NZ joins Australia in rejecting push for Japanese commercial whaling

The Government has joined their Australian counterparts in rejecting a Japanese push for commercial whaling.

Ahead of an International Whaling Commission meeting in Brazil today, Foreign Minister Winston Peters issued a statement calling the organisation to show leadership on conservation.

"Now is not the time to step backwards," he said.

The Japan Fisheries Agency wants an end to the commission's whaling moratorium and for new commercial whaling quotas to be established by 2020.

"New Zealand continues to support the moratorium on commercial whaling. We want to see the commission's efforts on whale conservation strengthened, not weakened," Mr Peters said.

Senator Anne Ruston, who was recently appointed to the Australian government's international development and Pacific portfolio, last week said Australia would also be opposing and called on other nations to follow suit.

"We will also oppose any attempts to weaken the commission's decision-making rules or establish catch-limits for commercial whaling," she said on Friday.

Aboriginal subsistence whaling, governance reform, special permit whaling and the establishment of a South Atlantic whale sanctuary are also on the agenda for the meeting.

Japanese whaling ship pulls whale on board. Source: 1 NEWS



East Coast forestry company's illegal logging history revealed

The Malaysian owner of a forestry company blamed for tonnes of debris washing up in Tolaga Bay has been fined twice for illegal logging overseas, but it took the Overseas Investment Office nine years to realise.

The penalty could have affected Samling Group's Hikurangi Forest Farm's good character status, but the OIO decided it was too late to take any action.

Separately, a Malaysian billionaire who owns another Tolaga Bay forestry company was granted 24 consents to buy sensitive land between 2005 and 2017, even though another of his companies has faced accusations of environmental and human rights abuses overseas since 2004.

The admission of OIO's tardy response to the Samling's illegal logging fine has prompted calls for the OIO to beef up its monitoring of foreign investors and for changes to the way the good character test is applied.

Hikurangi Forest Farms, owned by Malaysia's Samling Group, was granted consent to buy 22ha of land in Gisborne in May 2007.

Five months later one of Samling's subsidiaries, Barama Company, was fined for illegal logging in Guyana. In January 2008 it was fined again.

The Norwegian Pension Fund quit all its Samling investments in 2010 because of ethical concerns about its operations in Guyana and Malaysia and Samling's palm oil operations in Myanmar were last year accused of illegal deforestation indigenous land grabs and environmental abuses by civil rights groups in that country.

The OIO said it was aware of online reports of the company's practices in Myanmar but it had not been able to verify them.

It only became aware of the illegal logging fines in 2017.

"After considering various matters, including limitation issues and the age of the fine, and how long ago Samling got OIO consent, we considered the fine was too long ago for us to act on this information alone," Land Information New Zealand's Overseas Investment Office manager Vanessa Horne said.

That action could have included forcing the sale of assets owned by Samling.

Meanwhile, a second Malaysian-owned company also implicated in the Tolaga Bay flooding, has continued to buy sensitive land in New Zealand despite its owners facing allegations of human rights and environmental abuses abroad.

Ernslaw One, owned by Malaysia's Tiong family, is one of the three companies whose activities are being investigated by the Gisborne District Council after the June floods.

Its founder Tan Sri Tiong Hiew King made his fortune in forestry and palm oil plantations and his assets here included New Zealand King Salmon, Winstone Pulp and Neil Group.

One of his logging companies Rimbunan Hijau faces accusations of illegal operations and human rights and environmental abuses in Papua New Guinea and Malaysia, first documented by Greenpeace in 2004, and more recently this month by the Oakland Institute.

But it hasn't affected his business in New Zealand with 24 consents to buy sensitive land being granted since 2005.

The Tiong family has been investing in New Zealand for more than 20 years, with more than 90 approved consents to the companies controlled by the family, OIO's Vanessa Horne said.

"For the OIO to take enforcement action after consent has been granted for any breach of a good character condition, it would need to prove that a person is not fit to hold an asset.

"We need to consider the nature of the allegation, the evidence of the allegation and the public interest in taking action, such as the impact on New Zealanders from taking action. The commission of an offence by a person may provide evidence as to whether they are fit to hold an asset. But this is not the only matter the OIO would need to consider," she said.

