Seed lab using liquid nitrogen to save natives opens in Wellington

Surrounded by bush in a botanic garden in Wellington, scientist Karin van der Walt is experimenting with liquid nitrogen and tree seeds.

A seed lab has opened at Otari-Wilton's Bush, funded by Karori Lions Club, meaning Ms van der Walt can work on ensuring a future for some of our at-risk native trees every day.

"It's overwhelming but also very exciting to be able to contribute," the scientist said.

The science is ground-breaking for New Zealand.

The experiment uses liquid nitrogen to store fleshy seeds from the swamp maire, which is threatened by the potentially-fatal myrtle rust disease. The traditional drying and freezing method kills the seeds.

The pressure's also on to successfully store the seeds because climate change is expected to have an effect on plant diseases in New Zealand.

Ms van der Walt said the lab and opportunity to bring other staff to the lab to help with the experiment during the swamp maire's next seeding period means she'll be able to find the right method quicker.

"I'm really positive we'll have an answer, we will get survival by next year," she said.

Australia, the Pacific and Asia are set to benefit from the results of the experiment, as these areas all have syzygium species at risk from myrtle rust, Ms van der Walt said.

At the moment, none of the seeds in the lab have made it through the second liquid nitrogen application.

Other natives that can be stored traditionally will also benefit from cryopreservation as it's more effective at freezing metabolic activity inside the seed and means seeds can be stored for much longer than the traditional method, Ms van der Walt said.

Ms van der Walt is also experimenting with Bartlett's rata, which has been grown in the lab after hand-pollination between genetically diverse trees.

The lab is also working with Te Papa Museum to boost stock of the species, which is New Zealand's rarest and also at risk of myrtle rust.

There's now more seedlings in the lab then trees left in the wild.

"They won't recover in the wild, they will literally go extinct if we do no work like this," Otari-Wilton's Bush team manager Rewi Elliot said.

There's already been success in the lab for another project - improving the germination of the Hinau tree.

Wellington City Council's plant nursery has only had one seedling in a seven year period when seeds from the tree were planted.

But in the lab, soaking and drilling into the seeds has led to better results.

"In two months already... five seedlings germinating in our experiment so showing we're down the right track with that one," Ms van der Walt said.

Orchid species are the next natives on the list in need of a boost from science.

"The end goal would be that we don't have a need for the seed lab... we put ourselves out of business," Rewi Elliot said.

With plant diseases likely to be affected by climate change, guaranteeing a future for some of New Zealand’s rarest species cannot happen soon enough. Source: 1 NEWS

Wellington bus network changes to be reviewed after council bombarded with complaints

Wellington's new bus network will be independently reviewed after ongoing complaints of buses being late, too full to board or not showing up at all.

The regional council today voted today to have the system reviewed and the results reported back by December.

Since the system was changed in July the council has been bombarded with complaints.

Councillors have also asked officers to change a route so that it began and ended in Kilbirnie, as it previously did, and for feedback on whether some other routes can be changed.

Regional council chief executive Greg Campbell said he took full responsibility for fixing the network's problems.

He said the review needed to be done quickly.

"Any commuter that is left stranded, or a bus that is late, that is of extreme concern. We have to get a clear view of what is happening. What an independent review can really do - particularly for management and council - is give a view of what has happened and articulate that well."

At the beginning of the meeting several Wellington residents addressed the council to let it know they were still unhappy with the new bus routes.

A Wellington principal said the recent re-jig of the routes was making his students late for class and putting them in danger.

St Patrick's College, Kilbirnie's rector Neal Swindells told this morning's meeting about 100-150 boys were using the new service.

"Currently our two 753 buses from the station in the afternoon are significantly overloaded and are unsafe. On Monday this week, they were both loaded to the gunnels and there were 30-odd students who couldn't get on. So what they do is they cross the road to catch the new 24 bus, which by the time it leaves St Pat's now is also overfull."

Commuters at a bus stop in Newtown. Source:


Motorcyclist in critical condition after crash near Upper Hutt

A serious crash has left a motorcyclist in critical condition and caused a section of State Highway 2 to close for a time near Kaitoke, Upper Hutt.

Police say a motorcyclist hit a barrier at Kaitoke this afternoon about 4:30pm.

The male rider was taken to hospital via helicopter in a critical condition.

The road at SH2 Kaitoke, Upper Hutt is now open again after closing for a time.

A road closure sign in front of a Police vehicle
A road closure sign in front of a Police vehicle. Source: 1 NEWS


Government reveals details of emails between Clare Curran and Derek Handley

Details of the email exchange between former Digital Services Minister Clare Curran and Derek Handley were revealed today during Parliament's Question Time. 

Ms Curran said she was not aware of RNZ's policies surrounding meetings with Minister's at the time.
Source: 1 NEWS

The messages were sent over the role of chief technology officer, with Ms Curran using her private Gmail account to send the emails. 

An offer to Mr Handley for the role was retracted by the Government last week, resulting in a $100,000 pay out to the entrepreneur. 

Acting State Services Minister Grant Robertson told the House the following about three exchanges between the pair about the role. 

First exchange

August 11: 

"Derek Handley emails Clare Curran about the chief technology officer position and questions about the role of the CTO, including resourcing for the role and potential conflicts of interest."

August 14

"Clare Curran replies to that email, confirming a call to discuss these matters."

August 15

"Derek Handley replies to that, confirming times for the call."

Second exchange

August 19

"Clare Curran emails Derek Handley regarding logistics around the next step on the process of appointment, including the content of any public statements that might be made, and refers to contract discussions with the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA)."

August 20

"Derek Handley responds to that email to Clare Curran about those issues, including the contact he has had with DIA and management of conflicts of interest."

Third exchange

August 21

"Clare Curran emails Derek Handley regarding issues that would be on the work plan of the chief technology officer and attaches some relevant background documents on those issues.

"On the same day, Derek Handley responds to Clare Curran, acknowledging the material and referring to the discussions that he is having with DIA."

Derek Handley says he’ll donate the compensation but is disappointed at the way the issue was handled. Source: 1 NEWS

The chief technology officer was intended to "drive a forward-looking digital agenda for New Zealand", said the then Minister for Government Digital Services Clare Curran, when the role was announced last December. 

The new Minister for Government Digital Services Megan Woods said the Government have put a "full stop" on the process.

Ms Curran was stripped of her position as Minister for Government Digital Services after not disclosing a meeting with Mr Handley previously.

Over 20 vehicles vandalised overnight in suburb on Auckland's North Shore

More than 20 vehicles have been damaged overnight in an area on Auckland's, North Shore.

Police say a number of vehicles' tyres have been vandalised in Birkdale's, Tiri Tiri Road and Woodhams Street area.

Anyone who has had their car damaged is urged to report it to police if they haven't already done so.

Police are making area enquiries and conducting scene and forensic examinations and are interested to hear from anyone who may have information.

John Healy says people drastically underestimate the risks of leaving kids or pets in their car.
Source: 1 NEWS