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Thornbury couple's 33 year service recognised
Thornbury couple's 33 year service recognised

05 May 2024, 8:44 PM

Thornbury hall custodians Lynley and Stuart Shaw have received a rare Recognition of Service Award after 33 years of working for their community.Ōraka Aparima Community Board chair Michael Weusten said the board was proud to present the award for only the second time in Southland’s history.The first was in 2019, when a Recognition of Service Award was presented to Isobel Pearson who worked as an amenities cleaner in Otautau for 32 years.Lynley and Stuart Shaw took over from Fay Conlon as custodians of the Thornbury Centennial Hall in 1991.As custodians they took hall bookings, arranged payments, ensured the hall key was available to users, made sure hall equipment was available, cleaned the hall, stocked up supplies, carried out maintenance and groundskeeping, were in charge of security and responded to emergencies.. Mr Weusten said their cleaning of the hall was “exemplary”.As local community members, Mr and Mrs Shaw were always helping at hall working bees, whether it was painting or planting rhododendrons.Former Thornbury Community Development Area subcommittee chair Annette Horrell said the Shaws were very conscientious and provided a wonderful service for the local area.“The key was always available in the mailbox if they were not at home and now they are spending time with family.”Southland District Mayor Rob Scott said the Shaws’ voluntary service should not be underestimated, as halls were the lifeblood of many small communities, providing many happy memories.They had done a “fantastic job” for Thornbury, he said.

Drought over as Steel defeat Stars in extra time
Drought over as Steel defeat Stars in extra time

04 May 2024, 8:26 AM

Scenes of euphoria erupted when the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel broke an unwanted record, notching their first win in nearly two years with a thrilling 63-61 extra time win over the Stars in Invercargill on Saturday.In a terrific contest between two teams battling for their first win of the season, the Steel produced the most compelling of comebacks when forcing the game into extra-time, turning an eight-goal deficit at the start of the final quarter into a dramatic 58-all stand-off at the end of regulation time.That required two periods of three-minutes each way of extra-time, the jubilant Steel handling the pressure and enormity of the situation with more poise than their opposites and failing to buckle as they went on to clinch their first win in the ANZ Premiership since May 22, 2022.Dominating the first and third quarters, the Stars went off the boil in the second and fourth quarters, letting a golden opportunity slip through their grasp in failing to nail home their last quarter advantage as the tenacious Steel produced the most stirring of fightbacks.In registering their first win, the Steel left the Stars as the only winless team, the visitors left with a third success bonus point for finishing within five goals.The home side started with their settled seven of recent weeks, including the international pairing of Kate Heffernan and Shannon Saunders in the midcourt.The Stars gave impressive young training partner Summer Temu her second straight start, the goal shoot pairing up with captain Maia Wilson, who once again started from goal attack.It was the visitors who made the hottest of starts. Fluid and accurate on attack, the Stars provided the ball on a plate for Temu and Wilson while full-court defensive pressure put the squeeze on the Steel’s attacking momentum.That was further enhanced by the mobility and speed of in-circle defenders Holly Fowler and Kate Burley, who did a fine job in disrupting the Steel’s shooters.Skipping out to a five-goal lead, the visitors were threatening to stretch out further but a late home team rally reduced the deficit with the Stars taking a 16-13 lead into the first break while posting their first winning opening quarter of the season.The Steel came out strongly on the resumption with the shooter-to-shooter link between Grace Namana and Georgia Heffernan starting to pay dividends. Finding their timing and connectivity, the pair gave the supportive crowd plenty to crow about when levelling up the scores with five minutes of the stanza to go.In response, the Stars introduced new mum Monica Falkner into the goal attack role with Wilson moving back to goal shoot. At the other, in a bid to stem the flow, the visitors re-jigged their defence line with the rangy figure of Lili Tokaduadua coming off the bench and into goalkeeper.There was nothing to separate the teams, both having 33 attempts at goal during the first half as the sides went to the main break locked together at 29-apiece.The Steel broke the deadlock in the opening exchanges of the third quarter, showing all their renowned grit, determination and ball retention abilities to build a three-goal buffer.The Stars’ response was swift, levelling up inside a minute of play before unleashing a decisive and telling momentum swing. Their anchors at each end of the court, Wilson playing a peerless role under the hoop with her movement and accuracy while at the other end, teenaged goalkeeper Tokaduadua came up with a couple of big turnovers, allowing the confidence to flow back into the Stars ranks with a productive change in fortune as the Steel’s resistance fell away.In a complete turnaround, the Stars ended the quarter with a haul of 21 goals compared to the Steel’s 13 to leave them handily-placed when leading 50-42 at the last turn.Official Result and Stats: Ascot Park Hotel Steel: 63Stars: 61Match tied 58-58 at fulltimeChampion Data Match CentreShooting Stats - Steel:Grace Namana 44/50 (88%)Georgia Heffernan 19/25 (76%)Shooting Stats - Stars:Maia Wilson 42/46 (91%)Summer Temu 11/11 (100%)Monica Falkner 8/11 (73%)ANZ Fans' Player of the Match: Holly Fowler (Stars)

