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Kazakhstan calling for budding biologist
Kazakhstan calling for budding biologist

13 June 2024, 10:30 PM

Kazakhstan is not the destination holiday most 17-year-olds dream of, but it is where one Waitaki Girls’ High School pupil is heading next month.Anika Hayes is one of four students chosen to represent New Zealand in the International Biology Olympiad being held in Astana, Kazakhstan, in July.About 80 countries will have their top four biology students at the competition, completing a variety of theoretical and practical exams.To be selected, Anika has had multiple steps - an initial exam to pick the top 200 students, online training and assignments to narrow down the top 25 students, and an in-person training camp in Auckland to learn practical skills.After all of that, she was selected as one of the final four.“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been worth it,” Anika says.“I feel very privileged, very lucky, to have this chance, this opportunity.”She met the other New Zealand competitors in Auckland, and they will be travelling to Kazakhstan together (with a stopover in China).She says the Olympiad programme teaches a lot of things not taught in school.“I like learning about the world around us. I think it's really interesting and there's so much cool stuff, stuff we don't know.”In the lead up to the competition, Anika has had weekly meetings with the other New Zealand competitors and a lot of help from the school’s head of learning for science, Vicky Lilley.Anika says the key to her success is “self-motivation”.“If you don’t enjoy it there’s no point putting any effort in.”Anika has to raise $8000 before she leaves in less than three weeks.She has approached a number of community service groups and is hosting a fundraising concert at the Waitaki Girls’ High School Dunning Hall this weekend.The koha-entry concert will be held at 2pm this Saturday (June 15), with a range of performances by Waitaki Girls’ High School students.

Boot camps for young offenders are back – the psychological evidence they don't work never went away
Boot camps for young offenders are back – the psychological evidence they don't work never went away

13 June 2024, 9:00 PM

By Simon Davies, Clare-Ann Fortune, Karen Salmon, and Linda Fatialofa* of The ConversationAnalysis - "Boot camps" for young people who commit serious offending are coming back. The coalition government has promised to pilot "military-style academies" by the middle of the year - despite a wealth of international and New Zealand evidence that boot camps do not reduce reoffending.It has been encouraging to see this evidence receive extensive media coverage and expert analysis. Less encouraging, however, has been the minister for children's reported rejection of expert advice that the boot camp model is flawed and ineffective.So, why do we keep returning to interventions that don't work? For boot camps, there are at least three possible explanations.First, they appeal to politicians who want to appear tough on crime, while also saying they are encouraging rehabilitation options.Second, boot camps seem to have a strong appeal to common sense: people want to believe structure and military discipline can turn around young people's lives, and this belief outweighs contradicting evidence.Third, boot camps can take different forms, so evidence of their ineffectiveness can be avoided by claiming, as the minister has, that improvements will be made this time.This seems unlikely, however, when the core features that characterise boot camps - strong discipline in particular - are a main reason they don't work. To understand why, we need to look at the psychology of punishment and behaviour change.The limits of punishmentPhoto: RNZ files / Angus DreaverAs children, either through direct experience or observing others, we learn that if we touch a hot stove we get burned. People tend to assume punishment works in the same way: we change our behaviour following punishment.In practice, and in the criminal justice system in particular, punishment rarely works that way.It has long been argued that punishment which is immediate, certain and severe will deter crime. But most offending goes undetected initially, punishment is often delayed, and more severe sentences have not been shown to deter offending. Serious offending, in particular, appears not to be deterred by punishment.Punishment also only tells someone what they should not do, not what they should be doing. In fact, punishment can have the opposite effect, leading to more of the behaviour you were trying to prevent. To learn new behaviours, young people need praise and encouragement.When punishment meets traumaPerhaps the main problem with the assumption that young people who offend seriously "just need some discipline" is that they have often already experienced more - and more severe - discipline than most. We might also call this "abuse".Recent New Zealand evidence found 95 percent of a sample of 63 young people involved in "ram raid" events had been exposed to family harm; 65 percent reported five or more such occasions.Photo: RNZ file imageDecades of research into the impacts of childhood maltreatment and trauma tell us these types of experiences have substantial effects on development. Children tend to develop a poor understanding of emotions, low self-value, problems forming healthy relationships, and hypervigilance to perceived threats.When young people with these difficulties are subjected to harsh discipline in boot camps, they are likely to associate their treatment with the serious physical harm caused to them in the past, causing further anxiety and stress. Without healthy ways to manage those emotions, further disruptive behaviour, including aggression, is likely.Just as young people tend to engage in behaviour (such as violence) shown to them by others, they also tend to adopt the attitudes of those around them. Often, these include negative views of society at large, particularly towards authority figures.Because of the strong link between those attitudes and reoffending, interventions should focus on shifting those attitudes.At best, however, research suggests boot camps have no impact on such attitudes. At worst, a focus on discipline may strengthen unhelpful attitudes and hinder the ability to form a therapeutic relationship.A working therapeutic relationship is perhaps the single most important feature of effective interventions aimed at changing behaviour.Focus on what we know worksThere is good evidence that several different interventions can reduce reoffending and other antisocial behaviour. Photo: RNZ File imageBoot camps do not appear to be going away. They are seemingly popular with the public and will therefore likely remain popular with politicians.But the evidence is clear: in the different forms tried to date, they do not reduce reoffending. Most likely, this is because of the limitations of punishment as a method of changing behaviour, and the backgrounds of the young people entering these camps.That doesn't mean these young people cannot be helped. There is good evidence that several different interventions - ones that have a therapeutic focus, involve relevant support people, and work on building skills for living "pro-socially" - can reduce reoffending and other antisocial behaviour.Nor does it mean young people who seriously offend should be exempt from consequences. But we should be honest about the purpose and likely outcome of those consequences, and accept that punishment alone will not change behaviour.One of the most telling findings from research into boot camps is that those with a rehabilitative component are more effective at reducing reoffending than other models. Some may cite this as evidence boot camps can be effective.We disagree. If the reason some boot camps are effective is because they include a rehabilitative component, why bother with the boot camp aspect? Why not focus on what does work?*Simon Davies is a lecturer in forensic psychology, Clare-Ann Fortune is a senior lecturer in clinical forensic psychology, Karen Salmon is a professor of psychology, and Linda Fatialofa is a PhD candidate in forensic psychology - all at Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington.

