Meet the Whangārei quartet believed to be first Māori group to win prestigious chamber music contest

In what's believed to be a first, a Maori quartet has taken out a prestigious secondary school chamber music contest, and the four Whangārei teens are still buzzing a week after their win.

The string quartet group, Te Ahi Kaa, is made up of three siblings from the Martin Whanau: Maia-Dean's the lead violinist, Atawhai's on second violin, their brother Purotu's the cellist and their mate Isaiah Kaiawe is on the viola.

"I like chamber music with them because it's a special kind of connection when you've know them," Isaiah Kaiawe told 1 NEWS.

That close connection saw them beat 400 ensembles to win the country's top chamber music competition.

"We were just moved by the natural honesty of their music-making," said adjudicator Wilma Smith.

"It feels like we've revolutionised what it is to play chamber music, people of a different kind of ethnicity because it's usually like European groups that win the competition," said Isaiah.

"Hopefully we start a trend, encourage more Maori to take it seriously and get hard out into it instead of playing Twinkle once and gapping after that," said Maia.

But after months of intense practice, the aftermath of a win is strange.

"We do not know what to do after it because we worked really hard. What do we do now?" said Purotu.

The Whangarei string quartet are still buzzing a week after their win. Source: 1 NEWS

Man who survived being run over by train as toddler helps raise awareness for Rail Safety Week

In 1985, 22-month-old Dan Hanara was called the "miracle baby" after he survived being run over by a train, escaping with just an injured leg.

Now an adult, Mr Hanara is raising awareness for Rail Safety Week, which kicks off today.

When he was just a toddler he managed to escape from his mum while she was busy with the other kids.

The train driver was unable to stop in time and the engine ended up running over him, knocking him onto the track.

While he was recovering in hospital his father said it was "a super miracle".

Thirty years later, Mr Hanara is working as a mechanical engineer in Sydney - where safety is a huge focus - but he's home for Rail Safety Week to urge caution around tracks.

"There are a lot of stories where the person in the incident isn't here today and isn't talking. I'm lucky - we don't want to rely on luck."

In the 12 months to June, there have been more than 30 collisions at level crossings involving vehicles or pedestrians, and almost 300 near misses.

Just this month, two people inside a car were killed near Palmerston North.

Safety experts say it's more important than ever to heed the warnings.

Kiwirail's Zero Harm general manager Katie McMahon says, "In urban areas like Auckland and Wellington, we've got electric trains which are very quiet. We've got growing populations, so you're seeing more trains."

While daredevil behaviour has decreased, complacency is still an issue.

"We've seen an increase in people using devices, listening to music on their phones," Ms McMahon said.

However, she says it's not just the victim that suffers.

"It impacts our drivers and our drivers' family and colleagues. In those situations, there's not a lot a driver can do."

Mr Hanara's experience hasn't put him off trains, but he hopes no more families will go through what his did.

"Look both ways. Be aware of trains. Take your headphones out. It's always a different day. Anything could happen. It could happen to you," Mr Hanara said.

More than 30 years ago Dan Hanara escaped with an injured leg after being run over by a train. Source: 1 NEWS


Shellfish collection warnings in place as toxic algal blooms flourish despite cold

There is an unusually high number of toxic algal blooms around the country for this time of year, the Ministry for Primary Industries says.

There are currently four warnings in place against shellfish collection due to algae - Bay of Islands, Pelorus Sound, the West Coast of the North Island and Akaroa Harbour in Christchurch.

The latter two were added in the last few days despite it being the coldest time of year.

Specialist advisor Brian Roughan said it was unclear why the blooms had fired up now.

"It's odd ... over this summer the Tasman Sea was extremely warm and it could be symptomatic of that."

The blooms are all the same type of algae, Alexandrium cattenella.

In May, Alexandrium cattenella was at its peak in the Pelorus Sound in Marlborough, and resulted in the closing down of 150 mussel farms.

Mr Roughan said the bloom in Pelorus was now away from the farms and only remained in Nydia Bay where it had started from.

However, farmers were still waiting for the toxins to clear from the mussels, which could take a few weeks.

He said the bloom on the West Coast happened late last year, but it was bigger this time around.

"It's extending down to Foxton Beach and right up to Raglan. We're monitoring on either side of it to see if we need to increase the warnings."

Warning signs had been put up on beaches and people were being urged to keep an eye on the MPI website or subscribe to biotoxin alerts, Mr Roughan said.

"People really need to heed the warnings, the levels can be mild - from tingling of the lips and numbness - right through to symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and in severe cases when there's high levels of the toxin, it can lead to death which has happened overseas."

Shellfish. Source: 1 NEWS