Bodies Found 11 Years After New Zealand Mine Disaster

This file aerial photo taken on November 30, 2010, shows flames coming out of a ventilation shaft at the Pike River Coal mine near Greymouth on New Zealand’s West Coast. PHOTO: IAIN MCGREGOR / POOL / AFP

 

Eleven years after a New Zealand mine disaster claimed 29 lives, investigators on Wednesday said they had found the remains of at least two of the victims but were unlikely to launch a recovery operation.

The 2010 Pike River Mine disaster was one of New Zealand’s worst industrial accidents, shocking the nation and prompting multiple recovery attempts and a charged criminal investigation.

The disaster is believed to have been caused by a blast triggered by a methane build-up.

Only two of the 31 miners on the afternoon shift were able to make their way out.

Tunnel collapses have all but ended efforts to recover the bodies or gain more evidence about the disaster.

But by digging a borehole, experts have now been able to gather images from the furthest reaches of the mine.

Police said they had spotted two sets of human remains and a possible third.

“At this point, we have been unable to identify the remains, however we will consult with forensic experts,” Detective Superintendent Peter Read said, adding that because of the location, police would not be able to recover the bodies.

“Based on our investigation, we believe there were six to eight men working in the area where the remains have been located.”

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Andrew Little, the Minister responsible for the recovery operation, added “it is unlikely they will be removed… I know some families would like to go further but that won’t be possible.”

Families of the victims said they hoped the discovery would assist with potential prosecutions.

“We’ve fought hard for years now to get justice for our boys, and this is part of it happening,” said Rowdy Durbridge, whose son Daniel died in the explosion.

Anna Osborne, whose husband was among the 29 miners killed, said “what we’ve seen is starting to give real clarity about what happened down there.”

The families of the men trapped and killed in the mine battled authorities for several years to retrieve the bodies.

In 2017, the government agreed to fund a recovery operation but this was abandoned in March this year when they said the operation had progressed 2.2 kilometres (around 1.5 miles) from the entrance without success and it was too hard and too expensive to go any further.

AFP

New Zealand Increases Emissions Reduction Target

In this file photo taken on October 15, 2021 smoke billows from a chimney from a plant in Lyon.
PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

 

New Zealand set itself an ambitious new emissions reduction target Sunday, with a pledge to halve its net greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The new target, announced as world leaders gather in Glasgow for the critical COP26 summit on climate change, is substantially higher than the previous goal of a 30 per cent reduction set as part of the 2015 Paris agreement.

New Zealand’s enhanced contribution to the global fight on climate change “represents our fair share, and is in line with what’s needed if we are to avoid the worst impacts of global warming,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Emissions are currently about the same as they were in 2005 and Climate Change Minister James Shaw described the next decade as “make or break” for the planet.

“To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C, the science shows we now have about eight years left to almost halve global greenhouse gas emissions,” he said in a statement.

“That’s eight years for countries to make the necessary plans, put in place policies, implement them, and ultimately deliver the cuts.”

Under a complex system for determining the contribution to fighting climate change, the cuts will include arrangements helping other countries reduce their emissions, drawing criticism from the opposition National Party.

“National supports using global carbon markets to achieve our targets, but there is no sense in setting a target that over-reaches and simply signs New Zealand up to a huge bill as we buy units from overseas,” the party’s climate change spokesman Stuart Smith said.

New Zealand Drops ‘COVID Zero’ Goal After Delta Outbreak

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during a press conference on COVID-19 at the Parliament in Wellington on June 8, 2020.  (Photo by Marty MELVILLE / AFP)

 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admitted Monday that New Zealand’s widely praised “Covid zero” strategy had failed to halt a stubborn outbreak in Auckland and said a new approach was needed.

The hardline elimination policy had largely protected the country from the pandemic, with residents enjoying a near-normal domestic life alongside tight restrictions on international borders.

But an August outbreak prompted a seven-week lockdown in its main population centre that has failed to curb infection rates.

