La región central del río Mississippi podría convertirse en la “próxima California” con la producción de frutas y verduras

Source: World Wildlife Fund

Washington, DC .- World Wildlife Fund (WWF) publicó hoy un nuevo informe, La próxima California, Fase 1: Investigación del potencial de la región central del delta del río Mississippi. Este documento explora la viabilidad de pasar el cultivo de ciertas frutas y verduras a otra zona de Estados Unidos actualmente dominada por cultivos en hileras cosechados con tractores. El informe revela que, si bien California seguirá siendo un estado agrícola importante, la región central del delta del río Mississippi está bien posicionada para complementar la producción de frutas y verduras, contribuyendo a un sistema alimentario más distribuido y resiliente al clima.

“California, por sí sola, actualmente produce más de un tercio de las verduras y dos tercios de las frutas y nueces consumidas en Estados Unidos, sin embargo, este estado ya muestra evidencia de los impactos del cambio climático”, indicó dijo Jason Clay, vicepresidente senior de mercados en WWF. “Una California más cálida y seca, con eventos climáticos más extremos, es mala noticia para los agricultores, pero también para los consumidores estadounidenses y las compañías de alimentos. Necesitamos un plan para mitigar el riesgo y aliviar la presión sobre el estado y su ambiente natural. La región del delta podría ser una de las ‘próximas Californias’ del futuro”.

El informe identifica diversas ventajas de seleccionar la región del delta como zona piloto para una producción más intensiva de frutas y verduras. Las ventajas incluyen una larga trayectoria agrícola, bajo costo de la tierra y mano de obra, suelos fértiles, abundantes lluvias y fuentes de agua superficial. También hay beneficios económicos. La pobreza generalizada y el desempleo, junto con la problemática actual en torno al comercio internacional y el aumento de los aranceles para los cultivos básicos, han creado un ambiente receptivo al cambio y la diversificación. Asimismo, existen reconocidas universidades agrícolas y organizaciones locales capaces de brindar apoyo y orientación a los agricultores.

Si bien hay muchas oportunidades, el informe también analiza los principales obstáculos que deben superarse para la viabilidad del salto de una fase piloto a una fase a gran escala. La mano de obra es una de las principales preocupaciones. Con una escasez de mano de obra capacitada y muy pocos trabajadores migrantes en la región, se deben otorgar más visas o se debe capacitar a más trabajadores para manejar cultivos especializados. La automatización y la tecnología, incluidos los robots capaces de manejar productos delicados, también podrían ayudar a abordar la escasez de mano de obra. Otros desafíos incluyen la humedad, plagas, pesticidas y la falta de la infraestructura necesaria para procesar, empaquetar y enviar las frutas y verduras especializadas.

“A pesar de los desafíos del cultivo de frutas y verduras especializadas, muchos agricultores están interesados en la oportunidad y abiertos al cambio, siempre que tengan el nivel adecuado de apoyo y no los dejen solos” manifestó dijo Julia Kurnik, directora de empresas innovadoras del Instituto de Mercados de WWF”. Todavía quedan preguntas por responder, pero nuestra investigación hasta ahora muestra potencial hacia un sistema ambiental y financieramente sostenible. En las próximas décadas, la región del delta podría suministrar una porción significativa de las frutas y verduras del país”.

El informe describe las prioridades para la Fase II del proyecto, que incluye investigación adicional y búsqueda de información, construcción de alianzas, fomento de la demanda del mercado y trabajo con universidades locales para diseñar un proyecto piloto. La Fase II culminará en un plan de negocios y una hoja de ruta, sentando las bases para que los socios locales implementen los próximos pasos.

“Cada país tiene una California en su sistema alimentario, un lugar en el que hemos confiado durante generaciones para alimentar a millones de personas, pero ninguno de estos centros de producción se está anticipando a los impactos del cambio climático”, añadió Jason Clay. “Las lecciones aprendidas de este informe deben aplicarse a nivel mundial, comenzando por identificar las ‘próximas Californias’ alrededor del mundo”.

—FIN—

Mid-Mississippi Delta River Region Potentially a “Next California” of Fruit and Vegetable Production

Source: World Wildlife Fund

WASHINGTON, DC, February 28, 2020 – Today World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released a new report, The Next California, Phase 1: Investigating Potential in the Mid-Mississippi Delta River Region, exploring the viability of shifting some fruit and vegetable production to an area of the U.S. currently dominated by row crops. The report finds that while California will continue to be a key agricultural state, the mid-Mississippi Delta River region is well-positioned to supplement fruit and vegetable production, contributing to a more distributed and climate-resilient food system.

