'Celebrate some of the great successes' – Fred Hollows Foundation marks thousands of sight-restoration surgeries in the Pacific over 25 years

It's not even 9am at the Leulumoega clinic and the seats are already filled.

Patients have come from neighbouring villages for non-communicable disease checkups – in Samoa that means diabetes.

The charity has been providing life-changing eyesight operations for 25 years, transforming thousands of lives. Source: 1 NEWS

Ophthalmic nurse Aisasiga Taase Mafaufau, who has a tiny room that acts as an eye clinic near the waiting area, knows this means a busy day – every patient with diabetes is sent on to him for an eye checkup.

"The thing we are trying here is to identify them in an early stage because a surgeon can save them from getting blind .. for diabetic retinography if it's presenting in a very late stage we can't do much about that," he says.

Time is of the essence. Diabetes, which can cause blindness, is spiralling out of control in the Pacific with some of the highest rates in the world.

In Samoa, it's estimated nearly a quarter of the population has the disease – many of them undiagnosed.

The foundation has had to change the way it works due to the sky rocketing rates of diabetes in the Pacific. Source: 1 NEWS

It's why the Fred Hollows Foundation has moved away from just sending in overseas specialist teams twice a year.

In Samoa it's trained five ophthalmic nurses who are based in outreach clinics in rural areas so they can identify at-risk patients sooner rather than later. 

Ophthalmologist Dr Lucilla Ah Ching-Sefo, another local trained by Fred Hollows, say these community clinics are making a vital difference as diabetes patients who go to the main hospital eye clinic often go too late to save their eyesight.

"One of the great barriers of health care is distance and transportation so making this service accessible to the rural community it will make a great difference".

It's a difference funded by donations and the New Zealand Government gives $7.5 million in aid over five years to the Foundation which today celebrates its 25th anniversary.

In the Pacific alone it's done over 50,000 operations since 2001 – restoring the sight of around 3000 people a year

Fred Hollows NZ Executive Director Andrew Bell says while it's time to celebrate the successes, it's also about re-energising for the work that still needs to be done.

He says arming Pacific countries to provide their own eye care services is key.

"It's a huge difference to the old concept of fly in fly out where Australian and New Zealand specialists would go for a week, set up an eye camp and go back home again," he says.

"We now have consistency, you have culturally appropriate care, you have care in the home language".

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Tuatara surprises staff at National Kiwi Centre by giving birth

Some surprise arrivals in Hokitika have delighted staff and visitors at the town’s kiwi centre.

At some point in 2017, the centre’s female tuatara became pregnant and buried her eggs, but no one knew until now.

It was the smallest of movements that caught animal handler Karen Smith's eye when she was checking on the National Kiwi Centre’s tuatara.

“[I was] thinking it may be a mouse and then when I got a better look at it I realised it was a baby tuatara.”

Staff at Hokitika’s kiwi centre were unaware their female tuatara was even pregnant until the eggs hatched.

“I managed to scout around and find another three - so we ended up with four live baby tuataras,” says Ms Smith.

The tiny tuataras are kept separate from their parents and for good reason.

Adults tuataras will eat their offspring as soon as they hatch.

While tuatara births in captivity aren’t rare, here in Hokitika the odds were against them.

Tuatara are native to New Zealand, descended from the dinosaur period and can live to 100 or beyond.

Henry at Southland Museum became a first-time father at 111, and he’s the granddaddy to the new West Coast arrivals.

Karen Smith is certain there are more infants on the loose and is asking visitors to keep an eye out.

“I have been telling people to look for movement in here and if they see anything to come tell us up the front."

The tuatara became pregnant last year, buried her eggs, but no one knew until now. Source: 1 NEWS

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Homicide investigation launched after person found dead in Canterbury

Police have launched a homicide investigation after one person died in Charing Cross, Selwyn this afternoon.

One person has died in the rural area of Selwyn this afternoon. Source: 1 NEWS

Emergency services were called to the scene on Grange Road about 3.30pm.