Photography pop-up part of CBD revitalisation initiative
Photography pop-up part of CBD revitalisation initiative

13 June 2024, 1:31 AM

Most of Ōamaru has heard of Martin Horspool and his retro “buggyrobots”, but a new pop-up initiative in town is allowing him to showcase another talent of his - photography.Martin became aware of the Waitaki District Council’s Revitalise Our Places Ōamaru (Ropo) programme - an idea to turn empty shops from “vacant into vibrant” - and thought it would be a good chance to exhibit some of his prints.The council says Ropo is a “significant milestone” in the plan to revitalise the town centre and bring life back to the main street.The six-month pilot project is designed to fill commercial spaces for 30-day periods in-between the times when they are tenanted long-term.The programme acts as a sort of “broker” between the landlord and the pop-ups. The idea is to help people present their ideas and concepts to a wider audience, and at the same time, it helps showcase the empty spaces, highlighting the opportunities within them to hopefully attract new long-term tenants.Martin has been taking photos since he was a teenager, and has 34 prints hanging in 145 Thames Street, opposite the Boer War memorial.“I like to see people's unusual fashion styles, and I have visited, in the past, a lot of places where people like that accumulate, or sort of gather . . . whether it's festivals or hot rod shows, or just travel,” he says.The Welsh-born artist says mostly the photos have been taken in New Zealand, but some are from Japan and America.He has captured people from a number of events, including the Beach Hop at Whangamata, a KISS concert, an axeman competition in Puhoi, a hot road convention in Auckland, and even an Elvis tribute show.His favourite photo in the collection is of a man, who was part of a gang of dancers in Yoyogi Park, in Tokyo.“There's a big group of them . . . and they don't talk to anybody. They just do their thing. They hang around, they dance in public. But you know, you can't talk to them.“I saw this guy turning up, and he had a big, full length, like, Matrix coat. And he had the biggest hair in the world. And he had this, like, walking cane, and he turned up all staunch, and I thought . . . this guy, I must get a photograph of him, but they're very unapproachable. “I know a little bit of Japanese, and I say, ‘excuse me, can I, I'd love to take your photograph. You look amazing’...“I had to work really hard to get that.”He also enjoys taking photos without people seeing he’s there, so they’re not posing. In Japan it is polite to ask, but usually he waits for his subject to approach, gets “low down”, takes a photo, and "then I’m off”, he says.The photos Martin has on display, he had printed off during his career as a printer in Auckland, before moving to Ōamaru in 2022. Now anything he takes, he just pops up online.While Martin would love to be able to sit at the venue and talk to people who pop in - his day job dictates otherwise, so he will be in the space on Saturdays between 11am and noon, while the pop-up is running.Outside this time, most of the photos can be easily viewed through the window.Asked what advice he would give to people wanting to take a good photo, Martin says to “get close”.“I see a lot of people with telephoto lenses, and you don't need a telephoto, you just have to get close to somebody . . . just walk up, sometimes uncomfortably close,” he says.  Martin is happy to share what he knows about taking good photos to anyone who pops in for a visit on a Saturday.“There are like easy, easy rules to get better photographs. Which I will divulge to anyone who wants to come and listen.” The photos are hanging in the building until at least July 7.Other pop-ups taking part in the Ropo programme, is Us. - a collaboration of three artists, at 167 Thames Street, and Waste-Free Waitaki, at 179 Thames Street.

Some ski field operators poised to welcome season's first skiers
Some ski field operators poised to welcome season's first skiers

12 June 2024, 9:18 PM

Snow guns are going full bore as southern ski fields prepare to welcome onto their slopes.With the mercury dropping in the South Island, ski field operators hope they can get the lifts running this week.And while North Island skiers will have to wait a little longer before they can take to the slopes, the operators of the financially troubled Whakapapa field are cautiously optimistic about this year's season.A dry autumn and a recent warm patch down south have not been the best for snowfall.NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson has been keeping a keen eye on the weather forecast as Coronet Peak, the Remarkables and Mt Hutt fields get ready to open."We're keeping all of our fingers and toes crossed. At the moment, it's a bit of a day-by-day watching brief," he said."But the weather has got very cold in the last week and we've had some fantastic snowmaking so we're going all guns blazing and still hopeful to get there for Friday for Mt Hutt and Saturday for Coronet Peak."Mt Hutt ski field pictured in May, 2023. Photo: Facebook via Mt Hutt / Nicole Hawke via RNZThe new multi-million dollar Shadow Basin chairlift would be a gamechanger for the Remarkables this season, with the six-seat express unlocking more terrain and runs, he said.On Mt Hutt, its snowmaking machines can create 400 tonnes of snow an hour.Staff were prioritising investing in snowmaking as part of their climate change planning, as it was denser and far more resilient on the trails, Anderson said."What it allows us to do from our perspective is make sure there is snow on the ground so we can get our business operating."From a customer's perspective, it means they can book with confidence and still turn up knowing that we will mostly likely be open from when we say we'll be open."Cardrona and Treble Cone Experiences general manager Laura Hedley said June was always a bit unpredictable."Sometimes we get a really early June storm and it sets us up really well. Other times, it's a slower start and we really rely on making snow. But we're prepared for that," she said.Both fields were getting good bookings through, but she said they were managing daily numbers at Cardrona to ensure it didn't feel crowded.Skiers and snowboarders line up in August 2022. Photo:Tess Brunton via RNZThey were also looking at their emissions and have added a new hybrid electric groomer this season."That's a good step in the right direction so it's understanding what our impact is, trying to reduce how much impact we have whilst also investing in technology to keep the skifields up and running," Hedley said.She was looking forward to next season when they planned to open the Soho Basin and its 150 hectares of terrain.Whakapapa 'locked and loaded'In the North Island, Whakapapa has already opened for sightseeing and sledding but it isn't expected to open for skiing until Matariki weekend at the end of this month.It has been a tumultuous year for the ski field after its owner Ruapehu Alpine Lifts was put into liquidation last year, receiving $7 million from the government to ensure the 2024 season could go ahead.Whakapapa ski field. Photo: Unsplash / Matthew Buchanan via RNZChief executive Travis Donoghue said active bidding remained underway, but Whakapapa planned to run for 150 days this season."Whakapapa is locked and loaded, confirmed for 2024 so we're also systems go, able to recruit up to 300 team members to come and work here at Whakapapa," he said."We'll be opening everything as soon as mother nature and the snowfall allows."Managers were re-establishing the size of their snow school, targeting 20 to 30 more instructors than in the last few years.The ski field has offered free season passes for children under 10, with thousands of kids signing up."But in a paid sense, we're actually able to grow our revenue by 67 percent year-on-year for a season pass sale so we're really positive, taking a lot from that, that that's a good, strong indicator for a successful 2024 season."Boosting the field's snowmaking capability would be a large priority into the future, he said."There's no reason why improved snowmaking technologies couldn't have you making snow and achieving coverage to the same degree in 2090 as what was falling naturally from the sky in 1990."

