Issue 525, 07 Jun 2019


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New from the SMC

Expert Reaction: Cameras on fishing boats

Expert Q&A: Addressing New Zealand’s housing supply issues

In the News: Boom in NZ podcasts

New from the SMC global network

Cameras on fishing boats

On-board cameras will be mandated on commercial fishing vessels at greatest risk of encountering rare Māui dolphins, the Government has announced.

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash said the Budget has set aside $17.1 million over four years for purchase, installation and maintenance of the cameras, as well as the costs of storage, review and analysis of the footage.

Footage would be encrypted to protect privacy, the NZ Herald reported

The changes will take effect on November 1 and affect up to 28 vessels operating in the main Maui dolphin habitat between Northland and Taranaki.

There are over 1000 commercial fishing boats in New Zealand waters, Stuff reported, but not all operate in this area. Other vessels that work in Māui dolphin habitats use methods like long-lines, purse seine nets and potting that pose a lower risk and would be unaffected by the new rules at this stage, Minister Nash said.

However this roll-out "allows time to refine systems and processes before a wider camera programme is considered across more of the commercial fleet", Nash said.

University of Otago marine scientist Professor Stephen Dawson said mandating cameras on boats that encroach on Māui dolphin habitats would not reduce the risk to their critically endangered population.

“The action that is needed is to get fishing methods that kill dolphins (ie. gillnetting and trawling) out of Māui dolphin habitat."

It was already well-established that gillnetting and trawling posed serious threats to these dolphins and others worldwide, he said.

"There are around 60 of these dolphins left – this problem is too urgent to delay protection while doing more research."

University of Auckland conservation biologist, Associate Professor Rochelle Constantine, said it was very difficult to determine the distribution and human threats facing the rare dolphins, but the cameras were a "huge step forward".

The announcement comes ahead of the release of a review of the Hector's and Māui Dolphin Threat Management Plan which will go out for public consultation shortly.

The SMC gathered expert reaction on the announcement.

Quoted: RNZ

"To give you a feeling, the global average lightning rate is 44 a second.

"You have to wait three minutes in New Zealand for there to be a lightning strike, on average, and in that time globally there's been about 7500."

University of Otago physics Professor Craig Rodger on how often lightning strikes New Zealand

NZ's housing supply issues

Key players in the housing sector gathered in Wellington this week for the Shift Aotearoa Conference, aimed at finding practical solutions to our housing crisis.

The conference ran from June 5-7, and was hosted by Community Housing Aotearoa and the Building Better Homes, Towns, and Cities (BBHTC) National Science Challenge.

Community Housing Aotearoa's chief executive Scott Figenshow told Breakfast's John Campbell solutions were there on making way for more affordable rental and assisted home ownership options.

"The problem is we're just not pressing the go button to make them happen at the scale that we know we need and that we know we can do. 

"Our sector currently is home to over 25,000 New Zealanders and we're just getting started. The Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities National Science Challenge is providing the evidence base. So what we're really looking at is evidence into practice."

BBHTC challenge director Ruth Berry said there were factors beyond being warm and roofed that impact community, whānau and indivisible well-being.

"Some of it is about how we consider the right to adequate housing, and how we define adequate. For instance, there is evidence that place attachment, a sense of home and community is vital for wellbeing and setting people and society up for success, social, economic, cultural, educational."

Victoria University senior lecturer in architecture, Mark Southcombe told the SMC land costs, on top of rising house costs, had compounded the problem.

Many, mostly unregulated tiny house subdivisions and communities were springing up as a bottom up, community response to address housing access and affordability, he said.

"So we have homeless not only on our streets but also increasingly with tiny houses and RV’s like a personal snail shell home, but landless...”

Dr Kay Saville-Smith, director of the Centre for Research, Evaluation and Social Assessment (Cresa) said: "There is sense that housing is a wicked problem that is impossible to solve.. but with knowledge, commitment and will they can be solved." 

The Science Media Centre asked experts to address issues facing New Zealand's housing supply.

Video training workshop

This month, the Science Media Centre will take its popular science video making workshops to Auckland, offering more researchers the chance to get science video savvy.

These video workshops (produced in collaboration with Baz Caitcheon) focus on giving scientists the tools and skills to communicate their research in short videos aimed at an online audience.

Producing short videos using the high-definition camera built into your smartphone or tablet has never been easier. We’ll show you to how to develop a video concept and give you tips on the best ways to shoot, edit and distribute your video content. In the weeks following, Baz will mentor you to help you produce your first science video.

26 June - 9am-1pm
Massey University, Albany - Apply now

The workshop is free to attend, but limited to 15 places. University and CRI researchers get top priority. Communications staff are also encouraged to apply.

