Experts start fires to learn more about defeating bush blazes

Researchers have been deliberately lighting fires in the South Island's Mackenzie country this week in a push to learn more about the growing risk associated with wilding pines.

Wilding pines are taking over large areas of New Zealand’s high country and are posing several challenges for firefighters. Source: 1 NEWS

The wild trees are taking over large areas of New Zealand's high country, posing a number of challenges for firefighters.

A fire scientist at the Crown Research Institute Scion says they are collecting data on how fast fires spread, how intensely they burn and how big the flames are under different weather conditions.

There's no definitive NZ-based data on the pines' behaviour during fire and Grant Pearce says the research will give fire managers a better idea of what they can expect when wild fires do occur.

The pines currently infest around seven per cent of the country and their numbers could triple in the next 20 years if left unchecked.

Spraying is now a common control method, leaving behind large areas of tinder dry dead wood which allows the researchers to see how they burn compared to unsprayed trees which have much higher fuel loads, ignite more easily and result in more extreme fire behaviour.

Monitoring devices are dispersed throughout the burn area to record data on factors such as how quickly fire moves and temperatures which sometimes near 1000 degrees centigrade.

The Fire Service is on hand to manage and dampen down the blaze while also testing some of their new equipment, including a drone.

The operation is a collaborative project between Scion, the University of Canterbury and the Fire Service.

Researchers are now collating the data, before sharing their findings with the agencies that have to deal with the real thing.


Water shaping up to be hot topic at next election

Water is shaping up as a political hot topic for the next election with questions over who owns it, who can use it and who can get access to it.

Many insist the Government needs to step up and get tough with those abusing water stocks. Source: 1 NEWS

As communities grapple with those questions, many insist the Government needs to step up and get tough with those abusing New Zealand's water stocks.

Two thirds of NZ rivers are now deemed unsafe for swimming and people are concerned intensive farming is affecting water quality and quantity.

A hikoi including school children from the central North Island marched to Wellington last week to hand a petition to MPs calling for lakes and river water quality to be swimmable.

"New Zealand's lakes and rivers should be clean enough for children to swim in without becoming sick," Green Party Water spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said the requirement for all water bodies to be swimmable all of the time is not realistic or achievable, adding that to clean up every dirty waterway would cost billions.

I don't believe that you should have to pay polluters to stop pollution. - Labour's environment spokesman David Parker

Labour says the emphasis should be on decent rules to stop the pollution.

And Kim Campbell from the Employers and Manufacturers Association told Q+A this morning that the answer lies in the value of water.

"If we priced it and really valued it properly you wouldn't be seeing it wasted the way it is now," Mr Campbell said.

Political scientist Raymond Miller says the Government is at risk of being caught out on the issue, telling Q+A it's being incredibly lethargic.


Workers get more say under new workplace rules

In the biggest changes in 20 years, from tomorrow employees will have a say in how their workplace creates a safe environment.

With a harm rate twice that of Australia and four times that of the UK, NZ's Workplace Relations and Safety Minister says it's important that we have a much better framework for being able to keep people safe at work.

One worker is killed on the job every week in New Zealand and Michael Woodhouse wants to drive change in the workplace that will save lives.

From tomorrow, everyone will be given an opportunity to say how their workplace could be safer. Source: 1 NEWS

Sparked by the deaths of 29 men at Pike River Mine five years ago, new health and safety laws mean everyone from those on the shop floor to the board room has a responsibility.

Businesses will now have to identify any risks, the likelihood of those occurring, the harm they could cause and how to eliminate or at least minimise those risks.

But critics say the new rules go too far and will result in more paperwork and a drop in productivity, with builders claiming the consumer will pay because the changes will make houses more expensive.

Schools too are worried they will be dragged through the courts if children are injured.

Employment lawyer Megan Richards says they will need to have thought through what the hazard is, what the risk is of it happening and what steps can be taken to mitigate those.

Individuals who don't follow the new rules face up to five years in prison and a $600,000 fine while an organisation could end up shelling out $3 million.

Taihape farmer Rob Collier was thrown onto concrete and broke his neck and says there is nothing safety rules could’ve done to protect him. Source: 1 NEWS