Ardern said the highly transmissible Delta variant had proved a “game-changer” that could not be eliminated.

“Even with the long-term restrictions we’ve had, we patently haven’t reached zero,” she added.

Ardern said she would not immediately dump the elimination strategy but lockdown restrictions in Auckland would be eased slightly, even though new case numbers have not fallen.

She added that the change — a major shift to her previous goal of completely stamping out the virus — was possible because vaccination rates had increased dramatically.

“Elimination was important because we didn’t have vaccines, now we do, so we can begin to change the way we do things,” she told reporters.

Auckland will remain in lockdown for now but the government will conduct weekly reviews to time the reintroduction of freedoms.

City residents can meet outdoors in groups of up to 10 from Wednesday and steps such as reopening shops and schools will be considered in the coming weeks.

The rest of the country was allowed out of lockdown in early September.

Before the Auckland outbreak, New Zealand’s elimination strategy was widely lauded by bodies such as the World Health Organisation, with just 27 deaths in a population of five million.

Opposition leader Judith Collins said Ardern had offered only a “vague wishlist” that failed to outline a coherent plan to replace the “Covid zero” approach.

AFP

Police Shoot Man Dead After New Zealand Mall Attack

New Zealand flag.

 

New Zealand police shot dead a man who wounded six people in an attack at an Auckland supermarket on Friday as terrified crowds fled for the exits.

Police said the attack occurred when the man entered the Countdown supermarket in the city’s New Lynn suburb as people were doing afternoon shopping.

Authorities described that attack as “random” and not terror-related.

“Police have located the man and he has been shot. He has died at the scene,” they said, offering no information on the man’s motivation in carrying out the attack.

The St John Ambulance Service said six people were taken to hospital, three in critical condition.

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Details of the attack were scarce, with some witnesses saying the man was wielding a knife and others describing hearing gunshots.

Auckland is currently in Covid-19 lockdown as it battles to contain an outbreak of the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s office said the New Zealand leader was being briefed on the situation and would hold a press conference later Friday.

There was a similar supermarket attack in Dunedin in May when a knife-wielding attacker wounded four people.

New Zealand’s worst terror attack was the Christchurch mosques shootings in March 2019, when a white supremacist gunman murdered 51 Muslim worshippers and severely wounded another 40.

AFP

Tokyo Olympics: New Zealand Beat France To Win Women’s Rugby Sevens Gold

New Zealand’s Gayle Broughton (R) scores a try despite a tackle by France’s Jade Ulutule in the women’s final rugby sevens match between New Zealand and France during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo on July 31, 2021.  Greg Baker / AFP.

 

New Zealand have beaten France 26 – 12 to win the Women’s Olympic rugby sevens gold medal at the Tokyo Stadium.

The top seeds finally achieved their Olympic dream on Saturday after a disappointing experience at the Rio 2016 games.

Losing the gold medal match to Australia five years ago, the Black Ferns Sevens had spoken about their desire to go on better in Tokyo, and captain Sarah Hirini helped give them the ideal start as she offloaded to Michaela Blyde who scored the first try of the final.

Gayle Broughton produced a stunning finish in the left corner before Stacey Fluhler went over in the final minute of the first half to give New Zealand a 19-5 lead at the break.

Anne-Cecile Ciofani scored her seventh try of the tournament to draw France within seven points early in the second half, but Tyla Nathan-Wong went over to make sure of the gold medal for New Zealand.

New Zealand captain Hirini described the moment as special, saying “I think back to everything we have had to do to get to this moment, all the people back home who helped us, players who missed out but also trained hard.”

France’s Jade Ulutule (L) and New Zealand’s Gayle Broughton tumble in the women’s final rugby sevens match between New Zealand and France during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo on July 31, 2021. Greg Baker / AFP.

 

“Everything people went through to win this, it is pretty crazy and something you look at your teammates and think, we finally did it for New Zealand.

“We are the best team in the world, we’ve got the best players in the world, and when you look around at that group, it is just, do your job and everything will happen. It did in that final,” she added.

