The Herald’s Tim McCready looks back at the stories and headlines that shaped the front pages of the paper this year.
We had every reason to think this year would be better than 2020. The front page of the New Zealand Herald on January 1 shared that optimism: “With a vaccine rollout and travel bubbles looming, there are signs 2021 is looking up.”
And yet here we are, wrapping up another tumultuous year.
So much has happened that it is hard to believe it was early this year that the storming of the Capitol building by Trump supporters took place. The Herald led with ‘Democracy under attack’ as its cover story on the insurrection as leaders met to ratify the election victory of Joe Biden.
Despite his exit from the Oval Office this year, Trump’s face featured on the front pages of the Herald five times over the year (many will be thankful this is significantly down from 15 last year). President Biden had a relatively quiet year, appearing just three times on the covers (compared with 10 last year).
Other significant events that shaped the year and the front pages were the death of Prince Philip in April, the prolonged Samoan democracy crisis in May, the freak tornado in Auckland in June, and the New Lynn supermarket terror attack in September.
Topping the count of cover appearances again this year is Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who featured 42 times – down from 62 in 2020.
Other politicians to rank are Grant Robertson, Chris Hipkins and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer (each appearing seven times), Judith Collins (six times, down from 27 last year) and Christopher Luxon (nine times) with a late surge in front page appearances after becoming National’s new leader in November.
The Prada Cup was underway early in the year, followed by the America’s Cup in March when Team NZ’s battle against Italy’s Luna Rossa played out on the front pages. The dramatic races were summarised by headlines leading up to the win: ‘Luna Eclipsed’, ‘One race from glory’, then finally ‘Signed, sailed, delivered’ when Team NZ (along with all of us) could breathe again.
The excitement surrounding the Auld Mug defence saw Team NZ’s skipper and helmsman Peter Burling become the most featured sportsperson on the Herald’s front pages this year. With 12 appearances, he was ahead of last year’s leader, Beauden Barrett, who featured 10 times this year (compared with 26 in 2020).
The other major sporting event to feature on the front pages was the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, held during July and August after a year-long pause.
New Zealand’s greatest medals tally gave the Herald plenty of opportunity to showcase sporting (and headline) success, with some of the best including:
‘Golden hour’: marking one of the most extraordinary hours in the country’s sporting history. Emma Twigg took gold in the women’s single sculls, the women’s eight claimed second, and the men’s eight won gold.
‘Seventh Heaven’: when the Black Ferns Sevens won gold after beating France in the Women’s Sevens final.
‘Mana Lisa’: when Lisa Carrington’s two gold medals within 90 minutes catapulted her into Olympic folklore.
Superstar Carrington featured on the front pages of the Herald seven times this year. She won three gold medals at the Games, becoming our most decorated Olympian with six medals.
Other notable sporting faces on the front pages of the Herald this year included Joseph Parker (11 times) and Kane Williamson (10 times), Sam Cane (seven times), Kyle Jamieson (six times) and Lydia Ko (four times).
The dawn of Delta
Of course, the most regular feature on front pages this year was the visitor we never wanted – Covid-19.
Our first brush with Covid’s return was in late January, with three people returning positive cases in the community following their managed isolation stay in the Pullman Hotel. Front page headlines ‘The waiting game,’ ‘Stress test,’ and ‘High anxiety’ in the days following captured the mood of the nation at the time.
In early April, 395 days after we closed our borders with Australia, quarantine-free travel with Australia resumed, celebrated with the front page declaring ‘Bubble time’ – though that was short-lived. ‘Frozen bubble’ was the headline in early May after flights from New South Wales were paused following two community cases found there.
New Zealand remained Covid-free in late April, when the Herald led with ‘Knocking it out of the park’ to celebrate one of the world’s highest-attended concerts since the pandemic began with about 50,000 Six60 fans at Eden Park.
‘Two close for comfort’ the Herald declared in June, after a Covid-infected Sydney tourist’s whirlwind weekend visit to Wellington forced the capital into alert level 2. This was followed three days later with ‘Bubble over,’ as the door on quarantine-free transtasman flights was slammed shut after Sydney was plunged into a two-week lockdown.
