The week that was 7 - 13 May | The Jackal

14 May 2011

The week that was 7 - 13 May

Just as the protest flotilla headed back to the Raukumara Basin, the Brazilian oil company Petrobras announced that it had finished oil exploration work and their exploration vessel had left the North Island's eastern coast. The company says its seismic survey work ended last Friday. Petrobras was going to be exploring for oil from between 45 to 60 days, however they ended the exploration after only 32 days.

The exploration in the Raukumara Basin has been met with protest’s by Greenpeace and local iwi since it started. The National Government has not released figures to show the cost of Police, Navy and Airforce intervention in the protest.

A large contingent of protesters failed to disrupt the National party’s regional conference in Gisborne over the weekend, despite efforts to raise as much noise as possible about the Petrobras oil exploration off the East Coast. The protest was aimed at coinciding with John Key’s arrival to speak at the party’s dinner function, but protesters did not spot Mr Key as he jogged past them in Customhouse Street before the dinner, trailed by his minders.

Mr Key dismissed some of the issues they raised, saying there was no evidence to suggest that the work of Petrobras would have any impact on sea life. He had met with Ngati Porou and Whanau Apanui representatives last week and “they had reiterated they were not opposed to progress or mining but wanted reassurance that it be done in a way that was environmentally sustainable.” Key said. This has been shown to be untrue.

15 people have been granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, to argue for a jury trial. On the 9th Dec last year, Auckland High Court judge Winkelman had ordered that a trial was to be heard by a single judge. She originally suppressed all of her judgement, but that order was varied in a minute released on 21st December. Police raided 300 houses and initially arrested 18 people in the Operation 8 raids of Oct 15th 2007, which were implemented under New Zealands anti terrorism laws. However Solicitor-General David Collins ruled against continuing under that legislation. The fifteen defendants now face firearms charges with five of them facing charges of participating in an organised criminal group. 95% of all judge alone cases result in convictions.

The Greenland government has officially granted permits to the Scottish company, Cairn Energy, to begin new oil drilling in the Arctic environment, Ben Ayliffe from Greenpeace said:

"The approval of these permits means that this summer oil drilling off the pristine Greenland coast will happen further north, at greater depths and deeper into the winter months than ever before. But despite the significantly greater risks that the government of Greenland is taking with its fragile environment, Cairn Energy has given no indication that it will take extra precautions to prevent an accident like the one that happened in the Gulf of Mexico last year. Instead this relatively inexperienced company is keeping its oil spill emergency plan hidden from the public."

Protesters are being blamed for the interference of explosives set by a seismic survey team for petroleum prospectors in Taranaki. A seismic survey contractor for Todd Energy buried a chain of explosive charges 20 metres deep Mt Taranaki and the western coast, but returned to find detonator wires cut and reburied. Contracting company BTW says lives were put at risk and it suspects the group Climate Justice Taranaki, which last year promised direct action against drilling. However Urs Signer, spokesperson for Climate Justice Taranaki said campaigners are not responsible for disarming the explosives.

His Royal Highness Prince Charles spoke about sustainable food production at the Future of Food conference in Gaston Hall this week.

"It is surely time to grasp one of the biggest nettles of all and re-assess what has become a fundamental aspect of our entire economic model. Responding to the problems we have with a ‘business as usual' approach… offers us only short-term relief," the Prince of Wales said to an audience of about 700 students, professors, policymakers, industry leaders, guests and panelists. "We cannot possibly maintain the approach in the long-term if we continue to consume our planet as rapaciously as we are doing," he said.

He emphasized that the challenging circumstances of the 21st century, waning fresh water resources, soil depletion, increased droughts and floods and a continued reliance on fossil fuels among others, make it impossible to continue to produce food responsibly under the current model.
"If we do not work within nature's system, then nature will fail to be the durable, continuously sustaining force she has always been. … We have to maintain a supply of healthy food at affordable prices when there is mounting pressure on nearly every element affecting the process." Charles said.
After the most tornadoes ever experienced causing extensive damage and many deaths in America, mother nature is once again showing its power with the Mississippi River flooding reaching nearly 48 feet on Tuesday. This soaked low-lying areas with enough water to require a massive cleanup.  In states downstream, farmers built homemade levees to protect their crops and engineers diverted water into a lake to ease the pressure on levees around New Orleans. Inmates in Louisiana's largest prison were also evacuated to higher ground. The Memphis crest is below the record of 48.7 feet recorded during a devastating 1937 flood.

Beekeepers fear an alarming phenomenon that is wiping out bees and leading to reduced food crops around the world has reached New Zealand. Colony collapse disorder has caused American beekeepers to report losses of up to 90 per cent in some cases, prompting fears of crop shortages.

Honeybees are the planet's most effective pollinators, and industry leaders in New Zealand are calling for an investigation into the problem. National Beekeepers Association joint chief executive Daniel Paul said reports coming in to the group were causing concern. In the past six months, it had received reports of significant bee losses – up to 30 per cent in some places. The reports had come from both islands, with big losses in Canterbury and Poverty Bay.