 

Maybe Next Time

Despite the defeat, France can be proud of their silver-winning performance. The French team qualified for the Games through the World Rugby Sevens Repechage last month and their place on the podium will boost interest in rugby sevens ahead of the Olympic Games Paris 2024.

France captain Fanny Horta confirmed they have good reasons to be proud of their achievement, saying, “You need to be able to congratulate yourselves if you are on the podium at the Olympic Games, irrespective of the medal. I am sure with this medal, the desire for revenge will be great.”

“I think it has been a beautiful story and hopefully it continues. This is the first medal France has won in sevens and I hope this gives young girls the desire to start playing rugby and to get to the Olympics. Maybe next time we can win the final.”

Following the medal ceremony, the New Zealand players laid down their gold medals and performed a spine-tingling haka on the Tokyo Stadium pitch to bring down the curtain on a superb six days of Olympic rugby sevens action that has showcased the very best of the sport, which was making its second appearance on the Olympic programme.

The COVID-Era Summer Travel Rules For Europe

A picture taken on June 29, 2021 in Paris shows a passport next to a mobile phone whose screen bears a EU Digital Covid certificate. – The European health certificate, which Belgium began using on June 16, 2021, will become operational across the EU on July 1, 2021. (Photo by Olivier MORIN / AFP)

 

 

Europe’s tourism hot spots are gearing up for what they hope will be a summer season marked by the return of foreigners eager for a taste of freedom after a year of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns worldwide.

But visitors will face a hodgepodge of entry rules across the bloc, even with the launch of a “travel pass” for EU residents aimed at speeding up processing at arrival points.

Access for tourists from some countries outside the bloc has also become easier, but others continue to impose draconian restrictions as governments try to avert a fourth coronavirus wave while throwing tourism a lifeline.

Here is a summary of rules in some of Europe’s key tourism spots:

France

France, the world’s top tourist destination, uses a colour-coded map laying out entry protocols, with EU residents who are vaccinated or have a negative PCR test able to enter freely.

The same goes for a number of “green” countries, including the United States, Australia, South Korea, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, New Zealand and Singapore.

Visitors from “orange” zones, which include Britain and most of Asia and Africa, have to produce a recent negative Covid test even when vaccinated.

For non-vaccinated people coming from “orange” zones, however, only essential trips are allowed and a seven-day self-quarantine imposed.

Just over 20 countries remain largely off-limits, including India, South Africa and much of South America, including Brazil.

Mask-wearing remains mandatory indoors, but curfew rules have been lifted.

Spain

Anyone who has been fully vaccinated can enter Spain, irrespective of their point of origin.

Arrivals from several countries or regions no longer even need proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test. They are Albania, Australia, South Korea, the United States, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Rwanda, Serbia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Macao.

Non-vaccinated travellers from EU countries need to produce a negative Covid test less than 48 hours old.

Arrivals from Britain, which makes up the biggest foreign tourist group in Spain, again need to show a negative PCR test, a requirement that had been dropped previously.

Masks are mandatory indoors, but no longer outside, and curfews and domestic travel restrictions have been lifted.

Restaurants and bars are cleared for outdoor and indoor seating, but there are some restrictions on hours and the number of patrons allowed at any one time.

Nightclubs have reopened in the Madrid region and Catalonia, which includes hotspot Barcelona.

 

Italy

Italy hopes for 20 percent more tourists than last year.

Arrivals from the EU can enter freely if they have either been fully vaccinated, recovered from Covid or present a negative Covid test less than 48 hours old.

The same goes for passengers arriving from the United States, Canada, Japan, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Rwanda, Singapore and Thailand.

Visitors from Britain are subject to a five-day quarantine after presentation of a negative test. A second test is required after quarantine.

Italy remains off-limits for tourists from Brazil, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Masks are no longer compulsory outside, but must be worn indoors.

Curfews have been lifted, as have restrictions on restaurants and bars but tables must still be placed at least one metre (3.2 feet) apart.

