First Responders – Cass bay fire: Update

Source: Fire and Emergency New Zealand
Residents evacuated due to the fire at Cass Bay will shortly be allowed back to their homes.
Crews were first called to the fire at around 1.30pm.
It is believed to have burnt through at least 15 hectares.
Three helicopters and four ground crews have spent the afternoon working to contain the fire.
As a precaution 20 properties were evacuated along the Corsair Bay flank of the fire.
Residents of those properties will be allowed back at about 5pm this evening.
Lyttelton-Governors Bay Road (Park Terrace), from Corsair Bay through to Rapaki was closed while helicopters worked on the fire. It is re-opening at about 5.30 this evening.
Firefighters continue to work on containment lines.
Fire and Emergency asks people to stay away from the area and to keep their doors and windows shut, especially those particularly vulnerable to the effects of smoke.

First Responders – Strong winds increase fire danger for Canterbury

Source: Fire and Emergency New Zealand
Fire and Emergency is currently at two fires in Canterbury, one at Cass Bay and the other at Loburn.
Strong winds are fanning the fires and making them difficult to combat.
Principal Rural Fire Officer Bruce Janes says the winds have been gusting up to 130km/h throughout the day and are expected to last until tomorrow morning.
“Since the gusts got up earlier today, crews across the region have been chasing fires and attended multiple callouts right across the region.”
Canterbury is currently in a restricted fire season, where any open-air fire needs a permit. However, with the strong winds expected to last for another 12 to 18 hours, Fire and Emergency asks anyone with a fire permit to hold off burning until conditions ease.
Mr Janes also wants anyone who has had a recent fire to check that it is completely out.
“With winds as strong as what we are experiencing, hot ashes can easily get picked up, potentially starting a new fire.”
“We want to reduce the risks as much as possible, that’s why it is very important to check previous burns.”
“Over haul the area of the burn, pour water over it and check with the back of your hand that there is no heat,” Mr Janes says.
Fire and Emergency is also encouraging Cantabrians to think twice about using braziers, gas cookers or carrying out farming activities that could cause an ignition.
“While the winds are up and the fire dangers are high, it is more likely these activities could start a fire,” Mr Janes says.
Find fire safety advice and information on fire season statuses at

Produce Exports – Early, positive start to New Zealand export onion season

Source: Horticulture New Zealand
The 2021 New Zealand export onion season is off to an early and positive start.
'Amongst all the turmoil created by Covid and the weather, it's great to be able to report that exports of New Zealand onions to Indonesia are underway, two months earlier than last year,' says Onions New Zealand Chief Executive, James Kuperus.
'This is thanks to New Zealand government trade officials' efforts to keep trade open and a decision by Indonesian officials to release quota early.
'78 tonnes of onions harvested earlier in January left for Indonesia last week. While this is small, it signals the season is underway early, and prices reflect the additional costs of growing and exporting during a pandemic.'
James says the growing season has been favourable for onion growers. 'There’s been adequate rainfall and the quality is very good. The drought in Auckland did not materialise. While water was short, there was frequent rain during the growing season.’
New Zealand growers planted approximately six percent less onions than last year. ‘This was due to the uncertainty created by Covid,’ says James. ‘However, yield is up so perhaps the season will be only about three percent down on last.’
Total onion exports are expected to be between 170,000 and 175,000 tonnes in 2021. New Zealand onions are exported to 45 countries. Last year, the industry was worth $145 million.
New Zealand onions are internationally renowned for their long keeping qualities and the industry, for its food safety practices.

Pacific Environment – Solomon Islands and New Zealand Government join forces to control Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle

Source: Government of Solomon Islands and New Zealand High Commission to Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands has formed a new partnership with New Zealand to step up the response to the invasive Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB) which, if left unchecked, would pose a serious threat to food security and coconut and palm oil industries.

Last Friday (15th January 2021) a Grant Funding Arrangement was signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Ethel Tebengi Frances, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, McKinnie Dentana, and the Acting New Zealand High Commissioner, Hannah van Voorthuysen that commits approximately SBD$10 million over a two year period to strengthening management and control of the CRB in Solomon Islands.