Riding a wave of kelp creativity
Riding a wave of kelp creativity

12 June 2024, 4:16 AM

When it comes to knitting, weaving and sculpting - kelp isn’t usually a crafter’s first port of call.But since spending her days beach-combing the Kāpiti Coast during lockdown, Ōamaru newcomer Judith Stanley has been intrigued by the storm-cast seaweed, and what she can do with it.“I've always been fascinated, I guess, and just watching it dry and buckle, and seeing some of those really big pieces, it just seemed to be a wasted resource sitting there on the beach,” she says. “Taking it home and playing with it just seemed like a really good idea.”Judith moved south from Kāpiti in November last year, and although she says she didn’t come for the kelp … it’s definitely making her want to stay.“I didn't realise there was so much . . . but when I saw it, I thought, kelp city.“I've just been going crazy for the last six months, hauling it in and molding it and making.” She has started The Kelpery, “which at the moment is kind of a name and an idea”. She is exploring kelp as an art practice, but also thinks there is untapped opportunity for enterprise. Making disposable plates is one idea she thinks has potential, and will be looking into further.Moeraki and Kakanui are Judith’s favourite kelping grounds, and Ōamaru harbour also sometimes produces the goods, although she has to contend with the occasional possessive seal.She has experimented with other seaweeds, but due to kelp’s longevity (it doesn’t rot as fast), and variations of thickness and malleability, it has become her weed of choice.“It feels like it lends itself to a more interesting exploration, and structurally, I mean . . . even the colour I'm noticing, like, given that it's all kelp and there’s all these different colours, it's just so interesting.”The kelp is moulded, shaped, woven, or knitted using blades and stipes to make vessels, baskets, bowls, bangles and baubles, and Judith’s newest favourite - light hangings.“It's gorgeous in the light. I've been really enjoying it. Just the way the light plays with it,” she says.Kelp needs to be processed quickly. Once Judith has collected it in her drybag and brought it home, she has about 48 hours before it begins to rot.“It requires a lot of attention in a short amount of time. So you have to shape it while it’s still wet, and then allow for the fact that it’s going to shrink.”The kelp needs the rot cut off, and then is washed with fresh water. Judith thinks about what she wants to make from it, and then she gets “stuck in”.The beauty of kelp, she says, is if something doesn’t work out, she just throws it on the garden.Once a piece of work has been made, it is preserved using wax, resin or polyurethane - she has decided the latter has the most longevity.How long a piece will last is yet to be determined. The oldest piece she has is three years. However, it has been treated with wax, and is beginning to develop mould.“My understanding, and from my experience with it, it would decay like harakeke or paper, that sort of thing. So like any other natural fibre.”The Kelpery generated a lot of interest at the recent Waitaki Arts Trail, held at King’s Birthday Weekend, and Judith sold some pieces, but ended up giving just as much away, she said.“Where to from here? Is my question.”Woven kelp. Photo: suppliedJudith thinks Waitaki could be the “kelp capital of the world”.“What I'm finding really, there's not a lot of people working in kelp, you know, across the board. I've come across two others in New Zealand that have used it as a medium for artworks, and that sort of thing, and playing with it. And there's a couple of others globally, but not a lot really.” Experimenting with kelp is a world away from Judith’s day job as a writer of education resources. She also has a masters degree in creative writing.What she loves about the kelp, is “there are no words involved. It’s all tactile”.“What I've loved the most, is that it's kind of new territory.”The Kelpery has a piece on display at Nelson’s Refinery ArtSpace, and a stall at the Lōemis Festival, which is running in Wellington this month. Closer to home, there are some pieces in Ōamaru’s Grainstore Gallery.“And then from there, I think I just do a bit of door knocking around galleries,” Judith says.“I guess I want more people to see it, enjoy it, and just really appreciate the resource for what it is.”Judith is hoping to run workshops around the uses of kelp, and invites people who are interested to get in touch by emailing [email protected] The Kelpery creations. Photo: supplied

Households struggling to save or cope with unexpected bills - report
Households struggling to save or cope with unexpected bills - report

11 June 2024, 10:16 PM

Households are struggling to save or cope with an unexpected bill because of the high cost of living, according to a Kiwibank report.The bank's first State of Savings index showed 59 percent of respondents had a budget, and 41 percent had regular savings, but 30 percent would struggle to pay an unexpected $500 expense without having to borrow, sell something, or resort to a credit card.Kiwibank chief executive Steve Jurkovich said the survey pointed to financial resilience, but also vulnerabilities."While it's encouraging to see that some New Zealanders are managing to save and set financial goals, the research shows that a large portion are vulnerable to financial shocks."He said households understood the need for budgeting and saving, although amount being saved monthly, outside of Kiwisaver, was generally less than $100 for four out of 10 respondents.'Confronting' dataJurkovich said the tight financial position of many households was reflected among Kiwibank customers."People are now six times more likely to tell you the big financial issues they are facing are the cost of living versus divorce, illness or losing a job, and we have certainly noticed that over the last 18 months.""We've also noticed in our card spending that spending on entertainment, hospitality and retail are down very sharply, so real indicators show people are knuckling down and paying the bills they have to face such as the mortgage."The survey showed about two-thirds of those with mortgages were likely to follow a budget, as were those aged between 30 and 44.Regular savers' priorities were for emergencies, holidays, and retirement, with women more likely to save for emergencies and those under 30 more likely to save for home ownership and a car.However, women and those under 30 were also more likely to be struggling to save, which nearly three quarters of respondents put down to the high cost of living.Jurkovich said the data regarding women was "confronting" and pointed to the need for measures giving them support at times when they were taking time out for parenting or caring for elderly.He said tough financial conditions were set to remain for the rest of the year, but interest rate cuts by the Reserve Bank would at least lift confidence even if they provided little immediate relief to households.The survey of 1046 people was conducted by Talbot Mills the week before the budget with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent

Fluoride in Ōamaru water by end of June
Fluoride in Ōamaru water by end of June

11 June 2024, 3:35 AM

“Horrified” and “scared” is how one man is feeling after the announcement that Ōamaru’s water supply must be fluoridated by June 30, as instructed by the Director-General of Health.Letters from both Waitaki District Council chief executive Alex Parmley, and Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher, requesting an extension on the deadline, have fallen on deaf ears.Waitaki District Council was one of 14 councils directed in 2022, by then Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield to fluoridate its main water supply. In November last year, the High Court ruled this directive unlawful, citing the Bill of Rights Act which states a person has the right to refuse medical treatment.There has been strong opposition locally to the proposal, and the announcement today (Tuesday) that it will go ahead, quickly generated an angry response on social media, with talks of a protest at the site where the fluoride would be added. Both Mr Parmley and Mr Kircher cited strong community opposition to the move, in their letters to the Director General of Health Diana Safarti. Mr Parmley said although preparations had been carried out to flouridate the water in accordance with the directive, council had concerns with the legal position around the decision.Mr Kircher requested that local communities be given the right to choose whether fluoride is added to their water.“In the spirit of local decision making.”The letters were a result of a decision made at a Waitaki District Council meeting on April 23, where councillors voted for Mr Parmley to request an extension of the June 30 deadline, from the Department of Health.Mr Kircher’s letter also suggested, that as the decision-maker around fluoridation, it was the Health Ministry’s responsibility to ensure information about fluoridation is provided to communities.“If the status quo is to be retained, with the decision to be made by the DG of Health, then that responsibility of information should be carried out by the Ministry of Health,” he wrote.In a response received by the council from Dr Sarfati, last week, she cited the High Court decision of February 16 and a subsequent decision on May 24 as legal basis for not granting extensions for the fluoridation directive.She also noted that a 2021 amendment by Parliament, to add Part 5A to the Health Act 1956, empowers her role with directing councils to fluoridate, and that councils must comply.The High Court decision on 24 May confirmed current directions are valid, and that councils have a statutory duty of mandatory compliance.“Under Part 5A, contravening a direction is an offence, and the statute provides for potentially significant penalties,” the letter says. The council is now working towards complying with its statutory duty by June 30, as directed. If it does not comply, it faces a fine of up to $200,000, followed by $10,000 per day of non-compliance.  

The three key factors to heating your home and saving money
The three key factors to heating your home and saving money

10 June 2024, 9:29 PM

Michael Begg, one of Aotearoa's first-ever energy advisors, has seen mushrooms growing in carpets and wallpaper peeling off walls.He knows best how we go about keeping our homes running with a minimum indoor temperature of between 18 and 20 degrees - a recommendation set by the World Health Organisation.The latest episode of Thrift explores the three big factors in keeping homes dry and warm - and how to make sure these factors are working as they should.Follow and listen to Thrift on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart, YouTube or wherever you get your podcasts.InsulationIf you want to pay less for heating, you need good insulation. Poorly installed pink batts with gaps are not going to cut it.Colour and thickness are important, and if it's done right you should be able to find a label with the date and type of insulation near the manhole - proof it's been laid by a registered installer.Under the floors, insulation is a two-step process - you want polythene stopping any rising damp and atop that, insulation blocking the cold coming up through the sub-flooring into the house.On the windows - full double glazing is effective (but expensive) - and Begg believes wooden frames are better than the older aluminium ones. If you don't want to break the bank, there are hardware store options worth exploring to coat your windows."Insulation works by trapping a layer of air," Begg explains. So, "the benefit (of lined curtains) is when we are closing the curtains we are trapping a layer of air.""When you close your curtain, you're trying to trap a layer of air between the curtain and the glass."Begg says under new legislation all these insulation features should all be available in rental properties, along with ventilation and heating systems.Ventilation"We produce about a litre of condensation just breathing while we sleep, and that moisture has to go somewhere," Begg says."It's something you don't see."When we turn our heater on if the air is holding a lot of moisture we can use twice much energy to heat the same room if it's damp."Twice as much energy equals twice the cost - so ventilation around the warmest part of the day can pay big dividends.In the bathroom: "The most important thing is that we have an extractor fan and that it's vented outside, and that you have the heater."Crank the heater for a few minutes before you get in the shower, and just as you're hopping in, turn on the extractor fan and open the window a crack, Begg reccommends."Particularly in modern homes, we know to draw air out of the bathroom, but we need to have a little bit of air coming in."Begg is not a fan of heated towel rails. Left on 24/7, it's suggested they can cost between $15 and $30 a month. They may dry a towel, but the moisture is seeping out into other parts of the home, using more power to get rid of it. Consider hanging towels outside to dry.HeatingOnce insulation and ventilation are sorted, "heating is very simple", Begg says.You just need to work out the right type of heating for your spaces."An old home, if you were to put on the fan heater or a heat pump slowly warming the air temperature, obviously we're losing that heat through gaps."So - these work best in new homes with modern insulation, draft proofing and good ventilation systems. Or old homes which have had some work done.In older homes, a radiant heater works well, as they are essentially like the sun."If you're sitting in front of a radiant heater, you feel warm... like the sun... if the sun were to come out you would feel warm straight away."But avoid using them in bedrooms where they can be dangerous, Begg says, and opt for a convection or oil column or panel heater.Finally, always open the curtains on a sunny day, especially on north-facing windows, to take full advantage of the free heat that will come gushing though the windows.

