'Don't want to cause undue panic' – David Parker says testing has begun on toxic foam used by NZ Defence Force

Environment Minister David Parker says Government officials are investigating the use of toxic foam by New Zealand Defence Force fire fighters.

There are fears the foam could have contaminated ground water near Ohakea and Woodbourne airbases.

It follows a scandal in Australia over the use of the suppressant which contained per and poly-fluoroalkyls, or Pfas.

The Defence Force there is facing two class action suits from residents in New South Wales and Queensland. Studies in the US have linked Pfas to cancer.

Environment Minister David Parker faced questions about the issue at Parliament this afternoon.

"Officials from the Department of Health have been knocking on doors today of the approximately 60 households who may be drawing water from bores which need to be tested to see if there are any levels of contaminants," he said.

Mr Parker admitted the previous government had known of the issue and not made it public, but he wouldn't be drawn on how long they had known.

He says he was only made aware of the toxic foam after September's general election.

"Testing is only starting now, I don't want to overstate the health risk here and cause undue panic, I just want to investigate and see if there's a problem," Mr Parker said.

The substances are no longer imported or imported here and neither the Defence Force or fire service "routinely" use the foam.

But officials are talking to other agencies that may use the foams.

There are fears the foam could have contaminated ground-water near Ohakea and Woodbourne airbases. Source: 1 NEWS

'It adds something new' - Shakespeare comedy gets a Maori face-lift at Auckland's Pop-up Globe

A classic Shakespeare play is getting a unique Maori twist when it opens at Auckland's Pop-up Globe theatre tonight.

The new version of comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream, will feature Maori folklore and te reo weaved seamlessly into the Elizabethan era.

Actor Reuben Butler plays Puck in the play. He told TVNZ1's Te Karere about the new Maori face-lift it received.

"It's definitely something that a lot of people are saying we're glad to see that, it adds something new.

"And it's good to see those characters portrayed as Maori people, it works so well so it's awesome," Butler said.

The Kiwi actor believes the Maori twist means Shakespeare's work will be accessible to a bigger group of people.

"I don't think it's something that's been done that much in terms of delivering the message in a different way, so that it reaches a wider range of people.

"And I'd say that's a big drive to have Maori in there," he said.

Butler isn't the lone Maori of the cast, Te Kohe Tuhaka is the associate director, and Maori designer extraordinaire Shona Tawhiao also has a role.

The Auckland Pop-up Globe's Shakespeare summer season, featuring five different plays, kicks off tonight, and runs until march 2018.


Maori folklore and te reo has been woven into this version of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Source: Te Karere


Number of pilot safety concerns found following investigation into fatal 2014 helicopter crash

A culture exists among some of New Zealand's helicopter pilots of operating their aircraft beyond the published limits, according to the Transport Accident Investigation Commission.

TAIC has listed a number of safety concerns, in response to a 2014 helicopter crash near Mt Aspiring National Park in which one person died.

It's also been studying other similar accidents.

In the 2014 heli-skiing crash, the tourist chopper operated by The Helicopter Line was heading in to approach the landing site on Mount Alta.

Seven people were on board, including five members of a church group.

TAIC Chief Commissioner Jane Meares says: "The helicopter went below the pilot's intended angle of approach, so the pilot turned it away from the ridgeline, but he couldn't avoid the terrain."

The 2014 fatal helicopter crash near Mt Aspiring National Park. Source: TAIC

On impact, the cabin of the aircraft broke apart and five of the seven people were flung out as it rolled 300 metres down the mountain.

Jerome Box, 52, a member of the church group, became trapped under the aircraft and died.

TAIC says it's "very likely" that several seatbelts worn by the passengers were not securely adjusted, meaning they were more likely to be ejected.

The Commission also found that the helicopter was loaded about 30 kilograms over the maximum permissible weight. The centre of gravity was forward of what is allowed.

Investigations found there were no mechanical reasons for the crash.

In identifying the safety issues, TAIC reports "the operator's pilots weren't routinely required to calculate the performance capabilities of their helicopters for the intended flights".

It also says "there was a risk of pilots not knowing their aircraft's capability when using standard passenger weights, and therefore a risk of exceeding the limits of their aircraft's performance."

Noting that this so-called culture "adversely" affects the safety performance of the industry, TAIC recommends that the Civil Aviation Authority puts this safety issue in its current sector review.

Close-up of the 2014 fatal helicopter crash near Mt Aspiring National Park. Source: TAIC