Friday, August 7, 2009

Another Schoolkid, Mohammad Akif, Injured In Racist Attack. This Time At Linwood College, Christchurch

Mohammad Akif is 15 years old, he was beaten up by a group of unsupervised thugs in a corridor at Linwood College on Tuesday, the assault was said to have been captured by security cameras. He suffered a fractured cheekbone and various cuts and bruises in the attack. See Cameras capture racist attack

He'd only attending the Christchurch school for for two weeks and perhaps hadn't yet honed the skilled avoidance tactics that many immigrant children adopt. Racist taunts such as "curry chicken", "black Indian", "Indian boy" were also hurled at him but this probably wasn't the first time he'd heard those words spoken by those children.

His mother told The Press that this wasn't the first time her son had been the victim of racist abuse at the school and that other children in the Indian community had been bullied too.

The ironic thing is that Mohammad Akif and his family had moved to New Zealand to escape the violence of Suva where their home had been broken into several times by people with weapons. What on earth lead them to think that New Zealand was any safer? Only last month Ryotaro Wright was dumped on his head by 4 racist bullies at Forest View High School and needed surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain. He'd been called a "whale muncher".

Attacks on Indian people have happened many time in New Zealand, the situation got so bad for Indian students in Invercargill last year that mayor, Tim Shadbolt and chief executive of the Southland Institute of Technology Penny Simmonds arranged a meeting with local skinheads in an attempt to smooth things over. See Indian students subjected to racial abuse in New Zealand

Indian nationals in Auckland have also suffered from racist attacks: Nitesh Khanna was attacked on his way to work and Sunil Sharma (named changed) told DNAIndia that he often suffered racial abuse but felt powerless to do anything about it. See Now Indians face racism in Kiwiland. and "members of Indian community face far too much abuse"

A few days ago a study by Debbie Kohner was published and it showed that a staggering 90% of non-European people surveyed in the Nelson and Tasman area had suffered racial abuse of one form or another. See Survey on racial abuse in Nelson and Tasmin.

School bullying second worst in world
For some time now it's been acknowledged that New Zealand is the second worst country in the world for school bullying and that is reflective of a "punitive culture" within the country. See NZ scores second worst in world for bullying in schools. Combine that culture with overt, pig headed and insensitive racism in kids and it's a recipe for disaster, as Ryotaro and Mohammed have found out to their cost.

Our sympathies go out to Mohammad Akif, we hope he makes a full recovery from his ordeal.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

British Man Daniel Macmillan Died In Ferry Sinking

It's been announced that a British man Daniel Macmillan, age 47, was one of the people to have died when the Tongan Ferry Princess Ashika sank overnight, Mr Macmillan was said to have been carrying a NZ driving licence.

For updates, including Royal Commission reports, please see posts under the tag of Princess Ashika

74 people, mostly women and children, are thought to have lost their lives in the tragedy. More here: Tonga Ferry capsizes

The Tongan minister of transport, Paul Karalus, resigned a week after the disaster. His ministry is now under investigation by the Royal Commission. He said that his resignation was not an admission of guilt and that the Princess Ashika was seaworthy but this contradicts statements made by shipping owner and MP 'Uliti Uata who said that the ferry was leaking:
"Princess Ashika was leaking hours before it capsized, with crew using buckets to bail out water because pumps failed to work, it is claimed.

MP and ship owner 'Uliti Uata said the inter-island ferry had begun leaking on its cargo deck soon after it left Nuku'alofa last Wednesday and should have returned to port.

Mr Uata, whose company runs rival ferry MV Pulupaki, said he had inspected Princess Ashika while it was drydocked in Suva, Fiji, just before it went to Tonga.

He said the hull was holed and welds over thin steel plates were not holding. Workers had filled the holes with cement, he said.

He also believes the ship was not suited to sea journeys. "It is a very awful ship, it is designed to operate on smooth water," Mr Uata said. "I believed they had pumps but the pumps did not work properly. The water started to fill up the cargo deck ... They used buckets to try and get the water out ...

"They [the crew] should have come back immediately as soon as they found there was a leak, or go to the nearest port. To me as a ship owner, this was not an accident."

Pulupaki left Nuku'alofa an hour before Princess Ashika on the night it sank. When a distress call was made Pulupaki turned around and plucked most of the surviving passengers from the sea. Mr Uata said sea conditions were normal......"
The ship's captain also had his concerns about the condition of the vessel:
"The allegations follow claims by the skipper of the Princess Ashika, who said the ferry was unseaworthy and the Tongan government knew there were problems with it.
But the claims of captain Maka Tuputupu and others about the ferry's seaworthiness have been denied by Tonga's Transport Minister Paul Karalus.
Mr Tuputupu said the waves were less than one metre high when the ship sank.
He was on the bridge making mayday calls and was the last person off the ship. "Water was up around my head. It rolled over when I was still on the bridge."
He managed to find a hatch and swam several metres to the surface.
He said he was under pressure to sail even though he feared for the ship's seaworthiness.
The Tongan government should take responsibility for the disaster as it knew there were problems with the ship, he said. The Princess Ashika was bought by the government-owned Shipping Corporation of Polynesia, from Fiji just two months earlier.
The MV Pulupaki was the first ship to arrive at the scene of the sinking and pulled survivors from the water. Its owner, Tu'i Uata, said the Princess Ashika "was in bad shape", Radio New Zealand reported.
Workers trying to take rust out of it when it first arrived in Tonga were able to punch their hammers through the hull of the lower deck, he said.
Many community leaders have also claimed the ferry had a poor reputation in Fiji and was to be sold for scrap metal......" full report here
Prime minister of NZ, John Key, has offered help to Tonga with finding a new ferry.

