Water Safety – Beacons your life-saving voice in an emergency

Source: Maritime New Zealand

If you can’t call for help, no-one can rescue you.
Experienced climber John and many others understand that well.
When the 57-year-old found himself stuck up a mountain earlier this year, his most important piece of equipment became his personal locator beacon (PLB). Five minutes after activation, his rescue was under way.
It’s the same on the water. If you find yourself in trouble, it’s the lifejacket that will keep you alive, but it’s the emergency distress beacon that will initiate your rescue.
John and others are sharing their survival stories in the Christmas edition of Consumer magazine.
It was also commissioned by Maritime NZ and the NZ Search and Rescue Council to conduct rigorous and independent reviews of beacons and lifejackets. Those reviews are now available online.
Reviewers scrutinised PLBs, Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon devices (EPIRBs), and SENDS, or Satellite Emergency Notification Devices.
Their conclusions on cost, limitations and suitability for certain locations and activities should be essential reading for anyone looking to hit the water or bush around the country, says Justin Allan, Maritime NZ’s General Manager, Rescue Coordination Centre NZ.
Stats from NZSAR show that 1 in 3 land-based rescues are initiated by a beacon and that 90% of those are completed inside 8 hours, with 90% of rescues where a beacon was not used taking 18 hours.
“Distress beacons are the most effective way of letting people know that you need urgent help and where to find you,” says Justin.
Boaties and others are encouraged to take two waterproof ways to call for help.
“Don't rely on a cell phone, have a VHF radio and/or personal locator beacon which is in a waterproof container or bag.
“EPIRBs are the preferred beacons for boats, but PLBs on your person are also ideal for run-abouts, other small vessels and land-based activities,” he says.
“Carrying a beacon will give you the peace of mind that, if you get into trouble, rescue services are contactable, even in remote areas.”
Consumer’s test manager, Dr Paul Smith, says like the choice of lifejackets, “when it comes to emergency alerting devices, it’s critical that the right device is used.
“While satellite messengers (or SENDs) are good for messaging and other non-urgent functions, a PLB or EPIRB is the only way to guarantee you’re sending a distress alert.”
Consumer’s assessment of beacons included the ease of sending a distress alert, and the level of protection from accidental activation.
The testers also considered the impact of wet, cold, or gloved hands on the operation of each device.
For PLBs and SENDs, the testers took account of weight, size, and attachments provided.
The ability to assess the battery status of each device was considered, along with water resistance, buoyancy, battery shelf life and warranty period.

