High-tech $120 million mission to drill deep-sea observatories below NZ's largest earthquake and tsunami threat

An ambitious mission to drill two deep-sea observatories 500 metres below the sea floor along New Zealand's largest earthquake and tsunami threat, the Hikurangi subduction zone, will begin next week.

A team of international scientists will board the scientific drilling ship, JOIDES Resolution, and travel east off the coast of Gisborne to New Zealand's largest fault line.

There along the Hikurangi subduction zone they will install two bore-hole observatories containing high-tech measuring and monitoring equipment designed to pave the way for early earthquake and tsunami warning systems.

The observatories are to remain under the sea floor for five to ten years, and deliver readings on a lesser known movement of tectonic plates beside earthquakes - slow-slip events.

"Slow-slip events or slow-slip earthquakes are similar to earthquakes, because they involve more rapid than normal movement along a fault," expedition co-leader, Dr Laura Wallace of GNS Science explains.

"However, during a slow-slip event it takes weeks to months for this fault movement to occur.

"This is very different from an earthquake, where fault movement occurs over a matter of seconds releasing energy suddenly."

The sub-sea floor observatories will be installed east of Gisborne and remain in place for up to 10 years recording valuable information about the conditions inside the Hikurangi Subduction Zone. Source: Supplied

The expedition jointly led by scientists from New Zealand's GNS Science and Pennsylvania State University hopes to reveal new insights into the causal relationship between slow-slip events and large earthquakes.

The Hikurangi subduction zone runs from Marlborough past New Zealand east coast in the Pacific Ocean, and is thought by scientists to be capable of causing magnitude 9 earthquakes leading to potentially devastating tsunamis along the New Zealand coast line.

"Slow-slip events are enigmatic because we don't yet understand the physical processes that cause faults to behave in such a way, and we don’t know very much about their relationship to large subduction zone earthquakes," expedition co-leader Dr Demian Saffer, of Pennsylvania State University, says.

Last year's Kaikōura earthquake triggered a large slow-slip event off the east coast covering an area of more than 15,000 square km.

The slow-slip event started in the region of the planned drilling, and the results from this research is expected to shed light on why this occurred.

The drilling project is funded by the International Ocean Discovery Program and the US National Science Foundation, and is the first of its kind off the New Zealand coast.



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.
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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