms of destruction in his 40 years of firefighting.” Yesterday afternoon, some of the residents were allowed to go through the town under escort – the ODT reports it was a deeply emotional moment for many of them.
In all, it is estimated that the village had about 15 permanent residents. Stuff spoke to some of them yesterday, who are planning on rebuilding their burnt out homes. Other properties in the village were baches and holiday homes. $100,000 has been announced as an initial contribution from the government to those affected by the fire.
What caused it all? As always with these events, it looks like a combination of factors. It appears the spark was provided by power lines arcing in high winds. But as for the spread of the blaze, Radio NZ reports Federated Farmers have criticised DOC for allowing vegetation to grow wild on retired land, saying that if animals had’ve been allowed to graze on it then there wouldn’t have been so much potent fuel. Conservation minister Eugenie Sage disagreed, saying it sounded like the organisation was making a push for free grazing. That story is worth reading to the end, to catch the comments from DOC’s operations manager around whether grazing really helps reduce the fuel load.
And in general terms, the Mackenzie Basin is just a hot, dry part of the country – and is expected to get hotter and drier as climate change continues to advance. Just a few days before the fire, farmers in South Canterbury told Stuff that they were staring down the barrel of a drought, and not a lot of good news was coming from Metservice on that front. The conditions for more bad fires this summer are coming together dangerously.
A joint funding agreement for a new stadium in Christchurch has formally been signed off, reports Star News. It’s a massive investment, with the Council putting up $253 million and the Crown $220 million. The aim is to get the multi-use facility finished by 2024. On those uses, there was an interesting story on Stuff about potential curfews for the facility, because of the noise that concerts in particular will create.
Official EasyVote packs have been sent out to the public wrongly containing campaign flyers from the euthanasia referendum group VoteSafe. I report that it has resulted in a scramble from the Electoral Commission to investigate how it happened, because to be clear, it absolutely should not have. While the flyers were theirs, there is no suggestion that VoteSafe themselves did or arranged anything to get the flyers into the EasyVote packs.
If you got an EasyVote pack containing something it shouldn’t have, please join the other people who have so far emailed me about it at firstname.lastname@example.org. And here’s what I really want to see – if you haven’t opened your EasyVote pack yet, can you take a video of yourself opening it on the off-chance something not meant to be there falls out?
Meanwhile, advance voting is now underway, and people are getting out early. Our live blog reported that as of yesterday, more than 160,000 people had already voted, which is way up on previous years. It’ll be interesting to see if that trend persists, or if it’s more a case of already decided voters getting it out of the way as soon as possible.
The PM has urged the country to stay vigilant as Auckland moves down to level one. One News reports the move will take place at 11.59 on Wednesday night, bringing the largest city in line with the rest of the country. Jacinda Ardern said she wants to see high rates of testing continue, along with use of contact tracing systems like the app. The NZ Herald reports NZ First pushed for the move to take place last night, but it wasn’t possible because of a legal requirement to give 48 hours notice.
National has released a housing policy aiming to use the Resource Management Act to free up more housing land, before repealing and replacing the law. The NZ Herald’s Amelia Wade reports party leader Judith Collins says a consensus has formed around planning rules being primarily to blame for a lack of affordable housing. The policy also called for state house sales to tenants, but not opening up state house sales to the wider market. If you want the full JuCo experience, she did a very extensive interview yesterday morning with Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB, covering a very wide range of topics. The station will be doing similar interviews with minor party leaders on Thursday, and Jacinda Ardern next Monday. A reminder, you can read a quick wrap of a whole lot of housing policies here.
As for one of the newslines out of the Hosking interview, there was a big call on reviewing the structure of Auckland Council. As Newshub reports, that even came as news to National’s Auckland issues spokesperson Denise Lee, who wrote an email criticising the announcement which was then leaked. Lee said in the email that for Collins to bypass her on it was “incredibly poor form and displays a shockingly bad example of poor culture”.
A perplexing poll result is giving hope to cannabis referendum campaigners that all is not lost. Stewart Sowman-Lund reports the UMR survey shows a narrow lead for legalisation, in contrast to other recent polls that showed prohibition winning comfortably. The poll was commissioned by two groups campaigning to change the law, but UMR is a totally reputable firm so not too much should be read into that.
I’m absolutely infuriated by this story: It appears a power tool was used to cut a hole in the predator fence at Zealandia, reports Stuff’s Katarina Williams. The Karori Sanctuary, as it used to be called, has done an immense amount of good for biodiversity across the whole city, because it has given native creatures a safe place to live and nest. The hole was large enough for rats and other predators in, provided they could get up to the spot in the fence.
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Right now on The Spinoff: Starting with election stuff, Justin Giovannetti has spoken to the Green party leaders about how they want to shape Ardern’s premiership. Leonie Hayden has put the spotlight on the Tāmaki Makaurau electorate, which could deliver some interesting results on the night. We’ve got new two-minute explainers on crime and justice and early education. Toby Manhire has put together an A-Z of the election so far.
And for those with wider interests: Environmental historian Dr Catherine Knight writes about the newfound treasuring of urban green spaces after lockdown. Alice Webb-Liddall looks at the seven recently selected new Arts Laureates. essa may ranapiri has written a response to the Māori poetry published over lockdown. And Stephanie Newbold explains the line of succession in US politics, and what happens if Trump’s Covid condition worsens.
For a feature today, a pretty shocking expose of the deliberate destruction of native habitats. Stuff’s Charlie Mitchell reports that in many cases, those responsible have suffered no real consequences for their actions. The data backing the story up has been collated by Forest and Bird, who say it’s just a glimpse of what could be a much bigger problem. Here’s an excerpt:
Of the 223 confirmed incidents, seven resulted in prosecution, the data shows. Most commonly, the person responsible faced no action, or a negotiated response, such as an abatement notice, an order to apply for retrospective consent, or an order to remediate the damage.
“This report shows very clearly that nature is under attack on private and public land, and that public agencies are desperately failing in their responsibility to do anything about it,” said Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague.
“Where councils are aware of large or important tracts of native habitat being illegally sprayed, burnt, cut down, or poisoned, very few of them are equipped to enforce the law. This means there is often no meaningful consequence or deterrent for those committing significant environmental crimes.”
The White Ferns have been improving over their tour of Australia, but still being comfortably beaten in almost every game. With two games of the ODI series now lost, they’re down 4-1 across both formats. As Stuff reports, yesterday’s game saw a solid target being set by the White Ferns, only for Australia to haul it in easily. The problems are compounded by injuries, with Suzie Bates and quick bowler Lea Tahuhu out. Of course, you can’t really take anything away from Australia – if they win again on Wednesday they’ll equal the record for the most consecutive ODI wins of all time.
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