Renewable Energy News – Solar investment to help decarbonise New Zealand’s farms

Source: NZ Green Investment Finance

New Zealand Green Investment Finance (NZGIF) is investing $10m in Solagri Energy to help rollout solar energy to New Zealand farms in a deal announced today.
Based in Canterbury, Solagri provides an innovative ‘solar as a service’ offering tailored specifically for dairy farms in New Zealand. Solagri arrays are normally ground mounted on a quarter hectare close to the dairy shed and provide the farm with low-cost electricity and long term energy price security.
The $10m debt finance facility provided by NZGIF is expected to finance around 120 solar arrays over the next three years, and these arrays are expected to help avoid 36,100 tonnes of CO 2-e emissions over the life of the assets.
NZGIF Chief Investment Officer Jason Patrick says the investment is an exciting step towards decarbonising New Zealand’s agricultural sector.
“Dairy farms require large amounts of energy to operate pumps, store and cool milk, and clean equipment, so energy costs make up a significant part of their overall budget. Solagri has a great solution to that challenge, offering farmers affordable renewable energy – capital free.
“One of the exciting things about Solagri’s product is they install, own and maintain the solar arrays including insurance, cleaning and monitoring of the equipment, so there’s no upfront costs to the farmer. This removes a significant cost barrier to transitioning to solar energy and allows for more predictable energy budgeting since farmers are insulated from energy market fluctuations.
“Given the importance of the rural sector to the nation’s economy, it makes sound commercial sense to invest in their energy needs. The more we can do to assist them to make the shift to affordable renewable energy, the better it will be for our nation as a whole.”
Solagri CEO Peter Saunders says the investment will accelerate the rollout of solar arrays across the country and help Solagri develop its offering in the future.
“As input costs rise across the board and pressure comes on the finances, farmers are looking at different ways to manage their balance sheets. Solagri’s Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) offering gives farmers the price stability and other advantages that come with solar, without increasing their debt burden, and enables them to continue focusing on their investment in core business.
“We currently have eight systems at differing stages of consenting and construction and a lot of new work coming down the pipeline. We’re looking forward to expanding that rapidly in the next few years thanks to this facility from NZGIF.
“Solar energy makes a lot of sense for farmers but there hasn’t been a realistic renewable energy option for them until now. Our PPA-driven model allows farmers to have their cake and eat it too. With no upfront capital cost and reduced energy costs over time, in addition to helping with their annual Sustainability Audit, they can afford to invest in other projects, like new herd management monitoring and automation system. It’s a bit of a no brainer.
“Not only is solar good for the environment, harnessing the power of the sun to power the dairy shed, it makes financial sense too, with our growing customer base enabling us to access many of the benefits of aggregation and pass those on to the farmers through our pricing.
“We’re excited about working with NZGIF and what this investment will allow us to do for New Zealand’s farming community. Every new solar array we build frees up existing hydro-generation to be used in other parts of the economy.
“I’d encourage any farmer who’s looking around for energy options to get in touch. Now’s a great time to make the switch.”
About Solagri
Solagri offers solar as a service to New Zealand farms. It brands itself as New Zealand’s most innovative rural energy business. Solagri’s solar as a service offers direct and indirect benefits:
– Solar installation for no upfront cost
– Farmers can make cost savings
– Reduces the cost of investment required to go electric
– Solagri’s sector experts find solutions for farms
– Supports sustainable agri-business in Aotearoa New Zealand by enabling farms to generate their own renewable electricity from sunlight
For more, see www.solagri.energy
About New Zealand Green Investment Finance (NZGIF)
NZGIF is a green investment bank which was established in 2019 to facilitate and accelerate investment that can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand. We are a long-term, mission-driven investor, providing innovative, flexible and tailored capital solutions to support decarbonisation initiatives across a broad range of sectors. As a limited liability company independent of government, we make independent investment decisions. Our Board and management team have broad expertise including financial markets, investment banking, sustainability, technology and infrastructure. NZGIF invests on a commercial basis; we do not offer concessionary finance. We invest in scalable companies, technologies and products that are commercial-ready and offer low carbon benefits for New Zealand.
NZGIF is not a registered bank.
For more, see www.nzgif.co.nz

Education Appointments – Otago Polytechnic appoints new Executive Director

Source: Te Pukenga

Otago Polytechnic is excited to announce the appointment of Jason Tibble as Executive Director.
Mr Tibble will begin the role on Monday, following the appointment of outgoing Otago Polytechnic Executive Director Dr Megan Gibbons as Deputy Chief Executive Academic Centre and Learning Systems of Te Pūkenga.
“As the Deputy Chief Executive Learner Journey, Jase is known to many staff as well as people outside our organisation,” Dr Gibbons says.
“Jase has excellent strategic thinking, has great community connections and mana.
“I’m confident he will do an excellent job and continue to support and lead the mahi underway at Otago.”
Mr Tibble, who took up the role of Manukura Tuarua: Ara Tauira, Deputy Chief Executive Learner Journey at Otago Polytechnic in January 2022, is excited and humbled by the appointment as Executive Director.
“As a former student of Otago Polytechnic, I can honestly say that my experience here as a teenager changed my life forever,” Mr Tibble says.
“I attribute this directly to the quality of the people we have working here, their passion and expertise, and the strong connection we have with our local community.
“The challenge in front of us all is to retain the DNA that makes Otago Polytechnic special, while still being able to step positively into our future. It’s a fine balance, but if we hold firm to our aspirations and still provide the space for our people to keep doing what they do best, I think we can do something really special for this region.
“Rather than imposing my own views or ideas, I think the most sensible course of action is to coordinate the expertise that already exists and to shape it in a way that maximises our impact.”
Mr Tibble grew up in Dunedin and was previously Regional Commissioner for the Ministry of Social Development and the Regional Public Service Commissioner for all of government in Otago and Southland.
He has worked in New Zealand and Australia in the commercial sector, holding a variety of senior executive positions throughout Australasia.
Mr Tibble has contributed to a number of boards and committees and also has a keen interest in sports and music. He was Chairman of New Zealand Rugby League South Island Zone, and is a former Sport Otago trustee. He was chair of the Just Transitions Oversight Group for Southland, is a current director on New Zealand’s Centre of Digital Excellence (CODE), as well as a director on Grow Dunedin, the Dunedin City Council's independent Economic Development Board.

