Friday, October 16, 2009

100% Pure NZ - Kawerau Mill Can Continue To Pollute River For 25 Years

Another example of how the phrase 100% pure NZ is starting to sound a little hollow.

Tasman Pulp and Paper Mill in Kawerau can continue to pump effluent into the Tarawera River, known as the 'black drain' and emit gas and dust for the next 25 years after its resource consent was renewed recently.

The commissioners when approving the consent admitted that the quality of the river was degraded as a result of the discharges, but said called this case an exceptional circumstance, outweighed by social and economic benefits the mill provided in the forestry industry.

 As far as we can tell there is no pressure on the owners (Carter Holt Harvey and Norske Skog) to clean up their act.

Amongst the protestors to the resource consent were  The Green party, mill neighbours and Maori. The June edition of the Whakatane Beacon stated:
"The Green party submission, lodged in the names of MP Catherine Delahunty and her partner Gordon Jackman, a former Greenpeace activist, said the Norske Skog and Carter Holt Harvey applications showed a lack of commitment to further improving their discharges to air and water, and to investigating alternatives.

They said the mills relied on using the Tarawera River as a drain and had breached the Treaty rights of tangata whenua including Ngati Awa, Ngati Rangitihi and Tuwharetoa.

“We do not accept that using the Tarawera as a drain is the only option for the mills to operate and provide jobs in the region,” Ms Delahunty and Mr Jackman said.

They said the 35-year consent terms sought by “a polluting industry” were unacceptable and if the consents were granted the terms should be restricted to 10 years.

They cited the dark colour of the Tarawera River and its “dioxin-contaminated fish”, as reasons for their concerns.

Ms Delahunty and Mr Jackman said the mills emitted a range of highly toxic substances to the air, including benzene, volatile organics and chlorine compounds.

They disputed claims by Norske Skog and Carter Holt the effects of these discharges were no more than minor...."
It doesn't inspire confidence that the same principles won't apply to the mining companies whom the government may allow to access vast tracts of previously protected conservation land to exploit their mineral wealth, estimated to be in the region of $140 billion, almost seven times as much as tourism brings in. The estate under consideration is said to include oil reserves in Fiordland National Park and gold and coal in Kahurangi and Paparoa parks.

Green MP Catherine Delahunty has drafted a Member’s Bill that would prevent polluters from being granted consent to indefinitely pollute waterways under an “exceptional circumstances” clause. It would limit the length of consents granted under exceptional circumstances to five years.

How long until NZ can no longer pretend it is clean, green and 100% pure?

See also: 'Does NZ deserve its clean green image?' in the Herald and the reader responses to this question.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Waitakere's Stormwater Drainage Complaints - Response Times Questionable

During the news coverage of Aisling Syme's tragic death it became clear that the drain in which she's drowned had been causing a problem for a number of years. Waitkere council had received four complaints in five years about it: the drain repeatedly blocked and overflowed.

A homeowner made a complaint about the drain 24 days before Aisling went missing. In addition, Landlady Stacey Baker told the press that she'd made the most recent complaint to the Waitakere City Council a week before Aisling disappeared, after heavy rain moved the 20kg lid of the stormwater drain which was found ajar on the day Aisling went missing. Allegedly the council told her that "the lid blows off number 5"

It then, allegedly, took the council 6 days to get around to inspecting the drain, only to find that large willow tree roots were blocking it and it needed to begin "the process of deciding how best to go about removing them" unfortunately for Aisling and her family that decision hadn't been made by the day she died.

A six day response time - if this is true what sort of service is that? And what's worse, this drain had been causing problems for at least 5 years and it still hadn't been resolved.

The drain was last flushed in 2007 after it silted up, the tree roots had grown into it sometime after that. But, the council knew the lid "blew off" and yet they still did nothing to protect the people in the vicinity? If that is proved to be true some would call it negligence, a gross breach of its both its Duty of Care and of Health and Safety at Work legislation.

