This week, we looked at the role trees play in our urban environments, the scourge of silicosis that’s hitting tradespeople hard, the hard numbers when it comes to the politicking around government contractors and consultants, the big communications breakdown in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle and how to prevent it next time, and the global sailing series dropping anchor in Christchurch this weekend.

Plus, a special edition of our Long Read featuring legendary New Zealand musician Shayne Carter.

Whakarongo mai to any episodes you might have missed.


Putting trees back into the urban jungle

Around the world, cities are trying to boost their tree cover – and here in New Zealand, it’s no different.

Dignan Street in Auckland’s Point Chevalier is full of liquid amber trees. Photo: The Detail/Tom Kitchin

While trees have been in the news for smashing into houses and damaging powerlines during the recent storms, there are many benefits to having them in our streets, parks and backyards.

There are the mental health benefits – but trees aren’t just nice to look at. They can protect against low-level weather events, provide a home for birds and bugs, and work to cool and purify the air people breathe.

Tom Kitchin goes on a walk through Auckland’s urban forestry with Erika Commers, Auckland Council’s urban forest team leader, and talks to Justin Morgenroth from the University of Canterbury’s school of forestry.


Silicosis: How engineered stone is killing tradies

It’s a kitchen and bathroom designer’s dream. 

Cheaper, more varied in colour and less porous than marble; better looking and more hard wearing than Formica; engineered stone is the material of choice when you’re renovating. 

But the workers who custom-cut it are paying the price – in the form of a deadly lung disease caused by breathing in tiny particles of silica.

Alexia Russell talks to the Sydney Morning Herald investigative reporter who blew the story open, Adele Ferguson, and co-chair of the New Zealand Dust Diseases Taskforce, Alexandra Muthu.


The questions over government contractors and consultants

The money governments have spent on consultants and contractors has tripled in a decade, leading to demands from some commentators for the “consultocrats” gravy train to be cut.

Contractors and consultants are again in the sights of an opposition party. Photo: Getty Images

It’s not new, but the debate over consultants and contractors has flared again, with spending hitting a new record of $1.2 billion for 2021/22. National is promising to slash the spending by $400 million and put the money into subsidising childcare.

Sharon Brettkelly speaks to RNZ‘s Phil Pennington and NBR co-editor Hamish McNicol.


Preventing a communications blackout in the next big disaster

The fibre-optic cables that connect us to phone and internet services are just a few centimetres in diameter.

Widespread power outages during Cyclone Gabrielle had knock-on effects for communication networks. Photo: RNZ/Marika Khabazi

“They’re not overly robust,” University of Auckland computer science senior lecturer Ulrich Speidel tells The Detail.

“When you’ve got a situation where the hillside comes down … it takes those cables out with it.”

And that’s exactly what happened when Cyclone Gabrielle hit vast swathes of the North Island last month.

Tom Kitchin speaks to Speidel and infrastructure planning expert Richard Mowll about the fragility of New Zealand’s communications network.


SailGP hits the water in Christchurch

SailGP is often compared to the fast-paced action of motorsport’s top-tier competition, Formula 1.

Liv Mackay and Blair Tuke on Team New Zealand’s SailGP cat. Photo: SailGP

Nine foiling catamarans out on the water, reaching speeds of up to 90km/h as they race for line honours.

Eleven events all around the world, in places like Bermuda, Saint-Tropez, Copenhagen, Sydney.

And this weekend, Christchurch will get to experience the action.

Tom Kitchin speaks to sailor Phil Robertson, Sail World New Zealand editor Richard Gladwell, and Newsroom‘s LockerRoom editor Suzanne McFadden.


The Detail’s Long Read: Immortal Bangers and Me

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

Shayne Carter performs with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in 2022. Photo: North & South

This week, it’s Immortal Bangers and Me, written by Shayne Carter and published in North & South‘s April 2023 issue.

Shayne Carter joins The Detail to discuss his fascination with classical music and read his story aloud.

Shayne Carter of Straitjacket Fits and Dimmer played two live shows with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in Christchurch and Dunedin late last year. The “classical fanboy” recounts his experience.


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