Concerns native plants, precious wildlife will be wiped out by Mckenzie country dairy farm

Murray Valentine has had a dairy farm 15 years in the making after purchasing land in Mackenzie country, in the South Island, in 2003.

After several court battles, his dairy operation is now underway.

However, Forest and Bird regional manager Jen Miller says the development is "entirely inappropriate".

"It's actually a national tragedy, what's occurring," Ms Miller said.

The debate is whether the land Mr Valentine puts those cows on should be irrigated or preserved.

Graham Smith, the Mackenzie country District Mayor, says Mr Valentine has done everything by the book.

"What Murray has done is meet the consents as such and we have just formed an alliance between LINZ, DOC, ECAN, Waitaki District Council and ourselves to get on the same page as far as consents and protecting our landscapes," says Mr Smith.

Some of the opposition, however, is not convinced.

"The reason why a lot of the development has occurred is that many of the agencies that are responsible for its protection have failed to do their job," Ms Miller said.

"I've been slightly amazed at some of the groups that have come out now, without being in touch with us," Mr Smith said in response.

There are concerns that native plants and precious wildlife will be wiped out, but Mr Valentine disagrees.

As part of Mr Valentine's agreement with outside parties, he will be leaving 2500 hectares of his land untouched for conservation purposes.

"I don't think it will affect bird life to any great degree. Some birds like water," Mr Valentine said.

A lot of the argument by critics is how much of the farms the public see, but Mr Valentine said if you're not looking for them, you'll struggle to see any changes.

"When you're losing species, you've lost species, whether you see them or not doesn't make any difference," Ms Miller argued.

Greenpeace is concerned about a massive pipeline on the farm, saying it'll help discharge nutrient pollutants into waterways.

"I don't think any of our nutrients will end up in those areas, because we'll monitor it," Mr Valentine said.

The accountant won't disclose how much he has spent on the operation, although it's clear he wants to see it through.

"They're certainly entitled to their view, and I try to answer all of the questions and make sure it's an informed discussion, rather than people just making statements that aren't actually true."

The area in the south of the South Island has some of the country’s most precious wildlife and native plants. Source: 1 NEWS

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The West Auckland home that's a 1980s masterpiece - 'You get a buzz out of it, a bit of excitement'

It's stood staunchly on this ridge of Auckland's Waitakere Ranges for almost 40 years, and now Seven Sharp's had a sneak peek at the 1980s masterpiece surrounded by nature.

Homeowner John Hatchman says, "When you look at the house, it just grabs you. The cantilevered decks, the lovely cedar, the big windows - it just blows you away when you first see it".

"It's just unique. I've never seen a place quite like it."

Designed by architect Chris Meikle, its post-modern focus was on place-making and despite the era, Mr Hatchman says it never gets old.

"The place has retained a lot of the 80s flavour. It's very original. If you took that away, it would destroy the whole thought and concept behind it. It wouldn't be the house that it is."

For both the architect and the owner, the standout feature is something not part of it at all.

"Living up here, you're in touch with nature. All the surroundings are glass, you can see the city, the trees.

"You get a buzz out of it, a bit of excitement. You think, 'What's at the end of the driveway?' And then boof, there it is - it's brilliant."

While he's loved his 80s hideaway and being close to nature, Mr Hatchman is now putting his home on the market so he can move to Europe.

"It's brilliant – a brilliant place."

The Chris Meikle-designed home in the Waitakere Ranges has a post-modern focus and is delightfully date-stamped. Source: Seven Sharp

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Family history much more likely than diet to cause gout - research

Gout is much more likely to be brought on by genetics than a poor diet which has long been thought of as the primary cause of the joint disease, new research suggests.

Gout can can cause extreme pain and swelling but scientists at Keele University in Staffordshire, UK, say people with the condition can be reluctant to get treatment because of the social stigma associated with having a poor diet.

The study, which was carried out here in New Zealand by a research team at the University of Otago, counters "these harmful but well-established views and practices, and provides an opportunity to address these serious barriers to reducing the burden of this common and easily treatable condition".

The Press Association reports researchers used data from more than 16,000 American men and women of European ancestry to reach its conclusions.

Gout is caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood, which can form crystals that collect around joints.

Consuming beer, wine, spirits, potatoes and meat can raise the risk of getting gout while cheese, eggs, peanuts and brown bread can lower it.

However, each of these foods or drinks is responsible for less than a one per cent variation in levels of the acid, the study found.

And a comparison of healthy and unhealthy diets showed there was only a 0.3 per cent variation in levels of the acid.

But almost a quarter of the variation could be explained by genetic factors.

Gout is most common in men 40 or older.

Long-held theories gout only affected old men with poor diets could be quashed. Source: 1 NEWS

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Pregnancy warning labels on alcohol to be mandatory in New Zealand

Pregnancy warning labels on alcohol will become mandatory in New Zealand under a decision made at the Australia New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation in Adelaide.

Minister for Food Safety Damien O’Connor says mandatory labelling will strengthen the Government’s work to change drinking behaviour among pregnant women.

“Hundreds of babies a year are born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder because of exposure to alcohol in the womb. We need to take every action to reduce this harm,” Mr O’Connor said.

While the alcohol industry has been voluntarily including warnings on some products for the past six years there is no consistency in the type, colour, size and design, reducing the effectiveness of the message, he said.

There has been strong and sound support from a range of groups calling for mandatory labelling, the Minister said.

The move brings New Zealand in line with other countries that legally require pregnancy warning labels on alcohol such as the US and France.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand, the bi-national food standards setting agency, will now develop an appropriate standard to bring back to the ministerial forum for approval.

Pregnant woman drinking


Exclusive: Nearly half a million Kiwis owe social development ministry $1.5 billion for loans

The Government agency in charge of taking care of New Zealand's most vulnerable is putting hundreds of thousands of people into debt.

The Ministry of Social Development has handed out $1.5 billion in loans, interest free, to 509,571 people for things like dentistry, school supplies and housing.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said a large amount of that money is over payments, "and then it's also hardship and then it's also fraud".

This comes as the Government cracks down on loan sharks.

Social agencies argue Work and Income is no better, given benefits remain too low to cover the basics.

"They end up having to repay money every week which means they can't afford to eat or meet their weekly costs, pushing them into shark loans," said Ricardo Menendez March of Auckland Action Against Poverty.

1 NEWS spoke to an Auckland mother of three who is struggling to make ends meet. She gets $589 on the benefit.

"I'm lucky enough if I can live week to week on what I receive, especially being in emergency housing," she said.

So when her car broke down she asked Work and Income for a loan, and again when she needed to go to the dentist.

She's also been able to borrow money from the state to secure housing and furniture.

"I owe over $23,000," she said.

The woman was expected to pay back $80 a week on her loan.

National says it would consider changing the law to wipe the debt.

"That's a policy that we'll be having a look at and exploring over the next period of time," Louise Upston, National's Social Development spokesperson said. 

Ms Sepuloni says her advisory group charged with looking at the welfare system will investigate debt.

But she stands by the decision to hand out loans.

"Access to a washing machine or a fridge are things that people may need to pay back," she said.

"And I think they're really important measures to have in place through MSD because you can actually get that type of advance for those things in a way where you're not paying huge amounts of interest on top of that."

The Auckland mother of three would like a pay rise. 

"Poverty is real in New Zealand, government just doesn't see it, " she said.

She's hoping to have her debt cleared too. 

But the minister says unless there's been a mistake, like an overpayment, she and others will be expected to pay the money back.

The Ministry of Social Development has handed out $1.5 billion in loans to half a million people to pay for the likes of the dentist and a house to live. Source: 1 NEWS