Hopes new app will help Pacific nations battling dengue fever

A new phone app which will help control mosquito-borne diseases is being offered to pacific countries battling dengue fever.

US specialists are in Auckland meeting with regional health leaders who are desperate to address the rapidly increasing number of cases.

Dr Michael Callahan, a US physician-scientist, says the rise in mosquito-borne diseases is due to climate change as they have longer seasons to transfer the virus.

In Samoa five people have died and there’s been more than 1700 cases in a current dengue outbreak.

Other countries around the region are also either battling the disease or trying to keep it at bay.

That’s why new digital tools at the Tech Camp conference, funded by the US Embassy, has attracted much interest from pacific participants.

The free Epi Info Vector Surveillance app has been a hit as workers in the field enter mosquito data on phones or tablets and once it hits wifi that data is sent to the cloud to be instantly analysed.

This eliminates lengthy delays and quick decisions can be made on which areas are priority for mosquito elimination.

Dr Rebecca Levine from the US Centre for Disease Control which designed and tested the app says its already being used in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

“We get nothing out of it, we just want it to be useful for communities and the people using it,” she said.

While New Zealand is free of dengue, sixty seven people have returned from overseas with it to Auckland this month – already more than half of all last year’s cases.

Border health security has stepped up at Auckland airport after two dengue fever mosquitos and larvae were discovered last month – however nothing further has since been found.

US specialists are in Auckland meeting with pacific health leaders desperate to eliminate the rapidly increasing number of cases. Source: 1 NEWS

'Get policies in place now' to recover from next big earthquake, think tank warns

Another big earthquake could strike at any time, and New Zealand hasn't yet dealt with the mistakes we've made in the past. 

That's the assertion made by a policy think-tank - which today released a critical report calling for the Government to act now and better prepare us during an earthquake recovery. 

The New Zealand Initiative report criticises the lack of governmental policy on how to deal with recovery.

"My greatest fear living in Wellington is that we end up with a downtown cordon that lasts for a year, kills the city, people start moving out, and you're still stuck in lengthy insurance processes," says co-author Dr Eric Crampton. 

The report points to Canterbury's quake authority - CERA - as rushed and problematic. 

"The biggest problem in Christchurch during the recovery was policy uncertainty. Nobody knew what rules were going to apply and how they could get on with their lives," says Dr Crampton.

"More than having failed to learn from our mistakes, I think that we've avoided thinking about our mistakes, that they haven't been urgent, at least for people outside of Christchurch. And that's been a shame. We need to get some of these policies in place now because we don't know when the next earthquake might come."

Among the solutions the report looks at are:

* Forming an off-the-shelf framework for setting up recovery agencies so they're not scrambling when a disaster strikes.
* Getting councils to put rebuild strategies into their current long-term plans.
* Carrying on with an insurance claim trial which started in Kaikoura, where claimants approach their private insurer first, not the earthquake commission.

Christchurch's Mayor Lianne Dalziel says we should learn from overseas experiences. 

"Understanding that what we got wrong is just as important as understanding the things we got right. I always say we look back not to blame, but to understand," says Ms Dalziel.  

For the Government's part, it says it acknowledges more can be done. 

Civil Defence Minister Kris Faafoi says he'll work with the sector to try and make the system more effective. 

He says the Government has already identified things that could be done differently.

By Arrun Soma

The new report criticises the lack of government policy on how to deal with recovery. Source: 1 NEWS


Queenstown cracks down on freedom camping at two popular sites

Queenstown's cracking down on freedom campers after a summer of "careless travellers" disrespecting the tourist town.

The freedom camping control bylaw will ban campers from two popular sites, Lake Hayes reserve and the Shotover Delta.

The council's also considering harsher penalties on the Wanaka lakefront, where freedom campers are already banned, such as increased clamping of vehicles and turning off the free WiFi at night.

"We just can't sit back and watch it be overused and spoilt," said Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult.

The hard-line approach comes after increasing reports of defecation and littering from campers. More than 6,000 locals signed a petition in less than a week asking the council to take action against freedom campers.

However the council is looking to expand another freedom camping site near the Shotover Bridge as an alternative, where they also plan to put in toilet facilities.

"Despite what some locals have asked for we're not able to put a blanket ban on freedom camping in the district, nor would we want to," said Mr Boult. "But we can aim to manage it better."

The bans at Lake Hayes and Shotover Delta are expected to begin in the next few weeks.

The council is banning freedom campers from Lake Hayes reserve and the Shotover delta. Source: 1 NEWS