Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wespac Shares In Trading Halt

We've just heard that Westpac Banking Corp (WBC.AX), has requested a halt to the trading of its shares today until Thursday, pending the outcome of a court case in New Zealand.

On July 17 the National Business Review reported:

"Westpac faces the largest potential bill of $903 million in the structured finance transaction tax cases being fought in New Zealand, analysts say.

Yesterday BNZ, a subsidiary of National Australia Bank, lost its case in the Wellington High Court involving $654m in unpaid tax and interest but said it is likely to appeal.

Westpac is currently involved in its trial, which commenced on June 30 in the High Court in Auckland. Westpac said it was not appropriate to comment on the BNZ decision....

ANZ has $562m in dispute, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which owns ASB, has $280m in dispute and Westpac $903m in dispute, according to a report by UBS analysts."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Eva Kosanic, French National, Dies In Northland Car Crash (updated)

View Larger Map. The road through Broadwood

Yesterday we wrote about accident blackspots and the dangers presented by posts/poles on roadsides and how some simple measures (warning signs, speed limits, rumble strips, barriers along embankments etc) could reduce the high death and injury statistics on NZ roads. Hours later a French national was killed when the car she was driving failed to take a moderate bend, hit a tree and rolled down a bank.

Reports are that the woman is Eva Kosanic, aged 22. She hit the tree whilst travelling through Broadwood, 48km south east of Kaitaia. Police think that she was driving to Auckland to catch a flight back to Christchurch where she was an intern at Environmental Science and Research. She was due to return to France in the near future. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.

Whilst it's far too early to say why the crash happened we hope that accident investigators will be taking a close look at the road design, presence of warning signs, safety barriers and other relevant safety factors.

Update: A photo of her wrecked car is to the right, a report stated that she may have been in the car for two days before it was discovered.

Her death was the 25th on Northland roads this year, there were 23 last year.

View Larger Map
Eva wasn't the only person to be killed yesterday. Another person died in a single vehicle crash near Matamata racecourse in Waikato just before 11am.
According to the AA
  • New Zealand's Road Safety to 2010 strategy forecasts that 42 lives a year could be saved by improvements in road engineering.
  • Installing rumble strips on roads can reduce crashes by up to 27% by preventing run-off-road and head-on collisions.
  • Installing a barrier along an embankment can reduce run-off-road casualty crashes by as much as 45%.
Update 14 Dec 09
A Northland councillor has admitted that the regions roads are difficult to drive safely, so much so that he called for overseas drivers to undergo stringent testing before being allowed to use them and for visitors to be warned of the dangers:
" He suggested a one-day induction course be mandatory before overseas drivers got behind the wheel in New Zealand. Northland's roads were particularly challenging and visitors should be warned of the dangers. "They (the roads) are windy and much narrower than other places. Plus there are plenty of gravel roads they might come across and have absolutely no experience with....

...This year in Northland three foreigners have died in two separate crashes.
Swedish tourists Emelie Jenny Green and Theresia Andrea Johansson, both aged 20, died in a car crash on February 28 this year on the Brynderwyn Hills (ed. a notorious blackspot). The pair were heading south on State Highway 1 when they were going through a right-hand corner which had a 65km/h advisory speed sign in place. Their Nissan Sunny car spun a couple of times before crossing the centre-line into the path of a north-bound Holden Commodore.

In October a French tourist (ed. you mean Eva Kosanic?) was discovered by a passing motorist in a car partially submerged in a river near Broadwood, 48km south-east of Kaitaia"
It should be noted that Eva was driving on a tarmacadamed stretch of road, to suggest that her death may be attributed in some way to her being a "french tourist" and therefore inexperienced is unbelievable. Eva had been living in NZ for some time before she met her death, she wasn't a 'tourist'.

At the time of the Swedish visitors deaths Whangarei Sergeant Chris Goodall said the road had a "decided history of loss of control accident whenever it rains." and that although the road was three lanes wide there was a tendency for people to "fall off" and to lose concentration.

We suggest that rather than trying to blame the victims Northland should get on and improve its road network for everyone's benefit. The AA has already said what needs to be done, why the delay?

    See also - "Another death on New Zealand's Roads"

    Taito Phillip Field Found Guilty - Sentenced To Six Years

    4 August 09
    Former MP Taito Phillip Field has been found guilty on 11 out of 12 charges of bribery and corruption and various other charges related to obstructing or perverting the course of justice. The case was brought after allegations that Thai nationals received immigration assistance in return for working on Mr Field's property. See also Trouble in paradise

    Mr Field once held the position of Minister outside cabinet, with the portfolios of Associate Minister for Pacific Island Affairs, Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment, and Associate Minister for Justice until he was stood down in 2005.

    Update 6 October
    Mr Field was sentenced today to six years in prison - 2 for perverting the course of justice and 4 for corruption.

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    Accident Blackspots

    This is what a few of NZ's more infamous and unforgiving black spots look like. They can take both visitors and local residents by surprise.

    State Highway 2 near the Red Fox Tavern at Maramarua - "a spot notorious for serious crashes," called the "unforgiving highway" where least 40 people died in the five years to 2005. See also Children face highway to hell

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    Goose Bay, Cantebury. Notorious for truck accidents -as many as 20 truck crashes happened here every year.

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    Glenda Drive/ SH6 intersection near Frankton. Named as a "death trap" is now due for a $4million upgrade

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    SH1 near Ohingaiti is a "notorious piece of road" and a "well known trouble spot". Work was already underway to straighten the bend, but not soon enough for the last driver to crash here when a car crossed the centre line and crashed head on into another

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    Junction of Jackson's Road and Old Renwick Road, Marlborough. The intersection is dangerous because trees on its southwestern corner block views of approaching vehicles.

