News of Zealand

News of Zealand: Poisonous Algae and Jellyfish Could Ruin Your Summer Swim

Plus striking train workers, and the school with no students.

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


There's Something in the Water
Authorities have urged swimmers to avoid algae-affected areas of Lake Taupo. Five sites including the main lakefront have now been identified as containing the algae, which can cause rashes, numbness and in severe cases, breathing problems. Medical Officer of Health, Dr Neil de Wet says the algae can also be incredibly harmful to dogs and is encouraging people not to take their pets anywhere near the affected areas. Taupo's drinking water supply has not been contaminated. Meanwhile, in Auckland, surf lifesavers are warning that bluebottle jellyfish could be in the water as temperatures rise. The poisonous, stinging jellyfish appear as water temperatures get up around 20 degrees. If stung, it's best to was with salt water.

Something Else in the Water
The Defence Force has known of toxic chemicals contaminating local water supplies in Manawatu for month. In June the Defence Force discovered chemical compound PFOS and PFOA exceeded acceptable levels at Ohakea air base in Manawatu. By September they were informed it was possible the chemicals had contaminated groundwater used by neighbours. PFOS is a key ingredient in fabric protectors and PFOA is often used in non-stick cookware. These chemicals can increase the risk of cancer, decrease fertility and cause problems with fetus development. The government says there is no acute health risk, but officials recommend locals limit their exposure to the water supply.


Auckland Train Workers on Strike
In the past three weeks, negotiations between the Rail and Maritime Transport Union and Auckland Transport have broken down over the proposal to remove onboard train managers. Auckland public train users will likely face disruption today with a strike currently underway and potential for further industrial action. 95bFM spoke with Rail and Maritime Transport Union spokesperson John Kerr who said the union has received strong public support for push back against the proposal. “What we would like to do is reach a deal with [Auckland] Transport and that deal would have to involve them dropping their proposal to introduce driver-only trains,” Kerr told 95bFM. “If that doesn't happen then we have a mandate to have industrial action any time between now and 21st of December.” Kerr added that the union wanted to avoid public inconvenience but maintaining public safety was their ultimate priority.

Teacher Training Isn't Good Enough
A new report indicates that first-time teachers are not prepared for the classroom. School leaders told the Education Review Office they no longer rely on job applicants CV’s, as they don’t trust teacher training’s effectiveness. The report indicated that teacher training programmes do not have enough of a practical component to them. Education Minister Chris Hipkins says "deregulation of initial teacher education hasn't worked." The report suggests providing more support, guidance and mentoring from leaders in order to improve their standard of teaching.


Auckland's 10-Year Budget Released
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has released his proposed 10-year budget plan for Auckland City. The budget makes costly commitments to transport, housing and the environment. Goff told 95bFM that “Auckland residents and ratepayers need to know that every dollar they are putting in through their rates or indirectly through their rent into Auckland is a dollar being spent to the best effect.” The budget proposes accelerated investment in transport as well as a greater focus on improving water quality.

Empty School Doesn’t Want to Close
A school in Wairarapa with no students is determined to remain open. Five years ago, Tuturumuri School had 22 students, although this term there are no students at all. Board of Trustees chairman, Mike Firth, attributes the decline on an ageing farm owner population and parents transporting their children to Martinborough to receive their education. With the help of the school's healthy savings account, the three staff will be paid for the first term this coming year with the hope that students enrol. Tuturumuri School teacher Renita Persico explains that resources are now highly organised but there is no upside to having no students to reach.


Clashes Follow Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement
Palestinian protests have erupted in the Gaza Strip and West Bank following US President Trump recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Wednesday. Palestinians have gone on strike, with Israel responding by deploying hundreds of extra troops in West Bank. So far at least 31 Palestinians have been wounded with one person in a critical condition. Trump's announcement regarding the sensitive issue backtracked years of US policy and was received with dismay by the global community and Washington's allies. The Arab League and UN Security Council are to decide their response in the coming days. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is thankful for Trump's recognition, whilst Ismail Haniya the leader of Hamas who occupies Gaza Strip has called for an Hamas uprising and "a day of rage" today.

Macron Supports Kuwait Mediation on Qatar
French President Emmanuel Macron is backing mediation efforts from Kuwait to end the six month blockade on Qatar. The blockade was imposed by Saudi Arabia, United Emirates and Bahrain after allegations that Qatar officials were involved in supporting terrorism. "With regards to situation in the Gulf, I want to see a promise of reconciliation between its members," Macron said. A six-nation summit to promote peace in the Gulf ended early when three heads of blockading countries failed to show up. The Emir of Qatar has said Qatar is committed to fighting terrorism.

Exhibition Commemorating Missing Political Activists
A new exhibition in the United States has been created to commemorate around 100,000 political activists who have reportedly disappeared in Syria. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington created the exhibition with the help of one of the political prisoners, Mansour Omari. During Omari's detention he kept a list of names, phone numbers and home towns of political prisoners which are now on display in the gallery. Omari said the Syrian government has been denying reports it has anything to do with activists disappearances, and that they are "trying to get answers for many worried families". Omari's collection of prisoner data has also helped reunite missing prisoners with their families.

California on Fire
A number of wildfires are sweeping through Southern California, destroying 150 homes and forcing more than 200,000 people to evacuate. The largest fire covers approximately 90,000 acres. California's fire service said on Wednesday that the fire was only five percent contained, and is still a threat to 12,000 homes. Another smaller fire which is taking over 150 acres has destroyed several homes in the wealthy Bel-Air area, the neighbourhood that Beyoncé and Elon Musk call home. So far three firefighters who have been injured are now in a stable condition in hospital. There are no reports of civilian fatalities.

Arrest Warrant for Former Argentine President
An arrest warrant has been issued for former Argentine President Cristina Fernandes de Kirchner for allegedly covering up Iran's involvement in a 1994 bombing. The bombing was carried out on a Jewish community centred that killed 85 people. The former president has been ordered to be placed in pre-trial detention and stripped of her judicial immunity. Al Jazeera Reporter Teresa Bo says "Many are questioning this arrest warrant because they're saying that Kirchner was not even tried," Kirchner, who is taking a seat in parliament next week after her re-election in October, is also facing several corruption charges.

Additional Reporting: Reuben McLaren, Laura Kvigstad, Jean Bell