Education News – “Exciting and humbling” – Otago Polytechnic Executive Director to take up Te Pūkenga DCE role

Source: Te Pukenga
Otago Polytechnic Executive Director Dr Megan Gibbons has been appointed Deputy Chief Executive: Academic Centre and Learning Systems of Te Pūkenga.
“This is an exciting opportunity and one I’m humbled to take on,” says Dr Gibbons.
“It means moving from thinking about delivery in Otago to a national, network-wide area of responsibility.
“My role as DCE will focus on ensuring we have the very best programmes and courses that meet the needs of ākonga and their whānau, industry and our communities.
“The academic framework, programmes, research and delivery are areas that I am passionate about and I look forward to the challenge of helping shaping these as we look to improve educational outcomes for all learners in New Zealand.
Dr Gibbons describes her time at Otago Polytechnic over the past 16 years as the “most fun and exciting time” of her career so far.
“The people at Otago Polytechnic are special. They really care for what we do and why we do it. I thank all my colleagues at Otago Polytechnic for enabling me to develop and lead this organisation. It has been a privilege.
“I acknowledge my appointment to this exciting new role raises questions regarding what this means for Otago Polytechnic as we continue to transition to the new network of Te Pūkenga, which includes a strong regional structure and presence.
“From Monday, Jason Tibble will take over as Executive Director of Otago Polytechnic.
“As a Deputy Chief Executive Learner Journey, Jase is known to many staff as well as people outside our organisation.
“I’m confident he will do an excellent job and continue to support and lead the mahi underway at Otago.
“Jase has strong leadership ability. Before coming to Otago Polytechnic early in 2022, he was previously Regional Commissioner for the Ministry of Social Development and the Regional Public Service Commissioner for all of government in Otago and Southland,” Dr Gibbons says.
“While this change may feel sudden, it comes after a number of years of Otago Polytechnic leaning into the opportunities presented by the Reform of Vocational Education. This is another step on the journey.
“This is bittersweet for me – marking my move from Otago Polytechnic and what we have done together for our ākonga, employers and our communities.
“At the same time, I look forward to continuing to work with many staff in my new role – and taking what I’ve learnt to a national scale, where we can have a far greater impact.
“I believe that to effectively lead academics, you need to be an academic. I also believe it is important to have that Southern voice within leadership at Te Pūkenga.”

