China continues military expansion into heavily-contested South China Sea despite opposition

China has continued its military expansion into the South China Sea despite fierce opposition.

The heavily contested South China Sea, part of the Pacific Ocean, is rich with natural resources.

Six neighbouring countries have also laid claims to the sea, which borders Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines.

A BBC team flew over the disputed South China Sea islands in a US Navy plane, during which the plane was told to "leave immediately and keep far off" by the Chinese Navy.

The crew aboard the plane were unphased by the warning, something that has become a daily encounter.

"It's a routine occurrence for us on these flights, it happens throughout the flight, where they come over and we just go back with our standard response and it really has no effect on any operations or anything we do," said Lt Matt Johnston.

During the flight they approached an island built entirely by the Chinese government, called "Mischief Reef".

It becomes clear the island had grown significantly since the BBC last took a flight over it in 2015.

The artificial island appears to now have radar domes, aircraft hangers and possibly somewhere to park missile launchers.

Beijing, China's capital, continues to lay claims to the region's sovereignty.

Neighbouring countries are also laying claim to the resource-rich waters. Source: BBC

Foreign investors, workers look to solve NZ's construction industry crisis

The construction industry is in crisis, and foreign investors and workers are looking to be part of the solution following the first ever Asian Construction Forum in Auckland today.

The collapse of big construction firms, mass skills shortages and the high cost of building materials all put pressure on the industry, resulting in an increase in foreign investors and workers.

Forum organisers estimate around $7 billion dollars has already been invested into the New Zealand construction industry by Chinese developers alone.

Asian Construction Forum organiser and Construction Marketing Services general manager Iain Watt says for changes to go smoothly, the gaps between what he calls traditional parts of the industry, and relative newcomers, need to be closed.

"What we see at the moment is they tend to operate within silos and this is an opportunity to bridge that cultural and language barrier," Mr Watt said.

Noah Bian, Flourishing Property Company's design director, says, "Everyone is trying their best to communicate and to learn about local market and culture and how we can fit into the environment".

However, firms coming in from China must face their own challenges regarding "how do we resource materials, how do we find contractors," Mr Bian said.

Jeff Fahrensohn, Auckland Council's manager for inspections, building control, says it's about giving overseas firms "a better light in how we look at things and guide them".

"A lot of the time, it is just a knowledge gap or a technical decision," Mr Fahrensohn said.

Auckland Council says over half of inspections have some kind of Asian connection, which presents challenges of its own.

"Previously, we had some issues with translations on site being done by people with no building knowledge. Now, we're employing more Chinese speakers to help that sort of situation," he said.

Over 1000 people signed up to today's forum and the take home message is that the industry, government and councils all need to work together to tackle the challenges faced by the current influx of foreign investors and workers.

Real estate agents say to help solve the housing crisis, overseas investment is crucial.

Peter Thompson, of Barfoot and Thompson, says, "Give them some benefits to come here [and] build the property. We also need to make sure they are happy to work with us in conjunction".

It’s one of the big issues being discussed at the first Asian Construction Forum in Auckland today. Source: 1 NEWS


Rescuers evacuate 1600 campers after storm causes flash flooding in Southern France

Hundreds of rescuers backed by helicopters evacuated about 1,600 people, most of them campers, in three regions of southern France where heavy rain caused flash flooding and transformed rivers and streams into torrents, the interior minister said.

Hardest hit was the Gard region, where 119 children, many of them from Germany, were evacuated from their campsite at Saint-Julien-de-Peyrolas, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said in a statement.

About 750 people in all were evacuated in Gard, mainly from campsites, a top district official, Thierry Dousset, told France's BFM-TV news channel.

Search teams that included divers combed swollen waters for a man reported missing. BFM-TV said he was a 70-year-old German citizen serving as a monitor at the Saint-Julien-de-Peyrolas site and feared to have been swept away by flood waters along with his van.

However, Dousset, the top aide of the Gard administration, said no one knew for certain yet that the man was in his van at the time.

Four German children were hospitalised for hypothermia in Bagnols-sur-Ceze, a town on the Ceze River, Dousset said. They were among 10 people hospitalised with minor injuries, the Gard Gendarmerie said on its Facebook page.

After a hot spell, the flash flooding in the northern part of the Gard region turned the Ceze and L'Ardeche rivers into churning waterways that quickly spilled out of their banks. Nearby regions — all part of the verdant and mountainous Cevennes — also saw flooding.

Collomb, the interior minister, said in a statement that 1,600 people were evacuated as a precaution in the Gard, the Ardeche and the Drome regions.

"No one has suitcases. We just have what we're wearing," Rita Mauersberger, a visitor from Germany who was among the campers taking shelter in a local hall in Saint-Julien-de-Peyrolas, told France Info radio.

More than 400 firefighters and gendarmes, many sent in from other regions, helped in the evacuations, using helicopters to spot camp sites and occasionally to perform rescues.

Numerous roads in the area remained cut off as night fell.

Authorities warned that the flooding would take time to recede and urged people to be vigilant.

A 70-year-old German man is still missing after the caravan he was in was swept away. Source: BBC