“The U.S. currently produces more than a third of our vegetables and two-thirds of our fruits and nuts in a single state: California, a place where climate change impacts are already evident,” said Jason Clay, senior vice president of markets at WWF. “A hotter and drier California, with more extreme weather events, is bad news for farmers, but also American consumers and food companies. We need a plan to mitigate risk and take some pressure off the state and its environment. The Delta region could potentially be one of many ‘next Californias’ of the future.”

The report identifies several advantages to selecting the Delta region as a pilot for more intensive fruit and vegetable production. These include a long history of farming, the low cost of land and labor, fertile soils, abundant rain and surface water, and more. There are also economic benefits to be had; widespread poverty and unemployment, along with concerns of ongoing international trade issues and rising tariffs for commodity crops have created an environment receptive to change and diversification. There are also strong land grant universities and trusted local organizations able to provide support and guidance to farmers.

While there are many opportunities, the report also analyzes the significant hurdles that must be overcome for viability at scale. Labor is one of the top concerns. With a shortage of trained labor and very few migrant workers in the region, either more visas must be granted, or more local workers trained to handle specialty crops. Automation and technology, including robots capable of handling delicate produce, could also help address the labor shortage. Other challenges include humidity, pests, pesticides, and a lack of infrastructure needed to process, package, and ship specialty produce.

“Despite the challenges of growing specialty produce, many of the farmers are intrigued by the opportunity and open to change, provided they have the right level of support and aren’t doing it alone,” said Julia Kurnik, director of innovation startups at WWF’s Markets Institute. “There are still questions to be answered, but our research thus far shows potential toward an environmentally and financially sustainable system. Within the next few decades the Delta region could supply a significant portion of the country’s fruits and vegetables.”

The report outlines priorities for Phase II of the Next California project, including additional research and fact-finding, relationship building, fostering market demand, and working with local universities to design a pilot project. Phase II will culminate in a business plan and roadmap, laying the groundwork for local partners to implement next steps.

“Every country has a California in its food system – a place we’ve relied on for generations to feed millions of people – and none of them are anticipating the impacts of climate change,” said Clay. “The lessons learned from this report should be applied globally, starting a conversation to identify the ‘next Californias’ around the world.”

About World Wildlife Fund

WWF is one of the world’s leading conservation organizations, working in 100 countries for over half a century. With the support of more than 5 million members worldwide, WWF is dedicated to delivering science-based solutions to preserve the diversity and abundance of life on Earth, halt the degradation of the environment and combat climate change. Visit www.worldwildlife.org to learn more and keep up with the latest conservation news by following @WWFNews on Twitter.

More support for workplace wellbeing research

Source: Massey University

The research project will be aimed at reducing work-related hazards.

Principal investigator and Healthy Work Group co-director Associate Professor David Tappin says the project will develop and implement interventions to reduce work-related psychosocial hazards. Psychosocial refers to interrelationship of social and behavioural factors. Dr Tappin says another aspect of the project builds on work the research group has been undertaking with its New Zealand Workplace Barometer.

“The Workplace Barometer provides baseline data on the prevalence, nature and impacts of psychosocial risks in New Zealand workplaces,” he says. “It found New Zealand workers were highly vulnerable to psychosocial hazards, including job stress and workplace bullying, with workers in medium-sized organisations experiencing the highest levels of depression and psychological distress.

“With this project, we are taking the next logical step – designing and implementing interventions with organisations for reducing these hazards and measuring the impact of those interventions on peoples wellbeing.”

The $1.2 million will be spread over three years, allowing the project to recruit 24 small and medium-sized organisations (SMEs) in the manufacturing, health and education sectors. Twelve “control” organisations will have only their psychosocial safety climate measured, while the other 12 “case” organisations will work alongside the researchers to custom-design and implement interventions over 12 months.

“The ‘control’ and ‘case’ groups will be compared to inform our understanding of how effective the interventions were,” Dr Tappin says. “At the end of the project the control organisations will be given the option to implement the interventions in their organisations.”

The psychosocial factors the team will target include the design, management and organisation of work, along with the social and cultural context in which work takes place.

“That means not just looking at the work people are required to do, but also how they’re treated within the work context.”

He says the factors that create psychosocial hazards are already well documented. They include such things as a lack of variety in work, work overload and continuous deadlines, a lack of control over work, poor communication, a lack of social support, role ambiguity and conflicting demands of work and home.

“What we don’t know is how effective interventions aimed at improving an organisation’s psychosocial safety climate are, and what sort of intervention process works best. As this is a randomised controlled trial, it will provide empirical data on the effectiveness of this approach.

“At the end of the three-year project we will have a clearer picture of what effective interventions should look like and clear strategies for implementing these in different SME organisations.”

The research team

The interdisciplinary research team encompasses expertise from across New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom, including Māori and Pacific capability.