Temperature drop and snow predicted for south
Temperature drop and snow predicted for south

10 June 2024, 12:56 AM

Today might be the best day of the week across the Waitaki, with snow, rain and colder weather set to hit overnight.It was a mild start to the week across much of the country this morning (Monday), but with winds swinging to the south today, MetService is forecasting temperatures to return to more familiar cool June values, along with snow for the higher parts of the lower South Island early Tuesday morning.Much of the country will be dodging showers through the week, but with more unsettled weather on the cards for Thursday and Friday, it will pay to keep up with the forecast.Temperatures around New Zealand on Monday morning were very warm for the time of year, not dropping below 16°C all night in Whangārei. However, the warm temperatures were a brief blip, with cooler winds returning today.  MetService meteorologist John Law says, “Northwesterly winds overnight brought plenty of warm air across the country, but they also brought wet and windy weather as well. However, temperatures look set to drop for most of us tonight. In fact, for many places, Wednesday's high will be cooler than this morning's low.”Overnight tonight (Monday) into Tuesday, colder air pushes northwards across the South Island, bringing the risk of snowfall for parts of Southland and Otago above 300 to 400 metres. MetService has issued Road Snowfall Warnings for the tops of the Milford Road, Crown Range Road and Lindis Pass.“The combination of wetter weather and cold air brings the ingredients needed to generate some snowfall about the highest parts of the lower South Island tonight,” John says. The first half of the week is looking like the best time to get any outdoor jobs finished with the weather set to go downhill in time for Thursday and Friday.“The end of the week looks set to see the return of some windier and wetter weather across many parts of Aotearoa New Zealand. There may be the risk of severe weather, so remember to keep an eye on the forecast on MetService.com,” he says.

Winter illness puts dent in school attendance as officials mull social media campaign
Winter illness puts dent in school attendance as officials mull social media campaign

09 June 2024, 9:57 PM

Winter illness is putting a dent in daily school attendance - but so are long weekends.The percentage of children in class each day has dropped from a high of 89 percent at the start of the school term in late April to 82-84 percent for most days at the end of May.However, attendance fell to just 73 percent on the Friday before the King's Birthday long weekend at schools that were not closed for teacher-only days.In Hawke's Bay Tairāwhiti it dropped to 62 percent and in Canterbury it was 65 percent.The Ministry of Education has told schools to aim for 94 percent daily attendance, as that should ensure 80 percent of their students were in class more than 90 percent of the time - the benchmark for regular attendance.The daily attendance rates in the final week before the long weekend were better than those for the same week in term 2, 2022 (when attendance ranged from a mid-week high of just over 82 percent to a Friday low of nearly 73 percent) but worse than 2023 (when attendance ranged from 81-86 percent).Listen: Winter illness impacts school attendanceMeanwhile, a ministry briefing paper to Associate Education Minister David Seymour said just 15 percent of students, fewer than 130,000, met the government benchmark in all four terms of 2023.It said 445,000 students, 53 percent, missed more than 10 percent of school over the course of the year - and 14,000 students, two percent, missed more than three weeks of school every term.Seymour said Fridays consistently had lower attendance rates, especially before public holidays."However, this is definitely not something that we want normalised. Winter illness is also playing a part in term 2 attendance levels," he said."The daily dashboard is showing us that encouraging students to go to school every day, and particularly towards the end of the week, will contribute to achieving this target - but more importantly, it will contribute to helping them in their futures."Seymour said media reporting on daily attendance data would bring more public attention to the issue.David Seymour says Fridays consistently have lower attendance rates than other days of the week. Photo: RNZ / Samuel RillstoneInfluencers and social media"Go five for five" and "How sick is too sick for school" could be key messages in a PR campaign to drive up school attendance.The slogans were included in a ministry briefing to Seymour in early May.The paper said a campaign would cost about $1 million and would seek to persuade families and students of the importance of regular attendance.It said a $1m national campaign ran for five weeks in 2022 and raised awareness, but did not necessarily change people's attitudes."An impact assessment of the 2022 campaign found that even after that campaign opinions about the impact of not attending school varied considerably. Only around half of parents considered low attendance to be a 'serious problem' and only around a third considered it a problem in their community," the report said.However, it also provided evidence that local campaigns, which cost about $400,000 over two years, could have measurable success."One of these campaigns focused on an individual primary school and over a year (from Term 1 2022 to Term 1 2023) their regular attendance rate increased from 28.8 percent to 59.5 percent," the report said.It said influencers would be used in the campaign and could reach large numbers of people."For one influencer we worked with on previous attendance campaigns, the video cost $7000 and reached one million people on TikTok alone (and this was posted on Facebook and Instagram)," the paper said.Officials are eyeing a social media campaign to persuade students and their families of the importance of regular attendance. Photo: JONATHAN RAASchool - the 'best party in town'?Cobden School in Greymouth has used Ministry of Education funding to run its own social media campaign encouraging families to send their children to school every day.Principal Noula Markham told RNZ the school still had work to do, but the campaign helped."What we have had is a big shift with the critical non-attendance. That has definitely lowered. So our truancy rate is very, very low and so the shift is definitely heading in that positive direction," she said.She said the campaign ran over two school terms and featured new animations each week with key messages about attendance."Either a message around the benefits of attending of school, we had some messages around what parents could do to help them get their children to school like a regular bedtime, being prepared the night before and then we had a lot of messages saying 'school is not the same without you'."Markham said the school was experiencing a wave of winter illness, but it did not have a Friday slump in attendance.Asked why, Markham said: "Try and keep the curriculum alive. School should be the best party in town. Getting the children's voice in what activities we do and also having a great relationship with our school community."You've just got to keep the learning alive. You've got to keep those kids wanting to come to school. Obviously we have our lunch in schools as well which is a huge plus. So anything we can do to make kids want to come to school is going to boost achievement and obviously attendance rates."Darfield High School principal Andy England told RNZ the school's daily attendance was generally around 90 percent but it was not immune to the Friday dip.Illnesses like Covid are just one reason for students missing school. Photo: 123rf.com"We would have families who might go away to the bach or go hunting, and that may sound flippant and it's certainly something we have to dig into in terms of the importance of turning up to school, but for some families that is the key thing that they value," he said."Forty-seven percent of respondents we had to a recent survey said school's important but they think time with family's important."England said Monday's attendance was also lower than later in the week, especially for senior students, and that might be due to their weekend activities.He said the school was studying its figures closely and had noted that students going off-site to trades academy classes on Fridays had attendance close to 100 percent.England said changing families' attitudes would be difficult."We went through Covid and then went through a period of teacher strikes last year, both of those things are quoted by parents as indicating that it's maybe not quite as important to have their kids coming into school."I think some families have learnt that they quite enjoy having their own kids around home and actually in some cases the learning can be quite effective from home. So the issues are quite complex and I don't believe that just telling kids to get back to school is going to work."England said the school was still trying to understand its community's attitude to attendance and truancy.He said reminding parents of the effect of missed classes on their children's education was likely to be an effective approach."Letting them understand the fact that one day off per week is a year over 10 years, those kinds of statistics, and highlighting the impact of disengagement so when a child misses a lesson and it's part of a sequence, and they come back and they sit in the class and they don't really understand what their classmates are doing," he said.

