Ombudsman – Disability rights report highlights challenges under lockdown

Source: Office of the Ombudsman
A new report from New Zealand’s Independent Monitoring Mechanism (IMM) highlights the realities and challenges disabled people faced during the COVID-19 emergency.
The report, Making Disability Rights Real in a Pandemic, Te Whakatinana i ngā Tika Hauātanga i te wā o te Urutā, examines New Zealand’s adherence to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Disability Convention) during the COVID-19 emergency from late March to mid-June 2020. New Zealand’s IMM partners are the Disabled People’s Organisations (DPO) Coalition, the Ombudsman, and the Human Rights Commission (HRC).
At the centre of this report are the stories of disabled people as they lived through this troubling time.
These stories have shown resilience, strength, and commitment. Some stories have been distressing, others demonstrate caring and inventive responses.
The Disability Convention requires signatory governments to protect and promote the rights of disabled people. In particular, Article 11 requires governments to uphold disability rights in situations of risk and emergency, and put in place measures to protect and ensure the safety of disabled people.
Making Disability Rights Real in a Pandemic provides recommendations for future pandemic planning to ensure New Zealand is well equipped to guarantee disabled people’s rights are upheld during future humanitarian emergencies.
While the report tells of some positive experiences, it also notes that the restrictions imposed under various Alert Levels highlighted, and exacerbated, some existing inequities in disabled people’s enjoyment of human rights.
However, there are also instances of greater connectedness, of collegiality, and a sense of more inclusive community.
The report strongly recommends collaboration in decision making with tāngata whaikaha Māori (disabled Māori). The report also makes 23 other recommendations across seven sectors – access to essential goods, services, and spaces; decision making, participation, and data; access to information and communications; education; health; work and employment; and access to justice and disabled people in places of detention.
The COVID-19 report follows the publication of Making Disability Rights Real, Whakatūturu Ngā Tika Hauātanga, the third report of IMM on the adherence to the Disability Convention in New Zealand, in June 2020.

First Responders – Middleton chemical spill update

Source: Fire and Emergency New Zealand
Fire and Emergency New Zealand is attending a chemical spill in Middleton, Christchurch.
Crews were called to the scene at 12.35pm this afternoon.
On arrival they found 1000L of nitric acid had been spilt.
Working with police, a cordon was put up around the area. The cordon is still currently in place.
The spill is now contained. We currently have 25 personnel in attendance, who are working to clean up the remainder of the spill.
They are doing this by applying a neutralising agent.
We are expecting to be there for the rest of the day.

Investments – Guardians publishes white paper on the 2020 Reference Portfolio Review

Source: New Zealand Superannuation Fund

The Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation, the Crown entity that manages the NZ Super Fund, has published a white paper documenting the outcome of its 2020 review of the Fund’s Reference Portfolio.

The Reference Portfolio is the basis on which the majority of the Fund is invested, and represents the single biggest driver of Fund returns. It is designed to gain broad, low cost access to listed global investment markets, in order to maximise the Fund’s returns without undue risk to the Fund as a whole. It is also a benchmark for active investment.

The review reaffirmed the Reference Portfolio’s strong weighting towards growth assets, retaining an 80% allocation to growth assets (equities) and 20% to fixed income assets (bonds). An existing 5% allocation to listed New Zealand equities also remains unchanged. There has been a minor change to the structuring of the global equities exposure within the Reference Portfolio. Further details are contained in the paper.

The Guardians expects that over the long-term the Reference Portfolio will return 6.8%, 2.8% above the estimated risk free (Treasury Bill) interest rate, a proxy for the cost to the Government to contribute to the Fund.

The Reference Portfolio will next be reviewed in 2025.

The paper is the latest in a series that provides insights into how the Guardians invests the NZ Super Fund. It can be downloaded here: Papers/Reports/Reviews.

Environment – Advisory: New Zealand continues to disregard biodiversity targets, lobbies for more bottom trawling