Portugal

According to rules in force until July 11, all arrivals need to present proof of vaccination or a PCR test less than 72 hours old or an antigen of less than 48 hours.

Non-vaccinated arrivals from Britain will need to self-isolate for 14 days.

Except for EU member countries, Schengen members and a small number of other countries including the US and Australia, travellers need a compelling reason to enter Portugal.

Social distancing and mask-wearing are mandatory, and special rules are in place for beaches and swimming pool areas, with a distance of three metres minimum required between parasols.

Greece

The Greek government is hoping to reach about half of its pre-pandemic tourism revenues this summer which, if confirmed, would double last year’s figure.

Some 150,000 tourists have travelled to Greece since the start of the season on May 14, according to Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis.

Arrivals from EU countries and the Schengen area are authorised to enter Greece, as are residents of Canada, the US, Israel, China, Thailand, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

But they are required to fill in a form and produce proof of full vaccination, or a PCR test of less than 72 hours, an antigen test of less than 48 hours, or a certificate of post-infection immunity.

The authorities said they will also carry out spot antigen testing of arriving passengers.

UK

Travel to Britain is made difficult for most of the world by strict curbs on arrivals, costly quarantine requirements and expensive Covid tests.

The tourism sector’s efforts are mostly focused on domestic holidaymakers.

Travellers from “green” countries — including Australia, New Zealand and Iceland — need only produce a negative Covid test.

The green list was extended by 16 countries on Wednesday, including Israel, the Balearic Islands and the Cayman Islands.

Arrivals from Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands can enter freely.

Covid infections due to the delta variant delayed the planned lifting of many social restrictions, but Britain hopes to scrap a ban on large social gatherings, and non-seated drinking in pubs, on July 19, as well as to reopen nightclubs.

UK Man Jailed For Sharing Christchurch Mosque Videos

 

 

A 38-year-old British man was on Wednesday jailed for terrorism offences after sharing explosives manuals and extremist videos, including one apparently celebrating the New Zealand mosque massacres, on right-wing chat groups.

Michael Nugent of Surrey, southern England, ran a number of far-right chat groups on the Telegram app, using different identities to express his “hatred of ethnic minorities” and to share “terrorist-related documents with others”, according to police.

A judge at Kingston Crown Court in southwest London jailed him for three-and-a-half years.

“Nugent freely shared his abhorrent extremist views with others over a messaging app, and he passed on manuals detailing how to produce deadly weapons and explosive devices,” said Metropolitan Police Commander Richard Smith.

He also shared footage of the attack in Christchurch on the one-year anniversary of the atrocity in March last year and posted the manifesto of the perpetrator of the attack, Brenton Tarrant.

Nugent was arrested on August 19, 2020 and initially charged with 12 Terrorism Act offences. A further six charges were subsequently added.

 

Ambulance staff take a man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. A witness says many people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

 

He pleaded guilty to five counts of dissemination of terrorist publications and 11 counts of possession of a document containing information likely to be useful to a person preparing or committing an act of terrorism.

Nugent pleaded not guilty to two counts of encouraging terrorism. The judge however ruled that even though there was sufficient evidence for a prosecution there was no public interest in proceeding on those charges.

Emergency Declared As New Zealand Floods Threaten Thousands Of Homes

New Zealand map.

 

New Zealand authorities declared a state of emergency in the province of Canterbury Sunday, as the region was pounded by heavy rain that could force thousands of people to abandon their homes.

Acting Emergency Management Minister Kris Faafoi, who visited the hardest-hit southern parts of the area, said about 3,000 homes were at risk and the army had been mobilised to assist with evacuations if necessary.

“The rain is going to stick around until at least tomorrow. It will be heavy and the authorities will be watching those river levels tonight,” Faafoi said.

The New Zealand Meteorological Service has issued a rare “red” warning for the area, with up to 300 millimetres (11.8 inches) of rain expected to fall in inland areas.

In coastal Christchurch, the main city in Canterbury, forecasters expected about 100 mm to fall, well above the monthly total average for May.