The partnership supports biosecurity officials to control and prevent the spread of existing CRB infestations. A new strain of CRB from Guam (CRG-Guam) is proving resistant to current biocontrol measures and has the potential to impact 50-90% of coconut, oil, sago and beetle nut palms without intervention.  

The new partnership will therefore increase provincial CRB surveillance, clean-up and management activities; establish internal quarantine protocol to limit the spread of CRB between provinces; and collect and analyse CRB samples to inform integrated pest management practices. It builds on work completed by MAL to map out sites of CRB infestation across Solomon Islands which is informing the response.

In 2020, MAL Biosecurity officers worked with New Zealand-based AgResearch to conduct delimiting surveys in the provinces, and sent beetle samples to New Zealand for testing. Findings from this work will enable biosecurity officers to prioritise high risk infestations in the provinces and support communities to manage, control and potentially eradicate CRB infestations.

 Speaking at the signing ceremony, Permanent Secretary of MAL, PS Ethel Tebengi Francis said Solomon Islands is very grateful to the New Zealand government for this timely funding support.

 “We are so blessed that New Zealand again saw it fit to continue supporting the nation in this fight to control coconut rhinoceros beetle infestation on our coconuts and oil palm plantations.”

“This funding comes at the right time when all the impacts of COVID 19 is putting a lot of pressure on our economy. As a country we need to look at how to recover and the coconut and palm oil industries are those that we need to focus on because they bring in a lot of money into the economy.”

PS Ethel also acknowledged the previous partnership arrangement with New Zealand that was implemented through the Pacific Community (SPC) and thank the Acting New Zealand High Commissioner for the trust of her government to accept the request made by Solomon Islands government to implement the funding on our own and she promise that MAL will do its utmost best to deliver to their expectations.

Acting New Zealand High Commissioner Hannah van Voorthuysen noted that this partnership is complemented by a broader NZ$18m programme supporting Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Vanuatu to manage the spread of CRB across Melanesia. This includes research through New Zealand Crown Agency AgResearch to find new biocontrol methods as well as support for regional awareness, surveillance and coordination by The Pacific Community (SPC).

“This is a destructive and difficult pest to manage,” she said, “community driven eradication measures will be supported through high-quality scientific research and regional efforts as we work collectively to rein in the beetle’s destruction of coconut and palm trees that are essential for food security and livelihoods in Solomon Islands.”

Director of Biosecurity Solomon Islands, Francis Tsatsia emphasised that CRB is still a major and very serious threat to Solomon Islands. The Coconut pest has unique life cycles and biology which makes it very difficult to contain and eradicate. It is very crucial everyone understand how best to manage the pest to reduce its population. “The message for communities remains simple: cut, burn and kill. If you suspect you have CRB, can see visible damage, and if the palm looks like it will not recover, then cut down the tree. Use or burn the wood straight away, as this will reduce the chance that the CRB spreads, or the larvae inside the tree continue to grow. Tidy your community areas of rotting wood, and manage compost and manure carefully to ensure that the beetle breeding sites are minimised”.

If you notice CRB in your community, or see signs of damage, please report it promptly to the BEEC office on 131 CRB Toll Free line.

Animal Welfare – More cows to be exported from Port Taranaki

Source: SAFE NZ
Ocean Ute, which arrived at Port Taranaki yesterday, is the second live export ship to arrive in New Zealand this year. Taranaki Animal Rights Group has two demonstrations planned for today. A protest at midday and a vigil at 6.30pm tonight.
The number of cattle exported from New Zealand has grown exponentially. Over 100,000 cows were exported last year, compared with 39,269 in 2019.
SAFE Campaigns Manager Bianka Atlas said the 2020 figures are staggering.
“Every single one of those cows now faces an uncertain fate,” said Atlas.
“New Zealand has animal welfare laws and regulations that don’t exist in the countries we export animals to. These cows could eventually be slaughtered while still fully conscious.”
The number of live cows exported from New Zealand has increased dramatically while the industry has been under review. The findings from the live export review, announced by Hon Damien O'Connor in 2019, have still not been released.
“The people of Taranaki have made it clear that they don’t want their port to facilitate live exports.”
As the sole shareholder in Port Taranaki, the Taranaki Regional Council has the power to stop exporting live animals from its port.

