One dead after car and milk tanker crash near Opotiki

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A driver of a car has died after colliding head on with a milk tanker near the Bay of Plenty town of Opotiki tonight.

Police were called at 8.55pm to a report of the crash on State Highway 2 in Kutarere, halfway between Ohope and Opotiki, a police spokeswoman said.

Police said no one else was injured.

SH2 is blocked between Rankin Rd and Kutarere Cemetery Rd, she said.

The Serious Crash Unit has been advised.


Source  :  New Zealand Herald

Filip Vachuda: Some school subjects are worth more than others

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An Auckland high-school graduate who came second to Dux despite doing what he says were “hard” academic subjects has written a passionate appeal saying subjects like art and cooking don’t compare.

Filip Vachuda, who was runner-up to this year’s dux at Onehunga High School, calls for adopting a common American system of weighting “hard” academic subjects, such as physics and calculus, as worth more than the dux’s “soft” subjects such as media and drama.

He wrote in an article for NZME’s EducationCentral website: “Losing out on Dux was never really important to me. After all, winning would only result in my name being put up in the hall for kids to emptily stare at.

“But while I had completed Level 3 English and a Scholarship exam in Year 12, and studied difficult subjects like physics or calculus, the Dux recipient had exempted herself from any math, science, or indeed, scholarship exams and extra subjects.”

He added: “Assigning acting, cooking or painting a similar academic status as calculus, science or history completely misses the mark.

“You can be illiterate and innumerate, yet an outstanding painter or actor.”

A former deputy chief executive of the NZ Qualifications Authority, Bali Haque, says Vachuda has revived a long-standing argument about the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA).

“The issue has always been what we used to call parity of esteem,” he says.

He says many countries differentiate between academic and other subjects, but NCEA was designed as a “standards-based” system to test whether students met standards in a wide range of subjects.

“If you compare a student doing drama with a student doing physics, what are you after?” he asks.

“If you want someone who is good at drama, you will look at the standard for drama, and if you want someone who is good at physics you will look at that standard.

“The concept of aggregating them and comparing them is tempting, but it’s just so problematic.”

Onehunga High School principal Deidre Shea says she is sorry Vachuda feels that he was not properly recognised.

“He has achieved extremely well and we are very proud, as a school, of his magnificent achievements,” she says. “Our students, staff and community celebrated the success of Filip and many other students at our recent awards ceremony.”

Here is what Vachuda wrote:

I was Proxime Accessit this year at an NCEA school in Central Auckland.

Losing out on Dux was never really important to me. After all, winning would only result in my name being put up in the hall for kids to emptily stare at.

But while I had completed Level 3 English and a Scholarship exam in Year 12, and studied
difficult subjects like physics or calculus, the Dux recipient had exempted herself from any math, science, or indeed, scholarship exams and extra subjects.

Our quantity and quality of attainment, all subjects being equal, were near-identical, but my minuscule credit deficit was all that mattered.

I couldn’t help but wonder: why did my school not consider my more demanding curriculum?

Was it even appropriate, to begin with, saying certain courses were more rigorous than others?

My school’s administration dismissed the concept of subject difficulty as merely an “artificial construct”, and claimed such an attitude was “consistent” among the vast majority of NCEA schools.

But subject hierarchies are by no means unprecedented. In the United States, rigour of coursework is a standard factor universities look at, and students have “weighted” grade point averages to reflect the difficulty of their classes.

Some New Zealand schools, such as King’s College, also weight their courses in ranking students’ performances.

I had thus initially thought, upon almost sparking “DuxGate”, that my school’s priorities were all warped, but I was wrong. The vast majority of our schools do not weight subjects; simply because New Zealand’s university acceptance framework doesn’t.

Nearly all high school subjects, whether calculus, printmaking, media or home economics, are “university approved”, and in the vast majority our universities’ admission cycles (excluding for engineering and certain University of Auckland courses), “university approved” subjects all have equal weight.

Therefore, schools promote studying anything at all as an identical means to success, and the Dux, or “most successful”, reflects this mindset.