Single lane open on slip-affected road by weekend, council hopes
Single lane open on slip-affected road by weekend, council hopes

07 June 2024, 12:38 AM

The Livingstone-Duntroon Road, closed by rockfall, should have a single lane open to traffic by the weekend, Waitaki District Council says.An unexplained slip of large rocks and soil fell onto a 30-40 metre section of the road between State Highway 83 and Settlement Road, overnight on Monday. A section of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail has also been affected.Assessments were carried out by a Geotech engineer and a historical specialist earlier this week, and barring potential archaeological significance of fossils within the limestone, it is likely there will be a single lane open by Friday evening, the council said in a statement.“This is anticipated to be a priority give-way single lane, to allow traffic to flow in both directions.”Ngāi Tahu, the owners of the site, and Tūhura Otago Museum have requested to be notified if any rock art or fossilised remains emerge during the clearance of the fall, and for these to be protected as much as possible.The council and contractors have targeted the end of next week for the full reopening of the road.“We understand the community’s frustration about the closure, but the nature of this rockfall requires caution and care to ensure the road can be opened with any potential hazards removed or secured,” the statement said.Large rocks, which remain precariously balanced on a ledge, will be professionally “shoved off” today, using inflatable bladders, while the road remains closed to all traffic.Until the road re-opens the following diversions remain in place: The A2O is currently being rerouted along Earthquakes Road to rejoin the trail beyond the rock-fall site. This is not a sealed road, so motor vehicle traffic is discouraged.Road traffic is encouraged to take the Georgetown – Ngapara road as a diversion to reach Elephant Rocks, Livingstone and other areas usually accessible by the Duntroon-Livingstone Road.Council will provide further information regarding the road re-opening when available.

Is a house really an investment?
Is a house really an investment?

06 June 2024, 10:36 PM

Homeownership is something that a lot of people aspire to.While it often requires a lot of money, can it really be considered an investment?Here are some of the arguments for and against.It doesn't provide an incomeProperty investor and 20 Rental Properties in One Year author Graeme Fowler said someone's own home should not be considered an investment because they would always need somewhere to live."Whether it be renting or owning. If you own your own home right now and it does increase say 30 percent in value over the next five to 10 years, when you go to buy another home, other homes you want to buy will also have increased by a similar amount. So this does not make it an investment."He said an investment was something that someone else paid you to own."Your own home, you are paying for it, so that is not an investment."Examples of 'investments' are residential rental or commercial property. You put down a small deposit - and if you have good equity, possibly zero deposit - and the tenant then pays off the mortgage. This of course only works on principal and interest loans, not interest-only loans. Your own business can also be an investment."Your own car is generally not an investment, however if you were to use it as a taxi or an Uber, then it would be an investment. The same goes with fridges, washing machines, TVs etc. I used to own a Mr Rental franchise and we rented these items plus many others to customers. This then made them become 'investment' items."Read more: Townhouses, new builds: What's hurting Auckland's housing market?An investment asset should put money into your bank account but a liability would take money out, he said.But Westpac chief economist Kelly Eckhold said a house would deliver a return in the form of somewhere to live."You get housing services over the lifetime you own a house."You're not paying rent you otherwise would have to pay to have somewhere to live."At the beginning, the cost of ownership could be higher than renting but as time went on, that usually reversed.And while the full rent amount is a cost to the tenant, a portion of a mortgage payment also goes to paying down the loan principal, which boosts the owner's equity.Using the equityA house was a large, leverageable asset for a lot of people, Auckland Property Investors Association general manager Sarina Gibbon said.Once a homeowner built up equity, it was usually possible to borrow against it to fund other investments or purchases."It makes sense to account for the accumulated equity as a possible springboard to financial wellbeing."On the other hand, I am a big believer that a home is a home. It should be a sanctuary to which you return each day for comfort and recharge. And you should set your nest however you want."I think a home has leverage potential that can't be ignored by most Kiwi households, but I would hate to see anyone take that too far and forgo reasonable comfort purely for the sake of maximising their wealth."A solid base in retirementHaving a paid-off, mortgage-free house can make a big difference to how easy it is to live on your savings or pension once you retire.The accommodation supplement is sometimes available to retirees who are struggling with accommodation costs, but Greypower has previously said rent could take up the bulk of a pension payment.Researchers from Massey University have looked at housing among retirees and found that most were well-housed and happy in their homes.But when there were poor housing conditions, there was an association with poor mental health, lower quality of life and increased falls.The option to downsizeSome people plan to fund their retirements by selling their houses and buying somewhere smaller, or in a cheaper area.CoreLogic chief property economist Kelvin Davidson said he suspected the reality was sometimes different than the theory."You might have planned to downsize, but then get to retirement and actually find you still like your bigger house and location."That said, we are seeing it still happen. Of all 'movers', we reckon about 21 percent lately have been downsizers, which is above the average of 19 percent."Lots of equity created post-Covid is probably helping, as well as the development boom that has simply created more smaller dwellings. There'll just be a natural long-run tendency for more downsizing too, because of the ageing population."Value increases not guaranteedAs seen in recent years, prices can't be guaranteed to go up.While it's very likely prices will be higher after a lifetime of homeownership, it is possible that price rises in future won't be as large as in the past - and the market could be soft when you want to sell.