Education – New research from ERO highlights impact of Covid-19 on education sector

Source: Education Review Office
New reports, published today by the Education Review Office (ERO), indicate that, although schools and services developed a range of positive solutions during the pandemic, the impacts of Covid-19 on learners will continue to be felt this year.
The newly released suite of ERO reports outlines the impacts of Covid-19 on the education sector and sets out lessons for how the sector can continue to support children, whānau, principals and teachers with the ongoing challenges of Covid-19.
“We know that schools and early learning services continued to see an ongoing impact of Covid-19 on students’ learning, engagement and wellbeing. For example, only a quarter of NCEA students told us that they were coping with their schoolwork and many schools and services reported that Covid-19 has negatively impacted attendance,” says Nicholas Pole, ERO Chief Executive and Chief Review Officer.
The research also shows that Auckland and schools serving the lowest socio-economic areas have been hit the hardest by the impacts of Covid-19 and are likely to face the greatest challenges this year. Nearly 80% of low decile schools told us they were concerned about student achievement, with only a third of these schools confident their students would catch up.
“It is important to recognize that students and children starting in services, schools and classrooms this year will not be where they would have been in previous years. Both their learning and wellbeing has been impacted. It is important that teachers understand where their learners are at, have good plans in place to support them and keep engaging with whānau. These reports provide guidance on how services and schools can do this,” says Mr Pole.
The reports show that there has been a step change in the use of digital technology in the system, and teachers, schools and services intend to continue to use digital technology in their curriculum.
“This significant increase in use of technology to facilitate learning has been a real gain with regards to changing practice in 2020. Continuing to build on this integration of technology has the potential to further support and prepare the education sector for any further periods of change and ERO recomm

First Responders – A fire at Rawene in the Far North is now contained.

Source: Fire and Emergency New Zealand
A fire at Rawene in the Far North is now contained.
Fire and Emergency was initially called to the Rawene Road fire at about 3pm this afternoon. 
It has burnt through 10 hectares. 
Up to six helicopters and seven appliances have been working on the fire. 
Rawene Road has been closed while helicopters have been operating. It is expected to re-open shortly. 

MotorSport – Vodanovich set for single seater debut in 2021 Castrol TRS

Source: Toyota

Reigning Best Bars Toyota 86 Champion Peter Vodanovich has today confirmed he will take part in the full nine race 2021 Castrol Toyota Racing Series.

The 19 year old Aucklander will compete in his first single seater championship when he takes to the track for the first round in January, the 66th New Zealand Grand Prix on Hampton Downs' long circuit.
Vodanovich doesn't have a background in karting as so many racing drivers of all levels do. His skill set was forged behind the wheel of a simulator and put to the test over just two years of racing in New Zealand's popular 2K Cup Category, in a BMW E30 and in a Ssangyong Actyon Ute after winning the 2017-2018 Ssangyong Scholarship.
Instantly fast when he moved to the Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship, Vodanovich secured the 2019-2020 title at the delayed final round having been at the sharp end of the closely fought championship throughout the season.
A member of the Erebus Motorsport junior programme in Australia, Vodanovich's international plans were hit by the global pandemic and he has tested both the Toyota FT50 and current FT60 cars ahead of his confirmation in the 2021 championship field.  Despite the unusual circumstances, he’s relishing the opportunity to race.
“It’s pretty surreal to think my first race weekend in a single-seater will be the Grand Prix but I am looking forward to the challenge and the experience of racing against New Zealand's best talent,” a delighted Vodanovich explained.
“I am very grateful to my sponsors and the Kiwi Driver Fund for their help getting me on the grid. I've been training hard in the gym and on the simulator and I have gained confidence from this preparation off the track.
“Despite my lack of experience in single-seaters I'm fully focused on being as competitive as possible.”
“I have had a great relationship with Toyota starting off only a few years ago in a 2K Cup Toyota MR2 before moving onto the 86 series, going on to win the 2019/20 Championship. It's awesome to now be progressing to their premier category.
A host of supporters have got behind the Best Bars champion to make his GP debut possible,  including ITM, Post Haste, Creme Insurance, Racing Sims, Evans European, Nexen and DTM, David Nightingale Bayleys, Storerite Logistics, Champs Fitness, Sean Dowling, Goldwise and even popular online racing community Race Cars In Sheds!
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