Hope for Southland lagoon after toxic algae threat
Hope for Southland lagoon after toxic algae threat

03 May 2024, 7:24 PM

The impacts of a cyanobacterial bloom at a Southland lagoon won’t be known for some time, but the water has been restored.Waituna Lagoon — a wetland of international significance — had to be opened to the ocean in January due to the threat of the toxic algae.Environment Southland chief scientist Karen Wilson said the lagoon was no longer in a state of bloom, with recent quality tests showing water had "returned to normal levels".The regional council had not dealt with a cyanobacterial bloom of that magnitude at the lagoon, meaning it was unable to compare progress against historical data, Wilson said.“However, considering our monitoring work and that done by the Department of Conservation, as well as our collaboration with experts in the areas of the complex ecosystems that make up the Waituna Lagoon, we are expecting the lagoon to return to a state of ecological health over time.”With the lagoon improving, monitoring frequency had decreased towards normal levels.A high frequency monitoring device had been temporarily installed creating additional data compared to before the lagoon was opened, Wilson said.The manual opening aimed to disrupt the bloom by mixing sea water into the lagoon.It worked, but jeopardised rupia in the process — an aquatic plant crucial to the area’s ecological wellbeing.Department of Conservation freshwater science lead Nicki Atkinson said rupia surveys had recently been completed by NIWA, with results still being waited on.“We’re not expecting the rupia to have bounced back at all, from this survey. It’ll be a wait and see until next year.”Atkinson said it would be crucial to protect the growing season for rupia over the upcoming spring and summer.A major issue affecting the area was nutrient run-off from surrounding farms, but Atkinson said people were working hard individually to reduce the problem.“I don’t know that that has necessarily resulted in a significant change to the lagoon, but there is certainly a willingness."And that community does really care about the state of the lagoon as well, that’s really clear to all of us.”Located southeast of Invercargill, the Waituna Lagoon is home to native birds, fish and plants.In 1976, the area made history by becoming the first in the country to be recognised under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international significance.LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

Invercargill Kapa haka group qualify for prestigious Te Matatini festival
Invercargill Kapa haka group qualify for prestigious Te Matatini festival

03 May 2024, 6:27 AM

Invercargill Kapa haka group, Te Kapa Haka o Ngā Hau e Whā, has won a place at the prestigious 2025 Te Matatini festival in New Plymouth, after placing fourth at last weekend's (27 Apr) regional competition in Christchurch.CLICK HERE to listen to Metiria Light talk about the journey of Te Kapa Haka o Ngā Hau e WhāTe Matatini, held biennially for Kapa haka groups from throughout Aotearoa and Australia, is considered the pinnacle of the Māori performing arts calendar.The 40-strong on-stage group, all part of a mātāwaka community living in Murihiku Southland, had only been together for six months before performing their Kapa haka - which told the story of being a multi tribal community living outside of their own regions.Te Kapa Haka o Ngā Hau e Whā. Photo: Nga Hau E WhaLast weekend's performance was supported by a similar number of reserve performers as well as supporters and whanau, both present and online.Kapa haka group initiator, tutor and on-stage female leader, Metiria Light, said it was not really heard of for a new Kapa to go straight in and qualify for Te Matatini."That's a quick achievement."Light attributed the group's success to not just the level of commitment to the cause, both from the performers and their whanau, but also knowing that they were doing something greater for others.She said Murihiku Southland hadn't seen senior representation at Te Matatini since 2000.Te Kapa Haka o Ngā Hau e Whā. Photo: Nga Hau E WhaThe initative to form a Kapa haka group started just over a year ago, Light said, after a gathering of whanau had watched a Te Matatini festival online and recognised the potential benefits a local team could have for their community.They identified not only health, wellbeing, capability and capacity benefits but also the potential to produce positive role models for their children, she said."We know that Kapa Haka isn't just about the performance on stage, it's really about living out that Maori concept of whanaungatanga - being connected to your culture, your identity, your community.""A lot of our members have whakapapa, or genealogical ties, back to various iwi in the North Island and in the South Island.""So [Kapa haka] was kind of another home, and a place that they could feel that they had that sense of belonging to just be Māori in a Māori space.""It was [also] about bringing Te Reo Māori through compositions, a place to speak at, a place to learn if you weren't a speaker," Light said.The group's 25 minute Kapa haka was made up of six original items - an entry chant or traditional song, an action song, a poi, a haka and an exit item - that all went towards the overall aggregate score."It's a long time, especially when you're singing and moving your body and being very versatile [and] physically active."However Light said she had already seen some really good health benefits coming through."We've started to see people want to really be healthy, be the healthiest version they could be... healthy for Kapa haka... healthy for the workplace and also healthy in mind, body and spirit."Light said the group was now taking a week to soak in the moment, rest and recover and be with whanau before regrouping for a debrief and a giveback day where they would perform their Kapa haka for whanau, the community and those who had contributed to the kaupapa/cause.The Te Matatini festival, hosted by Te Kāhui Maunga (Taranaki / Whanganui), will be held in Ngāmotu New Plymouth in February 2025.The overall winner earns the supreme title of Toa Whakaihuwaka.