Climate News – Marine heatwave developing – NIWA

Source: NIWA

Coastal waters around Aotearoa New Zealand became unusually warm last month, say NIWA.
November 2022 sea surface temperatures (SSTs) have been between 1.1C to 1.8C warmer than average, depending on the region. The north and west of both islands are observing their warmest November SSTs on record (since at least 1981).
NIWA meteorologist Ben Noll says that marine heatwaves conditions could continue into the new year.
“2021 and 2017 saw two of NZ’s most significant marine heatwaves, and we’re tracking warmer than at the same point in those years. Although we are expecting a cooler start to December, there’s an indication that temperatures may become more unusually warm again during the second half of December into January. With NZ experiencing record-breaking marine heatwaves in recent years, we’ll be monitoring to see how this summer stacks up against previous events,” says Mr Noll.
Marine heatwaves are classed as periods of unusually high SSTs (above the 90th percentile) for more than five days. In parts of the eastern Tasman Sea near the west coast of both islands, a marine heatwave has been ongoing for more than six months. Localised marine heatwave events have been occurring in coastal waters near Northland, Auckland, Bay of Plenty, and Fiordland for several months.
NIWA Principal Scientist – Marine Ecology Dr Vonda Cummings says that marine heatwaves can have big impacts for the ecosystem.
“Marine heatwaves can have concerning effects, with heat stress pushing marine organisms towards or beyond their thermal tolerance limits. These events can upset the balance of marine food webs and disrupt ecosystems” says Dr Cummings.
Earlier this year, NIWA released research showing that marine heatwaves are to get longer and hotter through the rest of the century. This will be strongly influenced by human-made climate change, so drastically reducing our emissions is key to slowing the rate of warming. Adapting to the warming that has already occurred will also be important for industry.
The average temperature of the ocean is now 1.5°C higher than it was 100 years ago, and in the past 30 years, the frequency of marine heatwave events has doubled.
“Given the high-impact nature of recent summer marine heatwaves, the marine sector should monitor this situation closely,” said Mr Noll.
NIWA’s Sea Surface Temperature Update gives regular sea surface temperature forecasts for months ahead, combining predictions from eight different climate models from institutes around the world. It shows a risk of continued marine heatwave conditions through summer and into autumn, consistent with La Niña, a climate driver that also featured last summer. 

Health News – Extend $1,000 dental grants to those earning less than living wage

Source: Association of Salaried Medical Specialists

The increased special dental grants which take effect today should also be made available to all earning below New Zealand’s Living Wage, Association of Salaried Medical Specialists’ Executive Director Sarah Dalton says.
Today, the Ministry of Social Development increased the special dental grant from $300 to $1,000 per year. It is the first increase to the grant in 25 years.
However, the grant is only available to those earning the minimum wage ($848 per week before tax). EFTPOS data shows that the average visit to a dentist costs more than $353, so barriers to access will continue.
“Our report shows 40 per cent of New Zealanders delay, or avoid, going to the dentist due to cost,” Dalton said.
“If you earn one cent more than the minimum wage you may not qualify for assistance. It would be great to see the government lift eligibility for these special grants to include anyone earning less than the Living Wage.”
Data collected by ASMS via the Official Information Act shows the amount requested from MSD in special dental grants almost doubled between 2015 and 2020 – from $12 million to $23 million a year.
Dental Treatment Advance Grants, which are essentially loans from MSD, more than doubled from $11 million to $25 million a year.
Adults aged between 18-35 receive the greatest assistance through MSD grants, representing 35 per cent of all dental grants per year.
“The government has taken a positive step by increasing the grant; but more should be done.”
Research released in ASMS’ Tooth be told report and supplementary documents makes the case for universal dental care.
“Ideally, the Government would extend basic dental care to adults. This would make a world of difference to everyone’s health,” Dalton said. 

Health News – Youth vaping and smoking trends moving in right direction, but sustained effort is needed

Source: Asthma and Respiratory Foundation

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ is welcoming findings from the latest youth smoking and vaping survey which shows a continual decline in smoking rates.
“The findings from the ASH Year 10 survey are very encouraging. Smoking rates in this age group continue to fall and regular vaping rates have, for the first time, slightly decreased. The reversal in the youth vaping trend has to be attributed to the sustained mahi of many groups and individuals committed to vaping education and harm reduction, such as the Life Education Trust, the Foundation and specialist researchers and health professionals,” says Foundation Chief Executive Letitia Harding.
The survey shows that daily smoking is now at 1.1% for the students surveyed however daily vaping rates remain high with 1 in 10 Year 10 students still vaping. Regular vaping rates (which includes daily, weekly or monthly vaping) has seen a small decrease from 20.2% last year to 18.2% in 2022.
“While the overall picture is improving, there are still areas of concern. Daily vaping continues to increase for Māori students, with the rates for Māori girls up from 21.3% to 25.2% this year. It is also concerning to see a growth in numbers of students who have never smoked, taking up vaping and numbers of students both smoking and vaping,” says Ms Harding.
These findings show that continued and targeted efforts are needed to turn the tide on youth vaping says Ms Harding. “We can’t take our foot off the brakes now. The success of smokefree initiatives for young people can be seen in the dramatic decline in youth smoking rates over the last 20 years. We need to ensure that vape-free initiatives are also well resourced and supported to protect the health of our rangatahi.”
In addition to vaping harm education, the Foundation would also like to see tightening of vaping regulations to ensure the wellbeing of young people. “We would like a cap on the number of Specialist Vape Retailers in New Zealand, as we already have 1070 of these stores throughout our communities. Also, we urgently want to see the maximum level of nicotine allowed in vapes reduced from 50mg/ml to 20mg/ml in line with EU levels,” Ms Harding says. 

