Where will Cyclone Gita hit NZ? '(That's) the million dollar question', says MetService

As Cyclone Gita was this morning upgraded to a mammoth Category 5 storm, New Zealand meteorologists are describing its possible course towards our shores as an unknowable "million dollar question".

Fiji's Meteorological service have Gita with winds of 203 kph, and moving westward slowly towards New Caledonia and Vanuatu for the next two days.

MetService meteorologist Georgina Griffiths says Cyclone Gita will remain in the tropics until the weekend, and which point it will track south.

Check the forecast in your region on the 1 NEWS NOW weather page 

But whether it will be towards New Zealand is really impossible to tell at this stage.

"There's still a number of reasonable tracks the system could take as it starts to move out of the tropics late in the weekend," Ms Griffiths says.

"Some of those track more towards the South Island, some towards central New Zealand, some towards Taranaki, New Plymouth area.

"Basically trying to estimate where that system will go once it starts to move out of the tropics is like betting on a game that you don't know the rules."

Ms Griffiths says once it leaves the tropics on the weekend it will no longer be classified as a tropical cyclone, but it is expected to still be an "intense" system.

"As soon as it comes under some wind share in the Tasman, it's going to lose some of it's tropical cyclone characteristics, so it's going to become a different beast," she says.

"The models keep it being an intense system. The warm seas around New Zealand are to play a part, we have very warm Tasman sea at the moment which either way, wherever it goes, it looks pretty intense."

MetService will take control of tracking and grading Cyclone Gita once it leaves the tropics, and Ms Griffiths says they should have a better idea on it's direction sometime tomorrow.

If it were to hit New Zealand it could bring heavy wind and rain, swells and storm surges early next week.

"The million dollar question is where," Ms Griffiths says.

"It's going to make a great deal of difference where it tracks to which, if any, of New Zealand gets affected and we just can't say at this stage.

"We can't determine with any degree of confidence."

Even if the system doesn't directly hit New Zealand it is likely to increase humidity levels as it interacts with the unusually warm seas off our shores.

Jane Foster said Oxfam is still waiting for contact to be re-established with two of Fiji's southern Lau islands, after the edge of Gita brushed them yesterday. Source: Breakfast



Barnaby Joyce facing pressure to resign as deputy PM after getting staffer pregnant

At least one Nationals MP wants the future of leader Barnaby Joyce settled in the next 24 hours.

The deputy prime minister is hanging on to his job despite some of his colleagues pushing him to resign following the public exposure of his extramarital affair with a former staffer.

Mr Joyce's relationship with his now pregnant partner Vikki Campion has raised concerns about the potential misuse of taxpayer funds after she was shuffled around posts in the offices of other senior MPs.

"I hope this doesn't go on too much longer," Nationals backbencher Ken O'Dowd told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"I'd hope to have it resolved today or tomorrow."

Mr O'Dowd does not think any of his colleagues will move against Mr Joyce, preferring instead to have "a talk" to him about his future.

"Someone needs to tell him where the party stands at this stage."

Mr Joyce told a meeting of coalition MPs yesterday he was determined to get through this "time of trial".

Ministerial colleague Michael McCormack, who has twice missed out on becoming deputy leader, denied having conversations with colleagues about replacing Mr Joyce.

"No I haven't," he told reporters on Tuesday night.

Cabinet minister David Littleproud, promoted by Mr Joyce in a ministerial reshuffle, said that "of course" his leader had the support of most Nationals MPs.

"There's no leadership to be resolved," he told ABC radio.

"We need this to be dealt with quickly. But those that want to keep this issue lingering on need to put up or shut up and leave him alone and leave his family alone."

Mr Littleproud took aim at the media for its coverage of Mr Joyce's personal affairs.

"The media themselves are fascinated with the titillation of the details of this and they're just trying to perpetuate it into as long an issue as they can."

Backbencher Michelle Landry believes the party should give Mr Joyce "a bit of personal time to sort this out".

"As far as I'm concerned everything is above board with the offices and he's there to stay," she told reporters.

"I believe that Barnaby will remain our leader - I think we need to give him a fair go with it."

A group of about four or five Nationals MPs is believed to be trying to get Mr Joyce to resign, but don't have the numbers in the 21-member party room to force a change.

Mr Joyce has denied breaching the ministerial code of conduct, which says frontbenchers cannot employ "close" relatives or partners or get them work in other ministerial offices "without the prime minister's express approval".

He has argued Ms Campion was not his partner when she worked in his and Matt Canavan's office.

Damian Drum was not a minister when she transferred to his

Former Nationals leader Warren Truss said the situation needed to be resolved quickly.

Ms Campion, 33, is due to give birth in mid-April.

Mr Joyce, 50, separated from his wife Natalie after 24 years of marriage in late 2017.

Barnaby Joyce.
Barnaby Joyce. Source: 1 NEWS


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Arthritis drug could halve risk of dementia, study finds

Drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis could halve the risk of patients developing dementia, a study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Oxford analysed the records of more than 5800 people living with the condition across the UK.

They compared 3876 patients who took disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), particularly methotrexate, with 1938 patients who did not.

The findings, published in the journal Alzheimer's And Dementia: Translational Research And Clinical Interventions, found those on the anti-inflammatory medication had approximately half the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

"This study shows a positive link between patients taking drugs to treat arthritis and reducing their risk of developing dementia - potentially by up to 50 per cent," said lead researcher Professor Chris Edwards, of the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre.

Currently there is medication available that can temporarily reduce some symptoms or slow down the progression of Alzheimer's disease but there is no cure for the condition.

"The results we've seen make us optimistic that we are getting closer to better treating this neurological disease and supports further investigation in clinical trials to confirm if these drugs can be used to prevent or treat dementia," said Professor Edwards.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints.

It develops when the immune system attacks the cells that line the joints and can also affect other parts of the body, including the lungs, heart and eyes.

The inflammation it causes is a characteristic feature of many other conditions, including dementia

It's thought drugs used to treat the inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis may also be beneficial for patients with other diseases.

"This has already been shown to be the case for treating patients with heart disease, where initial promising results are now being further investigated in large clinical trials," said Professor Edwards.

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