Then in August, the front page we had hoped not to see. ‘The dawn of Delta’ marked the beginning of Auckland’s longest lockdown, with equally terrifying headlines to follow, including: ‘Delta on your doorstep’, ‘Lockdown Xmas real risk for city’ and ‘On a Delta tightrope’.
In September, one month after Delta arrived on our shores, NZME and the Herald launched its 90% Project – a campaign to get at least 90 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated by Christmas with the front page declaring a ‘Call to arms’.
The 90 per cent target was later endorsed by the Government, with Ardern and director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield stating 90 per cent vaccination coverage would give strong national protection against the virus (Bloomfield featured on the front page six times this year, down from nine in 2020).
The rollout of the vaccine was tracked on front pages over the following months. Super Saturday had a cover packed with faces of politicians, sports stars, media personalities and ordinary New Zealanders – all encouraging vaccine uptake on what became the biggest mass vaccination event in New Zealand history.
As with almost any decision made throughout the pandemic, the opinions of commentators often graced the front pages, with some suggesting the 90 per cent target wouldn’t be possible, and epidemiologists called it ‘very aspirational’. But by mid-December New Zealand reached the vaccine milestone before the Christmas target.
I am at risk of repeating the prediction on the first front page this year, a New Year brings with it cause for cautious optimism. Events that will undoubtedly dominate the covers in 2022 include the Commonwealth Games, the Women’s Cricket and Rugby World Cups, the booster rollout and vaccination in children.
Covid-19 isn’t done with our front pages yet, but hopefully by this time next year the worst of the pandemic will be a distant memory.
Cartoons from the Herald’s editorial cartoonist Rod Emmerson were featured on several front pages, including:
‘Lighting the flame’ (for the swearing in of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States in January).
‘V-Day’ (depicting a doctor riding a vaccine syringe to earth to mark the start of New Zealand’s vaccine rollout in February, beginning with frontline workers).
‘The bare essentials’ (featuring Finance Minister Grant Robertson for Budget 2021 in May).
‘Kia kaha Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’ (in September as Auckland entered its fourth week of lockdown and was reeling from the terrorist attack in a west Auckland supermarket).
Emmerson says he particularly enjoyed the caricature of Grant Robertson holding the ‘care bear budget’.
“A lot of work in that piece of art,” he says. “The bear has seen better days – an eye replaced with a button and a pinch dishevelled, but still does the job. There is also the New Zealand Nurses Organisation logo as a collar pin – a hat-tip to the ongoing nurses dispute!”
Before the end of this year, the Government will decide on the route, mode, and delivery for the project for the light rail project, which will run between Auckland’s city centre and Māngere, connecting majoremployment hubs in the city and the airport at each end.
Transport Minister Michael Wood acknowledges the decision has been a long time coming. He first launched the promise of light rail during his campaign for the Mount Roskill by-election in 2016 which brought him into Parliament. Labour campaigned on light rail at the 2017 election, but the move was stymied by Labour’s coalition partner New Zealand First in the last term of Government.
“It is no secret that it was in a fairly challenging stage at the end of the last term, and it had the political knockback between parties,” Wood says. “We had to have a reset which is effectively what happened this year. But it’s put us in a good position to take it to the next stage.”
The three options under consideration are:
• Light rail, a modern tram on city streets;
• Light metro, underground in a tunnel under the isthmus, and underground in Māngere and Onehunga, and at street level in other areas; and
• Tunnelled light rail, underground from Wynyard Quarter to Mt Roskill, and then up at street level to Auckland airport.
They were chosen after an assessment by the Auckland Light Rail team from over 50 different options for modes and routes against the project’s three objectives: improving accessibility, reducing Auckland’s carbon footprint, and unlocking urban development in the corridor.
Not a simple decision
The Auckland Light Rail project team say tunnelled light rail from Wynyard Quarter to Mt Roskill is their recommended option, as it gives the best transport and urban benefit, with the least disruption and the best fit with the network in future. Wood says this first line will provide a base for the additional Waitematā harbour crossing and a line to the Northwest.
“It’s also important to understand that this is just the start of light rail lines in Auckland to create a joined-up rapid transit network with our separated bus lanes and heavy rail network — all of which we are currently extending and upgrading.”
The three options will be able to accommodate between 19 and 24 per cent of Auckland’s growth along the corridor. The key thing about that is it supports us with housing growth, but it also supports us with a more compact urban form,” says Wood.