Source: Greenpeace
Wednesday, 20 Jan: New Zealand is fast developing a reputation as a South Pacific vandal, says Greenpeace, as the government continues to fight against increased ocean protection.
At the upcoming meeting of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO), starting on January 26, the New Zealand delegation looks set to stand alone in arguing for minimal protection of seamounts, which are important biodiversity hotspots.
New Zealand will also argue to increase orange roughy catch, a slow-growing fish species caught through bottom trawling.
The New Zealand delegation, as per their submissions ahead of the meeting, will argue that bottom trawl fishing should be allowed to continue as-is, even though it’s known to destroy deep-sea corals and other vulnerable marine life.
Other nations at the meeting, including Australia, will be pushing for tightened rules to prevent some of the damage from bottom trawling, and are also backing a review of bottom trawling rules in 2022.
In contrast, New Zealand has made one conservation proposal, to ban bottom trawling in areas deeper than 1,400m. In reality, trawlers do not fish below 1,250m, so this rule would do nothing to stop bottom trawling damage.
Greenpeace has described this proposal as “meaningless greenwash.”
In the last year, New Zealand was the only country to bottom trawl in the South Pacific, and that’s despite an NZ owned ship being accused of bottom trawling in a protected area in the region.
In 2019, Talley’s vessel the Amaltal Apollo was placed on SPRFMO’s provisional fishing blacklist due to the alleged offence, but the New Zealand government successfully lobbied to get them taken off the following year.
The government promised to prosecute Talley’s to avoid them being blacklisted, but two and a half years later, prosecution of the company has not been completed. Talley’s vessels have continued to bottom trawl the South Pacific Ocean since.
In November 2020, Greenpeace and a coalition of environmental groups handed a 50,000 strong petition over to government, calling for bottom trawling to be banned on seamounts.
Jessica Desmond, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace, says New Zealanders are tired of hearing how our government is failing to protect the oceans, and that they want to see action.
“There has been a pattern of New Zealand governments putting industry over oceans protections both domestically and in these South Pacific meetings,” she says,
“New Zealanders are over it. It remains to be seen if the new government and Minister for Oceans and Fisheries will take this in hand, and ensure marine biodiversity is protected for all.”
Submissions from members of SPRFMO, including New Zealand, Australia, the European Union and the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition are available on this website ahead of the meeting.

Education – Pilot of new NCEA subject a significant step towards parity for Māori knowledge

Source: Ministry of Education
More than 30 secondary schools and kura across the country will be piloting the new Māori Performing Arts subject at all NCEA levels and for University Entrance this school year, marking a significant step towards ensuring parity for Māori knowledge in our education system, said Ellen MacGregor-Reid, the Deputy Secretary, Early Learning and Student Achievement.
Around 900 students in both English-medium and Māori-medium education settings will be studying Te Ao Haka, as the new Māori Performing Arts subject is called, earning credits towards their NCEA this year.
“This is a significant step in our efforts to ensure Māori knowledge, culture and approaches to learning are valued, recognised and supported in accordance with the Government’s obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi, and to enable all young New Zealanders to choose from a full range of pathways to further study or work,” Ms MacGregor-Reid said.
“Through this and other changes being made to NCEA, we are demonstrating the Government’s commitment to ensure the education system delivers for all and supports every young New Zealander to succeed.”
Te Ao Haka is a performance-based art form grounded in knowledge of Māori culture, language and identity. Students of Te Ao Haka develop a range of skills and qualities (including interpretive and communication skills, leadership, and lateral and critical thinking) that can support them with a strong foundation to pursue further studies or career pathways, and enhance their life skills.
Ms MacGregor-Reid said the introduction of Te Ao Haka was among a number of changes seeking to enhance the learning pathways available for students and to ensure the knowledge that is gained is recognised as valuable.
“The changes address recommendations, made during the 2018 review of NCEA, that te reo Māori, tikanga Māori (Māori way of doing things), and mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) are valued and supported in the curriculum and NCEA in the same way as English language and culture,” she said.
As part of the NCEA Change Package, the Government committed to develop new ways to recognise mātauranga Māori, build teacher capability, and improve resourcing and support for Māori learners.
In line with this, draft NCEA Level 1 materials for Te Reo Māori and seven wāhanga ako or learning areas aligned to Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (TMoA), the Māori-medium curriculum, have been developed so far and were released today for public feedback (closing 20 February 2021).
Following feedback, the TMoA-derived subjects at NCEA Level 1 will be piloted in 2022. They are expected to be available for all kura and wharekura to start delivering in the 2023 school year. TMoA materials for NCEA Levels 2 and 3 will follow a similar process, with piloting in 2023.
-The Ministry of Education continues to develop the subjects derived from Te Marautanga ō Aotearoa (TMoA), the Māori medium curriculum. At Level 1, the subjects are Pāngarau (Maths and numeracy), Hauora (Health and well-being), Pūtaiao (Sciences), Te Reo Rangatira (study of Te Reo Māori), Tikanga-ā-iwi (Social Sciences), Hangarau (Technology) and Ngā Toi (The Arts). Further subjects are also under consideration and will be announced from April 2021.
-Following the introduction in 2008 of TMoA, the first curriculum uniquely developed for Māori-medium settings, the Ministry began developing achievement standards derived from TMoA for Māori-medium settings. Previously, Māori-medium settings used translations of achievement standards derived from The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) when NCEA was introduced in 2002.
-The current NCEA achievement standards, derived from TMoA, were rolled out between 2014 and 2017. However, support resources have been limited so kaiako continued to use English-medium achievement standards and support resources from the NZC.
-There are around 50 Māori-medium schools and wharekura that deliver TMoA curriculum in te reo Māori at least 50 per cent of the time.