It is easy to see why the NZQA and universities have adopted this approach. Everyone has different strengths and skill sets that contribute to a complete world. More “university approved” subjects enable further study in more fields.

But assigning acting, cooking or painting a similar academic status as calculus, science or history completely misses the mark. You can be illiterate and innumerate, yet an outstanding painter or actor, and excel in a multitude of relevant standards.

Moreover, in countries like the UK, where exams, unlike here, aren’t graded on a curve, math and science students, for example, regularly underperform due to tougher tests.

There will always be exceptions, but the overall trends in student achievement suggest that subject difficulty is not at all an “artificial construct” irrelevant to said achievement.

As well as that, chances are more “difficult” subjects will get you further in life – the five highest-paying college majors in the US were all some form of engineering, while among the lowest-paying were social work, theology and ECE – subjects where emotional, not academic intelligence, is the key to success.

In New Zealand, performing arts has been the lowest-paid college degree for years.

By no coincidence, disparities of difficulty and future success, between classically academic subjects (sciences, law) and other fields correlate significantly.

Knowing this, it is great that we value everyone’s potential, but shouldn’t we, in determining our top academic performers, recognise certain pathways as more challenging and likely to be rewarding?

We should be encouraging our young people to embark on the most fulfilling, but
also fruitful, careers possible, but NCEA’s system, which seems to have rubbed off on to universities, does not encourage that at all. Students studying easier and tougher subjects compete on a forcibly equal footing, and the latter are unjustly rendered inferior.

Furthermore, even if all data supporting disparities is negated, surely any school that bills its Dux as the “top academic achiever” has a duty to emphasise, well, academic subjects – subjects that, by common consensus, are ones that can be constantly improved upon through further study.

An additional major shortcoming of our system is that according to university criteria, only your best five subjects are ever relevant. I lost Dux despite studying six subjects, one more than my competition, because not all were counted. My Scholarship exam was also completely ignored.

Most perplexedly, at that same awards ceremony, a Year 12 girl who had decided to study all Level 3 subjects, yet still performed to an outstanding standard, lost the Year 12 Merit Cup to someone with a marginally higher grade point average, but with all his credits at Level 2 – a full curriculum level lower.

This all begs another question: why is it ever appropriate to outright ignore certain student achievement, as my school did? Accomplishments beyond the needed or expected framework, though less relevant to university admissions, are no less impressive or valuable to one’s intellectual growth, and should not be any less worthy of recognition.

We must be careful we aren’t failing our next generation by teaching them to only value the bare minimum for success (what happened to “the sky’s the limit”?). It almost seems like we don’t have faith in our education system if we encourage students to put in as little effort as necessary.

Now, you could undoubtedly call me a bad sport. Though I feel one aspect of good
sportsmanship almost never mentioned is questioning decisions you perceive as incorrect.

Challenging dubious outcomes, after all, is simply in pursuit of fair play.

I have realised from this (albeit non-sporting) exercise that I cannot assign my award legitimacy. The young woman who beat me was spectacular at what she did. She rightfully deserved all her prizes in drama, media, sustainability – and I must mention, as I outperformed her in English, she outperformed me in history.

But forgoing math, science and extension beyond the base curriculum in favour of less academic subjects should not add up to being declared the best, all-round, academic achiever.

There are no benchmarks in NCEA beyond achievement at your chosen level – and
we have become so reluctant to assign greater value to certain endeavours that performing an entire curriculum level above expectations won’t impact one’s relative success.

I’m not suggesting that the state immediately starts ranking subjects, but we need to consider whether this egalitarian narrative is misleading our students.

The US model of “weighted” classes and grade point averages is determined by schools – who may very well get their calculations wrong. But instituting a similar culture in New Zealand will at least address that not all achievement is, and I stress, in the world of academics and future opportunities, created equal.

Different course choices may lead to unequal outcomes in life, but all need not be turned on its head. NCEA’s sentiment towards absolute subject equality is as unrealistic as it is a heart-warming gesture, and something needs to change.

