the long, long saga of the Transmission Gully highway

from the Radio NZ website:

TG works

The first shovels broke dirt on the planned Transmission Gully Motorway in 2014.

But nearly six years later, the project creating an inland route connecting north Wellington to the Kapiti Coast is flailing.

Costs have spiralled out of control; natural disasters diverted resources elsewhere; construction shortcuts have forced large sections to be rebuilt; and Covid-19 has stalled progress with labourers caught out of the country and legal clauses in the public-private partnership triggered.

In today’s episode of The Detail, Emile Donovan speaks to Newsroom’s Dileepa Fonseka about the difficulties plaguing the project, and when the rubber might finally hit the inland road, and to Wellington historian Gabor Toth about the tortuous route.

Full article including 20 minute audio.

U.S. unemployment fell in May

The U.S. labor market snapped back to life in May, restoring a chunk of the jobs it lost in the first two months of the coronavirus pandemic while facing big obstacles in the months ahead.

After two months of carnage, employers added 2.5 million jobs last month, the most jobs added in a single month on records dating from 1948. The jobless rate fell to 13.3% from April’s 14.7%, a post-World War II high.

Full story

Arbor Day planting at the Pharazyn Reserve

Arbor Day 2

Pharazyn east

Today was Arbor Day in NZ and to mark the occasion, 1800 native saplings were planted in the Pharazyn Reserve. They included: Tauhinu (Ozothamnus leptophyllus), Taupata (Coprosma Repens), Tikouka, NZ Cabbage Tree (Cordyline Australis), Kanuka (Kunzea Ericoides), Akeake (Dodonaea viscosa), Ngaio (Myroporum laetum) and Mahoe (Melicytus Novae-Zealadiae).

The Waikanae schools have been involved in this work for several years, but pulled out today because of the bad weather forecast, so council Parks and Reserves staff did the work.

The vegetation that you see now in the Pharazyn Reserve has almost all been planted since a tornado in 2011 devastated the pine trees that were there previously.  The transformation in that time has been very impressive, thanks to dedication and regular maintenance by both council staff — notably biodiversity manager Rob Cross — and volunteers.  Geoffrey and Margaret are the WCB appointees on the 5-member focus group which oversees the stategy and we are both delighted to be involved.

from the End of Life Choice Society

This is one of the referenda that voters will decide in conjunction with September’s General Election.  Although the Mainstream Media will lazily call it a “euthanasia” referendum, it is not — it is about Assisted Suicide in very controlled situations.  There is an important distinction. —Eds


I hope all went well with you during the long days of lockdown.

Now there are fewer than 100 days till the Referendum (and the General Election)! Since for most of us in New Zealand, the COVID-19 crisis appears to be diminishing, this is when we have to ramp up to full gear.   We need to reach for the compassionate hearts of the majority of New Zealanders who support the EOLC Act.

The good news: there are an increasing number of independent groups around the country speaking out in support of Assisted Dying e.g. The Doctors’ Group, Yes for Compassion and a large number of New Zealand nurses. However, we still have to contact as many people as we can by the end of August- for this we need your help:

Are you a member of any organisation that encourages serious discussion such as U3A, Rotary, Book groups or any other similar organisation?  Please let them know that we are happy to send someone along to talk.

The public libraries are willing to put up carefully worded notices which explain the need to understand assisted dying. The National Committee has prepared a range of this material which we can provide, if you can make the initial enquiries. Please ask your local library if they would accept a notice and then let me know through my email address.

If you have any personal contacts in the media (Newspapers, TV, radio – whatever) please let us know so we can get our message across.

If you find that people you speak to are confused, tell them to visit – then vote YES to “I support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force” at the General Election.

Assisted dying is spreading across the world and people are welcoming the peace it can bring to terminally ill sufferers. Now we have the opportunity to make it our right, too.

Ngā mihi nui, kind regards

Mary Panko
President, End-of-Life Choice Society

a southbound steam goods train crosses the Waikanae River bridge, 1949

NZR Ab on Waikanae Bridge 1949 L=John Le Cren

A photo taken by John Le Cren of the Railways’ Publicity Department.  The gravel bed of the river was clearly at a significantly higher level than it has been in the last few decades; no doubt it was lowered as a result of regular deluges causing flooding.  Compare with the recent photo in this post.