Education and Training – WelTec graduate gets dream engineering job straight out of course

Source: WelTec

Philip Moore has long loved learning the mechanics of how things work, and as a child was always taking things apart and putting them back together. When he completed his engineering degree at WelTec in 2019 he was offered his dream role doing just that – as his first job after study.

Philip grew up in Picton. His drive to learn about engineering was so strong that when he was in Year 11 he moved schools so he could take a class focused on this subject area.

“I always knew that I wanted to study engineering, so when I finished college I enrolled in an engineering course at a university,” explains Philip. “I think, like a lot of teenagers, I had it drilled into me that I had to go to university to be successful, but I soon realised that it wasn’t for me.”

“I found the course was too theoretical and it was honestly a bit boring. I asked around and heard good things about WelTec so I decided to drop my university course and enrol there.”

The change in course did the trick and Philip hasn’t looked back.

“The hands-on approach of the WelTec course was definitely more what I wanted out of my degree. I found the course work challenging and engaging and there was a good balance of theory to go alongside the practical work. I think what I found so useful about the course was the fact that the tutors were very good at showing us the practical implications of what we were learning for later in our careers. It made it feel relevant and worthwhile.”

After completing his degree Philip applied for a position at Omeo Technology on the Kāpiti Coast. He impressed the Omeo team and was quickly offered the role.

“I applied for a role at Omeo Technology straight out of WelTec for a position that required at least two years experience. I didn’t think that I had a chance, but because it sounded like my dream job I thought it was worth a shot. I was so excited when they offered me the job!”

Omeo Technology is an innovative company based in Ōtaki, that creates electric, self-balancing mobility devices which can be driven completely hands free.

The two-wheeled devices have all-terrain capabilities, meaning beaches, forests, tracks and unsealed pathways are now accessible for those restricted to a mobility device, and occupants can travel at speeds of up to 20km per hour.

Chief Product Officer at Omeo Technology, Peter Steenberg explains: “Omeo personal mobility devices give options for people who can't, or find it difficult to walk but still want to get outdoors where their other mobility devices may not allow. Our devices mean that owners can travel almost anywhere that has pedestrian access.

Our devices can be life-changing for people. Some customers have even found new job opportunities have become available to them since switching to Omeo.”

Peter was in charge of interviewing Philip for the role and was impressed by his technical ability and his practical approach.

“Philip excelled in the first stage of his interview,” explains Peter. “He brought in his final project from his time at WelTec and I asked him to develop a live dashboard with diagnostics, and do a 3D design/model. He was given four days to do it in – which we thought would be a stretch – but he sent it back to us in three and to a very high standard!

“After stage one, we brought him back and realised that his hands-on approach and willingness to get things done made him an excellent fit for our small team.”

Omeo Technology is a team of 10 so each member has to pull their own weight which sometimes means doing jobs that are outside of your job description.

“Being in a small team has been a huge blessing, I have gotten to understand the company structure in a way that I wouldn’t usually as an engineer in a bigger company, and I have been given opportunities such as completing a CPR course and becoming the company health and safety representative.

“I have been working for Omeo Technology since May and have loved my time here and learnt so much. I really credit my experience at WelTec, and their practical learning environment for getting this role and I am so pleased I made the change from university to WelTec.”

Further information on Engineering at WelTec
There’s a global demand for engineering skills, which makes this an exciting career option. Learn the engineering way of thinking at WelTec. Our engineering degrees and diplomas are a good combination of theory and practical work.
Options available at WelTec include:

New Zealand Diploma in Engineering – included in the Targeted Training and Apprenticeships Fund
Bachelor of Engineering Technology – Apprenticeship Model

Further information on Targeted Training and Apprenticeships Fund
TTAF makes a range of training and apprenticeship programmes free for learners. It is targeted towards industries where demand from employers for these skills will continue to be strong or is expected to grow, during New Zealand’s recovery period from the impacts of COVID-19.

