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

Despite thousands taking part in strike action this year, union membership continues to decrease

Unions are acknowledging the need to change to stay relevant as numbers continue to decrease.

Despite thousands of workers taking to the streets several times this year, only 18 per cent of employees in New Zealand are members of unions.

"It's become more accepted, certainly amongst the younger workers, that you don't have to join the union and in fact most workers realise unions will get them benefits whether they're part of the union or not," Victoria University professor Stephen Blumenfeld told 1 NEWS.

New Zealand's most violent and disruptive industrial confrontation happened in 1913 when 16,000 watersiders and miners to part in strike action.

Another waterfront strike in 1951 wasn't as violent, but was one of the longest, lasting 151 days.

In the following decades the number of strikes reached an all-time high. But the big change came in 1991 when a law change saw more employees negotiating directly with employers.

Union membership has dropped from half a million to around 300,000.

"It means there's less money in the union coffers and it costs money to be effective," said Mr Blumenfeld.

Recent long-running strike action with nurses has now been solved, but this week teachers plan to walk off the job proving unions still have a voice.

"Unions are now pushing for causes that are really salient for young workers," said Mr Blumenfeld.

"Unions are actually part of the overall movement for social change and I think a lot of young people are seeing the union as an avenue for them to be engaged in other campaigns, so things like climate change and its impact on the future of work," said PSA Union's Lauren Hourigan.

Unions fight to remain relevant as membership drops from half a million to about 300,000. Source: 1 NEWS



Good Sorts: Primary school teacher devoting spare time and money to kids cycling team

Kaitaia Primary School teacher Phil Gibbs is dedicated to his Far North Flash team who keep him poor and happy. Source: 1 NEWS