Issue 520, 03 May 2019


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New from the SMC

Planned Pike River re-entry delayed – In the News

Denisovan jawbone discovery – Expert Reaction

Active transport report – Expert Reaction

New from the SMC global network

Pike River re-entry delayed

Plans to begin the re-entry of the mine on Friday have been delayed due to safety concerns about conditions inside the drift.

Pike River Recovery Minister Andrew Little announced the operations suspension saying that on Wednesday “unexpected and unexplained readings were reported by the atmospheric monitoring systems in the Pike River mine".

“Safety has always been our first priority, and will continue to be. In these circumstances the appropriate precaution is to temporarily suspend operations.”

Unpredicted and unexplained elevated levels of oxygen were reported from a borehole at the rockfall area, 2,300m down the mine’s drift, the NZ Herald reported.

The elevated oxygen levels could be due to inaccurate monitoring equipment, or oxygen coming through the strata. Pike River Recovery Agency chief operating officer Dinghy Pattinson told Stuff that “the risk is of another spontaneous combustion event if we ignored the readings”.

He maintained the re-entry would still go ahead once the safety concerns were addressed. Pattinson wouldn't yet put a date on when they will resume re-entry work, saying to do so would only add extra pressure and increase safety risks. The agency hoped to have a better idea next week about when the re-entry would resume.

On Friday, families attended a planned memorial ceremony, that was meant to mark the beginning of re-entry, went ahead at the foot of the mine.

Quoted: NZ Geographic

"I don’t want to be in the position where we think it’s all good and there are plenty of bats, and then suddenly there are not many bats, and then there are hardly any bats, and then there are no bats."

NZ Herald paywall kicks off

The NZ Herald's new paywall, and a shared media protocol for reporting the Christchurch shooter's trial have marked an unprecedented week for NZ media.

'New Zealand Herald Premium', which came into effect on Tuesday, saw a decent proportion of the site's stories go behind a paywall.

Paywalled stories are cut off at 100 words, and an introductory deal is offering readers digital subscriptions for $2.50/week.

Spinoff editor Toby Manhire said the move was "a massive deal for New Zealand journalism more widely".

"It turns out the idea that digital advertising would swoop in to pick up the tab abandoned by print advertising was a great big prank. The business of journalism continues to atrophy, around the world and in New Zealand. And so the fortunes of the Herald’s experiment affect us all."

Shooting reporting restrictions

Executives from TVNZ, NZME (which includes the NZ Herald and Newstalk ZB), Stuff, RNZ and Mediaworks (which owns Newshub and multiple radio stations) have agreed on a set of rules for covering the trial of the alleged Christchurch mosque shooter.

The agreed protocol, which will continue indefinitely, stated the companies were mindful of their roles as the "eyes and ears of the public" and were aware the accused may attempt to use the trial as a platform to share his hate-filled views. 

It limits any coverage of statements that actively champion white supremacist or terrorist ideology, and the details of the document released by the accused minutes before the attacks.

The agreement attracted attention - and criticism - from Russian media which claimed the move saw media companies acting as moral guardians over what the public can and can’t say.

Goals for active transport

A University of Otago-led report has outlined bold ambitions aimed at getting Kiwis out of their cars and into more ‘active transport’.

The report, Turning the Tide – from Cars to Active Transport, called for the following national targets by 2050:

  • Doubling the proportion of trips walked to 25 per cent
  • Doubling the proportion of cycling trips in each of the next decades, with the ultimate goal of 15 per cent of all trips being on bicycles
  • Increasing the proportion of all trips by public transport to 15 per cent.
Lead author, Otago Associate Professor Sandra Mandic told RNZ: "The recommendations are ... basically showing that no single intervention will achieve the changes that we need. We set out four priority areas in which we need action."

She said the choices we are making in how we get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ are not only harming our environment "but really, the effects on health are considerable".

Speaking to bFM, University of Auckland Associate Professor of Nursing Melody Smith said city infrastructure had prioritised cars over people, and as a result we've become very attached to our cars. 

"We've got to change the way we think about transport. Our current model as a car-centric culture is not sustainable."

Massey University planner Associate Professor Caroline Miller told bFM's Green Desk said the change in the economy in the late 1980s, increased importations of cars, and lack of investment in public transport prior to 2000 had all led people to favour their cars. 

"So public transport essentially wasn't maintained so people decided, well, it was decrepit old buses and they didn't keep to the timetable, 'I have my car in the garage that I can now afford so I will now drive to work'."

Massey transport and urban planning Associate Professor Imran Muhammad told Newstalk ZB we needed a transformative shift in urban planning if we were to achieve the targets.

The case of the successful Northern Busway in Auckland "shows that if we develop ‘real’ public transport options better than cars then people will use the service," he said.

The SMC gathered expert reaction to the report.

Policy news & developments

Westland floods support: An extra $400,000 in Government money will help West Coasters recover from the devastating March floods.

Budget for Census: The Government is investing more than $16 million in Stats New Zealand in this year's Budget to help fix the mistakes made in last year's Census data.

Christchurch toll increases to 51: The death of a Turkish national in hospital has seen the shooting death toll rise.

Investment in teachers: A $95 million investment to address teacher shortages in our schools will help to  train or support 3280 teachers over the next four years.

Hospital strengthening: The Government has approved $8.8 million for earthquake strengthening for the Hawke's Bay DHB hospital. 

New bus rules: Cabinet has agreed on a new land transport rule that aims to help avert thousands of bus services being cancelled and give bus drivers the rest breaks they need to keep passengers safe.