Music mad, and with Attitude
Music mad, and with Attitude

06 June 2024, 1:10 AM

Kurow-born singer/songwriter Mads Harrop is releasing a new single Mad Mad Woman, and will be on TVNZ 1's Attitude programme on Sunday, about people living and thriving with disabilities. Mads has a form of autism - Asperger's syndrome, and at age 19, developed Tourette syndrome - a nervous system disorder which involves making involuntary sounds and movements (tics) . She spoke to the Waitaki App about her life and her music, and what she plans to do next.Tell me about where you grew up and went to school? How was school for you?I grew up in Kurow, in the Waitaki Valley. I went to primary school in Kurow (Waitaki Valley School), and went to high school in Ōamaru (St Kevin’s College). Most of my teachers were very supportive of me. As a disabled student, some of the subjects were pretty challenging for me - however, my teachers believed in me, and they always did their best to help me when I needed it the most. I had a really good time at both the schools I attended. Most of the people I went to school with were lovely and kind to me as well, which really helped! Special shout out to Mrs Jepson - she is the teacher that helped prepare me for high school. I also received a lot of support from my parents. If it weren’t for my parents and for the amazing teachers/teacher aides that have helped me along the way, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today!Did you always love music? How did you start getting into it?I’ve always been a big music fan - my dad (Steve Harrop - Sublime Studios) is a musician/producer, and I’ve always got music playing in my house. I’ve been singing since I could talk, and have been playing guitar since I was 14. My songwriting career began just before I turned 16, when my dad introduced me to the 1970s British glam rock band T. Rex. To this day, their song Children Of The Revolution is still my all-time favourite song, and Marc Bolan is someone who I deeply admire and look up to, both as a musician, and a performer. My latest song Mad Mad Woman really shows this influence.How would you describe your music?My music is very much multi-genre - It’s Indie rock, hard rock, punk rock, prog rock, glam rock, and psychedelic pop. Lots of rocks!Tell us about past EPs, successes, etc…My first EP, Contagious, was released in 2020, which included the hit Contagious World. This went to number one in New Zealand on Student Radio. I couldn't believe it, especially the first time it was played on the radio. After that I was interviewed on RNZ and the student radios numerous times, and I have a TV episode coming out this Sunday at 12noon on TVNZ 1 (Attitude), about my music. Academically, I have achieved: Bachelor of Music endorsed in composition and music production at the University of Otago (2022), and with Honours (completed in 2023).Career highlight/s so far?My sister (Cassidhe) and I performed our own songs with Sir Dave Dobbyn up in Tāmaki Makaurau at a concert, back in 2018. Dad and Grandad played with us. There were three generations of Harrops on stage - it was really special and the crowd loved it.Opening for the LEGENDARY Australian Punk band The Chats, alongside Dartz, in 2021.Performing with Ladyhawke at the FIFA Fanzone gig, in 2023.You mentioned you are going to be on Attitude this weekend. How did that come about?My mum happened to be talking to the producer up in Auckland and they said they would love to tell my story. They thought it would be helpful to others to overcome what life throws at them, particularly the Tourette’s - which I find by far the most difficult. Tell us about the challenges you've had to overcome in your life, and still deal with on a daily basis - what influence, if any, has this had on your music?Since I got Tourette’s (five years ago), I’ve had to overcome a lot - especially when it comes to going out in public.As much as I like getting out and about, I do feel uncomfortable when strangers react to my tics - when that happens, it feels like people draw all their attention on me, which I find embarrassing, especially if they tell me off, if they say things such as, “Hey! We don’t need to hear any of that, keep it to yourself!”, or if someone sees me and then they start laughing at my tics. Usually when those situations arise, I just say to people, “I can’t help it, I have Tourette’s, sorry. Could you please be kind?”, and, if I need to, I will stick up for myself. I also have a badge in my purse that explains my condition, which I sometimes wear. Living with Tourette’s has also affected my mental health, and it causes me a lot of pain - tics can really hurt. This has, however, been the driving force behind some of my songs, such as Lost For Words, and Hiding In Colour.I’ve also written a song called Enough Is Enough, and that’s a protest song, calling for Tourette syndrome to be recognised as a disability here in Aotearoa, because the fact that it’s unrecognised means that those who have the condition can’t get any government-funded support, and so the Tourette’s community here have been campaigning for this to change.Also, tell us about your new single. What is it about, when is it out, and how can people listen. My new single is called Mad Mad Woman. It’s about the concept of madness, How women are often perceived by society. It also relates to my own experiences I’ve had, being a woman who has Tourette's. It’s out on June 7 (Bandcamp Friday).What do you do with your life outside of music? Plans for the future?I like to watch movies, exercise, go to lots of gigs and hang out with friends/whānau. When I’m at Mum and Dad’s place, I really enjoy hanging out with my three dogs.I’ve recently started getting into sound engineering and producing, and I would like to make a career out of these. My inspiration to become an engineer and producer stemmed from both Dad and Tom (Havard) at Sublime Studios - when I started recording my own songs, I developed a fascination with recording studio equipment and mixing desks, and so that made me want to learn how to produce and do mixing! I’ve spent the past few years at university working on my skills in this area, especially last year, and I absolutely LOVE being in a recording studio. I’ve also started producing and mixing my own songs, which I LOVE because it gives me so much more creative power and autonomy! I have also started producing and engineering other peoples’ songs. Recently, I applied to do a Masters of Music endorsed in Studio Production, and am waiting to find out the result of that.  Anything else you would like people to know?I LOVE dogs and I really want to get a service dog, because I believe it would really help me, especially with my Tourette's and my autism as it would help me overcome my embarrassment and calm me down. For this to happen, Tourettes would have to be recognised as a disability. Personally, I think it’s crazy that it isn't, as it is the disability I have that has impacted my life the most. Mad Mad Woman is available on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and all other major streaming platforms from tomorrow (June 7). Photo: supplied

