Traffic heavy, buses full as Auckland commuters deal with train strike

Auckland commuters are bracing for a rough day of traffic after being told to make alternative travel arrangements due to the rail workers strike beginning today.

The strike takes place from 2am for 24 hours and due to the short notice, Auckland Transport has not been able to put on extra buses in place of train services.

Traffic is heavy on major roads and there are reports of buses not stopping for passengers as they are full.

However there does not appear to be widespread problems. 

AT's chief transport services officer, Mark Lambert says: "We are sorry but with no trains operating, the roads will be busy and there will be delays. People should consider options such as travelling outside peak times, sharing rides, cycling or walking.

"They should also talk to their employer about their work situation."

More than 30,000 people travel by train around Auckland on an average weekday.

The workers' employer, French-owned company Transdev, is determined to reduce crew numbers and introduce driver-only trains, says Rail and Maritime Transport Union advocate John Kerr.

"This plan puts passengers and drivers at risk, and the only reason we can see for it is cutting costs and increasing profit," he said.

Transdev's proposal would make train drivers have responsibility for monitoring door operation and passengers, dividing their attention and significantly increasing the risk of accident, Mr Kerr said.

"Our members don't want to inconvenience the public especially this close to Christmas, but they will not compromise on the safety of passengers or the rail network," he said.

Ferry and bus services will be operating as normal today.

Wellington rail workers went on strike for 24 hours on November 16, protesting Transdev's desire to cut working conditions and penalty rates for working weekends.

Commuters across Auckland are advised to allow extra time for travel tomorrow or work from home if possible. Source: 1 NEWS



Police investigating after needles found in strawberries at Auckland Countdown

Police say they have started an investigation with the Ministry for Primary Industries after needles were found in strawberries at an Auckland Countdown.

A police spokesperson told 1 NEWS that police are taking the report seriously and are investigating together with MPI.

They also stated that the person who reported the incident was not harmed as the needles were found before anyone had eaten them.

The investigation comes after needles were found in a punnet of strawberries sourced from Western Australia, which was bought in a Countdown supermarket in St Lukes, Auckland according to MPI.

Countdown has withdrawn a brand of Australian strawberries from sale as a precautionary measure, and is advising customers to cut up strawberries before consuming them.

The Choice brand of strawberries was sold nationwide last week.

MPI says this brand has not been implicated in the Australian contamination incident and associated recalls.  

In a press release today Countdown says "we take food safety very seriously and we have withdrawn any remaining Choice strawberries from sale from Countdown, SuperValue and FreshChoice supermarkets while we investigate this with our suppliers.

"Customers can return any Choice brand of strawberries they may have at home to Countdown for peace of mind and a full refund.

"As an extra precaution and following similar advice from public health authorities in Australia, customers should cut up any Australian strawberries before eating them.

"There have been no reports of any illness or injury in New Zealand. The strawberries affected by this withdrawal have not previously had any issues of this nature reported and had not been withdrawn from sale in Australia."

NSW authorities are investigating more than 20 incidents of needles found in strawberries. Source: Breakfast

Countdown is in contact with both New Zealand and Australian authorities as they investigate this matter.

A spokesperson from Foodstuffs NZ told 1 NEWS that Pak'nSave and New World do not stock the brand of strawberries in question.

Foodstuffs NZ say they have already pulled all Australian-sourced strawberries from their shelves.

The halt comes after needles were found in different brands in Australia. Source: 1 NEWS

Anyone who finds anything suspicious in their food is asked to contact police immediately.

Countdown says the strawberries came from Western Australia. Source: 1 NEWS

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Proposed law would give police power to spot fine shoplifters

A New Zealand First MP has submitted a bill to Parliament, which would give police the power to hit shoplifters with an immediate fine.

If pulled from the member's bill ballot and passed, Darroch Ball's bill would give police the power to fine shoplifters up to one-and-a-half times the price of the item.

"What the bill does is introduce a new offence, which would be shoplifting, which is defined as the petty theft of anything under $1000," Mr Ball said.