Former Massey Professor Tim Bentley (now at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia) and Dr Tappin are the project leads, alongside Dr Kate Bone and Dr Kate Blackwood from the Healthy Work Group. The project team also includes Dr Matt Roskruge from the School of Economics and Finance, Dr Sunia Foliaki from Massey’s Centre for Public Health Research, Dr Barry McDonald from the School of Natural and Computational Sciences and Dr Dianne Gardner from the School of Psychology.

The team is also distinguished by the involvement of international specialists in psychosocial risk – Professor Stavroula Leka from the University of Cork, Associate Professor Aditya Jain from the University of Nottingham, Professor Maureen Dollard from the University of South Australia and Professor Stephen Teo from Edith Cowan.

Coronavirus dominates minister’s Finance 2020 speech

Source: Massey University


Massey University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas with Finance Minister Grant Robertson and chief executive of the Auckland Business Chamber Michael Barnett. Pictured at Auckland for Finance 2020, the 12th annual event hosting New Zealand’s Minister of Finance.


Coronavirus will have a serious impact on the New Zealand economy in the short term and there is a “high probability” that New Zealand will have a case at some point, Finance Minister Grant Robertson warned today.

Speaking at Finance 2020, an annual event co-hosted by Massey University and the Auckland Business Chamber, Mr Robertson said events were moving rapidly.

“We do meet today in the shadow of one of the biggest uncertainties that the global economy has seen in recent times,” he said. “This is a rapidly changing situation that the world finds itself in. This week we have seen stock markets react to news of the virus spreading.”

The Auckland business community, academics and media turned out in force to hear the Minister’s first major speech of the year, which outlined the Government’s response to Coronavirus, and how it was planning for a range of scenarios to support the New Zealand economy as the global impact of the virus becomes clearer.

“We are operating in an environment of high uncertainty. It is not possible for anyone at this stage to give definitive answers to significant questions, such as: How long will it last? What will the global reach be? How deep will the impact be felt?

But while we look for answers for those questions, we can say some things with certainty. This will have a serious impact on the New Zealand economy in the short term.”

Mr Robertson told attendees that both the tourism and tertiary sector had been impacted by Coronavirus. “It is clear that there is an immediate impact on the tourism industry, particularly given there are now very few flights between China and New Zealand. Chinese tourists typically spend around $180 million per month in the peak travel months of January through to April.

Within education exports, our tertiary sector has been impacted due to foreign students not travelling. The estimates we have are that around 40 per cent of students have not been able to travel here. That’s why we are working closely with our tertiary education sector to see what they can do to make sure New Zealanders’ public health isn’t put at risk if the travel ban is lifted for students,” Mr Robertson said.

Finance 2020, now in its 12th year, provides business leaders with an update on the state of the New Zealand economy, as well as an opportunity for the business and academic communities to engage. Introducing Mr Robertson, Massey University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas thanked business leaders for supporting the university’s objective of ensuring graduates had opportunities to get hands-on experiences in workplaces as part of their studies.

“Massey prides itself on offering students a university experience that gives them chances to develop their entrepreneurial capability, opportunities to work in industry as part of their study, and more skills and confidence to create value from their ideas than ever before.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas and Michael Barnett present top student scholarship to James Watson


The chamber and the university use any proceeds of the event to provide scholarships to top finance students at the Auckland campus. The 2020 award winners were James Watson, top first-year student in economics, and Jianrui Sun, top first-year student in finance.

Discussion on a future academic plan for the College of Sciences

Source: Massey University


Massey University


By Professor Ray Geor

On Monday I released a discussion document to Massey University College of Sciences (CoS) staff and students about the future academic plan for the College. The document has resulted in a high level of concern from many staff and students, and this is understandable: the document frankly outlines a significant financial problem for our College that requires substantial and urgent change. Unfortunately, we have no choice but to make a step-change in what we do and to act with urgency. Although there will be no quick fixes, waiting will only worsen the problem.

I want to make it clear that what is under discussion in this document is our plan for what is taught where; it is not about research, researchers or research quality. Naturally research is tied up with teaching, and the document touches on this, but the primary problem relates to teaching income not keeping up with our teaching costs, and no amount of research excellence can fix that mismatch across our breadth of offer. Nor unfortunately, can growth in student numbers fix the problem within the time-frame it needs to be addressed. We have had some excellent growth in student numbers in some areas. Growth in student numbers alone will not however be enough to address all of our challenges in the near future.

Although in the past we have used strategies such as expanding the range of subjects we offer and the range of places we offer them, projected student growth, even on the most optimistic interpretation of population data and other trends, indicates that this is not a viable strategy. The Senior Leadership Team (SLT) has therefore recently set a new strategic direction for the whole University, as outlined in Digital Plus, and the CoS discussion document follows this strategic direction as it applies to our College.