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Canterbury Civil Defence emergency management group controller Neville Reilly told the New Zealand Herald that the state of emergency was declared because authorities could not afford to take chances.

“There’s a lot of contingency planning going on so that if something untoward should happen we are in a position to get people out and give them somewhere to go,” he said.

“Really we’re just holding our breath overnight.”

Neil Brown, the mayor of Ashburton, said about 4,000 people in the town could be forced to evacuate if the Ashburton River breaks its banks.

AFP

New Zealand To Grant Automatic Paid Leave After Miscarriage

The New Zealand national flag is flown at half-mast on a Parliament building in Wellington on March 15, 2019, after a shooting incident in Christchurch.
Marty MELVILLE / AFP

 

Working mothers and their partners will be allowed to take paid leave after suffering a miscarriage or stillbirth in New Zealand after a unanimous vote by lawmakers, in what is believed to be one of the first provisions of its type in the world.

The bereavement allowance, passed by parliament late Wednesday, gives employees three days’ leave when a pregnancy ends with a stillbirth, rather than forcing them to use their sick leave.

Lawmaker Ginny Andersen said a stillbirth should be recognised with dedicated bereavement leave but the stigma that surrounds the issue meant many people were reluctant to discuss it.

“The grief that comes with miscarriage is not a sickness; it is a loss, and that loss takes time — time to recover physically and time to recover mentally,” she told parliament.

Andersen said the leave extends to a woman’s partner if she suffers a miscarriage, as well as to people who were attempting to have a child through surrogacy.

She said the law continued the New Zealand parliament’s role in pioneering women’s rights, most notably on voting rights and equal pay.

“I can only hope that while we may be one of the first, we will not be one of the last and that other countries will also begin to legislate for a compassionate and fair leave system that recognizes the pain and the grief that comes from miscarriage and stillbirth,” she said.

-AFP

Stranded Whales Refloated In New Zealand But Concerns Remain

This handout photo taken and received from whale rescue charity Project Jonah via New Zealand’s Department of Conservation on February 22, 2021 shows rescuers racing to save dozens of pilot whales that beached on a stretch of New Zealand coast at Farewell Spit, notorious for mass strandings. (Photo by Handout / Project Jonah / AFP)

 

Rescuers successfully refloated 28 pilot whales stranded on a notorious stretch of New Zealand’s coast Tuesday, but the mammals remained close to shore and could beach themselves again, wildlife officials said.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) said the long-finned pilot whales were part of a pod of around 50 found Monday at Farewell Spit, about 90 kilometres (55 miles) north of the South Island tourist town of Nelson.

Around 40 were pushed out to sea on Monday evening but swam back ashore by the next morning, with around 60 volunteers helping move the 28 survivors back into the water.

“The whales have been close to shore and it’s uncertain whether they will swim off or possibly re-strand,” a DOC spokeswoman said.

“DOC rangers and volunteers remain on-site ready to respond if the whales start swimming for shore and become stranded again.”

At least 15 of the original pod have died.

Farewell Spit is a 26-kilometre hook of sand that protrudes into the sea at Golden Bay.

It has been the scene of at least 10 pilot whale strandings in the past 15 years.

The most recent was in February 2017, when almost 700 of the mammals beached, resulting in 250 deaths.

Scientists are unclear about why the beach is so deadly. One theory is that the spit creates a shallow seabed in the bay that interferes with the whales’ sonar navigation systems.

New Zealand Suspends Myanmar Political, Military Ties After Coup

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during a press conference about the COVID-19 coronavirus at Parliament in Wellington on June 8, 2020. – New Zealand has no active COVID-19 cases after the country’s final patient was given the all clear and released from isolation, health authorities said on June 8. (Photo by Marty MELVILLE / AFP)

 

New Zealand announced the suspension of high-level military and political contacts with Myanmar Tuesday, the first major international move to isolate the country’s ruling junta following a coup.

Unveiling the measures, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called for the international community to “strongly condemn what we’re seeing happen in Myanmar”.