Until then, I shall advise my sister, who has just finished Year 11 with the Girls’ Merit Cup under her belt, to load up on her photography, P.E. and Polynesian dance if she wishes to continue being a top scholar.

• Filip Vachuda is the runner up to this year’s dux at Onehunga High School.


Source  :  New Zealand Herald

Chaos in Papamoa: Reports of gunshots and person hit by car

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A Papamoa street has broken out into chaos tonight, with more than 20 members of the public calling police to report disorder and fighting.

There have been reports of gunshots and at least one person being hit by a car.

A police spokeswoman confirmed there had been multiple reports of disorder and fighting in and around Lyn Grove.

Police were called about 8.45pm, a spokeswoman said.

She said several vehicles were present and a person may have been hit by one of them. At least one vehicle has been impounded by police.

St John ambulance was called at 8.47pm, an ambulance spokeswoman said.

“We sent two vehicles and are currently transporting one patient in a serious condition to Tauranga Hospital,” she said.

A Hartford Ave resident, who also asked not to be named, was out walking his dog when he heard a car doing a burnout.

“[I saw] a grey car that looked beat up and had a smashed back windscreen speeding past the park. Then I saw two groups of people running through the Hartford Ave park.

“The second group had a slug gun and one of the guys was taking shots with it,” he said.

Yeoman said officers armed with guns could be seen walking down the street.

One person has asked on Facebook “what is happening”, adding, “just had guys running through my backyard with baseball bats.”

Another commenter said they could “hear screaming” and the sound of cars “taking off”.

Photos of the scene show tyre tracks on the road.


Source  :  New Zealand Herald

Alleged assault on Franklin Rd in Ponsonby during Christmas lights event

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Police cordoned off the top part of Franklin Rd in Auckland, famous for its annual Christmas light display, following an alleged assault.

Police said enquiries were being made into the alleged assault, which happened on the Ponsonby street.

“We understand there are lots of people in the area enjoying the Christmas lights and we ask that people follow the instructions of Police at the scene.”

A post on the Auckland City District Police Facebook page said details of what happened were unclear at this point.

Police said there were in the early stages of their enquiries and no further information was available at this stage.

Dame Patsy switched on this year’s Franklin Rd lights on December 1, to a crowd of hundreds.

It’s the quarter century anniversary of the first time the popular tradition was begun by the residents of Franklin Rd.

More than 100 homes typically participate in the lights, spending thousands on decorating their homes. This year’s lights were set to run until Boxing Day.


Source  :  New Zealand Herald

Waitangi Tribunal to hear claim Maori suicide linked to ongoing effects of colonisation

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A grieving mother tells David Fisher why she blames broken promises of the Treaty of Waitangi for modern-day loss of life.

New claims before the Waitangi Tribunal argue colonisation is partly responsible for the high suicide rate among Maori.

The hearings will see families of those who have taken their lives tell the tribunal how the modern-day loss of life stemmed from broken promises made at the time of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Among those people taking claims is Jane Stevens, whose son Nicky took his own life in March 2015.

“Colonisation is not just something that happened in 1840. That taniwha is with us today,” she told the Weekend Herald.

“For me, this is focused on my son’s story but it is also many people’s stories.”

Stevens was schizophrenic and receiving mental health care in Hamilton under a compulsory care order. He failed to return from an unsupervised smoke break in March 2015. His body was found in the Waikato River a few days later.

The tribunal has accepted five claims, including Stevens’, in recent months as it began to usher in a new generation of hearings around grievances based on losses other than land.

The next phase is the kaupapa series of claims – 11broader issues on which the tribunal has agreed to hear evidence around Maori rights.

It is the “health services” kaupapa hearings that have attracted claims around suicide.

A timetable has yet to be set for the hearings but they are likely to start next year.

The suicide rate for Maori last year was 21.7 deaths per 100,000 people – double that for Pasifika communities and higher than the 14.6/100,000 recorded for people of European descent.

