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

Major report finds half of people off the benefit in 2013/14 were back on within 18 months

A new approach is required into the type of work people on benefits go into, after it was found 50 per cent of people who left the benefit in 2013/2014 ended up back on the benefit within 18 months. 

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the report had given the perception of a higher number of people who were coming off the benefit, following the 2012 welfare reforms. 

The report looked at what happened to people who left the benefit system in 2013/2014. 

"What the biggest finding is… is that actually 50 per cent of people who have gone off benefits, following those welfare reforms, ended up back on a benefit within 18 months," Ms Sepuloni said. 

She said it gave the perception that while there were a number of people coming off the benefit, they were not going into "meaningful, sustainable employment".

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"It's not just about pushing people off benefits into any old job."

Geography was a factor in the findings, with certain areas more likely to see people going back on the benefit within 18 months. 

Māori men, especially those living in the geographical areas, were also a group of people found more likely to go back on the benefit. 

"We've got to do some work," Ms Sepuloni said. 

The Social Development Minister said a new approach was needed, as it wasn’t "just about pushing people off benefits into any old job". Source: 1 NEWS


Crash between car and motorbike in the Coromandel closes section of SH25

A serious two-vehicle crash involving a car and motorcycle this morning has caused part of State Highway 25 to be closed in the Coromandel.

Police are in attendance at the crash between Waihi and Whangamata, which was reported at approximately 11.15am.

As a result, the road is blocked between Golden Valley Road and Whiritoa Beach Road with motorists asked to avoid the area.

More to come. 

Police Source: 1 NEWS


High school students should be taught about pornography and sexual violence, report says

High school students should be taught about pornography and sexual violence so they learn what is healthy, the Education Review Office has said in a report.

Promoting wellbeing through sexuality education is the agency’s first review of sex education in schools in 11 years.

It says sex education has not kept pace with technological changes in the last decade.

"Without the knowledge and skills to navigate this context, young people are at risk of developing unhealthy attitudes toward sexuality, increasing risks to mental and physical wellbeing for themselves and others," it said.

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The report highlighted an upcoming survey from the Light Project which suggests many young people in New Zealand are learning about sex through pornography, which "rarely depicts meaningful consent, and often includes coercion and/or violence, particularly towards girls and women, as a normal part of sexual encounters".

"This creates unhealthy views about sex and relationships, and is leading young people to engage in physically and emotionally risky behaviours. It is therefore of some concern that ERO found pornography was one of the least well covered aspects of sexuality education. ERO therefore recommends further investigation into the impact of pornography on young people."

The report also highlighted several high-profile news stories to highlight the risks to young people of not understanding consent.

"There have been a number of high-profile issues related to sexuality, including the Roast Busters scandal, and the protests sparked by misogynistic language used by some students on social media, as well as the broader #MeToo movement with its focus on exposing the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault."

"These show both the risks young people face when a healthy understanding of consent is not widely held, and the increasing demand from school students for effective sexuality education to address these issues."

Fewer than half of New Zealand high schools were covering pornography and sexual violence with the report recommending 12 to 15 hours of sexuality education for students in years nine and 10.

Only a few schools were found to meet this threshold, the report said.

Sex education is compulsory for students from years one to 10 and is one of one of seven "key learning areas" in the health and PE curriculum.

The ERO also said school boards should provide more support for sexually and gender-diverse students.

The review recommended schools "proactively consider how to promote an inclusive and welcoming environment for sex-, gender- and sexuality-diverse students, including reviewing uniform and bathroom options".

It’s been found most schools are failing to keep pace with social and technological changes when it comes to sex ed. Source: 1 NEWS

Wellington warned of water shortages if usage remains the same

A water management report has warned of future Wellington water shortages if usage and population growth trends remain the same.

A report from council-owned company Wellington Water, which manages water assets for five councils in the region, found if residents kept hosing their gardens and showering like they did now, demand for water would exceed supply in 2040.

The report, discussed by some of the region's mayors and councillors during a Wellington Water Committee meeting on Monday, was a starting point for discussions that would include councils and residents, Wellington Water's group manager for network strategy and planning, Mark Kinvig said.

Wellington Water looked after water assets for the Wellington, Upper Hutt, Hutt City, Porirua and Greater Wellington regional councils.

The report identified three key issues, Mr Kinvig said, the first being that demand for water would exceed supply.

"We know that from our modelling work, and that modelling work takes into account growth and climate change.

"Secondly our water sources and network are vulnerable to earthquakes and climate change as well, in terms of storms, and rising sea levels."

The third was there could be less water available in aquifers and rivers due to tougher environmental rules.

The next step for the organisation is to understand those issues better, then work with councils to come up with solutions. These could include educating the public, a new source of water or more storage, and keeping on top of leaky pipes.

Wellington Water Committee member, councillor Iona Pannett, said potential solutions, like a new dam or water metering, could be contentious.

The committee, which is made up of the region's mayors and councillors, oversees Wellington Water.

"We haven't come up with any definite answer about what needs to be done, but at the very least we do need to start with public education," Ms Pannett said.

Water meters were brought up last year by Greater Wellington Regional Council chairman Chris Laidlaw, after an unusually hot summer saw restrictions enforced across the region earlier than usual.

Mr Laidlaw said it was inevitable meters would be introduced and that these would be likely part of a national approach to managing drinking water.

"There's no question that metering produces savings," he said.

"There are some people who say 'well I don't like water metering because in effect this is the first step towards privatisation'.

"There's no link between water metering and privatisation at all."

The debate around water meters needs to be kept open, he said.

In the meantime, with whatever solutions were found, residents would have to do their part, Mark Kinvig said.

"This is not just down to the actions that we take, and our client councils take. Every Wellingtonian has a role to play to use the region's water in an efficient way."

By Laura Dooney

Tap water Source: 1 NEWS