These programmes are FREE under TTAF, however, it does not cover student service fee or course-related costs.

Fire Safety – Restricted fire season for Otago District’s Central Zone

Source: Fire and Emergency New Zealand
Otago District Central Zone will move to a restricted fire season effective from 8am Wednesday 20 January.
The central zone includes Alexandra, Clyde, Cromwell, Wanaka, Lake Hawea, Naseby, Ranfurly, Kurow, Otematata, Omarama and Middlemarch.
There has been a total fire ban in the Otago District Central Zone since 18 December 2020.
However, recent rainfall has reduced the fire danger levels which means the area can now join the rest of the Otago District in a restricted fire season.
Deputy Principal Rural Fire Officer Bobby Lamont says the restricted fire season means people in the Otago District Central Zone may be able to light an outdoor fire if they apply for a permit and follow the conditions listed on it.
“Being in a restricted season also gives land managers and contractors the ability to undertake any necessary fire related work on their properties, if they have a fire permit,” says Bobby Lamont.
“While we are changing seasons from prohibited to restricted, we still need our communities to remain vigilant about wildfire risks.”
“We are likely to see high temperatures and a dryer than usual summer so people should think carefully about the activities they are planning,” says Bobby Lamont.
“If the danger is red, keep your tools and machinery in the shed to avoid a spark and starting a fire.”
“If you’re planning a fire, make sure to go to to check the local fire danger and apply for a fire permit.”
Fire and Emergency will continue to monitor fire conditions in case changing weather conditions necessitate a move back to a prohibited fire season.

Science – There’s snow business in the mountains

Source: NIWA
On a still and sunny December day when most Kiwis were looking longingly towards the beach, two NIWA researchers had their eyes firmly on the Southern Alps.
Adrian Aarsen and James Townshend jumped on board a helicopter from Queenstown to complete a last-minute piece of work before the Christmas break – servicing NIWA’s Mt. Larkins snow and ice monitoring station.
As far as an end-of-year job goes – working at 1915m altitude on a bluebird day – the Mt. Larkins work is pretty good.
The Mt Larkins station is part of a network of 11 NIWA snow and ice stations across New Zealand creating a valuable long-term record of alpine weather and snow measurements, like depth and density.
NIWA hydrologist Dr Christian Zammit who manages the research programme, says the network was set up for two main reasons: to measure how much water was being stored as snow, and to detect climate change impacts.
Work on the network began in 2008. By 2013, 11 snow and ice monitoring stations had been set up, representing a range of distinct high-altitude areas of the country between 800 and 2200 metres above sea-level including Aoraki-Mt. Cook, Mt. Aspiring, Arthur’s Pass, Tongariro and Fiordland.
The stations measure the depth, density and temperature of snow, as well as a range of other climate measurements such as precipitation, wind speed, temperature and humidity.
Dr Zammit says snow is a valuable economic resource for New Zealand, so understanding the amount, seasonal nature and long-term changes to snow and ice is hugely important – especially with a warming climate.
Snow melt contributes to as much as 30% of water that flows into major South Island hydro-electricity lakes. Large areas of the South Island rely directly on water from snow melt for irrigation and the ski industry cannot exist without snow. In 2019 alone, there were 1.7 million visits to ski fields in New Zealand.
Dr Zammit says climate change will impact both the amount and seasonality of snowfall in New Zealand.
“We expect the snowline to increase in altitude with time and there is an expectation that there will be less snow. However, with climate change, extremes get more extreme. So, you could have less snow days, but you could have a larger amount of snow falling during storm events.”
Dr Zammit says that because the network has only been operating for seven years, more years of data will need to be collected to before researchers can confidently say how climate change is impacting our snow season, though NIWA’s end of summer snowline survey has documented a long-term decrease in glacier coverage on the Southern Alps over the last 43 years.
As well as a need for long-term information, Dr Zammit says several organisations use real-time data from the network. The Avalanche forecasting service generated by Mountain Safety Council is one of them.
“Data from the network is the only information they use to predict the state of the snowpack, both in and outside of the ski domain. Their daily avalanche risk forecasts are based on this information, their knowledge of the domain and access to weather forecast information.”
Other main users of the network are hydro-electricity generators who use the data to estimate the volume and seasonality of snow and ice melt flowing down rivers. The information informs decision-making about when dams should be opened to generate electricity, as well as how electricity is stored and transported.
A “10 out of 10” view
NIWA field researchers visit each snow and ice station twice a year.
At the Mt. Larkins station in December, there is some snow high on the alps.
Dr Zammit describes 2020’s snow season as being “on the lower side” – winter was warm with little snowfall until a few big dumps late in the snow season.
For safety reasons, the stations are only visited on calm, sunny days. Mr. Aarsen says they waited a month for good weather to visit the Mt. Larkins site in December.
After a 15-minute flight, the researchers have three hours to complete the work needed before the helicopter returns to collect them.
The purpose of the visit is to replace fuel and antifreeze, collect snow samples, empty the snow collector measuring snow fall and make sure the equipment is recording accurate data.
Mr Aarsen says despite the sturdy design and build of the stations, lightning, extreme weather and the pesky destructive kea means the technicians also have to fix any issues that might have sprung up since the last visit – in this case some damage caused by a snow storm.
“You're putting in these instruments and you're thinking 'man, I hope this equipment will survive the elements'. The intensity of what the stations withstand is amazing.
“Kea will come and pick at anything they can. Especially the wind sensors, they love picking them apart. We’ve had a lot of equipment ruined by kea-. Once they get into something, they get into it pretty hard.”
While the researchers work in t-shirts in December, Mr Aarsen says working in minus zero conditions during winter is a different story.
“The cold and snow make everything harder. It makes moving around or trying to undo screws really tricky when it's freezing and you're wearing a lot of layers. There can be up to a metre and a half of snow at Larkins.”
As a safety precaution, the researchers bring up a survival bag that contains a tent, gas-cooker, food, sleeping bags and extra layers if a freak shift in the weather meant a helicopter couldn’t safely collect the workers.
Despite the “10-out-of-10 view” from the top of the monitoring station, Mr Aarsen says looking out across the Main Divide isn’t the highlight of the trip.
“The chopper ride is definitely the highlight… it's got to be, doesn't it?”