"It gives police the option to use their discretion on whether to give an instant fine ... for those petty thefts and those shoplifters."

He said that would free up police and court time, while giving retailers a greater ability to have thieves dealt with.

Sixty-eight percent of shoplifting incidents currently go un-reported because retailers don't believe those responsible will ever face prosecution, Mr Ball said.

"For the most part [shoplifters] don't get prosecuted or the punishments against, or any action against those offenders is quite minimal, if they have any at all," he said.

"So what this will do is it will give the retailers the confidence that when they do call police, and they do have that evidence, there that something can be done immediately."

And the bill's got the seal of approval from Retail New Zealand.

Its spokesperson Greg Harford said petty theft was a problem right across the sector, and this bill would go a long way to remedying it.

He said New Zealand loses around $1 billion a year because of shoplifting.

"We think this bill will absolutely act as a deterrent against shoplifting. One of the reasons that people actually shoplift now is that they think there are no consequences for the activity," he said.

"This will mean that there are consequences, those consequences will be proportionate for the offence and it will be a really good way of discouraging people from beginning a life of crime through shoplifting."

rnz.co.nz

Midsection of man hiding jeans in jacket at store
Midsection of man hiding jeans in jacket at store. Source: istock.com

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Sunday Feature: What is the future for whitebait?

Saturday morning at the market. I bite the bullet, line up and buy one. It's a delicious, piping-hot, wee taste of home, but boy do I feel guilty. Not guilty enough to stop at one, though. I go back for a second. Then a third.

I've read the headlines. Read the entire stories. Whitebait are being wiped out because of people like me. They could soon be gone forever - and it's my fault. Or is it?

According to a Department of Conservation report released last year, three of the five whitebait species are "at risk/declining" and one species is "threatened".

Everyone agrees humans are having a huge impact on whitebait habitat, but people don't agree on how much of an impact fishing has on these species.

To help protect these native fish Forest and Bird are calling for recreational catch limits and a complete commercial ban on whitebaiting.

"Here is a species that are in trouble and there's no limit at all to the amount that you can catch" says Forest and Bird's Kevin Hague.

But Dr Mike Hickford, a marine ecologist at the University of Canterbury says fears of wiping out whitebait are grossly overblown. "I don't think we will ever wipe out whitebait" he says.

Hickford says a distinction needs to be made between adult and the post-larvae fish. "There's no doubt that the adult stage of these fish are in trouble, but it doesn't translate to the whitebait".

Hickford says there's no evidence to suggest at this stage that whitebaiting affects the threatened adult population, which spawn in such huge numbers.

"The majority of those whitebaits that are coming back in to the river, they're going to die anyway, they always have died and they still will die in the future no matter what we do".

Despite a lack of clear evidence, Kevin Hague says restrictions on how we catch whitebait, how much we can catch and the sale of whitebait should be introduced before the start of next 3-month long season (Sept-Nov).

"We don't want to interfere with someone's ability to go and get a feed for their family, but we just think there should be some tools that we use to actually reduce the pressure on these species".

Cascade Whitebait, one of New Zealand's biggest commercial whitebaiters, fish each season on the isolated Cascade river, just south of Haast.

Nan Brown, whose parents helped set up the operation 70 years ago, says their records don't show any decline in whitebait catch.

She wants to hold on to their fishery and says, "It would be unfair to let the guillotine drop on something you don't know enough about."

By Matt Chisholm

Whitebait are being wiped out and it's the fault of people like me, or is it? Sunday's Matt Chisholm finds out. Source: Sunday


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Good Sorts: Meet the 12-year-old who is obsessed with helping hard up chickens

Daniel Parsons has saved so many of his feathered friends his home can get rather crowded.

This week Good Sorts met the Bay of Plenty 12-year-old who is obsessed with helping hard up chickens.

Watch the video above to see what makes Daniel such a good sort.

Daniel Parsons has saved so many of his feathered friends his home can get rather crowded. Source: 1 NEWS