Two from Ōamaru awarded King's Birthday Honours
Two from Ōamaru awarded King's Birthday Honours

05 June 2024, 11:04 PM

Two Ōamaru people were recognised in the King’s Birthday Honours List at the weekend.Andrew Dunn was named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to people with Parkinson’s disease, while Frances Oakes JP was named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to mental health and the Pacific community.Andrew co-founded Parkinson’s New Zealand in 1983, and has volunteered with the organisation for the past 40 years in a variety of roles including president, national councillor, board chair and national co-ordinator. He also established Parkinson’s New Zealand’s Field Officer service, which has professionals visiting people living with Parkinson’s disease in their homes.Andrew has been involved with the Wellington, Hawke’s Bay, Canterbury and Otago divisions over the years and represented the organisation at international conferences. He has been an active member of the organisation’s national board since 1983, and chair for several terms. Andrew’s achievements have been acknowledged on the Parkinson’s New Zealand website:“If it had not been for Andrew, tens of thousands of New Zealanders may never have received the support required to live with this progressive and incurable condition,” the website says.“Parkinson’s New Zealand will continue to follow in the footsteps of Andrew Dunn and advocate his life-long vision that all people must have access to trustworthy information, education and support to live positively with Parkinson’s.“We are delighted for and so proud that Andrew Dunn (ONZM) has been recognised for his exceptional life-long service for people with Parkinson's.”During his term as president from 1998 to 2000, he encouraged the UPBEAT special interest group for people with young onset Parkinson’s, and in 2011, was recognised with the Orangi Kaupapa Trust Award for developing a sustainable community service and was named a Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year for 2021.Parkinson’s New Zealand now has 17 volunteer support groups around the country. Meanwhile, Frances Oakes has been contributing to mental health in the Waitaki District for more than 30 years.She has played a key role in providing critical crisis intervention, grief support, triage and case management services in the region, and helped establish the Counselling Centre (now Waitaki Community Mental Health Service) -  which provides essential mental health support.She co-founded the Suicide Prevention group within the Waitaki Mental Health Service which provides families with support. Frances also founded the Oamaru Pacific Island Community group in 1998, a community-led Pacific provider which has become a cornerstone for fostering unity and support for Pacifika communities. She has led the Friday Cultural Programme for the Oamaru Pacific Island Community group, which advocates the preservation of Pacifika languages and cultures. In her capacity as chair of the Oamaru Pacific Island Network Frances supported the delivery of the Talanoa Ako programme in 2018, a community engagement model which highlights the effectiveness of culturally responsive initiatives.She has led the Le Va training in the Waitaki, which supports Pasifika families and communities to achieve their best possible health and wellbeing outcomes, and received a Waitaki Citizens Award in 2023 for her contributions.

How tax cuts could mean a tax bill for some workers
How tax cuts could mean a tax bill for some workers

05 June 2024, 9:14 PM

A number of taxpayers could be landed with a bill - or a tax refund - because of the government's decision to enact tax changes part-way through the year.The government announced in this year's Budget that tax brackets will be adjusted from 31 July, reducing most people's tax bills.But while the tax bracket change will apply to tax being withheld on income earned after that date immediately, a different approach will be taken to this year's end-of-year tax return calculation.This tax year will be considered a "composite year" and the tax reduction will be averaged out across it.Robyn Walker - a tax partner at Deloitte - said that would mean that someone who earned more income in the last 244 days of the year could find they were undertaxed and still had more tax to pay.She said annual tax calculations this year would be done with eight bands to reflect the averaging out of the tax bracket shift.The rates assumed that people earned income evenly through the year and had been taxed for 121 days at the old threshold and 244 under the new threshold."It can work in your favour or against you if have variations in how you earn income. The issue is if you earned most of your income in the first part of the year proportionally more of that income will have been taxed at the higher thresholds and less at the lower thresholds so when the composite calculation is done you should be in a refund position."But if you just started work, maybe you're a student and you just have a holiday job working in December, you're only working when the lower threshold is being applied and you will potentially be undertaxed and have a tax liability."Inland Revenue agreed some people would have more tax to pay or a refund, which they normally did not."This will be managed through the normal end of year process."The department writes off debts of up to $50 automatically.

Road, cycle trail remain closed due to slip
Road, cycle trail remain closed due to slip

05 June 2024, 4:07 AM

An unexplained collapse of a cliff onto Livingstone-Duntroon Road has closed the road and part of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail for an unknown period.The 30-40 metre section of rock-fall and slip on the east side of the road, between State Highway 83 and Settlement Road, will keep it closed due to a number of reasons, the Waitaki District Council said in a statement this afternoon (Wednesday, June 5).The site, which includes a section of the cycle trail, was assessed for safety risks by drone and a geotech engineer on Tuesday.“There are currently a number of precarious boulders and sections of rock remaining with the potential for further slips and falls,” the statement said. “This fall was not caused by a rainfall event, or by geological activity such as a quake or tremor. With that in mind, simply clearing the material on the road would not be appropriate until the causes have been determined, and action taken to secure or remove the remaining collapsed boulders and rock.”The cliff itself is property of Ngāi Tahu, and the land behind it privately owned. It is also close to the Maerewhenua Rock Art Site, one of the UNESCO Waitaki Whitestone Geopark sites, the statement said.The council, stakeholders and contractors are partnering with Ngāi Tahu to assess any historic or cultural significance, and preserve any carvings or rock art within the fall area, and further updates will be provided as they are available.Diversions• The A2O is currently being rerouted along Earthquakes Road to rejoin the trail beyond the rock-fall site. This is not a sealed road, so motor vehicle traffic is discouraged.• Road traffic is encouraged to take the Georgetown–Ngapara road as a diversion to reach Elephant Rocks, Livingstone and other areas usually accessible by the Duntroon-Livingstone Road.A second drone shot of further potentially unstable rock, where the original slip occurred.

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