News of Zealand

News of Zealand: Did John Key Lie to New Zealanders About Spying?

Plus hemp farms in Hikuranga, and did John Key lie to New Zealanders about spying?

Everything you need to know about the world today, curated by 95bFM and VICE NZ.


Did Key Lie to the NZ Public About Spying
The NZ Herald has revealed former Prime Minister John Key appears to have misinformed the public about national security issues leading up to the 2014 election. GCSB Minister Andrew Little was called upon to respond to the allegation that a mass surveillance programme named "Speargun" had continued after Key said he had stopped it in 2013. Key has refused to comment on the matter, but Little says mass surveillance in New Zealand does not exist. Andrew Little told bFM News, “Where there is a need for intrusion on people's personal lives in the interest of national security there’s now legislation and the machinery in place around our intelligence agencies that provide that protection” Little adds that law in New Zealand is very clear on the power of intelligence agencies and that they cannot obtain access to the public's information without a warrant.

Iconic Kauri Tree added to ‘Endangered Species’ List
The Kauri tree has been added to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to dieback. The latest data from the Waitakere ranges shows the number of Kauri Trees withering from dieback has doubled over the last five years. Dieback is a fungal-like disease that causes trees to lose their leaves and eventually wither. Despite scientists trying to understand it, there is no known cure. Dr de Lange, chairperson of the New Zealand IUCN Red List Panel, says possums and pigs spread dieback, but the biggest problem comes from people who refuse to clean their shoes and stick to the track. Auckland Council will vote next week on whether to close the Waitakere Ranges to save the iconic trees from further damage.


Iwi Vote Against Seismic Blasting
At a national hui in Wellington yesterday the Iwi Chairs Forum voted unanimously to oppose further seismic testing and oil exploration in New Zealand waters. The meeting follows the world’s largest seismic exploration ship, the Amazon Warrior, arriving on the Taranaki Coast nearly a week ago. A petition calling for the government to halt seismic testing in Taranaki Moana gained over 10,000 signatures in a week. Te Pahunga Davis, Taranaki kaumatua and chairman of Te Kahui o Rauru, says public opposition to seismic testing has been encouraging. Davis says the Iwi Chairs Forum is seeking changes to the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf Act which regulate seismic surveying and the impact on marine animals.

Is Now a Good Time to Sell Your Bitcoins?
The Bitcoin bubble is deflating - in the form of a 20 percent drop in value that hit on Wednesday. Bitcoin is an internationally recognised online currency. At the start of the year Bitcoin was only worth $1,000 NZD, but its value peaked at over $11,000 a few days ago. Sir Jon Cunliffe, the bank of England’s deputy governor for financial stability has said Bitcoin is "closer to a commodity than a currency". "People need to be clear this is not an official currency. No central bank stands behind it, no government stands behind it," he said.

Gisborne Hemp Production Looks to Kick Off Cannabis Growth in NZ
A hemp production company in Gisborne is aiming to be the first place in the country licenced to grow medicinal cannabis. Hikurangi Enterprises in Ruatoria is looking to find a high quality "mother plant" with particular medicinal qualities. To be granted a licence, the company must meet strict governmental requirements accordance with international standards for manufacturing medicines. Manu Caddie from Hikurangi Enterprises has said the company is "well advanced" in discussions with the government and the Ministry of Health. Caddie adds that the licence could lead to employment opportunities in the region, with the company already working with the Eastern Institute of Technology Tairawhiti in providing a hemp growing course.


No Charges for Christchurch CTV Building
Police announced yesterday that they will not be pursuing charges related to the collapse of Christchurch's CTV building during the 2011 quake. Justice Minister Andrew Little says the collapse of the CTV building joins Pike River as another event where those responsible avoid charges. The collapse of the six-story CTV building led to the death of 115 people. Little said a law change may be necessary to prosecute those responsible for workplace disasters, adding that he wants to look at corporate manslaughter in the future.

Overwhelming Support for the Maritime Transport Union
Auckland trains could soon reach a standstill, with union workers voting in favour of industrial action. Yesterday, 84 percent of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union members, overwhelmingly voted in support of a strike. Negotiations between union members and Auckland Transport have broken down over plans to remove onboard train managers. Union spokesperson John Kerr told 95 bFM train staff have received strong public support. “We’ve had overwhelming public support, in under a week we gathered over 5,000 signatures of support. We’ve reached out to community groups… and they’ve all overwhelmingly supported us”. Kerr says train staff are concerned for public safety without on-board train managers.


Saudi Women Stay Vocal about Driving Restrictions
In Saudi Arabia prominent female academics are criticising recent reforms that ease restrictions on women driving, saying that the changes are government spin made with the intent of appeasing international audiences while the government is cracking down on activists within the country campaigning for ending systemic discrimination. Leading Saudi female scholar Hala al-Dosari says the “the government is trying to portray itself as reformist by tackling certain things that are visible to their outside patrons.” This is with the intent of improving their standing in the global economy, al-Dosari added. The reforms are welcomed by rights groups but calls are being made for more comprehensive changes to the “male guardianship” system.

Cases of Malaria Rising and Spreading
A rise in malaria cases has sparked fears of a resurgence. For the 2015/2016 year, cases of malaria increased by around 5 million with large increases seen in South America, Africa and parts of Asia. The World Health Organization has said the increase suggests that progress has stalled on the global fight against the disease. Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO global malaria programme, says that donors and governments may be complacent around malaria when considering that fatalities fell by around 62 percent from the year 2000 to 2015. New data from the World Health Organisation suggests that one in ten malaria medicines in developing countries are either fake or substandard.

Theresa May talks on Saudi Blockade
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has called on the Saudi Arabia blockade on Yemen to be eased. In a statement from her office, May has said she met King Salman and Prince Mohammed bin Salman this week and discussed Yemen. May added that the supply of commercial goods to Yemen must be resumed if a humanitarian crisis is to be averted. Meanwhile, British sales of military equipment to Saudi Arabia reached £1.1 billion in the first half of this year.

Additional Reporting: Reuben McLaren, Ollie Powell, Jean Bell