“This is actually one of the more structural things that we can do to reduce emissions, because if you put someone on the fringes of the city, by definition, many of their journeys are going to be long journeys.
“If you build houses next to an amazing rapid transit network, close to schools, employment and recreation, people are going to emit much less by definition.”
Each of the three options enable a mode shift away from private vehicles and therefore a reduction in Auckland’s carbon emissions.
The light metro and tunnelled light rail options encourage higher numbers of people and therefore result in fewer emissions, however light rail on the surface has less embedded carbon because less concrete and steel is involved in the construction.
“We get to a point of carbon neutrality and start reducing carbon more quickly with surface light rail, but over the long run the others catch up,” says Wood. “At 2050, surface light rail is the better option for carbon reduction, but over the long-run, the others are.”
Cabinet’s decision later this month will weigh up all aspects including climate, cost, disruption, value for money, and the ability to open up housing. “I want to be clear with the trade-offs,” says Wood, “and in this case, it’s not a simple one.”
Opportunity for the private sector. But no PPP
Wood says a public-private partnership (PPP) has been ruled out for the Auckland light rail project, with Cabinet having already decided it will be taken forward using a public service delivery model. This is partly due to the previous iteration of the project floundering during the PPP selection process. Wood says many months could have been spent debating the merits of the delivery model, but for him, the most important thing is to move forward and deliver it.
He adds he also has a personal view that bringing PPP into public transport projects is a little more complex, “because the integration with existing networks and existing public transport operations is more complex if you have another player in the mix.”
Wood says the Government is open to PPPs when it stacks up, but stresses that there are “significant opportunities for investment right across the board” for the private sector for this project and other transport projects across New Zealand.
This will be the biggest transport project in New Zealand’s modern history, and the start of a broader programme of investing in mass rapid transport, beginning a pipeline of city-wide mass rapid transit work over the coming 20-plus years. That’s the first time we’ve really been able to say that as a Government,” he says.
“It offers industry the opportunity to start doing some forward planning. Obviously, the core transport infrastructure job needs to be done that will require both a high level of technical expertise, but also just a lot of work, as well.
“From the broader planning and urban design community, there will be a wholesale urban regeneration along this corridor that will offer opportunities for investment in commercial property, residential property — we are talking about an urban uplift of between 20,000 and 35,000 houses along the corridor.”
Community engagement encouraged
Wood says engagement from the community will be important for the project to succeed, and is a core part of the Light Rail team’s remit.
It has already been gathering the views of Aucklanders, and has found considerable excitement about light rail and the reduction in carbon footprint. But there are concerns about affordability of use, construction disruption and environmental, cultural, civic and heritage impacts.
He says the master planning phase of the project will be a critical point at which communities are brought in to share their views on what the vision should be for various communities and town centres along the light rail route.
“We want to hear the vision for communities in Eden Terrace, Mt Roskill and Onehunga over the next 50 years, and how we can bring together transport with housing, public open spaces and lively town centres.”
Auckland’s 2050 public transport network
Transport Minister Michael Wood says his vision for Auckland’s transport network in 2050 is one that is clean, carbon-neutral, and connects and enhances communities — instead of bypassing and gutting them, “as our transport network sometimes has in the past. It supports a high level of good quality, compact urban growth, and enables more affordable, accessible places for people to live.
“Fundamentally it enables a good standard of living and enables connection to employment, recreation and to other things that are important for people’s lives.”
But the key, Wood says, is for a genuinely linked-up public transport network across all aspects of the region that people and freight can move around efficiently.
“That’s something we haven’t ever quite cracked in Auckland.
“But it’s something that all grown up, successful international cities have.”
Three options for light rail
Light rail: consisting of modern trams running on tracks embedded into the road but separated from traffic. It would travel totally on the surface. Sometimes that would be on roads and sometimes along the motorway.
The Auckland Light Rail team investigated Light Rail on Dominion Road and on Sandringham Road, and on balance, its investigations favoured Dominion Road.
One consideration was that a light rail route on Sandringham Road would require a significant power cable to be relocated to Dominion Road, which would delay works by up to two years and would mean that businesses and residents on both Dominion Road and Sandringham Road would be affected by construction disruption.
Light metro: a rail-based mode that is grade-separated (it is elevated or underground).