Local Government – Fairer registration fees among proposed dog control changes

Source: Porirua City Council 
A safer city and fairer fees for responsible dog owners are the goals of proposed changes to Porirua City’s dog control bylaw.
In recent years, the Council has seen an increase in serious dog attacks causing injury to people, says Porirua Mayor Anita Baker. To address this, and to make things fairer for all, changes are being proposed to the city’s dog control bylaw to:
– change the dog owner categories from responsible dog owner to selected owner category
– revise dog registration fees
– clarify rules for dog control areas, and
– introduce mandatory neutering for dogs classified as menacing.
“Consultation on the changes will run from 18 January to 21 February and we encourage dog owners to have their say,” Mayor Baker says.
One aspect of the consultation is around fees, which we want to make more fair for responsible dog owners and the non-dog owning ratepayers, says James Single, Manager Monitoring and Compliance.
“At the moment about 56 percent of costs associated with dog control are recovered through registration and enforcement fees,” he says.
“We want to change this to make the allocation of costs fairer for responsible dog owners and residents who don’t own dogs.
“The change we’re proposing will place more costs where monitoring, compliance, and enforcement efforts are needed, and reduce costs for selected owners, working dogs, and for ratepayers.”
For more information see or pick up a copy of the proposal from any Porirua library or the Council front counter. Alternatively you give us a call on 04 237 5089 to have a copy sent to you or find out how to give your feedback.

Local Government – Get your groove on in Porirua this long weekend

Source: Porirua City Council 
The Summer Concert Series is back for 2021!
This Wellington Anniversary weekend grab a picnic, pull on your dancing shoes and head down to Aotea Lagoon’s rose garden for some awesome, free, live music from 6-8pm.
Relax and enjoy the summer weather at our four shows featuring new artists as well as old favourites. Bring some snacks or pack a full picnic dinner. There will be a coffee cart and Mr Whippy van nearby if you want to buy dessert or coffee.
Here’s the music lineup:
Friday 22 January
We’ll be kicking off the concert series with a bang. The Blueprint is a three-piece covers band, and armed with a diverse set list, they’ll be delivering all your favourite classic rock covers.
Saturday 23 January
Another hot summer favourite is singer-songwriter, pianist and all-round entertainer Shaun Preston, back by popular demand. Performing a wide range of hits from acts like The Killers, David Bowie, Adele and Elton John, Shaun is guaranteed to get your toes tapping.
Sunday 24 January
It wouldn’t be a Summer Concert Series without our favourite Irish band The Shenanigans, who never fail to entertain. The band bring their own unique style with a fun, Celtic twist on each song – be it rock ‘n’ roll, country or classics from the Emerald Isle.
Monday 25 January
With top 10 hits from the 50s through to today, Mojo will get the crowd dancing with an impressive set list. Lead singer Grant Sullivan is the voice of Dancing with the Stars, and Mojo have been rocking together for more than 20 years in New Zealand and overseas.
Porirua Mayor Anita Baker says this is the perfect opportunity for people to kick back and enjoy some free live music in a beautiful setting.
“The summer concert series always has such a fun, positive vibe.
“It’s a chance for people to enjoy the gorgeous rose gardens by the lagoon, and get out and see some fantastic entertainment on these warm summer evenings.”