Kapiti start-up programme to help bring business ideas to life

Info from the council:

business ideasBudding Kāpiti businesses and entrepreneurs can now register for a free start up programme aimed at bringing great business ideas to life.

The Pop-Up Business School, which is a comprehensive 10-day course consisting of online and in-person workshops, covers everything from starting a business to online sales to networking and is something an that emerging business owner or anyone interested in knowing what is involved in starting a business should find helpful.

Not just new businesses can benefit, but existing small business facing change and have some ideas on how they might do that.

Now in its third year in Kāpiti, the programme is delivered by Pop-Up Business School Aotearoa with support from Kāpiti Coast District Council, WellingtonNZ and the Ministry of Social Development.

Some 60% of participants in 2019 have either started, or are in the process of starting a business.

Spots are limited to 75 participants, so it is recommented that people register now at PopUp Business School Aotearoa website.

Local businesses are also encouraged to enter the annual Electra Business and Innovation Awards and Wellington Gold Awards. The Electra Business and Innovation Awards celebrate innovation and best business practice across all industries and sectors in Kāpiti and Horowhenua, and this year include a COVID-19 Innovation award.

Enter online for the Electra Business and Innovation Awards here before 5 July and the Gold Awards here by 2 July.

Water issues involve both Fish and Human health

Ashley River

Rex Gibson is a scientist and ecologist working with the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers on environmental issues. In the article below he looks at the failure of central and local government to take the need for clean waterways seriously.

Government backing away 

Opinion by Rex Gibson

The Labour, NZ First and Green Parties all campaigned in the last election on promises to clean up New Zealand’s waterways. However, disappointingly, the latest announcements are as close to a National Party approach as you could get. 

The stream fencing is a good public relations exercise, but three metre margins is a “one-size-fits-all approach” that takes no account of the variability in soil types to transfer nitrates in particular from paddock to waterway. Government has known for some time that artificial nitrogen fertiliser is a major contributor to groundwater nitrate levels yet is imposing only a token limitation on its use. 

Why? The vested interests in the artificial nitrogen sales have clearly had their way at the expense of public health.

Recent work by the New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers using the sophisticated NICO Water Nitrate Analyser has shown that the health of Ashburton residents is already at serious risk from this pollutant. 

Sixty seven water samples from household water bores in and around Ashburton were tested. Most were from farms or lifestyle blocks.  The readings ranged from 13.2 down to 0.06 mg N/L. 

Cancer Risk

Mike JoyWhat do the figures mean? They were referred to Dr Mike Joy (Victoria University of Wellington). He stated “of the samples taken: 

  • 90% exceed increased significant risk of colo-rectal cancer (CRC) levels. 
  • more than 80% were in the group where there was a 15% increased risk of CRC.
  • many were even higher, 54% exceed half current Maximum Allowable Value (MAV). the Ministry of  Health trigger level 
  • 10% exceed MAV. 

Dairying in CanterburyThis situation is occurring in dairying areas across the country. Clearly we have a freshwater crisis that is fast becoming a human health crisis. The costs to Cantabrians of the unrestrained intensification that led to this freshwater contamination as well as other impacts; like less water availability, are becoming more obvious every day. I’m sure this will be looked back on as a very dark time in Canterbury’s History revealing the utter failure of Environment Canterbury (ECan).

The analysis shows that fish are at risk

To the anglers, the data means that only 27 of the 67 water sources would still support trout, cockabullies and other native fish etc., (i.e. the 27 were below the toxicity level for trout of 3.5 mg/L). 

All of the rest – 40 in all – would not, and were also above ECan’s precautionary maximum value for Christchurch water as approved after the proposal by the Waimakariri Water Zone Committee (3.8 mg/L).

A recent Colmar Brunton poll showed that over 70% of New Zealanders still see water quality as a major concern. 

The latest proposals do nothing to significantly reduce the potentially lethal nitrate levels, or the long-term costs for future generations in cleaning up the ongoing environmental poisoning inflicted by the present industrial farming model.