One of the passengers, Viliami Latu Mohenoa who had been travelling on the open deck had his account of the sinking published in WAToday:
"Mohenoa said that after watching a video he went outside at about 11pm (2000 AEST) and saw crewmen bailing water from a lower deck where the ship's engine was housed and the cargo stored.
The buckets were small and crew could not keep up with the incoming water, he said.
"Then suddenly a wave one metre high came and hauled all the cargo, vehicles and forklifts to one side, causing the ferry to overturn and sink instantly," Mohenoa said.
"Me and my co-worker Pau Tupou were very lucky because we were out on the open deck and were able to jump.
"The ferry sunk so quickly that no one was able to do anything.
"And I think the passengers inside just couldn't make it out in time because the ferry just overturned and sank so quickly, in a minute."
By the time he had reached the nearest life raft and turned around to look, the Princess Ashika was gone.
"No one was able to make it out apart from us men. No woman or child made it. It was an unbelievable experience because we just never expected that the ferry would sink."

Beaches Deserted After Toxin Alert

The Herald is reporting that many North Shore beaches are deserted as people take note of warnings issued after two dogs died and numerous others fell ill visiting beaches all over the Haurkai Gulf. It's interesting to see the comments made by one reader

"We live in Taupo and Auckland. When we visit Auckland every three weeks we always have our dogs on the North Shore beaches. About two and a half weeks ago one of our dogs started vomiting and couldn't exercise.

X-rays showed inflammation of the lung linings. Blood tests didn't show anything. At the time the vet did ask if the dog had been near rat poison. (Unfortunately this much-loved dog has since died after being run over.)

We have just been on Auckland beaches again this past weekend and yesterday our second dog vomited. She is okay and we are having her checked." - Gaylene Spencer
For more see the article here: Fear keeps popular beaches almost bare

See also: Mass poison drops scheduled to wipe out pests. Nearby Motutapu and Rangitoto Islands were recently baited with rat poison on two separate occasions in the last couple of months, the last one in the week 9-17 Jul.

As yet tests haven't established the source or type of toxin responsible for the dogs' illnesses. It's thought their symptoms could be unrelated to the death of large numbers of pilchards and of sea birds and dolphins. Tests for toxic algae, which could have been eaten by the dogs, have come back negative.

Test are continuing on the fish for pilchard virus - a form of the herpes virus which affects the gills of this species of fish and causes asphyxiation.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mass Poison Drops Scheduled To Wipeout Pests (updated after death of dogs)

24 June 2009
Fresh waves of animal exterminations are to be carried out on Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands by the Department of Conservation Auckland on Friday of this week, as a break in the weather will provide suitable conditions for the first of three aerial drops of 70 tonnes of 'rat bait' over the next few months. The poison 'Pestoff 20R' containing Brodifacoum is typically used to kill rats but it also used to control larger mammalian pests such as possum.

has a half life of 20-130 days and is highly lethal to mammals and birds, and extremely lethal to fish. It is a highly cumulative poison, due to its high lipophilicity and extremely slow elimination. (source Wikipedia) The estimated fatal dose for a man is 15mg and 0.25mg for a dog. Poison baits or carcasses are deadly to dogs.

UPDATE 4 August 2009: A subsequent drop was carried out in the week 9-17 July. 2 dogs have died recently and 30 others are said to be sick after visiting beaches in the Hauraki Gulf Dead fish, dolphins and penguins have been found further north on the beaches in Rodney. See news report Dogs' beach deaths spark warnings. The North Shore beaches involved - Cheltenham and Browns Bay are very close to the two islands.
Interactive map of Cheltenham and Browns Bay beaches

View Larger Map

Rat poison was also dropped on 90 islands and rock stacks in eastern Bay of Islands in June. At the time Friends of the Earth spokesperson Paul Tucker expressed his surprise that tourists were allowed back on the islands within 48 hours of the drops, saying that it was unheard of. See Project song is all go.

Any stoats, wild cats, rabbits and hedgehogs that survive on Rangitoto and Motutapu will be removed later by trapping, shooting and using dogs. New Zealand has no native land mammals other than 2 species of bat, any animals not considered to be indigenous to New Zealand will be removed from the islands to allow for a wildlife sanctuary for kaka, kiwi and takahe.

Blanket eradication of non-native animals is nothing new in New Zealand, which is the world's largest user of Sodium Fluoroacetate - also known as 1080.

Last week 370 plastic bait stations carrying 20,000 pellets of the cyanide-based pesticide Feratox were laid over 800ha on Rotorua's Mt Ngongotaha in an effort to wipe out Dama wallabies which were introduced almost 140 years ago. The wallabies are said to be a threat to native plants.