Lachlan Jones' neighbour says she heard 3-year-old on night he went missing
Lachlan Jones' neighbour says she heard 3-year-old on night he went missing

02 May 2024, 7:15 PM

A neighbour of Lachlan Jones says she heard him banging around her washhouse on the night he went missing, hours after his family is accused of killing him.The three-year-old Gore boy was found in a council sewage pond just over a kilometre from his home in January 2019.Two police investigations found Lachlan accidentally drowned after wandering off, but Lachlan's father has disputed these findings.A coronial inquest is underway in Invercargill to work out what happened on that night more than five years ago.The first two witnesses, his mum Michelle Officer and half-brother Jonathan Scott, have denied accusations they killed Lachlan in the afternoon and stored his body in a freezer before dumping it at the sewage pond.Neighbour Deborah Thurston told the inquest she heard him banging around her washhouse on the night he went missing when his mother popped in.Her testimony was closely examined, asking if she had remembered hearing him or if she might have been mistaken or remembered incorrectly.Thurston said they had knocked on her door that night, with Officer coming in and briefly talking to her while she remained sitting down.She could not see Lachlan, but heard his footsteps and banging around and saw Officer was keeping an eye on him, she said."I could hear like scuffling around."Officer told her she would not stay and she needed to change his soiled nappy, before saying "s**t he's gone again", and she took off, Thurston said.The father's lawyer, Max Simpkins, asked whether her memory could have been impacted by the media coverage."I heard Lachie. I know he was there."She told the counsel assisting the Coroner, Simon Mount KC, it was the first time she had heard of him take off so far, but he was full on that night.He played her a recording of Officer's 111 call, hearing Lachlan's mum say he was just in Thurston's laundry, with Thurston sounding surprised and asking what he was doing there in the first place.Officer responded he went to her house and he was being funny.Thurston said she did not believe she was with Officer at the time and did not think it was her voice, before changing her mind and saying she did not remember being there but it sounded like her.Mount asked if she was sure it was Lachlan in her washroom, which she said 99.9 percent sure but she did have gaps on that night.She said she took for gospel what people told her, which Mount asked her whether she could have latched onto Michelle Officer telling her that he was in the laundry instead of directly remembering him being there.During lengthy questioning, she said it was possible, especially after being accused of covering up his death, gossip and media coverage, but she believed he was in her washhouse.You needed to keep an eye on him, she said."Lachie was the type of child to me that would still go, even if you said stop."When Officer had returned to Thurston's house without finding Lachlan, she joined the search.She recalled asking young girls in their yard if they had seen Lachlan - which they had - and they pointed in the direction he was running.Simpkins questioned why she said she spoke to three girls in her police statement, but told the inquest there were two girls.She never expected his death would go to an inquest and her statement would be read in court and questioned."When I was asked these questions, no one said it was a statement to me so I was very casual in what I was saying," she said."But when it comes to the death, the drowning of a child, that's totally different compared to how many wee girls were outside their home playing safely."Simpkins questioned her on her calling police on 9 April this year, saying she had found a cannabis butt in her garage on the night Lachlan was found dead, Officer had asked for a puff, they lit it and both had a puff.She told the inquest that she rang back and said she was confused and she did not believe it was that night as she was not smoking at the time due to her job and she had only smoked with Officer once, but had self-medicated.The day after his death, she said Officer had said he had done it to himself by running away, but she had been in shock and frustrated with Paul at the time.Simpkins asked her whether Lachlan would usually hug her when they saw each other.He would do that sometimes when she went to visit, but he would also like to arrest people, put them in handcuffs and take them to a box 'jail', she said.Lachlan was special to her and she had a special spot for him, she said.Back at Officer's house, she remembered an angry exchange with his father Paul Jones, who said "she should go to f***ing rehab".She said it was the second of the night with Jones confronting her during the search, "ranting and raving at me" about not looking when she was.Resident says she saw little person 'running quite fast'Gore resident Maxine Cartwright said she saw a little person running in the direction of the sewage oxidation ponds in Gore on the night Lachlan Jones disappeared.Cartwright, who lived near Lachlan's home with her family at the time, said she was at her next door neighbour's house near the corner of Salford Street and Grasslands Road that night.Cartwright said she saw the little person running directly outside the house.She got a second glimpse on the corner of the street, but did not know who they were, she said.She did not recall a lot of the night, which was more than five years ago, and was asked to read her police statement, which was made the day after he went missing."When I saw Lachie, at first I thought he was my other neighbour ... he was heading towards Grasslands Road, running quite fast."He was wearing a yellow hi-vis top. I think it was a vest and another top underneath. But I didn't get a very good look."At the time, she said it was the bright colour clothing that caught her eye.She got a second glimpse of the little person on the corner of the street, but did not know who they were.She turned the other way to see if there were any nearby adults and saw two women.The father's lawyer, Max Simpkins, asked her whether her statement could have been influenced by the discussions on the day he went missing, which she said could have happened.She told the police's lawyer, Robin Bates, that she was doing her best to recall what happened during her police statement.Reproduced with permission