(First published in the magazine for The Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of NZ Inc

objective analysis of the George Floyd incident

By Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

Last Monday, May 25, George Floyd died in police custody after an arrest in Minneapolis. Floyd had moved to Minneapolis trying to “start a new life” after a long prison sentence. According to one account, “Floyd was charged in 2007 with armed robbery in a home invasion in Houston and in 2009 was sentenced to five years in prison as part of a plea deal, according to court documents.”

On the night of his death, Floyd was arrested after a complaint he had tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. He struggled with the police and, after he was put in a patrol car, he fell out of the car onto the pavement. At that point, Derek Chauvin, one of the arresting officers, left Floyd on the ground and restrained him by putting his knee on Floyd’s neck. He kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes. Floyd lost consciousness and died about I hour later. Chauvin clearly used excessive force against Floyd.

I have so far left out the key fact that you need to know in order to understand what has happened since then. Floyd was black. Immediately after Floyd died, a hue-and-cry went up that claimed that Floyd’s death was just the latest in a long list of incidents in which police kill blacks.

Police have indeed killed many blacks, but they kill many whites as well. In fact, police kill more whites than blacks. According to the informative “Ideas & Data” blog, “In contemporary political discourse, there’s an awful lot written about black people being unfairly killed by police. Such writings are normally in response to a particular incident of this supposedly occurring. Of course, these are merely anecdotes and in a nation with 300 million people you can come up with a new anecdote every month for something that basically never happens. You can also create a general impression of racial bias if stories about white people being killed by police are less sensationalized than stories featuring black people.

If we turn from anecdotes to data, this narrative very quickly falls apart. Numerous organizations provide estimates of the rates at which black people are killed by police.  Generally, these estimates are not too far off from each-other. For instance, The CDC says that around 27% of people killed by police are black. A sociologist used data from to argue that number should be 30%. The FBI puts it at 32%.

By contrast, Black Americans account for 13% of the total population, 38% of violent criminals, and 53% of murders. Black people also account for 40% of those who murder police officers, and so probably instigate around 40% of potentially lethal confrontations with the police (FBI, 2014).

Thus, black people are underrepresented among those killed by police relative to their representation among those who commit violent crimes, who commit murder, and who kill police officers.”

Full article

Is NZ in Chemical Cuckoo Land?

Bird and insect sounds that are disappearing

By Tony Orman

Shining cuckooThe arrival of the migrant native bird the cuckoo used to be eagerly listened for around 1 October. The bird is small and is more often heard than seen, identified by its distinctive whistling call repeated several times. But this summer in Marlborough, I heard only two or three.

Yesterday I saw a kingfisher as I drove to the river. The kingfisher has markedly declined in numbers in the last few years. Once I would frequently see several or more sitting on roadside power lines. Now only occasionally while fishing the Wairau River, I might hear the kingfisher’s distinctive call.

On the upper Wairau River while trout fishing, there is no song of the cicada but only silence. Cicadas are important as food for insectivorous native birds such as fantail, rifleman, whitehead, grey warbler, fantail and others. For trout they are a considerable part of the summer months’ diet.

The decline of native bird life

But it’s not only cuckoos, kingfishers, cicadas and other life that is silent. Agencies which should be concerned, are mute too. Birds have almost certainly declined drastically but bureaucracies and bureaucrats are thriving in number and dominance.

The Department of Conservation (DoC) is just one bureaucracy that is duty bound by an act of Parliament to protect native birds such as cuckoo and kingfisher and invertebrates such as cicadas. 

But it is strangely silent on the demise of native bird life such as the native cuckoo and kingfisher and of insects.

Hippos and Rhinos

Nor does the Marlborough District Council seem to show the slightest concern. Its Pest Management Strategy was recently approved by council and drew from some councillors, words of warm praise. 

Yet the same strategic plan bizarrely excluded the rambling Old Man’s Beard as a pest because it is so widespread.  This reflects council’s inability and utter failure to combat it. In the same breath, the plan inexplicably declared wallabies a pest, although none exist in Marlborough. In 150 plus years the marsupial has only just started to spread from its original liberation point in South Canterbury.

I quipped to a Marlborough District Council “pest” officer, well if non-existent wallabies are a pest, perhaps rhinos and hippos could be listed as pests. The officer was not amused.