In some demographics, Maori were a clean statistical sweep. Last year, all girls aged 10-14 who took their lives were Maori.

Stevens claim over her son’s death was accepted by Judge Patrick Savage, who said the claim was “contemporary in nature and national in scope”.

She told the Weekend Herald that mental health statistics showed a clear difference between issues afflicting Maori and those impacting on others in society.

Stevens said she was taking the claim partly to honour her son and to try to meet the responsibility she had while he was alive.

“As a mother that was my job – to try and keep him safe. I certainly felt I wasn’t able to do that no matter how hard I tried.”

Stevens said one aspect of change she sought was to make family an integral part of dealing with mental health. Currently many felt excluded with the system struggling to balance its duty to an adult patient against a family’s desire to be involved.

For many Maori families, she said suicide was a constant. In her whanau, her father Ron had attempted to take his life, she had attempted to take her life twice and her son managed to do so while in mental health care.

Recent comments about te reo by former National Party leader Dr Don Brash and the Treaty by Sir William Gallagher left her “gobsmacked” at the “arrogance and self-righteousness of their positions”.

But Stevens said that as someone who was Maori but appeared Pakeha, she often heard adverse comments “about Maori moaning again”.

“Skin colour doesn’t change the impact of colonisation.”

As a result, she knew the issue of colonisation would be difficult to raise because there was a “cringe factor in talking about these things”.

Others claims have also been lodged, including by Otago University academic Dr Keri Lawson-Te Aho, who is organising an international symposium in Wellington next year on indigenous suicide.

Lawson-Te Aho’s doctorate research published in 2013 defined “historical trauma”.

“The seed that grew to become historical trauma was planted at the time of colonisation,” Lawson-Te Aho said.

The claims assert failure on the Crown historically or on the Government as recently as this year.

One claim pointed to former Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman’s reluctance to fix a target for reducing suicide in case the Government was blamed for not achieving the hoped-for result.

Lawyer Gerald Sharrock said such accountability went to the heart of the Government’s duty to the people. He lodged the claim on behalf of clients in Te Tai Tokerau, where Maori youth had featured distinctly in recent suicide statistics.

On colonisation and lasting effects, Sharrock said: “There is no doubt. First nations people in the Australia, the United States and Canada all have similar issues with suicide – and family breakdown, family violence and substance abuse.”

The former Minister of Maori Affairs, Te Ururoa Flavell, said there was solid research to support claims of ongoing harm from colonisation. The research had been done across a number of nations which had previously been colonies and had shown similar impacts on the indigenous peoples living in those countries, he said.

He said there might be resistance to the idea – as there was when the national anthem was first sung in te reo.

“It’s just part of us moving forward as a nation,” he said. “Actually, we’re addressing a wrong – it’s not just a big handout for Maori. “

Suicide prevention campaigner Mike King said identifying colonisation as a factor did little to protect young people now.

“Of course there’s a connection. But all this shit about teaching your kid a pepeha and to do one haka and one song – these kids turn up at a marae and they still feel stupid.”

King said trying to apply tikanga solutions to children raised out of traditional Maori society made little difference.

Meanwhile, he said the focus on the high Maori suicide rate had “created a conversation among white New Zealanders” that some children were more important than others.

The tribunal has no power to order changes but does make recommendations to government. Stevens has sought improved funding of tikanga Maori health services and greater consultation with Maori.

The issue of colonisation was most recently raised by health minister Dr David Clark during an interview with the NZ Herald. He said reasons for New Zealand’s world-leading suicide rate included “communities that are experiencing hardship or the after-effects of colonisation or trauma in their own lives or personal histories”.

The statement has created a political hot potato, with Opposition MPs quizzing Clark in Parliament, attempting to have him expand on his answer.

Clark has not done so in Parliament and has refused Weekend Herald interviews to expand on the comment.

The National Party has also done all it can to avoid being interviewed on the issue. Numerous requests to health spokesman Coleman went without response.