This is a competitive application process – the best applicants will be selected based on the video concepts outlined in the application form.

More information is available on the SMC website. Applications close 14 June.

Policy news & developments

High flu vax uptake: Over 1.26 million doses of the influenza vaccine have been distributed this year - the highest number to be distributed so early in winter - but that means the national stockpile of vaccines is running low. Pharmac is unable to buy any more.

Fruit fly controls: On the ground efforts to manage recent fruit fly detection in the Northcote area will remain in place through winter.

Longitudinal study funding: The Growing Up in New Zealand study has received a funding boost as part of the Budget.

Multinational tax: Two broad options have been proposed to ensure offshore digital companies pay their fair share of tax - consultation on the proposals is open until 18 July.

Dairy changes: Changes to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) will allow Fonterra to refuse milk supply from farmers in some circumstances.

Rainbow Wellbeing: The Government proposes to establish a charitable trust with a one-off endowment of $1 million as an acknowledgement of those New Zealanders who were convicted for homosexual acts prior to the law change in 1986. The trust will support organisations that improve mental health and wellbeing among rainbow communities.

This week on the NZ Conversation.

Budget lessons in the politics of Indigenous self-determination
Dominic O'Sullivan, Charles Sturt University

NZ Budget 2019: support for lower-emission business, transport, land use
Robert McLachlan, Massey University

Children had no say in New Zealand’s well-being budget, and that matters
Kate C. Prickett, Victoria University of Wellington

Why reducing unemployment should have been a focus for NZ’s well-being budget
Simon Chapple, Victoria University of Wellington

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.

What does it feel like to be struck by lightning?
Exploding clothing, curious skin marks and the crawling sensation of being covered in ants - RNZ's Kate Newton waited six months for a storm so this story about what it's like to be struck by lightning could be published.

Women of the Mosque
Stuff's national correspondent Florence Kerr and visual journalist Christel Yardley tell the important story of what happened behind a solid pine door at Masjid Al Noor on March 15 - the only thing that separated 30 women and infants from the Christchurch gunman.

Inside the flu's spree of destruction
As news broke that the country's flu vaccine stocks were set to run out, Newsroom's Farah Hancock wrote about how the influenza virus sets off a battle inside your body which can be fatal.

The Aotearoa chainsaw massacre
Stuff's Charlie Mitchell tells of how NZ is losing some of its finest urban trees at such a pace that tree advocates are calling it a crisis.

Raining black: How much ash would a Taupō eruption spread?
Layers of ash centimetres thick could fall on Auckland in a major Taupo eruption. Jamie Morton talks to Victoria University's Simon Barker for NZ Herald Premium.

Measles outbreaks put U.S. at risk of losing prized 'elimination' status
With two large outbreaks pushing the country’s measles count to a quarter-century high, US officials are starting to grapple with an unpleasant prospect, Helen Branswell writes for Stat News.

New from Sciblogs - NZ's science blog network

Some of the highlights from this week's Sciblogs posts:
A new pre-print server and media access to research

As a new server is announced for pre-prints, Sarah-Jane O'Connor looks at the pros and potential cons of making more and more research available before peer review. 
Lately, In Science
Measles infection and immune amnesia

Alison Campbell writes about the "memory" our immune systems have following measles, and whether that affects our immunity to other diseases. 

How endangered are New Zealand dolphins and sea lions?

Steve Dawson, Liz Slooten and Bruce Robertson discuss DoC downgrading the threat status of Hector's dolphins and NZ sea lions.
Guest Work

The tragedy of climate change

Robert McLachlan asks: Why is there air pollution, and an ecological crisis? And why has it been so hard to deal with? 
Planetary Ecology

Upcoming events

Please see the SMC Events Calendar for more events and details.
  • Falling Walls: Applications close 7 June: Early-career researchers can apply to represent New Zealand at the Falling Walls Lab Finale in Berlin.
  • Physical activity and wellbeing: 10 June, Auckland. Three speakers will discuss physical activity interventions for mental health, and the use of virtual reality to improve exercise.
  • Resistance is not futile: 10 June, Auckland. Peter Fineran will discuss bacterial immune systems that can hinder our ability to treat infectious diseases.
  • Taking care of our youth: 10 June, Tauranga. Katrina McChesney will address the role of schools in supporting young people's mental health and wellbeing.
  • Responses to terrorism: 11 June, Wellington. Nicola Macaulay will give a public talk on whether banning the manifesto of the alleged Christchurch gunman is warranted.
  • Rheumatic fever in Australia: 11 June, Wellington. Judith Katzenellenbogen will outline challenges from the Australian Rheumatic Heart Disease Burden Study.
  • Haggis to hāngi: 12 June, Wellington. Endocronologist Jeremy Krebs asks: are we what we eat?

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