As suggested in the discussion document, this would involve a first step of focussing specialisations in single locations. In parallel, we will work to enhance our face-to-face and distance teaching with a modern, practical and interactive digital curriculum. Note that the Digital Plus concept does not mean a stop to face-to-face teaching: indeed, in some areas internal study may be the only mode of study we offer, however in other areas we will be able to expand our distance offer to cater for the increasing interest in students for online study. Projections from recent work in Australia indicate that by 2030, 45-50% of students will prefer to study in an online mode. We are already seeing an increase in update of study by distance at Massey. The Digital Plus strategy will therefore see the University well placed to cater for that interest, and set us at the forefront of online delivery in the NZ tertiary sector.

The discussion document outlines a way forward in these difficult circumstances that will enable us to strengthen our depth of staff capability. Co-locating centres of expertise will facilitate collaboration, team synergy and the development and progression of staff. We will be better able to support staff with the infrastructure they need for excellent, ground-breaking research, to advance the quality of teaching and to incorporate new digital materials and learning designs. Although it reduces the breadth of the “where” of our offer in a face-to-face context, the suggestions outlined in the discussion document preserve the breadth of the “what” we offer, and through that we will be able to maintain, and even strengthen, our research standing across these discipline areas.

There has also been much concern that we will not be able to look after our students. But let me assure you that whatever ends up being planned, we will support students to complete their qualification, whether they be new to university in their first year, or a doctoral candidate. Detailed planning would be undertaken once a direction is proposed and we would maintain appropriate staffing to support students.

Many staff are asking what else we could do, how else we could solve the problem. Other ways of reducing costs have and will continue to be pursued.  I am open to any and all ideas. If there is a different and better way, I want to hear it. We have been given a strategic direction by the Digital Plus concept but the suggested solution is up for discussion and is not set in stone.

What is set in stone is the urgent need to make changes that will better align teaching costs with teaching income. I am looking for your help to ensure we reach our goal of ensuring the viability of the College and the offering of a broad range of well-taught science qualifications and specialisations that will be valued by students and relevant to New Zealand in the 21st century.

Professor Geor is the College of Sciences Pro-Vice Chancellor.

SH26 Te Aroha night works begin Tuesday

Source: New Zealand Transport Agency

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Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency advises night-time resurfacing works to improve the safety of State Highway 26 between Kenrick Street and Lawrence Avenue in Te Aroha will get underway from Tuesday.

The works also include resurfacing the parking bays in the area.

Overnight, northbound traffic will be detoured via Lipsey Street and Burgess Street. Southbound traffic will remain on SH26 for the duration of the works.

Motorists should expect delays of up to five minutes.

The road will operate as normal during the day.

The Transport Agency thanks motorists for their patience.

Plan ahead for a safe, enjoyable journey this summer. Keep up to date with:

Fiordland/Milford Sound Piopiotahi SH94 access update, convoys seven days a week

Source: New Zealand Transport Agency

Convoys of buses for visitors/tourists and essential services vehicles** into and out of Milford Sound Piopiotahi have worked reasonably well this week.

One of the narrowed areas of SH94, the Milford Road, with the convoy passing through earlier this week.

“We appreciate that we cannot meet everyone’s needs exactly but we need to strike a middle ground for now,” says the Transport Agency’s Milford Road Alliance Manager Kevin Thompson.

“It is great to see the businesses in Milford Sound Piopiotahi reactivated with the visitors.

“But it is important that we continue to work on the highway between the convoys and ensure it is safe after each convoy for the next trip.

“We continue to monitor that these convoy times are working for the tourism industry and will review as needed.”

Bus tickets for visitors getting on board a convoy are available in Te Anau and at Knobs Flat, between Te Anau and Milford Sound, (SH94).

The outlook for Monday

The weather forecast for the Homer Tunnel area is for showers over the weekend and potentially heavy rain on Monday, 2 March. To date all the convoys have departed and returned largely on schedule despite some rain says Mr Thompson.

If there are concerns that heavy rain is reactivating slips, convoys will be stopped.

Mr Thompson reiterated that people wanting to get into Milford need to book a bus through a tourism operator to be part of the convoy.

“Private vehicle drivers and people in their own cars or campervans cannot currently use the highway since the early February storm.”

The convoys including buses started a week ago (21 February). They have run every day since then and will continue seven days a week so long as weather and road repairs permit them, he says.

Catch the bus

People are encouraged to catch a bus (minimum six-seater) through a tourism operator from Te Anau or Queenstown.

  • Bus tickets for visitors getting on board a convoy are available in Te Anau and at Knobs Flat (SH94).
  • Only buses or vehicles with a minimum capacity of six seats will be accepted into the convoy and all tourist vehicles must carry a P (licensed to carry passengers) endorsement.