Council would rather chase imagined pests than deal with real, increasing pest plants. Not only mute they seem deaf to the ominous signs of ecological collapse. 

As a teenager in the 1950s and for a couple of later decades, frogs croaked by every stream or marshy hollow and catching tadpoles was a major pursuit for youngsters. Now they have gone. Bees are struggling in numbers.

Evening mayfly hatches on the river are almost non-existent, so are after dark caddis fly (sedge) hatches. There’s a big, big decline in insects banging into and being squashed on car windscreens after dark in country areas. 

Are these apparent declines in numbers of wild creatures symptomatic of an ailing and declining ecosystem?

Few Moths too

Nearer home, moths in dozens no longer cluster around street lights or lighted house windows. Is any authority or agency concerned? Overseas there is growing concern.

A year or so ago, the International edition of The Guardian reported that the biomass of flying insects in Germany had dropped by three quarters since 1989, threatening an “ecological Armageddon”. 

Insects are the vital pollinators and recyclers of ecosystems and the foundation of food webs everywhere. In the United States, scientists recently found the population of monarch butterflies had fallen by 90 percent in the last 20 years, with bumblebees dropping 87 percent. 

Researchers are deeply worried that a whole insect world is silently going missing. It is a decline verging on loss that could have deep, dark, unknown consequences for the planet.

Undoubtedly chemicals have to be a major suspect in the downward spiral of wildlife.

Are we dowsing an environment with an unprecedented mixture of chemicals? Household effluent contains bleaches and detergents that did not exist forty years ago. Are we dumping upon the environment via urban waste-water systems and widespread spraying of the country-side with agri-chemicals, insecticides and pesticides, a “cocktail of chemicals” of unprecedented volume and variety?

An indictment of the ignorant, short-sighted lack of respect for the environment is that many urban areas still discharge sewage into waterways, either regularly or in substantial rainfall times. Chemicals, rather than cutting and composting weeds, is used on water ways.

Diazinon and 1080 are lethal for aquatic life

DianzinonNaturally farming practices have sought greater efficiencies and production. But don’t blame farmers. The authorities are at fault. DDT was replaced by diazinon for aerially spraying for grass grub. Although banned in the EU, its use is un-restricted in New Zealand. 

Diazinon is “lethal to aquatic life” and water bird life. That should concern agencies like DoC and Fish and Game.

1080 drop1080 originally developed as an insecticide “by-kills” other life such as birds and animals. In essence, it’s an “ecosystem poison.” The DoC aerially drops 1080 on huge areas of wilderness public lands.

Science paid to suit

Around Marlborough’s Wairau valley, there’s a virtual monoculture of vineyards. Vineyards are regularly dowsed with sprays. What does science say? Unfortunately science is a confused mess corrupted by a system of commissioned, paid research providing financial motivation. 

Mike MeadsSome scientists have spoken out. But the system comes down heavily on them as it did on an eminent entomologist the late Mike Meads, who warned of long-term ecosystem damage following aerial 1080 drops at Whitecliffs in Taranaki.

The fury that descends on any scientist who steps out of line will ensure that their career and reputation will be in tatters. Consequently few buck the system.

Is New Zealand in Chemical Cloud Cuckoo Land?

Are hippos likely to be on Marlborough’s pest lists?


(First published in the magazine for The Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of NZ Inc)

firsthand experience of the mental health impact of Lockdown

By Eva Churchman

Yesterday I visited a friend in Wellington.  When I arrived there were three police cars around the the end of the cul-de-sac and three neighbours were talking to each other on the footpath.

I went and spoke to them and discovered that the reason for the police cars was something had happened in the house next to my friend.  The previous day the wife of the man of the house had gone distraught to one of the three neighbours on the footpath about her husband having “gone off the deep end” over losing his business due to the government’s continuing petty restrictions on the business’s ability to trade and that the people who were employed in it were now without jobs.

It wasn’t necessary to inquire further what had happened, it was obvious.

Although I had seen similar stories on the TV current affairs, it was a shock when this happens to someone you have seen around for several years.

I feel that the high level bureaucrats and the present cabinet ministers on their big salaries just don’t appreciate the very negative consequences of their silly restrictions which don’t affect the sick, but the healthy.  Unfortunately, there is probably going to be more such sadness in the months ahead.