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    Dome Valley, north of Auckland hs claimed at least 19 lives since 2001, the Warkworth to Wellsford stretch of road is ranked the 5th most dangerous in the country.

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    SH2 near Te Puke has been called one of the country's most dangerous roads, notorious for being "dark and dangerous"

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    Numerous accidents occured at around the Petone Esplanade / Horokiwi turnoff.

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    State Highway 2 from the bottom of the Bombay Hills to Mangatarata, called a "killer road"

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    Centennial Highway between Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay a "notorious accident blackspot"

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    Stretches of State Highway 2 near Mangatawwhiri are also a "notorious accident blackspot"

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    Cable Bay Road / SH6 Intersection in Nelson described as "a notorious accident blackspot"

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    The 'Notorious Akerama Bends', Coroner Brandt Shortland - conducted an inquest into the deaths of two Korean tourists at the Akerama Bends in September 2007 - called on roading authorities to straighten the S-bend or put up clear warning signs. (no street view available)

    View Larger Map

    There are many theories explaining the shockingly high death and injury rates on New Zealand's roads. Whilst the young driving age and drink-driving plays a not inconsiderable part there are some locations where road design and layout are so unforgiving that the smallest driver error could potentially result in disaster.

    According to the AA

    * New Zealand's Road Safety to 2010 strategy forecasts that 42 lives a year could be saved by improvements in road engineering.
    * Installing rumble strips on roads can reduce crashes by up to 27% by preventing run-off-road and head-on collisions.
    * Installing a barrier along an embankment can reduce run-off-road casualty crashes by as much as 45%.

    KiwiRAP (NZ Road Assessment Programme) gives safety rating figures for a number of NZ's roads, this is a table showing the ranking for roads on the basis of high collective risk (click for a larger image)

    Further information may be found here: KiwiRAP risk tables

    Danger Seen In Power Poles Close To Road

    A few weeks ago we raised concerns about the positioning of power poles after 3 people were killed in Christchurch when their car hit a power pole whilst travelling at low speed along an urban street. Just hours after the incident a young man was killed when his car hit a pole in South Elgin.

    Now the Otago Land Transport Committee is questioning the positioning of power poles on rural roads as part of a fresh look at road safety. This is from a report of a meeting they held to discuss and was published in the ODT by Mark Price:
    "At its meeting in Dunedin last week, the committee also called for a lower legal alcohol level, an increase in the driving age, to 16, and changes to the give way laws.
    But it was a series of photographs presented by Southern district road policing manager Inspector Andrew Burns which sparked comment on the dangers presented by the position of power poles.
    The photographs were of a corner in Southland where two 18-year-old men died in December 2007, when their vehicle failed to take a bend and hit a power pole on the edge of the road.
    Insp Burns said the driver had not been drinking and had done "nothing wrong", apart from losing control as the corner "tightened up on him".
    A crash analyst could not work out why he crashed, and could only think that a lack of signs at the approach to the corner was the problem.
    Insp Burns said if the pole had not been there, the car would have simply ended up in the flax bushes.
    The two who died were Michael Joseph Blackburn, of Otatara, and Raymond Douglas McKee, of Winton.
    Insp Burns said signs had still not been put at the bend, almost two years after the crash.
    Waitaki member of the committee Alistair Mavor said local authorities and lines companies should consider more carefully where they placed poles.
    "They've got this aerial trespass rule.
    "They don't like to trespass over the property boundary away from the road reserve, so they put power poles, in some cases, close to the road....
    Committee member and Queenstown mayor Clive Geddes said use of road reserves by infrastructure companies was increasing, and there was a need for a national policy.
    Dunedin City Council transportation planning manager Don Hill said in countries like Sweden, the approach was to reduce the speed limit where there were such hazards along road sides.
    He said it would take a "quantum shift in mindset" for that approach to be introduced in New Zealand."
    Other hazards which drivers were unaware of that could adversely influence the outcome of an 'accident' are ditches and fences.

    The time is long overdue for a 'quantum shift in mindset' and this new initiative could be the first step in the right direction, more transport committees should follow suit and pressure must be brought for a national policy to be agreed on and introduced. The impetus must be maintained.

    New Zealand has the the third highest number of motor vehicle deaths, twice that of countries such as Great Britain and almost three times that of Sweden.

    Last year 36 people died when their vehicles hit power poles or posts, 173 received serious injuries and 745 had minor injuries.

    37 people were killed in September, up from 24 in the same month last year and 409 have died in the last 12 months.

    Other deaths involving power poles:
    Female dies in Matamata

    Norsewood Gunman Puts Lower North Island Into Lockdown

    View larger map. A police block was set up at the junction of Otawhou and Ormondville Roads

    Residents of the lower north island towns of Dannevirke, Ormondville and Takapau have been advised to stay inside, lock their doors and stay away from windows after a body was found in a car abandoned by a gunman on the run.

    Police closed State Highway 2 between Norsewood and Waipukurau while they hunted for the man who had also fired at police and shot at a farm worker, injuring him in the arm.

    The offender was described as a European, aged 46 and highly dangerous. He was later named as David John Bourke from Wanganui.

    The full story can be found here: Gunman on the loose, Norsewood residents told and Gunman on loose near Dannevirke

    Sunday, October 4, 2009

    Stuart Martin Assault - Second Youth Jailed

    Another young thug has been sent to prison for the vicious beating of Scottish tourist Stuart Martin in Napier last February. From HawkesBay

    "Hamish Bowman, 17, appeared in the Napier District Court yesterday and was sentenced to three years, nine months jail for his role in bashing 29-year-old Stuart Martin, in February, The Dominion Post reported.

    Joshua McConville, 17, was given the same sentence in July.

    A third youth, Darrin Wright, has pleaded not guilty."

    For background see blog posts tagged Stuart Martin


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