Mayor speaks out after boy racer hits bystanders
Mayor speaks out after boy racer hits bystanders

02 May 2024, 5:42 AM

An appeal for information on boy racer activity has been backed by the mayor of Invercargill, who says he’s seen the damage first hand.It follows an incident on the weekend where Police responded to a gathering of around 50 vehicles on the outskirts of the city.Prior to Police arrival, the group shifted to Lorne Dacre Rd where a vehicle crashed into bystanders just before midnight, injuring two people.On Thursday, Southland road policing manager Blair Shirley urged members of the public to report boy racer activity in the hope it would help disrupt the behaviour.Mayor Nobby Clark said the group’s movements showed how easily they could relocate as soon as they knew Police were onto them.“As members of the community, we’ve got to be sharp. People travelling around the city will see the buildup of cars and their activities, and we just need to report it as quickly as possible,” Clark said.“Because without that knowledge, the police have got nothing to go on, and end up with a fatal accident or somebody being seriously hurt.”Clark said he had received a number of reports from people talking about the damage boy racers had done.“I’ve seen it in Otatara where I live, and I’ve seen it out towards Sandy Point.“Masses on masses of tyre marks on the road, and worn out rubber . . . not an ideal situation.”As a result of Saturday night’s incident, one person was transported to hospital by people at the scene, Police said.The group dispersed, but Police were able to impound the vehicle and speak with the driver involved.LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

Police seek help after 2 injured at Invercargill boy racer gathering
Police seek help after 2 injured at Invercargill boy racer gathering

02 May 2024, 4:06 AM

Police are urging the public to report boy racers, after two people were injured following a vehicle - believed to be deliberately skidding - crashing into bystanders on the Lorneville Dacre Road around 11:50pm on Saturday night (27 Apr).Police were alerted to a gathering of around 50 vehicles at the intersection of State Highway 1 and Mill Road North around 11:30pm on Saturday night (27 Apr).However before they could get there the gathering had shifted to the Lorne Dacre Road.Southland Road Policing Manager, acting Senior Sergeant Blair Shirley said one person suffered lower-body injuries and was transported to hospital by people at the scene. The group dispersed as Police arrived, but the vehicle involved was impounded and the driver spoken to, he said.Shirley said Police understood the community’s frustration around these incidents and we are working hard to identify and locate those involved however they needed the public's help.This offending occurs too often, and this incident is a good example of the risk this behaviour puts on the lives of not only the people involved but bystanders and the community, he said.Shirley said Police would continue to work to disrupt this activity and identify those involved. If anyone had footage, or information that may be able to assist Police in identifying those involved in this activity they are asked to contact Police via 111 if its happening now or 105 if its after the fact.Alternatively you can report any information anonymously via Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.

‘Time to take it to bits’: Town clock set for shift, refurbishment
‘Time to take it to bits’: Town clock set for shift, refurbishment

01 May 2024, 11:34 PM

Invercargill’s town clock is likely on the move, albeit about 23 metres.The structure will remain in Wachner Place but be closer to Dee St as part of upgrades to Esk St West, where a new hotel is being built.The developer, Distinction Hotels, has been working with Invercargill City Council on plans for the area which include a new lane for coaches through Wachner Place.An artists impression of the Esk St West upgrade, which features a new lane for coaches. Graphic: Invercargill City CouncilBut because the clock was in a “very tight location”, according to the council report prepared for yesterday’s meeting, it needed to be shifted.Most of the work required to connect Esk St West and Dee St for the bus lane would be paid for by the developer, with the council putting aside $4 million for street improvements, potential soil contamination and unforeseen requirements.The clock would also receive a major overhaul as part of the the relocation.Council chief engineer infrastructure Russell Pearson said the clock needed to be taken out of its old structure in order to be repaired anyway.“What we do know is that the clock mechanism needs some refurbishment.“It’s been sitting there ticking away for 20 years and I guess it’s time to take it to bits and fix the bits.”The clock would be kept in as original of a condition as possible, much like restoring a vintage car, Pearson said.Councillor Darren Ludlow expressed concern the bells would be reinstated, saying it created issues for accommodation in the area.Pearson said the clock would be rebuilt with the capability of having the bells ring, but whether they did or not could be managed similar to how it was in the past.Mayor Nobby Clark spoke favourably of the hotel's financial contribution and collaboration with the council for the Esk St West upgrade, saying it took away the risk of work not being done in time.“The cost is a fraction of what was projected for that part of town,” he said.Councillor Steve Broad was also complimentary of what he’d seen, saying he was excited when the plan came through.“I think it shows that there really has been attention paid to some of the concerns raised throughout the Wachner Place submission process.”Council said the clock would move approximately 23m in a plan which would align it to the west boundary line of Dee Street.The full replacement of the clock structure, including the tower, would be covered by the developer.It was expected the Esk St West upgrades would be completed in the second quarter of 2025.LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

