Helicopter issue not to blame for fatal crash in Northland - investigators

A helicopter crash that killed two Northland forestry workers doesn't appear to have been caused by an issue that's prompted red flags about Robinson choppers, crash investigators say.

Allan Jessop, 42, and Derek Hammond, 49, died when the Robinson R44 helicopter they were in crashed and caught fire in the Glenbervie Forest, north of Whangarei on October 31.

The American manufacturer is sending a representative to look into the matter. Source: 1 NEWS

An interim report released by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission today says it's "very unlikely" the crash was caused by "mast bumping".

Mast bumping is where the inner part of the main rotor blade hits the drive shaft in low-gravity flight.

Just days before the crash, the commission, which can make safety recommendations to the transport sector, added the issue on Robinson helicopters to its watchlist of most pressing concerns.

It said since 1996, aviation officials have investigated 14 "mast bumping" crashes involving Robinson helicopters, costing the lives of 18 people.

But the investigation of October's crash has found it's unlikely the helicopter had broken up mid-air, as occurs with mast bumping, and there were no signs of the tail boom being struck by the main blade.

It appeared the chopper had struck the ground at a "high rate of descent and a low forward speed" as the men were surveying an area of the forest ahead of spraying, it said.

An intense fire followed, destroying the cabin and fuselage.

The Commission said it would now be looking into the condition of the engine before the crash, weather conditions, maintenance history and procedures around aerial spraying operations.

There are about 300 Robinson R22, R44 and R66 helicopters flying in New Zealand, about 40 per cent of the country's fleet.

Earlier this year, the commission flagged mast bumping in its report into the deaths of flight student James Patterson Gardner, 18, and instructor Steven Combe, 42, near Queenstown last year.

The victims' families blamed the helicopter design but Robinson said it was caused by pilot error.

The October crash led to the Department of Conservation suspending all use of Robinson model helicopters.


'Eradication, not just a cull' - fierce resistance meets proposed Tahr cull

A proposed cull of South Island tahr is being met with fierce resistance by hunters, with a spokesperson labelling the move nothing short of eradication.

As numbers of tahr continue to swell, the Department of Conservation are taking the steps in order to preserve wildlife and landscapes, although the reason isn't sitting well with hunters, who are now ready to head to the High Court to seek action.

Appearing on TVNZ 1's Breakfast this morning, NZ Tahr Foundation spokesperson Willie Duley came out swinging about the proposed 'Tahrmageddon'.

"What DOC has proposed, what the minister has proposed is eradication, not just a cull," he said.

"The real issue this is highlighted, is that there is no science, they have no science to prove that there is too many tahr.

"What we want to stress, is that there's no need for a knee-jerk reaction such as this."

Instead, Mr Duley proposed a different solution, seeing both groups come together for the good of the region.

"We need to sit down, get all of the stakeholders, do the proper consultation that wasn't done this time by the minister (Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage).

Officials say tahr numbers have to be limited to protect the landscape. Source: 1 NEWS

"She needs to listen to the Game Animal Council, which is her legislation, the statutory body that advises her on game animal issues, and then we'd all be on the same page.

"There is win-win for this, we just want to sit down, and we want a chance to put in a sustainable strategy that looks after the environment, but also looks after this hundred million dollar resource.

"We're talking people's livelihoods on the line.

"Each bull tahr is worth $14,000 alone to the economy. In the first cull, they propose to shoot 3000 tahr, if you do the maths, that's $42m worth of bull tahr left to rot on the hillside.

"That's just wrong."

A crowdfunding campaign by the New Zealand Tahr foundation has raised more than $85,000 in just a few days to fight the proposed move.

A NZ Hunter spokesperson Willie Duley told Breakfast about the damage a proposed cull would inflict. Source: Breakfast



Jacinda Ardern kicks off her week in New York with child poverty speech

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has kicked off her jam-packed schedule in New York with a focus on child poverty.

Ms Ardern has delivered a keynote speech at UNICEF's social good summit, noting it's been one year since the 2017 election.

“That election ultimately bought me and my government into office and I want to use this one-year anniversary to recommit myself and our government to becoming the best place in the world to be a child,” she said.

The Prime Minister delivered the keynote speech at Unicef’s Good Summit in New York. Source: Breakfast


Cut up strawberries, Countdown warns amid needle crisis

The hunt for those sabotaging strawberries with needles has gone trans-Tasman, following the first report of a contaminated punnet in New Zealand.

Woolworth's-owned supermarket chain Countdown yesterday announced it was removing Choice brand strawberries, imported from Western Australia, off shelves across NZ after a customer reported discovering needles in their fruit.

Countdown says the strawberries came from Western Australia. Source: 1 NEWS

The company said it had alerted authorities in Australia, while NZ police and government agencies have also launched their own investigations.

More than 100 reports of tampered fruit are being investigated by police across Australia, many of which are thought to be fake or copycat cases, while the federal government has ramped up penalties for so-called "food terrorists".

NSW authorities are investigating more than 20 incidents of needles found in strawberries. Source: Breakfast

Countdown last week announced it had halted imports of Australia strawberries to NZ for the season, while competitor Foodstuffs ceased shipping them to its stores.

The Choice brand strawberries came from Australia, and have since been pulled from shelves. Source: Breakfast


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