Other councils have very rapid response times for missing manhole cover complaints - at Manukau Water it's a "Priority 1" job, meaning it's looked at within an hour. Mark Reynolds of Manukau Water Ltd told One News "that might mean putting a temporary cover on it if it's missing, or putting on a replacement cover". Metro Water has a similar response time and Watercare installed 150 nets in manholes to prevent injuries after the covers were removed by vandals. (see More hands make light work)

Folole Muliaga
It brings to mind the death of Folole Muliaga who died after the power to her home and oxygen machine was cut off by a contractor on the orders of Mercury Energy for non payment of bills. The incident drew attention from all over the world, much the same as Aisling's disappearance has. See
"Mother on an oxygen lifelines dies after energy firm cuts the power over £61 arrears" and "NZ coroner: Power cut contributed to woman's death

We have a feeling that Waitakere's perceived shortcomings with regards to the repair and maintenance of its storm water system is going to result in a massive interest into the coroner's investigation of Aisling's death. We think it won't be long before a sacrificial lamb is found within Waitkere Council to take the blame for it all and you can bet it won't be from among the elected representatives.

German Tourists Attacked in Paihia

There's been another attack on tourists in Northland, this time in Paihia at around 3am today on School Road.

Two German tourists reported to police that they were attacked in the early hours of this morning, According to a report on 3 News the two men are aged 19 and 23, suffered cuts and bruises when they were robbed of their passports, cash, German driver’s licenses and other personal items.

View Larger Map, School Road, Paihia
The attacks are bound to re-ingnite the debates over crime and tourist safety in Northland. It comes hot on the heels of other well publicised attacks and robberies in the region including
* Two American tourists who were robbed of their backpack in Shipwreck Bay in September.
* Threee Chinese tourists who were robbed south of 90 Mile Beach at month earlier
* Anthony Cressend, a French tourist, who was beaten and robbed at a campsite in Ahipara.

View Larger Map

See also posts under the tag "Tourist Attacks"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

One Dead As Car Plunges From Bridge At Whangarei Falls - Updated

View Larger Map

One person has been killed after a car came off the road at Kiripaka Bridge and plunged into the Hatea River at Whangarei Falls shortly before 3pm this afternoon. The name of the deceased person has yet to be released.

We believe this to be the 7th death on New Zealand's roads this month.

15 October
The deceased man was later named as Mr Rex Henwood who was said to have been in his 50s.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Aisling Symes search - Child's Body Found

Police investigating the disappearance of Auckland toddler Aisling Symes tonight held a press conference to deliver the devastating news that the body of a young child had been found in a drain. The location is now being treated as a crime scene.

We'd just like to extend our heartfelt and deepest condolences to Aisling's family for the tragic loss of their beautiful daughter, our thoughts and prayers are with them this evening.

Tuesday 13 Oct
The Herald is running a story about Waitakere District council having received complaints that the 20kg cover over the drain in which Aisling was found 'blew off' when the drain surcharged during periods of heavy rain. Full story here


Woman Killed On SH2 South Of Napier

A woman in her sixities was killed this morning when her car collided with a truck on SH2 south of Napier at around 7am. The cause of the crash has yet to be established. We are saddened by another death on a New Zealand road and our sincere condolences go to her family and the truck driver.

View Larger Map

State highway 2 between Napier and Hastings is ranked 1st nationally for High Collective Risk (or crash density) by KiwiRAP - the New Zealand Road Assessment Programme. SH2 north of Napier to Bay View is ranked 3rd.

The measure for Collective Risk is the total number of fatal and serious injury crashes per kilometre over a section of road.

Srikanth Rayadurgam Disappearance - Indian High Commission Concerned

From Yahoo News

"The Indian High Commissioner to New Zealand is seeking a briefing from Auckland police over the disappearance of an Indian student.

Srikanth Rayadurgam, 23, disappeared on his way to class at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) 10 days ago.

His family have accused police of shifting resources off his case to the search for missing toddler Aisling Symes and questioned whether race was a factor.

Mr Rayadurgam's disappearance was being widely reported in India and had prompted the Indian High Commissioner to seek a one-on-one briefing with investigators, TVNZ reported tonight.

His family believe he may have been the victim of foul play."

Other news reports say that he may have been robbed - he was recorded on CCTV withdrawing $250 dollars from an ATM close to his college on Queen Street at 2.17pm 1 Oct, that was a couple of hours after he left home on his way to AUT. When his wallet was found the following morning on a cycle track on Curran Street a few kilometres away, it was empty except for $10 which could have been easily missed by someone rifling through it.

