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

This week, we talked about the burgeoning concerns over artificial intelligence, talked to two former political party presidents about their hidden role, visited a food bank operating in the wealthy North Shore, looked at the fight to keep foot-and-mouth disease out of our farms, and finished the week with a new Supreme Court case trying to hold big corporations liable for contributing to climate change. 

Whakarongo mai to any episodes you might have missed. 

Artificial intelligence: Our dystopian future?

Artificial intelligence systems running rogue might seem like the stuff of science-fiction, but these systems are increasingly common in many high-tech elements of society, from self-driving cars to digital assistants, facial identification, Netflix recommendations, and much, much more.  

Photo: Getty Images

The capabilities of artificial intelligence are growing at pace; a pace that’s outstripping regulatory frameworks.  

And as AI systems take on more and more complex tasks and responsibilities, theorists and researchers have turned their minds to the question of catastrophic AI failure: what happens if we give an AI system a lot of power, a lot of responsibility, and it doesn’t work out in the way we anticipated? 

Emile Donovan speaks to Otago University law professor Colin Gavaghan, director of the Centre for Law and Policy in Emerging Technologies. 

Party presidents: The power behind the politics

It’s been a helluva couple of weeks for the National and Labour parties, each beset by their own personnel scandal.

Sue Wood addresses a crowd after being elected National Party president. Photo: Supplied

While we’re most familiar with the parliamentary side of our parties, headed by a party leader like Labour’s Jacinda Ardern or National’s Christopher Luxon, there’s also the side fewer people see: the broader party organisation, a body headed up by the party president.  

Presidents don’t usually keep a high profile, despite having a lot of responsibilities, like mustering campaign finances, dealing with internal dramas and political scandals, and overseeing candidate selection. 

The Detail speaks to two former party presidents about their tenure, the nature of the position, and their takes on the recent goings-on. 

The food bank on the North Shore

Sophie Gray runs the Good Works Trust food bank. 

And she’s doing it from a place you might not expect – in Hillcrest on Auckland’s North Shore, one of New Zealand’s wealthiest areas, and just up the road from some of the country’s most expensive real estate.  

Sophie Gray. Photo: Alexia Russell

You might think a food bank on the North Shore would be on fairly light duties. But things have changed. 

Every day she gets requests flooding into her inbox from various agencies – including Māori social services, the Ministry of Social Development, Victim Support, Hospice, Barnados and Oranga Tamariki – to help families in crisis.  

“It costs around $450 a week to rent a garage to live in on the Shore. Every single motel and apartment building on the North Shore is emergency accommodation. You’ve got whole families living in a motel unit with a tiny little motel fridge and a two-element burner while they’re waiting for accommodation that they can actually afford to live in,” says Gray. 

Foot-and-mouth: NZ’s doomsday disease

In May of this year, Indonesia confirmed its first case of foot-and-mouth disease – or FMD – since the nation was declared FMD-free in 1986. 

Photo: Lynn Grieveson

Given Indonesia’s proximity to Australia – one of our biggest trading partners – and, indeed, to Aotearoa itself, this rang biosecurity alarm bells. 

FMD is a huge threat to New Zealand’s agricultural sector. Agriculture minister Damien O’Connor described the spread of the disease here as “doomsday” for the farming community. 

On today’s episode of The Detail, Emile Donovan speaks to associate professor of veterinary epidemiology Carolyn Gates about what FMD is and does, what precautions New Zealand is taking, and what impact it might have if the disease breaches our borders. 

Catching climate change through the courts

It’s not every day that you see one person suing a group of massive corporates worth tens of billions of dollars. 

But that’s exactly what’s happened this week.  

The Supreme Court in Wellington. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

Mike Smith (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu) is an iwi leader and climate change activist. He’s taking seven of New Zealand’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters to court – among them, big hitters like Fonterra and Genesis Energy – on the grounds that these big corporates have breached a duty of care to New Zealanders by materially contributing to climate change.  

He’s arguing on some fine, fairly novel points of law. The courts have never before recognised any sort of duty not to contribute to climate change. If Smith wins, he’ll have changed the way New Zealand fights climate change – but that’s a pretty big if. 

Emile Donovan speaks to BusinessDesk reporter Victoria Young and Victoria University law professor Geoff McLay.

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