TL;DR: There’s more awkward political news for Chris Hipkins this morning, with a fresh revelation of an appearance of a conflict of interest for just-stood-down Transport Minister Michael Wood.
Elsewhere, there’s news in our political economy on climate, housing and poverty, as:
National dumps its support for He Waka Eke Noa, which was supposed to price farm emissions before a Zero Carbon Act deadline of January 1, 2024;
Foodstuffs warns of a 57% increase in shoplifting early this year;
James Renwick asks if Aotearoa is ready to become a climate refuge; and,
we’ll find out later today if Christchurch City Council’s pro-car councillors will be able to vote through the dismantling of the Park Terrace cycleway.
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‘For the 6th time Michael, can you please sell those shares?’
The revelation yesterday that Michael Wood didn't sell his $13,000 worth of Auckland International Airport shares after six warnings from the Cabinet Office was messy and 'unacceptable' enough for PM Chris Hipkins to stand Wood down as Transport Minister until it was 'resolved'.
It's about to get messier. Thomas Coughlan reports for NZ Herald this morning that Wood blocked a plan for a new airport on the North Shore in 2021 to be formally made an Airport Authority, while owning the shares secretly, and despite officials saying it was a good idea.
In my view, Wood will probably survive and be brought back as minister after multiple mea culpas and a share sale. There are much bigger conflicts of interest at play here and plenty of reasonable reasons to stop the creation of a North Shore Airport Authority. The 51%-state-owned Air New Zealand is deeply invested in Auckland Airport being Auckland’s only commuter airport for a start.
But it's uglier today than yesterday. Hipkins and Wood will not welcome the distraction sucking up political oxygen for a day or two and frustrating Labour’s campaign to focus voters’ attention on the ‘Coalition of Cuts’. Instead, this plays into National/ACT’s attempts to frame the Government as the ‘Coalition of Chaos’.
ACT Leader David Seymour called for Wood’s dismissal as Transport Minister this morning.
And there's collateral damage. Wood's wife, Auckland City Councillor Julie Fairey, has also had to revise her pecuniary interests declaration to include Wood's ownership stake. Sigh.
Bipartisanship breaks. First it was MDRS. Now it’s HWEN
Another bipartisan position aimed at solving a long-term and politically very-thorny problem has dissolved.
National's new(ish) Agriculture Spokesman Todd McClay confirmed yesterday to reporters in the Press Gallery the party had dropped its support for the consultative He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN) process designed by Labour to work with farmers to shimmy their nitrous oxide and methane emissions into some sort of split-gas reduction scheme somewhere near the farmgate. (Marc Daalder via Twitter)
McClay says National will reveal its own policy to reduce on-farm emissions some time before the election, possibly in a few weeks, which might or might not include some attempt to price farmers’ emissions. Somewhere. We hope.
“It feels to me like He Waka Eke Noa is all but dead. And it’s the Government’s fault. They ran out of time. They’ve shown extreme bad faith to the sector. And now they’re dreaming up taxes that put up the price of food and put farmers out of business.” Todd McClay
HWEN was already in trouble and appears to have been put on the back-burner by the Labour after farmers were unhappy last year the Government rejected their plans to claim all the emissions-offsets from their new trees near rivers and streams against their methane and nitrous oxide emissions.
The clock is ticking though. Labour has said it wanted to start legislating something for the Agriculture sector before Parliament rises on August 31 for the October 14 election. Cabinet was supposed to decide on ‘something’ earlier this year, but talks with farmers have gone awfully quiet.
Currently, there has to be a price for farming emissions by January 1, 2025 under the existing Emissions Trading Scheme and the new Zero Carbon Act. There are only 25 sitting days left and last week Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said he ‘probably’ wouldn’t propose a tax on nitrogen fertiliser to Cabinet as a way to price emissions by farmers.
National’s bi-partisanship on climate issues was always predicated on the ideas that emissions could be reduced without increasing prices much or reducing farmer or business incomes much. As the rubber as gotten closer to hitting the road, it’s become clear that’s not possible. The magic in the thinking is dissolving.
National’s approach while in Government was to buy dodgy credits from Ukrainians and Russians described as connected to the mafia. When National eventually stopped doing that because it had been exposed as dodgy and wouldn’t be accepted by the climate referees, this time-buying exercise was always going to be in trouble.
Now trouble has arrived. For everyone.