Then numerous requests to National’s mental health spokesman, Matt Doocey, went ignored.

Media staff in the National Party leader’s office said he was happy to be interviewed on mental health but not when questions of colonisation were included.

YesWeCare health coalition co-ordinator Simon Oosterman said colonisation was a difficult issue for many to debate but there was clear evidence of the need to do so.

“When Maori are most at risk of suicide, it’s hard to ignore colonisation. There’s been a willingness to break the silence around suicide but if it’s to be meaningful, they have to break the silence around colonisation.”

The kaupapa claims
•Maori military veterans
•Health services and outcomes
•Constitution, self-government and electoral system
•Mana wahine and mana tane
•Education services and outcomes
•Identity and culture
•Natural resources and environmental management
•Social services, social development and housing
•Economic development
•Justice system
•Citizenship rights and equality

Where to get help:

• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Samaritans 0800 726 666
• If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

Source  :  New Zealand Herald

Sport shock: 80 New Zealand athletes suspected in illegal steroid probe

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An investigation into illegal steroids has uncovered alleged widespread cheating in New Zealand sport, with up to 80 athletes allegedly caught up in a doping investigation.

The scope and results of the investigation are unprecedented and have the ability to tarnish the country’s reputation as a “clean” sporting nation.

The athletes came the attention of investigators after their details were allegedly found in the database of a Christchurch man convicted and jailed for selling steriods via the internet.

They now face possible sanctions if found guilty of anti-doping rule violations. The Wada Code, which was updated on January 1, 2015, to allow for harsher penalties, offers a wide range of sanctions, which can be backdated.

As this offending captures the period between late 2014 and early 2015, so those who allegedly purchased in 2014 might be subject to lighter penalties than those in 2015. But, if found guilty of sporting violations, they won’t face any criminal charges.

“It is a massive wake-up call,” said New Zealand Sport CEO Peter Miskimmin.

The cases feature a range of sports, but it is understood that rugby players make up a significant portion – more than 40 per cent – of who now face potential sanctions.

No All Blacks or Olympians are among those caught in the sting, but it is understood some school-age athletes are.

The Weekend Herald can reveal the first case was heard this week and a decision could come as soon as next week. Because there is such a vast number of cases to be heard, the backlog is not expected to be cleared for at least six months.

To illustrate the scale of the investigation, in the last financial year Drug Free Sport New Zealand put eight cases before tribunals, some years they are as low as four. This sweep could net more than 80.

The cases come at an critical juncture in the fight against performance-enhancing drugs. Russia has been barred from next year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang – though clean athletes may compete as individuals – and national anti-doping organisations have been encouraged to take a hard line, partly to avoid any accusations of double standards.

It is in this context that the New Zealand Sports Tribunal and Rugby Judiciary will hear cases involving a large number of athletes who were recreational rather than serious sportsmen and women.

“Where we see evidence of a potential anti-doping rule violation (ADRV), we have an obligation to investigate it,” said Nick Paterson, the chief executive of Drug Free Sport NZ. “We have to rigorously investigate cases and where we find evidence of an ADRV, we have to put that in front of the appropriate decision-making body.”

DFSNZ has worked with athletes of all levels, but most often at the elite and just-blow-elite level. An investigation like this breaks new ground.

“A significant proportion of these cases may have had no anti-doping education from us,” Paterson said.

The initial medicines investigation was initiated by medical regulatory body Medsafe.

It resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of Joshua Francis Townshend this year after he admitted to 129 charges under the Medicines Act. He was sentenced to two years at the Christchurch District Court.

Townshend was mixing, packaging and selling clenbuterol and other anabolic steroids from his Christchurch home, mainly through the website The site was shut down but not before information on his client database was made available to DFSNZ.

An initial sweep of the data netted representative cricketer Adam King and Hawkes Bay club rugby player Adam Jowsey. The cases were heard before the Sports Tribunal and Rugby Judiciary respectively and in both cases two-year bans were handed down.

A second sweep, however, uncovered dozens more alleged offenders, with more than 100 clients registered with national sporting organisations.