Feral cats blamed for latest plummet in Southern Dotterel numbers
Feral cats blamed for latest plummet in Southern Dotterel numbers

01 May 2024, 4:47 AM

Feral cats have been blamed for a 19% decline in Stewart Island/Rakiura's critically endangered southern New Zealand dotterel/tūturiwhatu population.The Department of Conservation's (DOC) recently completed annual flock count found an estimated total of only 101 birds remaining.Last years count totalled 126. The southern New Zealand dotterel is considered one of New Zealand’s rarest birds but has suffered ongoing predation despite an extensive feral cat trapping programme. DOC Ranger Daniel Cocker says the numbers highlight the precarious position this population is in, despite continued predator control efforts. “Southern dotterels, which only breed on Stewart Island/Rakiura, have spent the past few decades on the brink of extinction and sadly this year looks to be a similar story." “Without our control efforts, it’s frightening to think just how low the numbers would be.” Cocker said dotterels faced a range of threats, but the number one cause of decline is predation by feral cats.During the recent breeding season, 32 feral cats were killed by the team across the breeding sites, he said.“Adult dotterels will actively defend nests and chicks, making them easy targets for predators. Dotterels are also curious and easily approached." “We believe at least 41 adult birds died over the 2023 breeding season," Cocker said."This was partially offset by this year’s surviving chicks, meaning an estimated population reduction of 25 birds.” Following this year’s flock counts, the DOC team will review predator control strategies as part of an adaptive management programme. Cocker said feral cats roamed large distances and can be wary of the traditional methods to control them, like trapping, hunting and bait stations.There are limited tools to control feral cats across large areas, he said.Predator control is only undertaken on a portion of dotterel breeding habitat which is patchy and extends across the full length of Rakiura.To save more dotterels, more habitat needs to be protected, he said.Long term solutions require landscape scale change -- this is why initiatives such as Predator Free Rakiura, which aims to remove possums, rats, feral cats and hedgehogs from the island, are so important, Cocker said.In the meantime, the focus is on effective predator control to hold the line and prevent extinction. Despite this year’s low numbers, the team remains hopeful for a turnaround in the dotterels’ fortunes, Cocker said.“In 1992, the population reached an all-time low of 62 birds but bounced back to 290 birds in 2009. Given the right conditions, dotterels can be very resilient, and produce multiple chicks per year.” “Southern dotterels were once widespread throughout the South Island and Rakiura is their last refuge.""It is an uphill battle but it’s one worth pursuing.” The New Zealand Nature Fund (NZNF) is supporting DOC’s campaign to save the southern dotterel and has raised over $82,000 from private donors in the past six months.At 5pm on Tuesday (7 May) at Transport World, NZNF will be launching a campaign to save the Southern Dotterel from extinction.

Lachlan Jones: Mother tells inquest of the night her boy died
Lachlan Jones: Mother tells inquest of the night her boy died