Animal Welfare News – OSPRI reveals NAIT tag research findings

Source: OSPRI New Zealand

OSPRI has announced research findings on National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) tags, to determine whether the tags used in New Zealand are degenerating due to climatic factors in various parts of the country. This was in response to customer and industry concern that the current tags in use may not be fit for purpose in the New Zealand farming environment.
OSPRI’s Head of Traceability Kevin Forward highlighted the importance of this year-long investigation, which was conducted by Callaghan Innovation. “Tag retention was the number one concern farmers express on issues affecting livestock traceability – part of that concern was a perception that tags were falling out earlier than would have been expected.”
“Based on research results of our international partners, and the lack of comparative research in New Zealand, we needed to determine whether the chemical make-up of the tags was a contributing factor.”
NAIT tags from the main producers were collected from slaughterhouses across the country and tested for chemical and physical defects over time. The results found there was no significant change in the chemical composition and hardness of the samples, regardless of age or region. Some tags showed some colour change and yellowing of the plastic, but this was deemed to be a visual change only and did not impact the durability of the tags.
“Now that that chemical composition of the tags and New Zealand’s environmental conditions have been excluded as contributing factors, this allows an increased focus on the other possible causes,” says Mr. Forward.
Callaghan researchers also spent time on farm to investigate tag design features, tag applicators and the practical tagging process. During their time on-location, the main cause of tag failure identified was due to fence wire getting lodged behind the tag. This same failure could be caused by animals feeding in scrub as well.
Another identified point of failure was the ability to install some ear tags with a range of different brand applicators – this can cause issues as using the wrong brand of applicator could damage the tag, and result in the tag being more prone to failure.
With the findings of this research in hand, OSPRI remains committed to supporting farmers by providing education on how best to meet their obligations, including best tagging practices to further increase tag retention rates.

Environment – New wasp approved to counter wattle invasion

Source: Environmental Protection Authority

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has approved the import and release of an Australian wasp to control the spread of an invasive wattle.
The decision to approve the bud-galling wasp ( Trichilogaster acaciaelongifoliae) follows comprehensive EPA assessments that found it will provide a highly specific and sustainable tool to control Sydney golden wattle ( Acacia longifolia).
Based on risk assessments and studies, the EPA considers it highly unlikely the wasp will displace or harm any native species.
The wasp, which is only a few millimetres long, does not sting or bite and there is no risk to human health.
“These wasps are quite docile and are only active for a few weeks a year. They prefer to remain near the host plant, further reducing any possible risk to our native plants and animals,” says Dr Chris Hill, General Manager of Hazardous Substances and New Organisms.
Bud-galling wasps can control the spread of Sydney golden wattle by laying their eggs in flower buds, which induces abnormal growths (galls) that prevent flowers forming and seed production.
Since being introduced in New Zealand in the late 19th century, this invasive plant has spread broadly in the North Island and significantly reduced biodiversity in two of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most threatened environments – dunes and wetlands.
The wattle has had a similar negative impact on biodiversity in countries around the world. It also forms dense thickets that increase fire hazards in areas it invades.
“Risk assessments we carried out found that introducing this wasp as a biocontrol agent will help reduce the reliance on chemical pesticides to combat the Sydney golden wattle, in the long term, and allow native plant species to return,” says Dr Hill.
“This will in turn reduce fire hazards, increase water availability and attract native animals.”
Horizons Regional Council in the Manawatū-Whanganui region applied to import and release the bud-galling wasp on behalf of the National Biocontrol Collective, a group of regional and district councils and the Department of Conservation (DOC).
The EPA publicly consulted on this application and received 49 submissions, with 31 submissions in support,16 opposed, and two neutral.
Find out more about this decision:  HSNO application register | EPA