Shoplifting sirloin steaks and boxes of beer to order
This will get some attention today. Foodstuffs North Island (Pak'n'Save, New World, Four Square) reports this morning that shoplifting incidents in its stores are up 57% to 2,541 in the February to April quarter from the same quarter a year ago, with an increasing number of brazen 'walk-in-pick-up-and-walk-out' cases of shop-to-order crime. 1News
Foodstuffs North Island CEO Chris Quin cited one instance of a repeat offender stealing 31 whole eye, scotch, and sirloin fillets over a period of weeks, valued at almost $3,200.
"Our grocers have never seen retail crime at these levels. It's an extremely concerning trend and it's unacceptable.
"Retail crime is coming through the front doors of grocery stores and impacting our teams every day. Grocers are focused on keeping their people safe and that means investing in de-escalation and conflict management training and helping people to cope in a situation which involves aggression.” Foodstuffs North Island Chris Quin via 1News.
We've seen this personally at a Countdown we shop at in Auckland. A couple of weeks ago Lynn was there when a beefy looking guy strolled in, picked up two boxes of beer and, as the store’s security guard trailed him at a distance quietly asking him to please stop, just walked out with his spoils.
So what happens if we become a climate refuge?
Keep any eye on this as well. University of Victoria Climate Scientist James Renwick told Jesse Mulligan on RNZ yesterday that Aotearoa's relatively benign position dealing with a warm climate would make us attractive as a climate refugee destination, which we needed to think about.
"A lot of people around the world are going to look at this country and think, 'oh, would be quite a good place to go to avoid some of these extreme events we're experiencing where I live'.
"We might have a lot of people who want to come here to live to get away... So how we deal with that, how that plays out, I think as an important issue - whether we end up with a much larger population because we are this climate change oasis. I'm not entirely sure. But there are consequences of being a country that doesn't feel the effects of climate change quite so intense as some others." James Renwick via RNZ.
I've been pointing to this recently. There's going to be about 100 million rich people able to migrate in our Asian hemisphere (China/India/Indonesia) out of a couple of billion living on increasingly uninhabitable land by 2100.
Going north into Europe, North America and Siberia (!) will be very difficult. All they can look to in the liveable south is parts of Australia and all of Aotearoa.
We have no plan or strategy to deal with this. Or any debate. We should have one. My view is we should plan for ongoing population growth of around 1.5% to 2.0% per annum for the next 70 years or so, which would mean our population would be on track to grow to 17 million.
We’re certainly not investing on that basis, even though most the infrastructure, houses, public transport, pipes, roads, hospitals and schools we’re building now will still be around 2100, when our climate might be two or three degrees warmer.
A dam breaks, and there was a surprise rate hike
Overseas overnight, Ukraine accused Russia of blowing up a dam to flood a large part of the war zone of southern Ukraine near Crimea, warning it could cause a nuclear accident because the dam's water is used to cool its reactors.
Also, the Reserve Bank of Australia announced last night hiked its cash rate by 25 basis points to 4.1% last night, which only a third of economists had expected. However, last night China's authorities did a bit of monetary policy easing, telling banks to cut their deposit rates to push consumers into spending more. Reuters
Elsewhere, the World Bank announced it had lifted its growth forecasts a bit for this year, but cut them for next year by more.
Will the Park Terrace cycleway survive?
I’m watching out today for the result of the vote by Christchurch City Councillors on whether to rip up the pop-up cycleway on Park Terrace.
It has turned into a flashpoint in our own little culture war brewing between urban activists in favour of cycling and medium density living, against double-cab-ute driving suburbanites aggrieved about the repurposing of traffic lanes and parking space they feel entitled to.
The Press' Editor Kamala Hayman took the unusual step of writing an editorial favouring the retention of the cycleway at the top-right position of page three. That's as close to a front-page editorial as you can get, without quite taking the final step. Good.
What we’re debating on Chat today
Here’s the most popular Chat thread in The Kākā’s community so far this morning. I put up sneak peeks of this Dawn Chorus to paying subscribers from 6 am onwards.
Quotes of the day
A ‘life admin’ problem
“I’m not sure that Michael himself even has a really good explanation for that - it would simply be one of those life admin tasks that he doesn’t seem to have gotten around to. I don’t think that that’s acceptable, having indicated back in 2020 that he was intending to dispose of them, he should have done that.” PM Chris Hipkins talking in yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference (YouTube 19 mins in) about Michael Wood’s failure to sell his Auckland Airport shares after six warnings. Wood said he had been busy and information on his holding had been sent to an old email address.
Chart of the day
How Joe Biden’s green industrial policy pivot is playing out
Map of the day
Canada’s worst-ever wild fires blanket the United States in smoke
Cartoon of the day
Ka kite ano