The Light Metro option would travel through tunnels built under densely populated urban areas and on the surface through non-urban areas, such as motorways.
Tunnelled light rail: like light rail, this option would also consist of modern trams, but would be partly tunnelled from Wynyard Quarter to Mt Roskill, with the balance of the route running on the surface (on roads and sometimes along the motorway). It would incorporate underground stations in the city centre and on the isthmus including the University precinct.
For the tunnelled portion, the alignment does not need to follow the road, so the actual route and station locations would be developed in the detailed planning phase, including through consultation with communities, iwi and stakeholders.
History of light rail in Auckland
Electric trams ran from downtown at the Waitematā Harbour and across to Onehunga on the Manukau Harbour. They were then the world’s only coast to coast tramway system.
The decision was made to rip up the tramlines and use buses.
Auckland’s longest-serving mayor, Sir Dove-Myer Robinson, pushed for an underground rail loop known as Robbie’s Rapid Rail, including connections to Whangaparāoa, Hobsonville, Howick, the airport and an underground CBD rail loop.
Robbie’s Rapid Rail was scuppered by the newly elected National government led by Muldoon.
AT suggested light rail from CBD to Mt Roskill with main roads into the city reaching near capacity.
Mayor Len Brown wanted the focus to stay on getting government approval for the City Rail Link.
During his by-election campaign in Mt Roskill, Michael Wood promised to fast-track a light rail system from Auckland’s Wynyard quarter to Mt Roskill.
During the election campaign, Labour pledged it would build light rail from downtown Auckland to the airport within a decade.
Then-Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced Cabinet had agreed to suspend the project until after the election because Government parties were unable to reach an agreement, with the Greens in favour but NZ First refusing to support it.
Transport Minister Michael Wood sent light rail back to the drawing board, tasking a group of experts to develop a business case to revive the project.
https://www.timmccready.nz/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Infrastructure-light-rail-Auckland-Dec21.jpg7831054tim.mccreadyhttps://www.timmccready.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/TimMcCready_banner.pngtim.mccready2021-12-01 12:39:012021-12-02 12:44:40Infrastructure: Auckland’s light rail project poised to take a major step (NZ Herald)
Green finance is an important focus for ICBC. Kevin Xu explains to Tim McCready how the bank is active in global sustainable financial governance, learning from international practical experience, and contributing financial power to serve the sustainable development of the economy, society and environment.
Herald: ICBC’s attention to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors is growing. How is this affecting the bank’s involvement in international infrastructure projects?
Kevin Xu: ICBC has fully integrated ESG and green financial management into its investment and financing processes. Our head office has formulated green investment and financing policies for 16 sectors and nearly 50 industries, including infrastructure construction, and has positioned key areas such as green transportation, clean energy, energy conservation and environmental protection as active or moderate entry into the industry.
Environmental, climate and social risks arising from the credit granting process have been brought under classified management. Differentiated credit policies have been implemented in domains such as economic capital occupation, authorisation, pricing, scale, and a “one-vote veto system” is used for environmental protection. Green management requirements are extended to a wide range of investment and financing businesses lines such as bonds, wealth management, leasing.
ICBC New Zealand follows head office’s approach and has been actively involved in local infrastructure projects. More than NZ$300 million in loan commitments has been provided to support NZ renewable energy, sustainable projects in the past 12 months.
Herald: What factors do you take into account when integrating ESG factors into investment decisions?
Xu: We pay close attention to hazards and related risks that financing customers and related parties may bring to the environment and society in construction, production, and business activities. This includes energy consumption, pollution, land, health, safety, resettlement, ecological protection, environmental and social issues related to climate change.
ICBC implemented the “one-vote veto for environmental protection”for the entire investment and financing business process. The customer credit risk rating has embedded ESG factors.
Environmental risk factors are included in the customer rating model, including corporate environmental credit rating and green credit classification index. For corporates that are environmentally unqualified or unfriendly, the rating model will prescribe a limit to the customer’s credit rating.
The customer rating model covers governance risk factors, and incorporates corporate governance and corporate management indicators, including corporate governance structure, shareholder control, and related party transactions.
The inclusion of negative environmental events in the rating and early warning monitoring system, including factors such as environmental violations.
Our head office also clearly requires relationship managers to prudently evaluate the environmental and social risks of customers during the due diligence process and has introduced relevant supporting policies and systems.