The rest of his belongings were found at Westhaven Marina and included a shoe without a lace, his wallet, cellphone, jacket and backpack. They were stuffed under a rock below the tide line His bank accounts and cellphone have not been used since he vanished.

Mr Rayadurgam, 23, was from Hyderabad and had graduated in hotel management from the Indian Institute of Culinary Arts in Begumpet, he arrived in New Zealand in February to take an advanced diploma course at AUT University, He was living with his sister R. Padma Priya, and brother-in-law Nagesh Babu, in Mt Albert, Auckland. He has no other family in New Zealand. His family have said that his disappearance is out of character.

Agastya Pesarya, President of the Indian Student Association said, “Our association has been trying the best to trace Srikanth. I have also written to Indian High Commission to look into this matter with immediate effect,” he said.

We are concerned too about his disappearance, it seems highly irregular, we fear the worst but are hoping he'll turn up safe. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.

For other posts about overseas student safety in NZ please see:

Google search "New Zealand portrays 'safe' image to attract Indians"

Indian students subjected to racial abuse in New Zealand

View Larger Map - Route from Westhaven marina to AUT

View Larger Map, his wallet was found on Curran Street, near the marina

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Madeleine McCann's Parents Pray For Missing Aisling Symes


"Kate and Gerry Mccann said their 'thoughts and prayers' were with Angela and Alan Symes and missing toddler Aisling.
The little girl disappeared on Monday as her mother was clearing out the home of her late mother in a quiet Auckland neighbourhood.
A thorough police search of the area failed to locate the little girl, and over 40 detectives are now working on the case.
They now believe she has probably been abducted.
Aisling's father, originally from County Waterford, made an emotional appeal for anyone with any information to speak to police.
"These recent days have proven to be the most harrowing of our lives," he told a news conference.
"No sleep, we feel like we're barely existing. Sort of surviving every moment, not knowing where Aisling is.
"Is she near us? Or has she been moved far away? Is she being treated well? Things like, has her nappy been changed?
"These thoughts churn through us as we huddle close as a family."
The family were inundated with messages of support including one from the McCanns.
Kate and Gerry said: "We wish Aisling's parents the strength and support they will be needing at this most painful time, and we join them in hoping for Aisling's safe and speedy return."
Following an intensive search of a 3km radius, New Zealand police are now conducting door-to-door interviews and speaking to known offenders in the area.
They also wish to speak to an Asian woman in her 30s who was walking a dog on the afternoon Aisling disappeared and was seen talking to the little girl.
Meanwhile, the toddler has been put on border alert in a bid to ensure she is not taken out of the country.
"Our primary aim is to have Aisling returned to the safety of her family as soon as possible," Inspector Gary Davey said.
"Aisling hasn't been seen since about 5.15pm on Monday the 5th of October and, as every hour passes, her family, friends, police and members of her community become increasingly distressed....."
Aisling went missing from her late grandmother's house in Longburn Road, Henderson, West Auckland on Monday 5 October. Our thoughts are with her family, along with our prayers for her safe return.

Another Death On New Zealand's Roads

picture Herald on Sunday

Andrew Thomas Elwood, aged 19, died when the car he was driving crossed a centre line and collided with another car, it then plunged 2 metres down a bank at 7.20pm on Friday. Sunset was around 7.35 that evening so it would've been light still, it's not known at this time if sunstrike would've been a factor but it had rained recently.

According to a report in the Herald locals say that the location of the crash at Fisherman's Point, Whangarei Heads is known as an accident blackspot.

A resident, Ian Kippenberger, has been lobbying the council to put safety barriers on the roadside. He has been driving this stretch of road for 28 years and has been campaigning for improved safety measures for some time.

In June a car plunged 5 metres into the harbour near Fisherman's point just before 9am. Fortunately the female driver was unhurt on that occasion, she'd driven round a corner with a negative camber and lost traction on the road which had become 'greasy' after rain.

You may recall that in some posts recently we've highlighted that according to AA information
  • 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%.
Yet scores of crashes are still ocuring even though accident blackspots are well known about deaths and serious injuries are still happening. What will it take to reduce the carnage on New Zealand's roads?

Our deepest sympathies are with the friends and families of Andrew and the other people involved in the crash, we hope that improvements are now made to this road.


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