Early 8am convoy very restricted

There is an approved adventure tourism operators-only convoy limited to ten places at 8 am, inwards only. (Ie narrower criteria than essential services and not including any large buses.)

The 10 am, midday and mid-afternoon convoys inwards line up with the boat operators’ timetable in the Sound. These are the convoys which will include buses.

Changes this week

The departure point (known as “Chains On”) is closer to the Homer Tunnel on its western side, reducing the distance to travel in convoy.

The start point of East Gate, near the Hollyford Road intersection, also helps reduce the convoy length on the Te Anau side.

Convoys into Milford Sound Convoy start-point Convoys out of Milford Sound Convoy start-point
8am (approved adventure tourism operators only) East Gate (near Hollyford Rd intersection)    
10am East Gate 10.45am Chains on*
Midday East Gate 1.15 pm Chains on*
2.45pm East Gate 4pm Chains on*

*Chains On is midway between the Homer Tunnel and the Chasm on the western side of the tunnel. Combined with the shift at the other stopping/ assembly point to East Gate, near the Hollyford Road intersection, these two start and end points have shortened the convoy journey from Thursday this week.

** Who is eligible for the essential services convoys?

Vehicles and drivers who qualify as essential services include people transporting the following items: Fuel, food, freight, septic/ rubbish disposal, trades goods. Also contractors, staff of Milford Sound businesses in vans or coaches, commercial fishing industry and associated trades, air traffic control personnel.

For background on SH94, the Milford Road, including convoy operating guidelines, see this web page: www.nzta.govt.nz/sh94-milford-road

Plan ahead for a safe, enjoyable journey. Keep up to date with:

March brings change of rules for dog owners

Source: Auckland Council

The summer sun continues to shine down on the Auckland region, but it’s back to winter rules on Sunday 1 March for dog owners.

Time and season rules are used in popular places, during busy periods to avoid conflict between dogs and other users, Auckland Council’s Animal Management Kerri Fergusson says.

“The new season rule comes into effect on Sunday 1 March so dog owners will need to familiarise themselves with the winter definition and know their obligations.”

The winter rule means dogs are allowed off-leash (except dangerous dogs) for longer hours.

Search the council website to find a dog walking spot near you and the rules for dogs in that area.

Kerri says local boards still decide where access is permitted, and the type of access allowed.

Changes to the Dog Management Bylaw were introduced on 1 November 2019 and the council is now in the process of updating information on park signs to comply with the new bylaws.

In the meantime, always follow the rules on the council website for where you can walk your dog or call us on 09 301 0101 if you need help or are unsure about the rules in your area.

PM’s remarks from joint stand-up with PM Morrison

Source: New Zealand Government

It’s my pleasure to be in Sydney today for our annual meeting, Prime Minister.

It’s fair to say that since we last met, tragedy and disaster have befallen our two countries.

They say that in moments of that nature, the true character of an individual comes to the fore.

I believe the same can be said of nations too.

Australia has proven once again to be the closest of friends to us. The eruption of Whakaari/White Island had a devastating impact, and you lost your own in that tragedy.

And yet Prime Minister, you could not have been more supportive.

From the offer of specialist staff, the collaboration on incredibly complex medivac operations, right through to the mere fact that those Australian families who lost loved ones still had the heart and extraordinary kindness to send letters back to New Zealand acknowledging the people who had touched them in Whakatane, and that Aotearoa will always be connected to them.

I acknowledge too that this tragedy occurred in the back drop of your own, as Australia battled bushfires of such devastating intensity. 

New Zealanders were devastated by the scale of what they saw your country experience. There was an incredible desire to help, and during this bushfire season we have contributed 276 firefighting personnel, two emergency management personnel and a number of defence assets, including 139 personnel. As we watched the smoke reach our shores, it only furthered our desire to do everything we could to support Australia, and my message today is that we are only a phone call away – quite literally as PM Morrison and I showed in a recent press conference that he inadvertently dialled into.

But these are only recent illustrations of the way we are connected, and the ways we work together.  And Prime Minister we discussed many other ways today.

Whether it’s work in the Pacific on climate related issues, boosting the circular economy and improving waste management, coordination and support of one another as we tackle covid-19, our ongoing commitment to make it easier for our businesses to transact with one another – including e-invoicing which is now operational and estimated to save the trans-Tasman economy $30 billion, biosecurity detection or the indigenous collaboration arrangements we signed today.

Each of these initiatives is grounded in that history we have, and that friendship that we value.

But friendships aren’t just reaffirmed in times of tragedy, they must stand up to the test of politics. And in the face of politics, the New Zealand and Australia relationship is being tested.