“After years of working hard to build a democracy in Myanmar, I think every New Zealander would be devastated to see what we’ve seen in recent days led by the military,” she told reporters.

“Our strong message is we will do what we can from here in New Zealand.”

Ardern said the measures would include travel bans on senior military figures.

Myanmar’s military last week detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and dozens of other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, ending a decade of civilian rule.

Ardern said New Zealand wanted the UN Human Rights Council to hold a special session to discuss developments in Myanmar.

She added that New Zealand’s aid programmes in Myanmar, worth about NZ$42 million ($30.5 million), would continue with safeguards that they did not benefit, or come under the control of, the military junta.

“We’re being very cautious with whatever aid and development work we do there that we are not propping up that regime,” she said.

Ardern conceded New Zealand had limited leverage on Myanmar’s military but said Suu Kyi had personally thanked her during past meetings for Wellington’s help during the country’s transition to democracy.

“While it may seem New Zealand’s position on this may not seem particularly relevant, one of the last occasions when I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Aung San Suu Kyi, she specifically mentioned some of our representatives from New Zealand in Myanmar,” Ardern said.

“They were well regarded and well respected and I think it played a really constructive role in that critical time for Myanmar and their transition.”

The junta proclaimed a one-year state of emergency last week, promising to hold fresh elections after that, without offering any precise timeframe.

In doing so they ended Myanmar’s 10-year experiment with democracy after close to 50 years of military rule.

The generals justified the coup by claiming fraud in November’s elections, which the NLD won by a landslide.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta dismissed the allegations of fraud.

“We do not recognise the legitimacy of the military-led government and we call on the military to immediately release all detained political leaders and restore civilian rule,” she said in a statement.

New COVID-19 Case ‘South African Variant’ – New Zealand

FILES) This file photo taken on April 20, 2020 shows a security guard standing outside a COVID-19 coronavirus clinic in Lower Hutt, near Wellington. New Zealand health officials on January 24, 2021 confirmed the first case of Covid-19 in the community for more than two months, sparking urgent contract-tracing efforts north of Auckland.
Marty MELVILLE / AFP

 

New Zealand’s first case of coronavirus in the community for more than two months has been identified as the more contagious South African variant, prompting Australia to suspend quarantine-free travel from the neighbouring country for at least 72 hours.

A 56-year-old New Zealander, who recently returned from Europe, tested positive on Saturday to the infectious strain, 10 days after she completed her compulsory two weeks in isolation.

New Zealand has been widely praised for its handling of the pandemic, with just 25 deaths from 1,927 confirmed virus cases in a population of five million.

The latest case is New Zealand’s first in the community since mid-November and has been classified as a strain said to be more transmissible.

“The strain of infection is the South African variant and the source of infection is highly likely to be a fellow returnee,” said Health Minister Chris Hipkins.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said it was a case of “significant concern” and the increased possibility of transmission had prompted his government to suspend its “travel bubble” with New Zealand for a minimum of 72 hours.

“This will be done out of an abundance of caution whilst more is learnt about the event and the case,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“The changes come into effect immediately.”

Hunt urged New Zealanders with a flight to Australia scheduled within the next three days to “reconsider their need to travel” as they will have to go into hotel quarantine — like other international arrivals — for up to 14 days on arrival.

The woman is thought to have been infected during quarantine by a person on the same floor of the hotel who tested positive two days before the woman left.

The 56-year-old travelled around the Northland region near Auckland after her release from quarantine and showed symptoms for several days before being tested.

Two people close to her, including her husband, have since returned negative tests and New Zealand’s director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said they likely avoided contracting the illness due to the type of infection.

“She didn’t talk about respiratory symptoms, it was more muscle aches, so she may not have been sharing or spreading the virus much,” he said.

“I don’t think that’s peculiar to this variant, it’s just how it was expressed in this woman.”

The World Health Organization has said there is no clear evidence the South African variant leads to more severe disease or a higher death rate.

-AFP