Everything you need to know today curated by 95bFM and VICE NZ.
Government Makes Moves to Review Abortion Law
The Government has announced the move forward with an Abortion Law review, as promised in their election campaign last year. The current law is still included under the Crimes Act and has not been changed since 1977. Prior to the election Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed a personal view that abortion should be decriminalised. Abortion Law Reform Association of NZ [ALRANZ] hopes the review allows reform which sees abortion categorised as healthcare. National president of ALRANZ Terry Bellamak says it’s time to trust people to make the best decisions for themselves. “It’s time now,” Bellamak told 95bFM reporters. “We really need to trust the people who are pregnant. We need to trust people to know what’s best and make the best choices for themselves and their families, and for their own bodies. Director of Family Life International Michelle Kaufman says it is wrong to call abortion healthcare.
Kiwis Told to Prepare for Cyclone Gita
Civil Defence is urging people to prepare for Cyclone Gita, which is due to hit New Zealand on Tuesday. The cyclone is expected to bring strong swells, heavy rain and gale-force winds. Last week, Gita ripped through Tonga and Samoa, causing significant damage. Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management Director Sarah Stuart-Black says people should prepare supplies for stormy weather and avoid unnecessary travel during bad weather. At least 50 people have been rescued in south-east Queensland after cyclone Gita resulted in dangerous swells along the coast.
National Party Leadership Race Heats Up
The National Party leadership race is heating up, with Mark Mitchell and Steven Joyce expected to announce candidacy intentions today. As a former Minister, Mitchell is considered a wildcard but has some support among backbenchers, and a strong showing may put him a good position for deputy. For five days Joyce has been considering standing but has said discussions with his colleagues need to be had before he makes an announcement Currently, Judith Collins, Amy Adams and Simon Bridges are standing for the National Party leadership.
Review of MBIE Tourism Data Underway
A high–level review of how the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment collects New Zealand's tourism data is underway. MBIE collects tourists spending and other data through the international visitors survey, which is used as a key determinant of how regions are funded. The review was announced by Statistics New Zealand last year, after regional tourism agencies complained about the fluctuation and accuracy of its figures. Executive officer of Regional Tourism New Zealand Charlie Ives says there are concerns of inaccuracies in the MBIE's data because not all travellers are surveyed under the current method. Ives says the inaccuracies would come down to sample size and also people's recall of what they spent while they were in New Zealand and what they spent it on. The review is expected to be completed in June.
Stink Bug Infestation Threatens Car Industry
Noxious pest the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is preventing imported cars from coming into New Zealand. 10,000 to 12,000 cars have been turned away from New Zealand because of contamination by the pest. They have to go elsewhere for fumigation before returning here. This is causing a breach in the supply chain, says Vehicle Importers Association chief executive, David Vinsen, with used cars arriving just in time and a backlog awaiting shipment from Japan. Vinsen says better prevention methods need to be found. A working group of industry and government officials was set up on Thursday to find a solution.
Australia Comes Out above New Zealand in Cancer Survival Rates
The Cancer Society is calling for changes to cancer planning and coordination in New Zealand, as Australia came out above New Zealand in survival rates. The demand is based on the findings of a new international study called Concord-3, which analysed the records of 37.5 million patients diagnosed with 18 different cancers from 2000 to 2014. In the study New Zealand comes out in the top eight countries of the world with the highest five–year net survival rates. But according to the data, Australia did better, particularly on some of the most common cancers in New Zealand such as colorectal, lung, melanoma, breast and prostate. The Cancer Society says that with these cancer groups alone, 2382 New Zealand cancer patients would have survived today if New Zealand had Australia's survival rates. The Society's medical director, Chris Jackson says that there is more that New Zealand can do, like introducing a 10–year control strategy plan, greater planning and coordination within the health system, and improving Pharmac processes.
Seymour to launch Social Media Campaign for End of Life Choice
Act leader David Seymour is launching a social media campaign today in support of his End of Life Choice Bill. The campaign will involve 5 videos of euthanasia supporters and sufferers of debilitating diseases, including Doctor Lance O'Sullivan and Matt Vickers, the widower of Lecretia Seales. Seymour is aiming to encourage public engagement in the submission process on the bill, which can be done on the Parliament website until the 6th of March. Seymour's bill defines who would be eligible for assisted dying, and the process by which they would be assessed by multiple doctors. The bill passed its first reading with a large majority last December.
Iranian Passenger Plane Crash Claims 66 Lives
A passenger plane crash has claimed 66 lives in Iran, according to airline company officials. The Aseman Airlines Plane was flying from Tehran to the south-western city of Yasuj and came down in the Zagros Mountains. The flight left Tehran at 5.30PM last night New Zealand time and vanished from radar about an hour later. Search and rescue teams were deployed by The Red Crescent but bad weather and the remote location has hampered rescue efforts. Iran has struggled to maintain an up-to-date aircraft fleet following international sanctions enforced to curb its nuclear programme.
Florida School Shooting Survivors March for Gun Changes
Survivors of Wednesday's school shooting in Florida have announced a national march on Washington calling for political action regarding gun control. Student organisers are determined to make the shooting a turning point in the national gun debate, with protestors chanting “shame on you” at US lawmakers and the president. President Donald Trump has previously said he would never infringe on the right to keep arms. Since the shooting, Trump has blamed the Democrats for not passing legislation during the Obama administration and has criticised the FBI for missing warning signs of the attack by focusing on the Russia collusion investigation.
Boko Haram Suspects Released by Nigerian Courts
475 Boko Haram suspects have been released by Nigerian courts due to lack of evidence. Some of the detainees had been held for years without charges. Boko Haram is an armed group in Nigeria thought to be responsible for the death of thousands of people. The detainees were arrested on suspicion they belonged to Boko Haram or had information on the group's plans. However, the Nigerian justice ministry says insufficient evidence warranted the release of the suspects.The released suspects will be sent to their home states for "proper rehabilitation" before being returned to their families. The 475 released suspects are part of a mass trial consisting of some 1,600 suspects.
Chinese New Year, Firework Ban
A growing number of cities are banning fireworks in China in an attempt to curb pollution. Fireworks have been a celebratory tradition for 1000 years. However, smoke from fireworks pushes a number of cities above the recommended threshold for air quality levels. Those who violate the ban can face fines of up to $15,000. Those against the ban say it isn't fireworks that cause the pollution, so fireworks themselves, along with the traditions they uphold, shouldn't be muted.
Polish Prime Minister Stands by Holocaust Law
Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, is standing by his new Holocaust Law despite criticism. Answering an Israeli journalist’s query at the Munich Security Conference this weekend, Morawiecki denied the law intended to criminalise discussion of Polish complicity in WWII. He then said that not only were there German perpetrators, but there were also Polish, Jewish, Russian and Ukrainian perpetrators. Israel's president, Benjamin Netanyahu, has responded by saying the inclusion of Jewish people as perpetrators is outrageous. Anyone found guilty of ascribing "responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich" can be charged with fines or a maximum prison sentence of three years.
Additional reporting by Jemima Huston, Jean Bell and Lillian Hanly.