Most watched: Mars set to put on dazzling July display – watch our stunning visual explainer

This story was first published on Thursday July 19.

Along with a lunar eclipse, July’s night skies are set to put on a brilliant light show. Source: 1 NEWS

If you thought the lights in the night sky were looking brighter lately, you’d be right.

Along with a lunar eclipse, July’s night skies are set to put on a spectacular light show. 

Mars is set to come the closest its been to Earth since 2003, the next closest it will be isn't for another 17 years.

This month the red planet will appear bigger and brighter in the night sky, being easier to spot without a telescope.

On July 27, Earth will line up directly between Mars and the Sun in what's called 'in opposition'. But this isn't just any opposition, this year a perihelion opposition is taking place.

Mars perihelion is the point when the planet is closest to the Sun in its orbit.

Not only will Mars appear brighter but also Jupiter, Saturn and Antares (the 15th brightest star).

Watch the above video to find out when you can spot each planet and the star Antares in the night sky.


For Sale: Defence Force light armoured vehicles sit idle waiting for a buyer

The Defence Force is struggling to sell 20 light armoured vehicles (LAVs) that have been sitting idle for seven years because they are surplus to requirements.

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act reveal an unnamed foreign delegation inspected the LAVs early last year, but a year-and-a-half on, they're still in storage.

The previous Labour government bought 105 LAVs from General Dynamics Land Systems Canada for $653 million. They entered service in 2003.

One was destroyed in a bomb attack in Afghanistan and only some of the remaining 104 are regularly used.

Defence decided it didn't need 20 of them in 2011 and they have been in storage at the Trentham Military Camp, north of Wellington, waiting for a new home.

OIA documents showed they were inspected by a foreign delegation in February last year - but that didn't lead to anything.

In the past eight years there's been interest from seven countries.

The documents say as time passed and the vehicles get older the price would likely go down.

"The gross unit price was originally estimated at about US $ [redacted] although this expectation is changing over time due to vehicle age and ongoing assessment of the market."

"Any actual sale would be subject to negotiation on price, conditions, commissions and any sale costs," the documents reveal.

Defence expert Dr Ron Smith has previously described the purchase as foolish and doubts whether a sale would ever go through.

"Any income is a good thing, but really it is kind of small beer now ... all the mistakes have been made ... if we can get something out of it at this stage - why not," he said.

National's Mark Mitchell, who was defence minister at the time the foreign delegation came last year, said the net for a buyer had been cast wide.

"Sometimes there's countries that don't have a big budget for their Defence spend ... a second hand LAV might fit into their overall programme and there's lots of countries that could probably meet that criteria ... but I don't think there's any one specific country that has sort of been singled out," he said.

Lessons learned

The Defence Force's procurement process was recently given a glowing reference by Sir Brian Roche.

Hot on the heels of that, Defence Minister Ron Mark announced his first big purchase, the new P8 Poseidon planes that would replace the old Orions.

Mr Mark has been a vocal critic of the LAV purchase for many years.

He was not available for an interview but in a statement said there were too many sitting idle and doing nothing.

Mr Mark said he was looking at new protected mobility vehicles - which could replace the LAVs and other vehicles such as the armoured Light Operational Vehicles - but said any replacement was years away.

He did not say how much the 20 LAVs were being sold for.

The LAV (QAMR) working in the Australian bush, as part of 7th Brigade (Australian Army) in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area.
The LAV (QAMR) working in the Australian bush, as part of 7th Brigade (Australian Army) in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area. Source: New Zealand Defence Force


Government and key agency at odds over 'failing' building products assurance scheme

The government and a key agency are at odds over what's being called a "broken" and "failing" building products assurance scheme.

A construction worker at a building site
A construction worker at a building site. Source: 1 NEWS

The accreditation agency JAS-ANZ, which runs CodeMark from its base in Australia, has rejected key findings of a review that faults its expertise and monitoring of the flagship CodeMark scheme.

However, officials are using that self-same review to overhaul the scheme.

Construction industry players said CodeMark's failings are eroding efforts to introduce innovative building products.

"We suspect that CodeMark is having implications for housing affordability because it means we don't necessarily have the cheapest and best product on the market," Matt Paterson of the Property Council said.

CodeMark was expensive, slow and uncertain: "A product can be declined after sitting in the bureaucracy for years, with no explanation."

"We've known about the bureaucracy for a long time because our members have been struggling with CodeMark - we were not aware of the quality issues until [RNZ's] reporting on it," Mr Paterson said.

"That makes it even worse, that there's these huge bureaucracies that aren't actually delivering quality products."

RNZ wanted to ask the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), which owns CodeMark, how JAS-ANZ's rejection of the review might impede its ongoing attempts to overhaul the scheme, but it declined to be interviewed.

The ministry had the review for 13 months before releasing it due to an RNZ request this week.

It would have been nice to see it sooner, said Mr Paterson.

"Some of our members will be concerned that the products that they thought were quality may not have the quality that they wanted.

"The liabilities if there are any, are going to have to lie either with the government or with councils because people took these certificates in good faith."

The ministry said it had already acted on some of the review's recommendations, including increasing resources for JAS-ANZ to monitor CodeMark.

'We were never engaged as technical experts'

But JAS-ANZ chief executive James Galloway did not admit to any shortcomings in that monitoring in the first place.

"There are definitely instances of deficiencies [by certifying companies] but the system is set up to detect and correct them," he said.

Dr Galloway also rejected the review's suggestions that JAS-ANZ lacked the required technical expertise in the New Zealand building code and construction industry.

"I just don't necessarily accept the assertion made in the report.

"We were never engaged as technical experts ... what we bring is understanding of the certification process at a national and international level."

JAS-ANZ hired outside experts where it needed them, Dr Galloway said.

He also took issue with the review presenting JAS-ANZ as though it was the MBIE-appointed manager of CodeMark.

"That's not true... I realise it comes out of that report but that's never the basis on which we were engaged... We are not the managers of the New Zealand scheme."

It does manage the Australian version of CodeMark, but that has already been overhauled after its shortcomings were identified six years ago.

One CodeMark certificate issuer, CertMark of Queensland, is under particular pressure from a ministry audit of its certificates for aluminium composite cladding - a semi-combustible type similar to the fully combustible type used on London's Grenfell Tower.

CertMark said CodeMark was too slow, citing applications for certification for home prefabricated building systems that were in the wings waiting.

'Very professional'

But as for making JAS-ANZ improve its monitoring, CertMark's head John Thorpe rejected that.

"The current surveillance ... by JAS-ANZ is ... very professional and appropriate," he said.

"Adding of layers of bureaucracy is only going to burden all involved with paper work to verify what is already adequately verified."

Like the Property Council, the Building Industry Federation had not seen the MBIE-commissioned CodeMark review before now either.

That's despite the ministry calling for the federation's input - as the industry body of products suppliers - into a wider review into product quality that began two months ago.

They had hints all was not well with CodeMark, said the federation's Bruce Kohn.

"It certainly does matter because there's been an increasing tendency of building consent authorities to question the validity of products covered by CodeMark."

Despite being in place for nine years, CodeMark has only issued 135 certificates, fewer than 15 a year, among the tens of thousands of building products.

Mr Kohn and Mr Paterson's groups, and the Residential Development Council, all point to this low market penetration as proof of how little the scheme has been helping get cheaper and better products into New Zealand, when the need for a robust and widely used quality assurance scheme has never been higher.