30 April 2024, 9:09 PM

An emotionally charged inquest into the death of Gore preschooler Lachlan Jones has exposed ructions between his separated parents and accusations his body was dumped.The three-year-old could not be revived after being found in a council sewage pond more than a kilometre from his home in January 2019.Two police investigations found the toddler accidentally drowned after wandering off, but his father disputed those findings.During the first two days of the inquest into Lachlan's death, Max Simpkins, the lawyer for the boy's father, had taken an accusatory tone with mother Michelle Officer.Referring to an expert witness' evidence, Simpkins alleged Officer disposed of Lachlan's body at the sewage pond, which she said was not true and the witness was making it up.She said she consented to an autopsy of Lachlan's body as she had nothing to hide.However, Lachlan's father Paul Jones had opposed it and Officer questioned why.Simpkins asked Officer whether she could control Lachlan, which she said she could, and whether she was back in a relationship with his father - which she said she was not.She was the first witness to take to the stand and told the inquest her whole world was destroyed the night Lachlan died."Lachie was such a bright, wee boy. He was so loving. He was my world. I just loved him so much. I just wish I was with him," Officer said.He was a fearless young boy who was a good climber and a fast runner, she said.Her testimony, which was suppressed until her evidence had been given, laid bare the gulf between Lachlan's parents.Officer accused Jones of being verbally and physically abusive and manipulative, saying he assaulted her and there was a protective order in place at one time.He was motivated by money, had a gambling addiction, and was cruel to her two older sons, Officer said.Simpkins asked her why she was referred to the 1000 Days Trust, a Southland organisation that provides early intervention to families.Her maternity nurse knew about the abuse in the home and they were protecting her, Officer said.Simpkins also pressed her about Lachlan's health, suggesting he had ongoing issues from problematic teeth with green pus on his gums, gooey eyes for four weeks, probable pneumonia due to chronic bronchitis, and he took multiple trips to the doctor.Officer said she took Lachlan to the doctor or hospital any time she was concerned, Jones was living in the house during some of that time, and they both had a history of childhood asthma."Don't say I neglected my child," she said.Coroner Alexander Ho said he was allowing questions which dated over years as Simpkins indicated he would bring in an expert to cover those areas and it was fair for Officer to have a chance to respond to such questioning.When asked, Simpkins said his witness was former FBI agent Karen Smith.Simpkins said Smith believed Officer visited a friend's house on the night Lachlan went missing to create an alibi, which Officer said was not true as her son was with her.Simpkins said Smith's opinion was Lachlan could not have made it to Grasslands if he was only out of sight for 30 seconds.Officer responded Lachlan was only out of sight for that time and it was a long time for a quick kid to hide, but she did not claim he made it down the road during that time.Emotions were raw as Simpkins cross-examined her 111 call, which she told the inquest she made in a panic, initially calling 555 and thinking she would have to wait 24 hours to report Lachlan missing.She said she believed she could not call the police straight away as Jones had told her she was a nutcase and the police were tired of hearing from her."You did not yell out Lachie's name once, what do you say to that?" Simpkins asked."I was talking to the police. I was talking to the police. Just because I didn't yell out, I knew people were looking for him," she said."I was looking for him.""You didn't yell out once Lachie's name because you knew he'd already passed. Correct?," Simpkins said.He repeated the question."No, I didn't. I did not at all. I thought we would find him. I thought we'd find him," she said, sobbing.Simpkins alleged Officer told a friend Lachlan had done her a favour."It all makes sense now, doesn't it? Drowning does assist you because you no longer have to deal with your irate boys," Simpkins said."That's untrue. There's no way, I'd rather drown myself than have any of my boys drown. That's incorrect. I can't believe you said that. It's terrible. It's really awful to say that to a grieving mother," Officer said.She gave her version of what happened.She said she left him watching television when one of her other sons called for help lifting weights, and when she got back she realised he was gone.She ran outside, finding him and telling him off for running away, but he giggled and ran closer to one of her friend's houses, and he knocked on her door.She said she lost sight of him briefly while talking to her friend Deborah, leaving to go find him but not seeing him on the street, back at her house, a nearby park or at her friend's house.During their search, her friend asked two girls if they had seen a little boy. They said they had and pointed in the direction of the river.More people started joining the search and she called the police.She read the transcript of the 111 call on the night he went missing, saying it was about 45 minutes since he had gone missing."I'm scared he's going to go into the water because he loves water ... I'm at the sewage ponds," she said.She returned home and rang Jones before more of her friends came around."I just remember being absolutely numb, in shock, and I thought they would find him."Jones is expected to give evidence later in the three-week inquest.Reproduced with permission

Southland explores new rate to address flood risk
Southland explores new rate to address flood risk

30 April 2024, 8:37 PM

A new system to alleviate Southland's largest threat has been put forward by the regional council, but will come at a cost.On Monday night, Environment Southland hosted a public meeting to gain feedback on a key proposal in its long term plan — a new rate to improve flood mitigation to the tune of $2.3 million per year.The charge would be based on capital value for all ratepayers and replace 140 targeted rates across the region.Environment Southland chair Nicol Horrell said flooding was the most common hazard affecting the region, with climate change bringing more intense and severe weather events.“The system we’ve had has worked remarkably well since the late 80s . . . but it is ageing.”Horrell said the “bottom line” was that the council needed to have something planned for if government money came available, which it could then put its hand up for.The council proposed to use co-funding from central government — which was not currently secured — and debt to pay for the current and future flood projects.Council chief financial officer Tanea Hawkins explained the nuts and bolts of the proposal, saying current catchment rates were “incredibly complex” and unfairly distributed across the district.While there were currently 37 levies at play in Mataura, there were just three in Invercargill.Hawkins gave the example of six farms in Te Anau which were paying $1100 per $100,000 of land value for catchment rates, compared to just $10 for people in the township.“That’s an extreme example, but those examples play out right across the region.“What councillors are proposing is that some rates are going to come up, and those that have got extraordinarily high rates are going to come down.”The average Southland property, valued at $450,000, was looking at a $60 per year increase, she said.The presentation was met with dissent from some of those gathered.One person was concerned about the lack of publicity for the proposal, saying most people in Southland were not aware of what was happening.Another asked what the council would do to tighten its spending while people struggled under the cost of living crisis, asking how many more staff would be employed and vehicles bought.They were met with some applause.LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

‘Out of control’: Dog owners flouting rules at protected area
‘Out of control’: Dog owners flouting rules at protected area