“We found a large number,” Paterson said. “We have people across a good range of sports. We have levels of athlete from school and club level and upwards from there. We have male and female.”

When pressed on whether any of those caught were professional or semi-professional sportsmen or women, Paterson said he could not talk about specific cases.

He did say, however, that beyond the rules violation, there was a “holistic” argument for taking the cases.

The products sold by Townshend, it was noted by Medsafe, fell well short of pharmaceutical standards.

“These people who purchased from the website literally had no idea what they were putting into their bodies,” Paterson said. “For all we know the ingredients were mixed in a bathtub. If that’s not a health risk, or a potential health risk, I don’t know what is. How can you think that’s okay?”

Miskimmin said the case showed New Zealand could not be complacent.

“What this demonstrates is we have people in our sport system and community who are prepared to take shortcuts, and that is not good,” he said. “This exposes it and it highlights it.”

On the flipside, Miskimmin noted, the raft of cases was evidence that if you cheat, you will be identified. The inter-agency approach to investigating anti-doping violations meant you did not have to return a positive test to face potential sanctions.

“It’s very good that we can expose these things.”

In a statement on the ministry website, Medsafe said Townshend was blatant in his advertising and promotion of the medicines and estimated that over one year he supplied the equivalent of 2100 10ml bottles of clenbuterol and approximately 2400 units of other anabolic steroids for injection.

Clenbuterol can be taken as a spray or injected intravenously. It is used to reduce body fat and increase muscle mass. It is used as both a performance enhancer and a vanity drug.

While many of those who appear before the tribunals may argue that they were just trying to look “cut”, the rules make no allowance for that.


Source  :  New Zealand Herald

Tribesmen gang members who beat prospect to death get decade in jail

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Two Auckland Tribesmen gang members who savagely beat one of their own prospects to death in a “senseless” attack will spend at least a decade in jail.

Denis Solomon, 32, and Vincent Mana George, 33, were on Friday each handed a life sentence for the murder of 24-year-old Clayton Ratima in February, 2016. Neither will eligible for parole for 10 years.

Passing down the sentences in the High Court at Auckland, Justice Anne Hinton said Mr Ratima had died at the hands of the very gang he wanted to join. “Hopefully his death will dissuade others from doing so,” she said.

During the trial, the Crown said the pair, patched Tribesmen, coaxed Mr Ratima – manning the gate of the gang’s Otara pad – into fighting another associate early on a Sunday morning.

As the reluctant men failed to land blows in a messy exchange before giving up, Solomon and George grew frustrated and launched a savage attack on Mr Ratima themselves. At 190cm tall and weighing 130kg, Mr Ratima was an imposing figure.

But witnesses described him as a “gentle giant” and prosecutors said the two attackers knew that, as a prospect, he was not allowed to defend himself.

“He was not allowed to fight back … This was violence of the most cowardly sort,” Justice Hinton said.

In a statement read to the court on Friday, Mr Ratima’s aunt described him as a humble man who would have “given the shirt off his back”.

After the killing, Solomon and George departed to a “gentlemen’s club” in central Auckland, leaving others to take Mr Ratima to the emergency department seven hours later with two fractures in his neck and a swollen brain, the court heard.

He died soon after.

Prosecutor Natalie Walker on Friday described the killing as a senseless act of “gratuitous, wanton violence”. For its part, the defence argued the prosecution’s key witness – the man told to fight Mr Ratima – was very drunk at the time, and had initially not even mentioned the defendants to police – only changing his story later to protect himself.

On Friday, lawyer Shane Tait said Solomon had fallen in with the gang after being made redundant and had no history of violent convictions.

George’s lawyer, Adam Simperingham, said his client was “genuinely remorseful”.

Having never finished his first year of high school, Mr Ratima fell in with the Tribesmen while changing tyres for a living in Otara. Members of the gang – including George – attended his funeral, leaving a patch on his coffin, to the dismay of family, the court heard.



Source  :  New Zealand Herald