The highly contentious and widespread use of 1080 has already caused damage to the country's ecotourism industry and is contrary to the '100% Pure' image so often associated with NZ .

"Poisoning Paradise -- Ecocide in New Zealand"
Hamilton-based film-makers Clyde and Steve Graf made the above documentary in an effort to raise public awareness about the devastating effects 1080 has on New Zealand's fauna, flora and water courses.
"Largely shot in bush areas after aerial 1080 drops, the documentary "goes behind the wall of the forest and shows people the other side of the story", Clyde Graf said.

It shows falcons and other birds dying, freshwater crayfish fighting over submerged 1080 pellets, deer and pigs rotting in creeks, eels eating dead animals in waterways, dead and dying stock, and weka and bush robins picking at 1080 carcasses and baits.

Scientists, university lecturers, doctors, hunters and farmers highlight their concerns about the impact of 1080 on wildlife populations, the forest ecosystem and human health.

The Graf brothers worked on the film for eight months after seeing a weka picking at a 1080 carcass in Kahurangi National Park."

The brothers estimate that hundreds of dogs, ten thousand deer and thousands of endangered animals are killed by the poison every year. Visit their blog here: Grafboys Blog

For more about the background and the effects of 1080 see other posts on this blog: Toxic 1080 and sites such as and the World Health Organisation's Data Sheet 16 on Sodium Fluoroacetate:

"1.4.4 Unintended Effects:
Very toxic to birds, domestic animals and wildlife. High risk of secondary poisoning to carnivorous and omnivorous species from eating poisoned carcasses.

2.3 Toxicity To Non-Mammalian Species:
The entries in these sections are intended to draw attention to
special risks and to give warnings of any needs for special

2.3.1 Fish: fairly low toxicity to fish. No risk from rat baits used
in sewers discharging into natural waters.

2.3.2 Birds: very toxic to birds. Hazard from eating grain baits seems
to be low, but there have been many deaths from eating coyote baits and
from secondary poisoning.

2.3.3 Other species: it is toxic to bees, but there is no hazard under
proper conditions of use. Very toxic to wildlife generally."

New Zealand Aerial 1080 Application

"1080 baits have been used through ground based and aerial application to control possums and other non-native predators in New Zealand. New Zealand's unique fauna and flora is endangered by the rapid spread of possums, introduced into the country last century to create an industry for possum fur.

"While New Zealand's Department of Conservation Doc favors the effectiveness of aerial 1080 application, vocal critics of the application of 1080 claim: "government agencies increasingly use large scale indiscriminate aerial applications to cut costs. Large number of non-target species are destroyed as a result, including deer and native birds. Southern Boobook, a species of owl (mopoke or morepork) is particularly vulnerable through secondary poisoning."
"A positive side effect of blanket aerial poisoning is a temporary drop in rat numbers, but they quickly recover due to the niche created by low possum numbers. The effectiveness of aerial drops is being questioned due to pockets of possum population either resistant to the compound or not taking the bait with the overall numbers bouncing back rapidly. Ground operations using bait stations with sodium fluoroacetate are not as effective as other modern target poisons such as cyanide baits."

New Zealand's Environment Risk Management Authority (ERMA) released in August 2007 its latest review of the matter. The review gives new guidelines for the use of 1080 in New Zealand and concludes that the beneficial effects of pest eradication outweigh the risks."

Warning signs to be displayed for 6 months
The report stated warning signage must be in place for 6 months after application or until it can be demonstrated that baits and carcases no longer pose a risk to dogs. It also recommended that further research be undertaken in relation to the use and effects of 1080 and into alternatives to 1080 for pest control. Research into the aquatic and soil degradation of 1080 is also called for as present data is "limited."

For today's posts see: latest posts

Debbie Kohner Survey On Racial Abuse In Nelson & Tasman

A survey by Debbie Kohner has revealed that more than 90% of all non-Europeans in Nelson and Tasman area have suffered racial abuse of one form or another, from abuse directed at children as young as five to frequent comments from passing cars. It's a shocking statistic. I don't believe that this problem is confined to one region, racism is endemic in NZ and seems to stem from xenophobia in many places. I'd also like to see the figures for how many people of European origin have experienced racial abuse (often from other 'Europeans') because we do hear news reports about accent rage as in the cases of Irish man Robbie O'brien, and the 6 English and Dutch tourists beaten and stabbed in Cashel Mall and anti American vitriol.

Debbie Kohner is a solicitor from Northern Ireland and no stranger to the issues of conflict and racism which she studied whilst in Belfast, there the consequences of irrational and stupid prejudices are all too well known about. She's also the granddaughter of Jewish refugees who fled the Sudetenland during the second world war and so seems superbly equipped as an outsider to define and examine racism in New Zealand with an expert eye.

Her survey included such simple questions as "Have you ever been treated badly because of how you look, the way you speak or where you come from?" Read more here: Racial abuse high in Nelson

See also
Indian students subjected to racial abuse in New Zealand
Racial discrimination in the work place


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