The Bulletin: Fed up midwives vote to strike

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Midwives vote for two weeks of strike action, tourism strategy released by government, and a big day of democracy is coming up in the USA.

More than 1000 midwives employed by DHBs have voted to go on strike. Radio NZ reports the members of midwives union MERES voted overwhelmingly to do so, with the vote carried 90% in support on turnout of 80%. It has followed months of wrangling over a new deal, and persistent reports of shortages of trained midwives staying in the profession.

How tough a job is midwifery? We published a three part series on it earlier this year, about their working conditions, their pay systems and rates, and the nature of their employment. Here’s one top line that puts it in context. Because of the nature of the job, with some days being extremely long, and some requiring callouts at emergency hours, midwives say they can sometimes end up making less than minimum wage. Training to become a midwife takes four years, and let’s be honest, there’s quite a bit of responsibility on their shoulders given the unique nature of their medical procedures.

As well as that there are significant pressures in rural areas. Lumsden lost a maternity centre earlier in the year, and in a 2016 study midwives put it in context, saying ‘working rurally can be an expensive hobby.’ And as for staff numbers, just like with nurses and teachers, midwives say their shortages are leading to a crisis point. That’s something that can lead to really bad outcomes for mothers too, as these stories shared by Wanaka mothers to Newshub show. Even in Dunedin, where there is a training college, there is a struggle to get midwives, reports Radio NZ.

That’s really what underpins the logistics of the strike, which are designed to maximise disruptions for DHBs, and minimise them for women giving birth. Between November 22 and December 5, every shift will involve a two-hour stoppage. That will mean some caesarian procedures could be rescheduled, but generally speaking births will still go ahead (after all they can be hard to stop once they’re underway) DHBs say they still hope to avert the strikes.


A tourism strategy has been released by the government, reports Stuff, and it looks like an attempt the thread the needle between collecting enough money to fund services and prevent over-tourism, while also not being off-putting to visitors. Around $80 million a year is expected to be raised from the $35 per-visitor tourist levy. That probably won’t be what puts someone off from flying halfway across the world, but at the same time the massive numbers of tourists are having a serious impact on hotspots, an impact that needs to be mitigated. Half the money will also go towards conservation.


There’s going to be some serious democracy going on today in the USA, with the midterm election results coming in this afternoon. What are the midterms and why do they matter? Great questions, and questions that our resident expert on American politics Catherine McGregor has answers to. We’re also going to be running a live blog over the course of the day (bookmark it) and will have all the results that matter in tomorrow morning’s edition of The Bulletin.


Air pollution on Queen St in Auckland is getting worse again, after about a decade of improvement, reports the NZ Herald on their front page this morning. The problem is ultra-fine carbon particles, known as ‘black carbon’, which are associated with a range of health problems and caused by diesel emissions. It’s a real health risk, partly because there’s such a huge volume on pedestrians up and down Queen St, and partly because when black carbon settles in the lungs it’s hard to get out. And to think, people were so worried about the health implications of electric scooters.


Building creates quite a bit of waste, and calls have been made for something to be done about it to stop it all just being dumped, reports Radio NZ. Around 4-5 tonnes of waste are created for each home that gets built, – it accounts for about 85% of what gets sent to landfill in Auckland. And that’s only going to increase in volume alongside the building boom, unless measures are taken to reduce that.


Here’s an evisceration of yesterday’s banking review announcements by Newsroom’s Bernard Hickey. He argues it’s a very pale shadow of what’s going on in Australia, and that it has completely failed to address some of the real problems in banking. Moreover, Hickey argues that the organisations tasked with carrying it out – the Financial Markets Authority and the Reserve Bank – were never going to be capable of naming and shaming wrongdoing, because their job is to protect confidence in the financial system.


19 jobs at Stuff’s community titles are going to be axed, reports Radio NZ. It is understood to be 15 reporters and four news directors around Auckland and Northland, with three new senior reporter roles potentially to be created in Auckland. It follows failed appeals to merge with rival publisher NZME – who have also been cutting news and sport jobs this year.

I’ll speak plainly here – it is really sad to see this. Yes, we all know the pressures the industry as a whole, and Stuff itself as a company, are under. The last job in the world I’d want is to be the person having to make these decisions.

But these jobs matter. Local media scrutiny really matters. And having more digital and senior journalists with a more nationwide focus (as Stuff has been doing this year) is fine, but they don’t have the same function as community reporters, and they’re not out on the ground in the same way. Surely there is a case to be made that community journalists perform a public service, just as deserving of funding as other public media.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Dr David Galler writes about the launch of The Health Coalition Aotearoa, a new group aiming to tackle societal issues that cause illness. Jose Barbosa profiles the greatest hits of Suzanne Paul’s remarkable career as a public figure and saleswoman phenomenon. And former mayoral candidate Mark Thomas has stuck his oar into the stadium debate, saying that with a bit of love Mt Smart could meet Auckland’s needs better than a new waterfront stadium.


Equity crowdfunding – which to some outside observers looks a bit like clickbait for raising investments – is the focus of this feature on the NBR. (paywalled) It was legalised four years ago, and since then has developed into an important but risky niche model. Some businesses and platforms have done really well out of it, but others have proven the rule that getting start-ups off the ground is incredibly difficult, even with cool business ideas.  Now in this section I’d normally post an excerpt from it here, but NBR’s paywall doesn’t allow copying and pasting, so if you want to read it you’ll have to have a subscription or get a free trial.


A huge amount of anger has erupted after a horse that was injured in the Melbourne Cup was euthanised, reports Radio NZ. The horse, called The Cliffsofmoher, broke a shoulder, and was put down on the spot it fell after a bit of veterinary attention. While horses die in races like the Melbourne Cup almost every year, but from what I can see, this year the outrage over it seems more mainstream.

Finally, Madeleine Chapman went to go check out the T20 of Lawn Bowls, and came back with this reportThe new format is called Bowls3Five for some reason, and it turns out it’s a cool sport to watch while getting drunk.


From our partners, World Energy Day has put a spotlight on New Zealand’s sluggish progress towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Vector’s Beth Johnson explains why the time is right to accelerate.


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