30 April 2024, 4:12 AM

Dog owners breaking the rules at a Southland bay home to endangered wildlife are becoming 'very aggressive' when confronted.Curio Bay is a coastal area east of Invercargill, known for its Hector's dolphins, marine wildlife and a fossilised forest.A total dog ban is in place at its two reserves, the camping ground, and parts of Porpoise Bay.But people have been flouting the long-standing rules, according to a recent Waihopai Toetoe Community Board report.Board chair Pam Yorke said the ban was there for a reason.“It doesn’t seem to be getting through to people. It doesn’t matter how much signage we put up,” Yorke told Local Democracy Reporting.“People honestly don’t listen, they get very aggressive and they take no notice.”Yorke said the rules had been in place for a long time and were being ignored by both locals and other New Zealand residents alike.“It’s not tourist-based at all.”Dom Schmidt holds the lease for the campground at Curio Bay and said he had gone so far as to make his own signs.He also took photos of the perpetrators and reported them to the council.“People open their door, let their dogs jump out, they have a s..t in the campground . . . I report them to the council.“You (can) get abuse from them.”Schmidt said on one occasion, he had to call the Police over someone’s behaviour.Last weekend, someone punched the air when he told them he was reporting them to the council, warning they should expect a fine.“In the high-season time, it gets totally out of control.”Councillor Paul Duffy agreed there was an issue at Curio Bay, but said it wouldn’t be a quick fix.People needed to understand why the rules existed, he said, adding some just didn’t want to obey instructions.“The big issue there is the wildlife.”Southland District Council legal and compliance manager Julie Conradi said the council had received a “higher than average” number of complaints in the past 12 months, with a focus on dogs being off their leash at the campground and beach.The complaints had been generated by only a few complainants, she said.The council had taken action by adding more signage, providing booklets for distribution, and continuing to patrol the area.“Unfortunately, due to a vacant animal control officer position which is currently being recruited for, council are unable to increase patrols in this area right now,” Conradi said.The council’s dog control bylaw was last approved in 2015, and will be up for review next year.If the council is able to gain enough evidence of a breach, it can issue a $300 infringement notice.LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

Mouse hunt on Rakiura Stewart Island to begin
Mouse hunt on Rakiura Stewart Island to begin

30 April 2024, 3:51 AM

The hunt is on for mice on Rakiura/Stewart Island after possible trail camera image of the small rodent were recorded by last year.The image was from surveillance cameras set, by Predator Free Rakiura/Manaaki Whenua, to track hedgehogs in 2023.However experts could not determine whether the rodent images were of small rats or mice.Environment Southland (ES) biosecurity and biodiversity manager Ali Meade said that was why Environment Southland was launching a mouse hunt on the island.“One of the aims of the Southland Regional Pest Management Plan is to prevent mice from establishing on Rakiura.""If our investigations conclude that mice are present on the island, they will put additional pressure on the native ecosystem,” Meade said.Mice can form huge populations quickly and can have devastating impacts on New Zealand’s ecosystem and taonga species.They have been known to eat bird chicks, especially those in ground nests as well as competing with native birds by eating many of the same foods like seeds and invertebrates.When mice eat seeds they destroy them, whereas when birds eat fruits and seeds, the seeds usually survive through the digestive tract and are dispersed as a natural way for native trees to colonise new areas. ES contractors will set up bait stations, traps, and cameras at eight sites on Rakiura/Stewart Island in areas where the images of small rodents were captured.The sites will be monitored for about 10-14 days before they are removed.“Once we have completed the surveillance of the eight sites, any images and rodents trapped will be analysed, and Environment Southland staff will compile a report on the operation.""That report will detail any recommended next steps, depending on whether mice are detected,” Meade said.It is also important to understand whether there may be a ‘hidden population’ of mice on Rakiura given Predator Free Rakiura’s plans to eradicate rats, feral cats, possums, and hedgehogs, Meade said.If rats are eradicated from Rakiura/Stewart Island, it could create the ideal environment for a mouse population to increase.Environment Southland’s mouse investigation is also supported by the Department of Conservation.“We’re very grateful to the DOC Rakiura Team for their support and assistance in gaining land access for our investigation, as well as planning and logistics support,” Meade said.

Council body makes billion dollar rates plea
Council body makes billion dollar rates plea

30 April 2024, 2:21 AM

Councils could be in line for a billion dollar boost each year should the government agree to return GST on rates.Of the 78 local authorities representing Aotearoa, many are hiking rates dramatically to tackle their growing debt pile. The average rise for homeowners this year is tipped to sit at about 15%.Returning the goods and service tax (GST) portion of rates is seen as one way to help ease pressure on councils and ratepayers.Using 2022 data, economic consulting firm Infometrics estimated that returning rates GST back to councils would cost the government $1.1 billion.Infometrics chief executive Brad Olsen noted that with the coalition government also scrambling for cash, there may be a reluctance to part with the cash.“GST collected on rates is around 4.2% of GST collected, and was worth 0.9% of total government revenue in 2022,” said Olsen.And so far, Local Government Minister Simeon Brown has shown little willingness to give up rates GST, saying he is currently only considering returning some tax collected on new residential builds. Largest expected rates increase since 1989/90 reforms. Source: LGNZ, Stats NZ, Infometrics Created with DatawrapperA 2023 ‘Future for Local Government’ panel report noted that council rates have remained at around 2 per cent of GDP for more than a hundred yearsLocal Government New Zealand (LGNZ) is an umbrella group representing most councils.It has argued that local authorities are doing much more than a century ago and therefore need new ways to raise cash.LGNZ President Sam Broughton has called the funding system for local government “broken” and wants new ways to fund council activities.“Returning GST on rates would be an excellent place to start. We’ve also put an accommodation levy, GST sharing on new builds, mineral royalties, and congestion charging on the table,” said Broughton.How much could each Council get? Source:Infometrics, Stats NZMap data, Created with DatawrapperThe biggest winner in total cash returned would be the supersized Auckland Council that would stand to gain $317 million.At the other end of the scale sits the Chatham islands would see an estimated $102,000 come back.When looking at the amount returned as a share of operating income, Infometrics calculates that Rotorua would get back more than 12%. Other big winners would be Thames-Coromandel, Western Bay of Plenty, Kapiti Coast, and Taupo.Returning GST is not surprisingly less effective for councils who rely on larger amounts of income not generated by rates.The report identified Chatham Islands land, Hurunui District, Buller, Tasman and Marlborough as the five councils with least to gain.Reproduced with permission