Govt News – Retirement Commission joins forces with financial sector to get New Zealanders saving

Source: Retirement Commission

The financial services industry has come up with a set of recommendations to work together on to encourage more New Zealanders to save as part of the 2022 Review of Retirement Income Policies.

This was the first time the Government has included a specific term of reference for the industry to undertake in the triennial review and were asked to explore new non-government initiatives to encourage people to save in a complex COVID-19 environment.

New Zealand has had consistently low household savings rates over the last two decades compared to international counterparts in the OECD. A 2021 Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission survey found 58% of New Zealanders couldn’t cover an unexpected expense equivalent to one month’s income, with 33% of people needing to borrow within the first three months if their income were to drop by a third.

Banks and industry have rallied together to contribute ideas, with an expert working group set up made up of representatives from partners of the National Strategy for Financial Capability, including New Zealand’s five largest banks.

David McLean, former chief executive of Westpac and former chair of the NZ Bankers’ Association, was asked by Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightson to chair the group, and says it makes sense that the industry work together in considering solutions to the financial problems facing Kiwis.

“The group has prompted a new dialogue in the sector, where organisations are looking at their individual values and seeing that ultimately, they all share an ambition to improve New Zealanders’ financial wellbeing,” he says.

“A key learning has been the need for shared insights, data and impact measures across the industry to truly understand what is and isn’t working.”

The group have made several recommendations in the Encouraging Savings Report, including the development of a shared resource platform capturing research and insights across the financial services industry – a project already in the pipeline for the National Strategy for Financial Capability.

Another recommendation was for banks, including CEOs, to meet at least once a year, to report on how they are using behavioural insights, research, and open banking systematically to incentivise positive financial behaviour for their customers. The group recommend that if this doesn’t happen, the Government should step in to regulate it under the Conduct of Financial Institutions (CoFI).

Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightson says the group had proved there is a strong appetite among the sector to improve the financial positions of New Zealanders.

“Our National Strategy is nothing without the buy-in, involvement and commitment of the financial services industry. We can see that this community is really driven to help New Zealanders, and as a collective they are capable of making changes that have a real impact.”

Other private saving recommendations in the 2022 Review of Retirement Income Policies include an emergency savings ‘sidecar’ linked to KiwiSaver, driving forward open banking and having products that are culturally appropriate for Māori and Pacific peoples.

The Retirement Commissioner released her final recommendations for the 2022 Review of Retirement Income Policies this week endorsing the suggestions made by the working group and recommending they are actioned.


2022 Review of Retirement Income Policies

The Retirement Commissioner is required by law to carry out a Review of Retirement Income Policies (RRIP) every three years in response to terms of reference set by the Government.

For the 2022 RRIP we have been asked to undertake research relating to three broad areas comprising New Zealand Superannuation, housing and private savings including a focus on decumulation and KiwiSaver.

A summary of the key recommendations is provided in the 2022 RRIP report. More information, including the terms of reference, is available here https://retirement.govt.nz/policy-and-research/2022-review-of-retirement-income-policies/

Encouraging Savings Report

An expert working group looked at what the private sector could do to encourage people to save as part of the 2022 Review of Retirement Income Policies.

This report summarises the research, ideas, and recommendations put forward by this group for the finance industry to get more people saving, lifting their wellbeing. This contributes to the 2022 Review of Retirement Income Policies under Term of Reference 4: ‘New non-government initiatives to encourage people to save in a complex COVID environment, in collaboration with the private sector’. The full Encouraging Savings Report is available here https://assets.retirement.govt.nz/public/Uploads/Retirement-Income-Policy-Review/2022-RRIP/ToR-4-TAAO-Encourgaing-Savings.pdf