The value of bees to the economy is estimated at about $4 billion a year because of New Zealand's reliance on fruit, vegetable, dairy and meat, and fibre exports, all of which rely to some extent on pollination by bees.

Concern has arisen about a new family of insecticides called neonicotinoids, which are used to coat seeds and control pests. They are neurotoxins and are believed to interfere with a bee's nervous system. Association vice-president Barry Foster said international studies had shown neonicotinoids induced chronic mortality in bees.

In yet another horror story of people fleeing Libya in order to stay alive, dozens of African migrants were left to die in the Mediterranean after a number of European and NATO military units ignored their cries for help. The recent political turmoil and military conflict in north Africa have fuelled a sharp rise in the number of people attempting to reach Europe by sea, with up to 30,000 migrants believed to have made the journey across the Mediterranean over the past four months. Last month more than 800 migrants of different nationalities who left on boats from Libya never made it to European shores and are presumed dead.

Malaysia will accept 800 asylum seekers who entered Australia illegally by sea in a groundbreaking deal between the two countries to tackle people smuggling. In return, Australia will resettle 4,000 registered refugees living in Malaysia, according to a joint government statement late last Saturday. Australia has long attracted people from poor, often war-ravaged countries hoping to start a new life, with more than 6,200 asylum seekers arriving in the country by boat last year. Most are from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iran and Iraq, and use Malaysia or Indonesia as a starting point for a dangerous sea journey to Australia.

"This landmark agreement will help take away the product people smugglers are trying to sell - a ticket to Australia," Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.

Prime Minister John Key and Finance Minister Bill English laid the ground for a tough Budget next week, including cuts to KiwiSaver and Working for Families. Mr Key described the KiwiSaver scheme as "wildly successful at one level" because the 1.67 million who had signed up had far exceeded predictions but "at the end of the day it is not affordable in its current form.” Asked when it became unaffordable, after two and a half years in power Key said: "Bluntly it has become unaffordable when New Zealand is no longer running the big surpluses that the previous Labour Government thought were there." The New Zealand dollar dropped almost half a cent after the comments.

Labour's Finance spokesman David Cunliffe drew attention to the fact the New Zealand superannuation fund had made a return of 32% Mr Cunliffe said Crown debt, would have been reduced by $375 million if contributions had been maintained. The National Government predicted a $2.4 billion pre-election deficit, however Bill English has estimated that to be $15 billion now.

John Key's Government has slashed support for accident victims and is claiming it as a success, said the Green Party. "This Government has been deliberately undermining ACC and is making it harder and harder for accident victims to get support, and they now have the heartlessness to call it a success," said Green Party ACC spokesperson Kevin Hague.

The Government announced this week that it has made savings in the non-earners ACC account but had been deliberately undermining ACC and is making it harder and harder for accident victims to get support, and they now have the heartlessness to call it a success. They have cut services across the board - sexual abuse victims, people suffering hearing loss and accident victims with knee and back injuries are being denied medical support. John Key's Government needs to stop cost cutting by denying accident victims surgery. These cut backs are forcing accident victims to go to the courts to get ACC support, where justice is delayed - often for years, the Greens said.

An Otago University epidemiologist says child poverty is leading to a huge increase in severe skin conditions among Maori and Pasifika. New Zealand has one in five children living in poverty. Associate professor Michael Baker says incidence of the skin conditions has doubled over the past two decades, with Maori children almost three times more likely than Pakeha to be affected. 
“There are some families who have inadequate amounts of hot water and soap for washing, getting their children to see a doctor early is difficult because of transport costs, and also the high cost of after hour’s consultation with a GP so these are all barriers that are affecting the poorest groups in New Zealand,” Dr Baker says. 
Typhoid fever has been confirmed in a kiwifruit worker in the Bay of Plenty. Other workers have also been infected and Zespri has had to destroy $800,000 worth of produce that could have been contaminated. The worker came to New Zealand under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, however neither Zespri nor New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers would name the orchard, the worker, or the country from which the worker contracted the infection, which was reported to health authorities on Saturday. The decision to scrap kiwifruit the worker may have handled came after an investigation by health authorities and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry this week.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been awarded the Sydney Peace Foundation's gold medal for exceptional courage in the pursuit of human rights, in an award ceremony that took place in London this week. He was only the fourth person to ever receive the award in its 14-year history and was praised for challenging government secrecy and championing people's right to know. The whistle-blowing website enraged Washington by publishing thousands of secret United States diplomatic cables and threats against Mr Assange’s life had been made.

"We think the struggle for peace with justice inevitably involves conflict, inevitably involves controversy. We think that you and WikiLeaks have brought about what we think is a watershed in journalism and in freedom of information and potentially in politics." the foundation's director Professor Stuart Rees said.
He also criticized the Australian government, saying it must stop shoring up Washington's efforts to "behave like a totalitarian state," and said it was "appalled by the violent behavior by major politicians in the United States."