26 Nov 2023

The Week in Detail: Congestion, divorce, and toxic algae

From The Detail, 1:00 pm on 26 November 2023

Every weekday, The Detail makes sense of the big news stories.

This week, why congestion charges are being chalked up to solve Auckland's traffic woes, the complexities of matrimonial property break-ups, the future of "sensitive" mining, the fast-moving algae blanketing our precious ocean, and the shadowy forces behind New Zealand's meth problem.

Whakarongo mai to any episodes you might have missed.

The problems driving congestion charges

Congestion charges proposed for both Auckland and Tauranga are being held up as the answer to our gridlock crises. 

A report released in late 2020 by Auckland Transport showed the uptake of public transport in south Auckland was low and cars remained the preferred means for people getting to and from work.

A scenic morning commute in Auckland. Photo: Supplied - Stephen Forbes

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown wants to chomp through red tape, objections, and even consultation in his hurry to slap a peak-hour payment of up to $5 on two jammed-up stretches of city motorway in particular.

"It's a simple solution, well-tried around the world, nothing particularly new about it," he told Morning Report in a colourful interview last week. 

If they work so well, why are they taking so long to put in place? 

Sharon Brettkelly speaks to Stuff Auckland issues reporter Todd Niall and University of Auckland urban planning lecturer Tim Welch.

Divorce, remarriage, inheritance, and outdated laws

No one wants to bring up the subject of a pre-nuptial agreement in the first flush of new relationship.

But by the time you're buying a house together, some sort of legal documentation could save a lot of heartache down the line, especially if the Bank of Mum and Dad has been involved. 

Groom's putting a wedding ring on the bride's finger

Photo: 123rf

However, even if you get a mid-nup at that stage, or a contracting-out agreement, if it ends up challenged down the track, the whole thing can be ripped up by a court. 

The court can rule that an agreement has become seriously unjust, but it doesn't have the ability to tinker with that agreement to make it fairer – it's either thrown out, or upheld. 

Sharon Brettkelly breaks down the complications with family lawyers Jeremy Sutton and Chris Grenfell.

Striking gold hits obstacles

National's Christopher Luxon has signaled a change of direction when it comes to mining, promising it can be done in a "sensitive" way to balance economic and environmental interests. 

The Wharekirauponga bush in the Coromandel where OceanaGold is planning an underground tunnel to mine gold.

The Wharekirauponga Forest Park, the site of a proposed mine. Photo: Supplied / Coromandel Watchdog

A stark contrast to Labour's (unkept) promise that there would be no new mining on conservation land. 

Tom Kitchin looks at the future of mining with Newshub climate correspondent Isobel Ewing and University of Canterbury mining and geology lecturer David Bell.

The smothering weed spreading fast and far

Opo Ngawaka has lived on Aotea Great Barrier all his life, raising six children with his wife Elaine on the tiny island of Māhuki.

Living off the land and looking after nature are their way of life.

Opo Ngawaka photographed at his home on Mahuki Island in Aotea.

Opo Ngawaka is chair of the Ngāti Rehua Ngātiwai ki Aotea Trust. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

But that is under threat with the fast-spreading killer algae caulerpa.

"I've never seen anything like it," says Ngawaka, chair of the Ngāti Rehua Ngātiwai ki Aotea Trust.

The exotic seaweed which smothers anything in its way was recently found near Māhuki, off Aotea's west coast, a sign that it is spreading beyond the three harbours where it was first discovered two years ago, leading to a rāhui and ban on fishing with sinkers and anchoring – and it's now spread to Northland, the Hauraki Gulf, and Great Mercury Islands.

A beach at dusk. The tide is out and the shore is covered in a thick green carpet of caulerpa. The sky is pink-grey.

Okupu Bay, on Aotea Great Barrier, post-Cyclone Gabrielle, covered in caulerpa. Photo: Noel Nancekivell

Sharon Brettkelly speaks to Ngawaka, deputy chair of the Aotea Great Barrier Environmental Trust Dr Barry Scott, and Biosecurity NZ deputy director-general Stuart Anderson.

New Zealand's meth flood

It's been 25 years since methamphetamine use exploded in New Zealand, but despite the drug's well-known dangers, tens of thousands of Kiwis are still hooked. 

Drugs and cash seized by police in February 2023.

Drugs and cash seized by police. Photo: Police / Supplied

It feels as though most weeks there's a new headline about another record breaking bust. In January, 713 kilograms of methamphetamine concealed in maple syrup bottles was seized by police, and just a couple of months later another record-breaking 747kg was located during a raid on a south Auckland property. Just last month, 26 kilograms was found in a Canadian man's suitcase – the largest amount of the drug to be seized in a passenger's luggage.

Wilhelmina Shrimpton looks at our problem with P, including how the nation got so addicted, and where all that meth is coming from. She speaks to 1News political reporter Benedict Collins and director of NZ Police's National Organised Crime Group Detective Superintendent Greg Williams.

Long Read: Weighing the Man Booker Prize shortlist

This is The Detail's Long Read  one in-depth story read by us every weekend.

composite of Paul Lynch and the cover of his book Prophet Song

This year’s Man Booker chair Esi Edugyan said the six finalists typified the “unease” of the moment, although the Sydney Morning Herald felt that unease was understating the case. “Sheer terror swirls through some contenders," she said. Photo: supplied

This week, a long read about a short list. 

RNZ executive editor Jeremy Rees read and reviewed every book shortlisted for this year's Man Booker prize, so you don't have to.

Jeremy Rees joins the podcast to traverse the controversial history of the world's most prestigious literary award, and to review this year's six hopefuls.

One of the great joys of the Booker is not just the novels, it is the highly entertaining literary spats and occasional odd choices. There have been some doozies.

I can’t really explain why I decided to lie awake for the last five weeks reading the Booker shortlist into the night. But here’s what I found. 

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