We appreciate that many kiwis have taken up the opportunity to live and work in Australia – many more than has happened in reverse. Not every kiwi migrant will be perfect, but evidence shows that the vast majority are providing a net benefit to Australia. They earn more, are more likely to be employed and pay more tax than their Aussie-born counterparts – they are Australia’s best migrants. But rather than them being given security to keep contributing, in return their rights have been eroded.

Simple rights, like assistance from the national disability insurance scheme – even though they pay into the scheme’s levy. Or the ability to join the defence force, or become a federal civil servant. Kiwis want to contribute to the place that is now their home. But they’re not being given the potential to do that to the fullest.

Separate again is the issue of deportations. Australia is well within its rights to deport individuals who break your laws. New Zealand does the same. But we have a simple request. Send back kiwis, genuine kiwis – do not deport your people, and your problems.

I have heard countless cases of individuals who, on any common sense test, identify as Australians.

Just a few weeks ago I met a women who moved to Australia not much older than 1 year old. She told me that she had no connection to our country, but she had three children in Australia. She was in a crisis centre, having returned to a country she did not feel was her own. I have heard from those who work in our judiciary that they are seeing cases before our courts of individuals who are failing attempts to reintegrate and rehabilitate because the success of these programs is reliant on at least some network. These deportees have none.

I am not asking that Australia stops this policy- you have deported more than 2000 individuals and amongst them will be genuine kiwis who do have to learn the consequences of their actions. But amongst those 2000 are individuals who were too young to become criminals on our watch. They were too young to become patched gang members. Too young to be organised criminals. We will own our people. We ask that Australia stop exporting theirs.

I want to conclude by just reaffirming something I have said often before – we will continue to maintain rights for Australians in New Zealand. We do not wish to have a race to the bottom and we remain confident that by continuing to work together, we will find solutions that reaffirm just how important this relationship is to us.

Finally again PM Morrison, thank you for the chance again today to discuss the issues that are important to each of us. I have no other leader that I can confidently work so closely together with – and that has proven so important in our darkest of hours.

May we look forward to better times ahead.

Gun Control – Firearms in New Zealand: Where to from here? – New Zealand Police Association