MotorSport – Clark completes GP and TRS line up

Source: Toyota

Conrad Clark, yet another rising Kiwi star and the 2019 FIA Chinese Formula 4 Champion, is the final link in the chain for the 2021 New Zealand Grand Prix and the Castrol Toyota Racing Series.

Clark’s China campaign also saw him awarded Rookie of the Year and the MiTime Star award for outstanding performance.
As well as his successful campaign in the Chinese Formula 4 championship where he secured no fewer than 12 race wins on his way to the title, Clark debuted internationally in the USA Formula 4 championship in 2018 where he learnt the foundations of international motorsport and has continued to capitalise on that experience since.
Clark has raced internationally more than he has in New Zealand and with COVID-19 putting an end to an F3 Formula Regional campaign in America for 2020, this will be an opportunity to race on home soil for the first time in three years.
Having tested the current Toyota FT60 car, he is looking forward to the step up in power and downforce from a Formula 4 specification car.
“To race in New Zealand at the 66th New Zealand Grand Prix is a unique opportunity to be involved in as NZ motorsport celebrates a significant milestone with Kenny Smith running his 50th GP,” he said.
“It will be an honour to be on track with him and also alongside a host of other incredibly talented NZ drivers.
“I am looking forward to the experience of being part of New Zealand’s most prestigious single seater event. To be on the grid alongside Kiwi motorsport heroes is an incredible opportunity which I am grateful to our partners TradeZone, Aegis Oil, Advance Gaming and the Kiwi Driver Fund for making this happen.”
In 2021, because of the global pandemic, the Castrol Toyota Racing Series will run over a shortened three weekend programme. Starting with the New Zealand Grand Prix is also a departure from the normal championship routine. The earlier calendar date is designed to attract high profile New Zealand drivers still at home following the Christmas break and provide a rare opportunity to run the Grand Prix with the very best Kiwi drivers available in it.
The second round of the championship will be on the shorter Hampton Downs National track before it concludes at Manfeild, Circuit Chris Amon.
2021 Castrol Toyota Racing Series
Round 1: Hampton Downs – 22nd –24th January 66th New Zealand Grand Prix
Round 2: Hampton Downs – 29th –30th January
Round 3: Manfeild – 12th –14th February

Fire Safety – UPDATE: Investigation into ship fire at Napier Port

Source: Fire and Emergency New Zealand
Fire and Emergency’s investigation into the cause and origin of the ship fire at Napier Port in December last year is now complete.
The investigation found the fire was accidental caused during operations to remove the cargo and started in the upper hold of the ship.
The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) investigation into this fire remains ongoing.