Herald: What else does the bank take into consideration for infrastructure projects?
Xu: We also consider credit risks, market risks, country risks and other related factors that may affect investment safety and returns.
ICBC implements a unified credit risk appetite for all types of credit risk exposures across the bank, and implements full-process management of credit risk, covering the entire process from customer investigation, credit rating, loan evaluation, loan review and approval, loan issuance to post-loan monitoring.
For cross-border investment and financing, we also need to pay attention to the country risk of the country or region where the counterparty is located. ICBC uses a series of management tools to manage and control country risk, including country risk assessment and ratings, country risk limits, country risk exposure statistics and monitoring, and stress testing, etc.
Anti-Money Laundering is also the focus of our attention in handling investment and financing business. We strictly abide by relevant Anti-Money Laundering laws and regulations and steadily promote customer identification governance and high-risk areas management.
Herald: What impact has the pandemic had on ICBC’s infrastructure projects?
Xu: The outbreak of the pandemic and its prolonged duration have had varying degrees of impact on many industries, including infrastructure, and some projects are facing a certain degree of difficulties in supply chain operation and capital turnover.
ICBC actively fulfils its responsibilities as a corporate citizen by coordinating the prevention and control of the pandemic, financial security, and operation and management, and actively carrying out special activities to ensure the sustainability of the supply chain of large enterprises and the uninterrupted capital chain of small and medium-sized enterprises.
In the global fight against the pandemic, we will fulfil our responsibility, demonstrate our care and concern, and protect our beautiful home together.
Yangjiang Nanpeng offshore wind farm
ICBC approved a loan of RMB 1.6 billion yuan for the Yangjiang Nanpeng Island offshore wind farm project.
The 401.5MW project features 73 wind turbines and is the first single large capacity offshore wind power project in China. It is also the first offshore wind power project in Guangdong Province that is more than 10 kilometres away from the coastline and more than 10 metres deep.
Completed at the end of last year, the offshore wind farm can generate 1.015 billion kWh of annual on-grid power. This is expected to save 311,500 tons of standard coal and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 828,800 tons every year.
Dubai solar thermal power plant
ICBC is the lead arranger for the construction of one of the world’s largest and most advanced solar thermal power plants.
The 700MW concentrated solar power and 250MW solar photovoltaic power station in Dubai has been jointly invested by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), ACWA and Silk Road Fund.
With a total investment of US$4.3 billion, the project is the largest new energy project financing in the world and has been highly recognised by the market. As the lead bank, ICBC arranged a US$2.5b senior syndicated loan with members from China, Europe and the UAE.
Concentrated power systems generate solar power by focusing a large area of sunlight into a small area.
The light is converted to heat, which is stored in molten salt to supply electricity on demand during the day and through the night.
This method of power generation makes up for the instability of solar power generation and the impact on power grids and ensure the stability of power supply.
The power plant is an important project under Dubai’s clean energy strategy and is expected to provide clean power to more than 270,000 households in Dubai every year, with zero emissions of carbon and pollutants.
The power plant will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.6 million tons and will create 4000 direct jobs and more than 10,000 indirect jobs, providing local employment and economic development.
Baodi district solid waste power generation
With the increasing volume of municipal solid waste in Baodi District, Tianjin, China, the capacity of the original landfill site was not able to meet the needs of the community. To solve this problem, Tianjin Quantai Domestic Waste Treatment launched a domestic waste incineration power generation project.
ICBC granted a loan of RMB255 million yuan to assist with construction. The project began operations in December 2020 and has changed the method of domestic waste treatment from landfill to incineration. It is preventing the pollution of domestic waste into the soil and underground water sources and reducing reliance on fossil fuel-based power and heat sources and CO2 emissions by using waste as a resource for power generation.
• Kevin Xu is Team Head, Corporate & Institutional Banking at ICBC New Zealand.
ICBC is a sponsor of the Herald’s Infrastructure report.
https://www.timmccready.nz/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Infrastructure-Green-credentials-ESG-Dec21.jpg730496tim.mccreadyhttps://www.timmccready.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/TimMcCready_banner.pngtim.mccready2021-12-01 09:36:322021-12-02 12:44:49Infrastructure: Credit for green credentials (NZ Herald)