Source: MIL-OSI Submissions

Source: NZ Police Association
Police Association President Chris Cahill today addressed an Otago University firearms and public health seminar.
Firearms in New Zealand: Where to from here?
Chris Cahill, NZ Police Association President
Friday 28 February 2020
This time next week, all going well, Parliament will have passed the Arms Legislation Bill as the second tranche of firearms reforms designed to make all New Zealanders safer. Together, the reforms will do this by taking the most dangerous of weapons out of circulation, tightening controls on the use and possession of firearms and registering all firearms.
When the gun buy-back began we had absolutely no idea how many firearms were in our communities. We now know that 60 thousand of the most lethal weapons have been handed over, paid for and destroyed.
As you are all aware, this process, which began nearly one year ago, was born out of tragedy, and we should never forget the 51 people who were killed, and the many more whose lives were forever changed by physical and psychological injuries.
The Christchurch mosque attacks were a shocking catalyst for firearms reform. What has set New Zealand apart from so many other jurisdictions in the aftermath of a mass shootings, is that the moment was seized. Immediate and decisive action was taken to ban the types of weapons that could cause so much harm.
This was a courageous step and one we as an association applauded, along with many of you here today.
For the initial Arms Amendment Bill, we saw our politicians, all but one, come together to do what was right. It was our ‘Sandy Hook’ moment and our elected officials acted.
When I was asked at the time whether I thought the bill was too rushed, I said it was actually more than 20 years late. Seven years after Aramoana, Justice Thorp recommended in 1997, the very steps that were taken in less than three weeks after the slaughter in the two Christchurch mosques.
I was not being flippant. I was stating the truth. Politicians have had many opportunities between Aramoana and Christchurch to do what was right. Now we are counting on them to complete the job next week.
As we all know, this second tranche of overdue gun reforms – the Arms Legislation Bill – is facing opposition in a number of areas that concern the association.
As expected, lobbying and politics have well and truly entered the fray.
In our submission on the bill now before Parliament, the association says the bill has a strong and workable regulatory regime that would allow law-abiding licence holders to legitimately use their firearms in their work and recreation.
Claims to the contrary, that the measures are onerous and a punishment for law-abiding New Zealanders, are unfounded and, I believe, disingenuous.
A UMR survey of New Zealanders found 70 per cent supported strengthening the gun laws, 16 per cent opposed and 14 per cent were neutral or unsure. Amongst Cantabrians, the support for reform was, understandably, 81 per cent. [1].
As Drs Marie Russell and Hera Cook established recently, COLFO – one of the most outspoken opponents of any firearms law changes, consists of organisational memberships across eight firearms interest groups totalling around 16,000 people. A far cry from claims they represent 250 thousand law-abiding gun owners who are angry at being made to feel like criminals.
In the political realm, we are, unfortunately, seeing what an election year can do with hot-button issues such as guns, especially when those guns are combined with gangs and drugs – as they certainly are currently.
It seems the thinking for opposing the Arms Legislation Bill goes along these lines: New Zealand has 250,000 registered firearms owners; ergo there are 250,000 votes up for grabs on the single issue of firearms reform.
The Act Party may well pick up a few votes on the strength of it being a dissenter on both firearms law reform bills, but from what we have seen in support for the changes, and in the measured manner in which firearms owners complied with the buyback process, it is hard to imagine this is the most important voting issue in most people’s lives.
For legitimate firearms owners, of course the obligation to hand in their newly illegal firearms was difficult, and I thank them for complying.
Were they compensated fairly? A Police survey across 19 buy-back events shows 78% believe they were.
Just over one hundred million dollars was spent on firearms and parts collected at 685 collection points across the country. Police went to private homes when there were large quantities of guns to collect or owners had transport difficulties, and 43 dealers operated a dealer channel and collected 6145 firearms on behalf of Police.
Police have told me they were extremely impressed by the attitude of those who took part, and that 93 per cent of those firearms owners reported the buy-back process to have been a positive experience.
Thanks to these gun owners, 60 thousand of the most lethal weapons are gone from our communities. They can’t be stolen from their lawful owners, they can’t be on-sold to criminals, and they can’t be used to inflict massive casualties.
We also need to question whether those who label the buy-back a failure because ‘only’ 60 thousand were handed in, know of guns that are now illegal, and still in the possession of licensed firearms owners.
Are there otherwise law-abiding people holding on to their firearms in the full knowledge that when police catch up with them, they risk losing their coveted licence forever? I find that very difficult to believe and I hope that is not the case.
Surely the umbrella firearms organisations who estimated the buy-back would cost hundreds of millions of dollars because of the number of weapons now deemed illegal now have a duty to encourage their members or others they know who are holding on to illegal weapons to comply with the law.
It is too late for compensation, but it’s better to hand in these weapons than to end up in serious trouble.
This untenable situation of not knowing how many guns are out there leads me to the key elements in the second tranche of the firearms law reform – the firearm registry and the licensing system.
It is alarming that New Zealand has been without a firearm registry since 1983, ostensibly because it was too cumbersome, inaccurate and expensive.
Thanks to technology – seen daily in driver licences, motor vehicles and many other online registrations – the argument of a cumbersome, inaccurate and expensive registry no longer wash.
It is pleasing to see the majority report-back from the select committee included assurance that the registry would be sufficiently easy to use, that licence holders with access to the internet would be able to update the registry online, and, for those without digital access, a paper system will accommodate them. The new registry will be an updated extension of the current online platform that Police use for permits for prohibited firearms, magazines, pistols and restricted weapons.
The association has been outspoken in its support of registration of firearms and associated activities and believes the value of registration was demonstrated in the accuracy with which Police were able to pinpoint for collection the 15,037 E-Cat firearms during the buy-back, simply because they were registered.
Of those weapons, 10,009 were handed in during the buy-back, 4211 are in progress and Police are following up on 817 outstanding.
As well as providing accurate data on how many guns there are in New Zealand and who owns them, the very nature of firearms registries promotes a change in the behaviour of those who use them.
When people know they are going to be held to account for however many firearms they register, their behaviour changes.
The practical application of this behavioural phenomenon includes:
