Fluorescent whitebait unleashed near Nelson in native fish conservation effort

A school of brightly coloured whitebait are leading the way to help our native fish.

Dyed pink and orange, they've been sent swimming up a town culvert near Nelson to see if recent improvements are helping.

"They are really easy to spot in the culvert when they're bright pink or brown," said NIWA freshwater ecology technician Peter Williams.

Around 200 unmarked clear whitebait, 200 pink (Rhodamine B stained) whitebait, and 200 orange (Bismarck Brown stained) whitebait were released into the Reservoir Creek culvert in Richmond to battle upstream.

"Seventy-four per cent of New Zealand freshwater fish species are in decline and upstream barriers are stopping them from getting up to their habitat that they need to complete their life cycle," explained Mr Williams.

In April, the Tasman District Council stepped in to help, installing flexible weir baffles.

"Water goes from A to B very quickly in a natural culvert, that's what they're designed to do," said Fish and Wildlife Services' Tim Olley. "What we're looking to do is create resting pools in the culvert, low velocity areas for the fish to burst swim and rest, burst swim and rest, more or less like a stepladder."

The whitebait released have a 136-metre journey up the culvert while being monitored by NIWA, Tasman District Council and F&WS specialists over 48 hours. It's hoped the majority will make it out the other end.

NIWA and the Department of Conservation recently released national fish passage guidelines for keeping waterways swimmable. But freshwater ecologist Mike Joy says tougher rules are needed.

"A lot of these things (have) been put in and very, very little if any measurement of actually if they work or not," Mr Joy said.

"Without a doubt, the solution would be to not allow them to happen in the first place. Under the Freshwater Fisheries Act you're not allowed to impede the passage of native fish, so if you just said, 'No you couldn't do it', you wouldn't have to retrofit these things afterward."

The future of New Zealand’s native fish looks very bleak as scientists presented findings at a parliamentary select committee today. Source: 1 NEWS

Tasman District Council resource scientist Trevor James, who is also a member of the country's Fish Passage Advisory Group, agrees that "the best culvert is actually a bridge".

"So that's correct, but in the world of reality bridges are expensive - they have to be certified to take a lot of load all that sort of thing," he said.

He'd like to see all councils step up monitoring of fish passages after installation.

"Roading engineers contract out every year, every second year to monitor the culverts from an engineering point of view," he explained. "It would only be a small add-on to actually assess for fish passage."

NIWA says the guidelines have been well received by councils so far and the monitoring at the Reservoir Creek culvert will help other councils find cost-effective solutions for the future.

They’ve been seen swimming up a town culvert near Nelson to see if conservation efforts are working Source: 1 NEWS



Man who beat pensioner to death soon after release from mental health unit jailed at least 13 years

A man who stomped a pensioner to death shortly after being discharged from Auckland City Hospital's mental health unit has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 13 years.

Gabriel Yad-Elohim appeared at the High Court in Auckland today for sentencing for the murder of 69-year-old Michael Mulholland.

Mr Mulholland's daughter told the court that the pain of losing her father was immense.

She said her father was just an old man who enjoyed collecting National Geographic magazines and reading. He treasured gifts and letters from his children like diamonds.

Yad-Elohim had been out of Auckland City Hospital's Te Whetu Tawera for only three days when he killed Mr Mulholland in September last year.

His lawyers argued he had a disease of the mind, was hearing voices at the time and had no way of telling right from wrong.

The Crown said despite having schizophrenia, he knew right from wrong and killed Mr Mulholland for revenge after losing $200 in a methamphetamine deal.

rnz.co.nz

Gabriel Yad-Elohim at the High Court in Auckland today. (Claire Eastham-Farrelly) Source: rnz.co.nz

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New Zealand's GDP rises one percent in June quarter

New Zealand's gross domestic product has increased one per cent in the June quarter.

It's the largest rise in two years, and makes for a 2.7 per cent gain over the June year, Stats NZ said.

Growth was delivered on the back of a bounce back in dairy production and meat processing, higher power generation, and forestry.

House building also lifted, as did activity in the services sector.

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For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

New figures show GDP grew for the last quarter of 2015, political editor Corin Dann says.
Source: 1 NEWS

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Media personality accused of assaulting woman appears in court

A media personality has elected a trial by jury on assault charges they are facing. 

Source: istock.com

He appeared in the North Shore District Court this morning.

He's facing three assault charges - including one of assaulting a woman with intent to injure.

He had previously pleaded not guilty to the charges back in July.

He has been granted ongoing name suppression through until his trial.

He will next appear in court in November.


Legalising recreational cannabis could stem NZ’s epidemic of ‘zombie drug’ deaths, Peter Dunne says

Synthetic cannabis has killed more than 40 people in New Zealand since June last year, a massive jump from the previous five years, the coroner recently reported.

One way to serve a blow to the market for the so called zombie-drug in New Zealand would be to legalise recreational cannabis, former MP and Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said today on TVNZ1's Breakfast.

But the suggestion came with a caveat.

"It would certainly remove some of the incentive for people to try some of these substances," he said. "But...some of these (synthetic drugs) are so potent and so powerful that people may well feel they'll get a better high from these rather than the real product.

"While on the face of it the answer would be yes (to marijuana legalisation), I don't think it's necessarily that simple."

Cannabis and synthetic cannabis are alike in name only. The synthetic variety, often consisting of dried herbs sprayed with chemical compounds derived from old medical studies, encompasses hundreds of different strains, Mr Dunne pointed out.

Two of the most potent versions, described as up to 10 times stronger that the ones that caused a "zombie" outbreak in the US due to the way users reacted to them, have been targeted by the Government for reclassification as Class A drugs.

That would mean penalties for dealing the drugs would increase substantially, from a couple years in prison to up to 14 years.

"I don't think we ever anticipated we'd get new synthetic drugs that would lead to so much harm," NZ Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell told 1 NEWS yesterday.

They're calling for the drug to be classified as Class A – the most harmful and dangerous. Source: 1 NEWS

Mr Dunne agreed that the classification for those two strains should change, but he was sceptical that it would do anything to stem the overdose epidemic.

"They're already illegal, so this doesn't make them any more illegal," he said. "We shouldn't get carried away and assume that's going to resolve the problem...We need at the same time to be beefing up our treatment facilities to deal with the people who are suffering adverse consequences because they will continue to do so."

He also suggested putting in place "a coherent international warning system" and regulating the market for the less potent strains of synthetic cannabis - rather than continuing to outlaw all of them, pushing the market underground.

But even with those solutions, eradicating the drug altogether would be difficult because it's so easy to smuggle, he said.

Police are still trying to identify the men as they want to check on their welfare. Source: 1 NEWS

"The problem is there are hundreds of these, and there are rumours of several hundred more yet to hit the market, so this problem's not going to go away anytime soon," he said.

"If you're seeking to bring this stuff into the country, you bring it all in different bits and bobs so it doesn't look like a finished product. Who knows what's put together to give it its added bite."

But there’s a caveat to the idea, the former MP and associate health minister told Breakfast. Source: Breakfast