Both Samling and the Tiong family's Rimbunan Hijau were yesterday named as irresponsible palm oil producers in a report published by Greenpeace.

Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) said the OIO's good character test was not rigorous enough.

"To prove companies are of good character representative of the company usually a New Zealand lawyer has to sign a bit of paper certifying they're of good character - that's it," CAFCA spokesperson Murray Horton said.

Council of Trade Unions policy director Bill Rosenberg said the test also only applied to individuals, not the company itself. But he would like to see that changed.

"If you have companies with a consistent poor record of ignoring good environmental practice, no action can be taken under the current law."

East Coast environmental and indigenous rights advocate Tina Ngata said she was "appalled" to learn of the actions that Hikurangi Forest Farms and Ernslaw One's parent companies were accused of in other countries.

It was up to the OIO to monitor foreign investors more stringently and take action if necessary, she said.

"The OIO need to be taking a better role in monitoring the behaviour of these companies if they allow them into our economy so they don't make these kinds of impacts on our landscape."

It was especially important where public money was used to clean up environments impacted by companies failing to follow good practices, she said.

The OIO had nine permanent staff, up from just two in 2015, so it had more capacity to monitor and enforce consent conditions, including good character requirements, Vanessa Horne said.

Oregon Group declined to comment, and several attempts to contact its Malaysian owner were unsuccessful. Hikurangi Forest Farms and its owner Samling could also not be reached for comment.

By Anusha Bradley

rnz.co.nz

Slash debris after flooding in Tolaga Bay. (Emma Hatton) Source: rnz.co.nz

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Hamilton shooting which left man in hospital was 'targeted attack'

Police say the shooting of a man in Hamilton last night was a "targeted attack".

The incident occurred on Derby Street at approximately 10:25pm yesterday, leaving a 35-year-old man in Waikato Hospital with moderate but not life-threatening injuries.

The man is in a stable condition in a high dependency unit.

Hamilton City Area Commander Inspector Freda Grace said a group was involved in the attack.

"Investigations so far have established a group of offenders arrived at Derby Street and approached a house they believed belonged to the target of their attack and knocked on the door," she said.

"A man who lived at the address opened the door and an altercation occurred. He was uninjured but understandably shaken by the event.

"Following this, the group of offenders went to the house next door. A number of shots were fired and the 35-year-old man they were targeting was hit inside his address.

"The group have then fled the scene in vehicles."

Police are continuing a scene investigation today but it is not yet known whether the incident involves members of organised crime groups.

Inspector Grace says there is nothing to suggest the shooting is connected to a number of serious incidents involving people being harmed across Waikato in recent months.

Police are keen to talk to anyone who was in the area around 10:25pm yesterday who may have witnessed anything suspicious or have information of interest to the investigation.

People can contact Hamilton Police on 07 858 6200 or call Crimestoppers anonymously via 0800 555 111.

The incident took place in Nawton at 10.25pm yesterday – the offender fled the scene by car. Source: Breakfast

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Pet food company fined $90k over employee's ill-treatment of bobby calves

The owner of a pet food plant has been sentenced for allowing one of his employees to ill-treat bobby calves.

Alan Cleaver from Te Kauwhata has been sentenced in the Hamilton District Court to six months community detention and 180 hours community work.

His company, Down Cow Limited was fined $90,000 dollars.

Mr Cleaver has also been banned for five years from having anything to do with the ownership or care of farm animals.

Charges were laid against Mr Cleaver, the company and an employee following secret video taken by the animal rights group, Farmwatch in 2015.

The employee, Noel Erickson was originally sentenced in 2016 to home detention but this was reduced on appeal by two years in prison.

Noel Erickson's actions were exposed by TVNZ's Sunday programme and caused widespread anger and disgust. Source: 1 NEWS

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Calf. Source: 1 NEWS


Fine weather for most of the country today, a few scattered clouds otherwise clear

TVNZ weather presenter Dan Corbett gives the latest update. Source: 1 NEWS