Alliance asks farmers to help raise share capital in bid to stay farmer-owned
Alliance asks farmers to help raise share capital in bid to stay farmer-owned

29 April 2024, 10:38 PM

Red meat cooperative Alliance is asking its farmers to help raise share capital to ensure it remains 100 percent farmer-owned, in the face of significant financial pressures.Alliance Group was profitable for nine out of the last 10 years - last year, it reported a $70 million loss after tax in the year to September, a serious dive on the year before's $73.6 million profit.Market volatility, inflationary pressures and weakening global markets were behind the recent drop.After warning its farmer-shareholders at its AGM last year, Alliance's board has approved increasing the standard share-holding from 12 to 16 shares per livestock unit processed, and farmers will also face an extra three-dollars per livestock unit at the works, effective immediately.Group chair Mark Wynne said there was "probably never a great time to ask for money from shareholders"."We acknowledge that times are extremely tough on-farm, and this is not an ideal time to implement such changes. We have explored all other viable opportunities to reduce working capital before seeking capital from farmers," he said."However, in order to remain a 100 percent farmer-owned co-operative and continue to drive towards our goal of being New Zealand's most efficient processor, an increase in shareholder equity is required."Alliance was the country's only entirely farmer-owned red meat cooperative, employing more than 5000 people at its seven processing plants across Southland, north Otago, Timaru and Nelson. Last year's loss meant its 4500 farmer shareholders did not get a distribution payment.Wynne said despite expecting a modest profit this fiscal year, it still needed capital funding without having a reliance on debt funding.He said it needed between $100 million to $150 million over the next two to three years to restore Alliance's balance sheet, but that wouldn't come solely from farmer-shareholder contributions."With shareholder investment, we can reduce our reliance on lenders to fund our working capital debt, expand our product offerings and explore new opportunities to support the transformation of the co-operative to deliver more value to our farmers."We will also continue to pursue other options to reduce working capital requirements," he said.Wynne acknowledged Alliance could lose some of its farmers in the process, which will be revealed over the next few months."Obviously, [farmers] will have options. They will either send their stock to Alliance and continue to share-up, or we believe a small percentage - and truly hope it is only a very small percentage - that may decide to send stock elsewhere," he said."That will be up for the farmers to decide."Impacted farmers and shareholders will receive letters about what the changes might mean for them, and they will be able to engage with directors directly in the coming weeks.Reproduced with permission

Lachlan Jones: Hopes coronial inquest will provide answers
Lachlan Jones: Hopes coronial inquest will provide answers

29 April 2024, 10:27 PM

The first day of an inquest into the death of Gore preschooler Lachlan Jones has wrapped up, with his mother still giving evidence.The three-year-old was found dead in a council sewage oxidation pond, about 1km from his home, on 29 January 2019.His mother had reported him missing earlier that evening.Read more: The Detail: Quest for answers over three-year-old's deathTwo police investigations found he accidentally drowned after wandering off and there was no evidence of neglect or criminal liability.But his father has disputed these findings, obtaining expert reports that suggested insufficient pathological evidence to support drowning as the cause of death and deficiencies in the police investigations.The coronial inquest will consider whether the pathologist was correct to conclude he died from drowning, the circumstances that led to him being found in the pond - including if neglect was involved, whether the evidence supports his father's allegations, and if anyone else was involved in his death.Coroner Alexander Ho would also examine whether further steps could be taken to yield more evidence if that currently available was not enough to answer these questions, and any recommendations to reduce the chance of similar deaths.Lachlan's mother spent most of Monday on the witness stand in the Invercargill District Court.However, all of what she said is suppressed until she finishes giving her evidence.Coroner Ho said Lachlan's death was unimaginable and he hoped the inquest would find answers.The Independent Police Conduct Authority would be carrying out its own review.Initially, WorkSafe charged the Gore District Council with failing to comply with a duty that exposed people to the risk of death or serious injury.That was downgraded, with the council pleading guilty to failing to perform a duty and being ordered to pay $55,000 in reparation to each of his parents, along with about $19,000 in legal costs over his death.The first phase of the coronial inquest is set to run for three weeks.Reproduced with permission

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