Pharmac decisions clarity: An overhaul of Pharmac's decision-making process aims to give better insight into what medicines are - and are not - being actively considered for funding.

GMO vaccine: A genetically modified vaccine for the potentially deadly Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) has been approved for importation and release into New Zealand.

Predator control innovation: A new funding round has opened for a DOC fund for innovative ideas that make a difference to predator control technologies.

This week on the NZ Conversation.

Despite its green image, NZ has world’s highest proportion of species at risk
Mike Joy and Sylvie McLean, Victoria University of Wellington

How the decision to paywall NZ’s largest newspaper will affect other media
Merja Myllylahti, Auckland University of Technology

How a bias towards built heritage threatens the protection of cultural landscapes in New Zealand
Nicola Short, Auckland University of Technology; Frances Hancock, University of Auckland; Tim McCreanor, Massey University

See more NZ-authored content on the New Zealand homepage.

What we've been reading

With an abundance of news stories to read, watch and listen to, it can be hard to find the gems. Here we highlight some of the stories that caught our attention this week.

Big oil, big liability: Climate change lawsuits ramp up
Writing for Noted, energy economist Briony Bennett asks: Could big oil companies be held responsible for the effects of climate change and campaigns to discredit climate change science?

Bat signals
Jonathan Carson and photographer Rob Suisted spend a night studying this "very weird group of animals" with DOC's biodiversity rangers in the Pureora Forest Park for New Zealand Geographic.

Plastic Mountain
One News' Anna Whyte looks at the thousands of tonnes of plastic waste New Zealand is sending to Indonesia, and some of the efforts being made back home to stem the flow.

Brothers and sisters
New Zealand came to several hard realisations after the attacks on two Christchurch mosques. One was that New Zealand is not a peaceful and equitable country, Anke Richter and Kate Evans write for New Zealand Geographic.

Meningitis: a deadly alphabet soup
Newsroom's Farah Hancock looks at meningococcal meningitis and the conundrum of a disease requiring two expensive vaccines.

Inside the Team at Facebook That Dealt with the Christchurch Shooting
As long as social media exists, some amount of horror is bound to slip through the cracks, Kate Klonick reports in The New Yorker.

The idea that sperm race to the egg is just another macho myth
Sperm passage is more like a challenging military obstacle course than a standard swimming race, Chicago emeritus biological anthropology curator Robert D Martin writes for Aeon.

New from Sciblogs - NZ's science blog network

Some of the highlights from this week's Sciblogs posts:
A long time between drinks: Mercury will build the Turitea wind farm

We know what we have to do to beat climate change: electrify everything, and stop investing in things that burn fossil fuels, Robert Maclachlan writes in Sciblogs' newest syndicated blog.
Planetary Ecology
Defending the planet from asteroids

In 2029, an asteroid named Apophis is going to make a close fly-by of the Earth in 2029, Duncan Steel writes from Washington DC.
Out of Space
Performance Based Research Fund: The numbers are up

John Pickering looks at who are the winners and who are the losers in the latest PBRF scores.
Kidney Punch
Measles infection is not a cure for cancer

Alison Campbell looks at the science behind the claim that contracting measles can provide immunity to cancers.

Upcoming events

Please see the SMC Events Calendar for more events and details.
  • Killer robots: 3 May, Auckland. Mary Wareham from Human Rights Watch will discuss the need for NZ to develop a policy to guard against fully autonomous weapons, or 'killer robots'.
  • Wikipedia edit-a-thon: 4 May, Dunedin. This full day, free workshop, led by New Zealand's first Wikipedian-at-large, Dr Mike Dickison, will show people how to accurately edit and upload articles to Wikipedia.
  • Layman's archaeology:, 4 May, Dunedin. Learn to sort and identify shells, analyse adzes/toki, compare animal bones (including moa), reconstruct two ancient ceramic pot puzzles at Otago Museum. 
  • Tiny Worlds: 6 May. Wellington. Upulie Divisekera finds out how cells work and how we mimic the things that they do and create new kinds of materials to treat disease.
  • Diversity in advance care planning: 7 May, Auckland. Greg Crawford will discuss how to design inclusive health and social policy concerning complex and sensitive issues.
  • Italy bridge collapse: 8 May, Christchurch. Prof. Alessandro Palermo will explore what happened when the Genoa bridge collapsed in August and highlights what lessons learnt could be relevant to New Zealand.
  • Reminiscing on war: 8 May, Wellington. How do families 'reminisce' about the experience of war and flight? Alexander Freund looks at interviews with members of three families who experienced state violence and displacement in the wake of WWII. 
  • Our brainy brain: 8 May, Auckland. Susan Tappan presents recent research and development that is aimed at helping neuroscientists better understand the cellular networks in our brains. 
  • Future energy: 8 May, Wellington. Swiss energy economist Dr Tom Kober will talk about the 'trilemma' of energy security, energy affordability and environmental sustainability.
  • Low emissions summit: 9-10 May, New Plymouth. The Just Transition National Summit, which features keynotes Jacinda Ardern, James Cameron and Peter Garrett, invites people to define what a just transition to a low emissions future looks like.
  • Micro Showcase: 9 May, Wellington14 May, Auckland. The largest technology roadshow in New Zealand explores the next giant leap in technology and the fields in which it co-exists – the economy, society and the environment.
  • Matariki gathering. 10 May, Taupo. Rangi Matamua will share his detailed knowledge about Matariki in this dynamic lecture, sharing his knowledge and highlighting connections between cultural knowledge and science.
  • Guided universe tour: 10 May, Canterbury. Alistair Perkins from the Ashburton Astronomy Club will present a tour of the universe, then help people see the night sky through telescopes.

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