Police believe an altercation took place between two men.

They say a number of people are assisting them.

A scene guard will remain in place overnight and a full scene examination will take place in the morning.

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Opposing new liquor stores, licenses could become easier with free legal help service

Opposing new bottle stores and liquor licenses in your neighbourhood may soon become easier with free legal help now available.

New liquor outlets can become lightning rods for protest, including a proposed new bottle store which was met with local resistance in Christchurch.

Harewood resident Bruce Tulloch, who opposed the liquor store's opening, said: "particularly, we're not keen on people being able to go out at 8, 9, 10 o'clock at night and stock up on more booze - on impulse".

Mr Tulloch says Community Law got in touch and its advice helped hone their argument for the hearing.

"The lawyers will say, 'That's not relevant', 'that's hearsay', 'that doesn't apply' - the fact that people get drunk and bash each other over the head with bottles is not what we're talking about. What we're talking is whether it will affect the amenity and good order of your environment," Mr Tulloch said.

Community Law CEO Sue Moroney said the service is about helping people, particularly in low-income areas, who are often unable compete with the lawyers brought in by the alcohol industry.

"Many of these off-license provisions, particularly, are targeted at really low-income areas. so the people in those communities don't have, necessarily, the knowledge or information or the financial resources for that type of battle, so this is actually arming them with a free legal resource," Ms Moroney said.

New Zealand Alcohol Beverages Council executive director Nick Leggett described the battle between the alcohol industry and local residents as a "kind of David and Goliath".

"The alcohol industry is actually a whole lot of small business people, many thousands around the country running responsibly," Mr Legett said.

However, the Alcohol Beverages Council welcomed the initiative.

"All power to them. To be honest, I think it's an intrinsic Kiwi value that we want a level playing field," he said.

The pilot project will run for the next three years in six communities. If proven successful, the project will then be rolled out across the country.

"It means that the district licensing committee is likely to come out with the right decision rather than one side having all the legal resources and the other side having none," Ms Moroney said.

Free legal help is now available to help oppose new bottle stores and liquor licenses in your neighbourhood. Source: 1 NEWS


Rising cost of fuel taking its toll on Far North communities

For those in our most remote communities, prices at the pump are hitting pretty hard.

For those living in the Far North like Bridget, it can cost up to $111.52 for half a tank of petrol

Bridget lives in New Zealand’s most northerly settlement of Te Hapua.

Every day she spends $50 on petrol to get to her job as a bus driver.

“It takes me about an hour to get to Kaitaia so that's about an hour each way and with the price of petrol it is putting a lot of pressure on myself.”

She works 30 hours a week and is the main provider for her four teenage children and her disabled husband.

“For my family it would actually go across the board it’ll affect me with my food my grocery shopping, my clothing even come down to medical costs for my husband.”

In the Far North, the average income is less than $30,000 a year. The rising price of petrol, just another pressure.

“We got a definite problem up here and it's power petrol and poverty,” says Ricky Houghton, chief executive of He Korowai Trust.

Unlike the main cities, public transport isn’t an option, because there isn’t any in the Far North.

“The families that we work with live in rural isolated communities it's really hitting them in the pocket and they're telling us they can't afford to buy basic food,” says Mr Houghton.

“They can't afford to pay for basic energy costs or power and now they can't afford to pay for petrol.”

It’s not just petrol prices, a four per cent increase in the cost of freight for Far North businesses means customers will have to pay more for their groceries and other house hold goods.

“We’ve had quite a lot of price increases from transport and other companies,” says Bells Produce owner Jeff Moore.

“So were going to have to add those price increases on.”

People in the Far North says they simply want the government to get rid of taxes on petrol.

“We’re asking for their help and saying, ‘hey take the petrol tax off please’,” says Mr Houghton.

Bridget is now looking to leave the family homestead in Te Hapua and is among dozens of others trying to find a home in Kaitaia.  

For many, the price increase means they aren’t able to put as much food on the table. Source: 1 NEWS