– Incentives to ensure storage is appropriate for the number and types of firearms registered, because Police will have records of the number of firearms an owner has
– Owners are more likely to report thefts of firearms when they occur, because they will have to account for the whereabouts of those firearms at their next licensing/renewal firearms inspection
– Owners will be more inclined to report stolen firearms, rather than risk being implicated in any crime those firearms may subsequently be used for
– Owners will be discouraged from importing or on-selling their firearms to unlicensed persons (straw purchasing) because a registration system carries a much greater risk of detection for them
– A registration system makes it much more difficult for those who have committed crimes to obtain a firearm and commit further crimes
– A registry means stolen firearms can more easily be identifiable, and while this may be of limited use as a deterrent to criminals, identifying the source of a stolen firearm used in a serious crime will often result in valuable evidence linking an offender to that crime.
It is also good to note that with a firearms registry, it will be much easier for law-abiding firearms owners to recover firearms that have been stolen from them.
For the association, one of the most significant benefits of a registry is that, when called to an address, police officers will be forewarned if any firearms are registered to an owner at that address. This is a major safety factor for our members who are called to thousands of incidents a year, particularly family violence incidents. When they arrive, they often have no idea whether they will be confronted with a firearm.
We also note extensive research in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand linking registration of firearms with reduced incidents of suicide by firearm. Registration promotes safer storage requirements. Because suicides are often impulsive acts, measures such as locked storage of unloaded firearms, with ammunition stored elsewhere, can prolong the period between the initial decision and the suicidal act.[2]
In election-year political point-scoring there seems to be a deliberate effort to perpetuate the line that this legislation “does nothing about genuine criminal activity in gangs and does everything about layering cost, administrative burden and regulation on people who already follow the rules.” [3]
The bill specifically includes new powers to stop a gang member ever getting a firearms licence, which, technically, they can do today.
However, in all my years in policing I have never heard of a patched member being considered fit and proper when it comes to owning guns. Those who are licensed before moving into a gang will eventually have their licence revoked, but focusing on how the Arms Legislation Bill will or won’t crack down on gangs is a distraction. What we need to concentrate on is how to limit, and ideally prevent, dangerous gang members and other criminals accessing guns by stealing, trading or buying them.
Put simply, if we limit the number of guns that can be stolen, traded or bought off-grid, it’s logical that you limit the supply for criminals, and that benefits us all.
Police have told the government there are weaknesses and loopholes in the current system that are being exploited by both a small number of licensed owners, who may in general be law-abiding, and by people intent on using firearms for criminal purposes.
There is scant evidence of illegal importing of firearms. Instead, Police says “firearms are flowing from licensed firearm owners into the hands of unlicensed people, some of whom intend to commit crime and cause harm.” [4]
In the past five years, 4240 firearms were reported stolen across the country – and that is just the number Police know of. [5]
And where do you suppose these firearms have gone?
Operation Gun Safe data shows in the last year, 2165 guns have been seized, recovered or surrendered, and 88 per cent of them were non-licensed.
In that time there have been 323 incidents in which firearms were presented at either police, the public, or both: 302 at members of the public, 18 at police and five at both. Of those last 23 incidents, the firearms were discharged ten times.
That is an unacceptable risk to us all.
In the past few months we have seen an escalation in gang activity, and firearms have been front and centre of much of that.
Be in no doubt Police is seriously focused on gangs. Just yesterday they raided the Mongols property in Burnham and seized 10 firearms, ammunition, about 50-thousand in cash, and drugs.
Effective policing of gangs needs to be strong, but considered, rather than knee-jerk. Experience has shown that gangs find ways to work around the law, such as recruiting facilitators and specialists, including lawyers, accountants, chemists, hackers and others who can access goods such as firearms. [6]
At the association’s 2019 annual conference these complex arrangements and realities were addressed by our speakers from Police’s outlaw motorcycle gang unit, asset recovery team, serious and organised crime team, and the FBI.
They all confirmed the professionalisation of gangs in New Zealand as a growing issue. Tuesday’s sentencing of the Comancheros gang lawyer to just under three years on 13 counts of money laundering is the way to fight them. The gang’s vice-president was also taken down in this raid and six other Comancheros will go on trial later in the year. [7]
Former Minister of Justice Jim McLay once said, “the problem of gangs will not be solved by throwing a law at it”. [8]
I would like to add, however, that our gang problem can be addressed through solid, focused law such as the Arms Legislation Bill, Firearms Prohibition Orders, and, as Police Financial Crime Group manager Iain Chapman said, “full and robust attention from police.”
One other matter the association is concerned about with respect to the changes made to the Arms Legislation Bill at committee stages, is the backtrack on the length of a firearms licence.
The bill proposed reducing the length of the licence from ten to five years, but after pushback, and I dare say some inter-party ‘negotiations’, the ten-year licence is reinstated with a few tweaks including five years for a first licence, or renewal of a lapsed license.
We advocated for a five-year licence because it allows for regular and accurate assessment of a licence holder’s patterns of behaviour, living and security arrangements, and whether there are any circumstances that may exclude the firearms owner from meeting the “fit and proper person” criteria.
So much can change in a person’s life and circumstances over a ten-year period. Some people change addresses multiple times in that many years. If it could be ten years before Police know if a gun is lost or on-sold, it adversely impacts on the integrity of the registry.
Some submissions expressed concern that the bill was going to keep the current licence fee but halve the duration of the licence period.
Let’s be real here. At $126.50 for a ten-year licence, firearms owners are paying just $12.65 a year for the privilege of owning a gun. A 5-year licence system at the same rate would still be only $25.30 a year.
Taxpayers, the majority of whom do not own guns, subsidise the administration costs to the point that firearms owners contribute only half of what it costs to administer the licensing system. I would like it if the government paid half of my gym subscription, but that is not a reality.
One final point about asking taxpayers to stump up for firearms administration.
In the second reading of the Arms Legislation Bill, suggestions were raised about establishing a separate entity to administer firearms law.
The argument goes that it is inappropriate to have Police as the enforcer of the law and the writer of the law because that blurs the separation of power.
I would say that the last thing we need is to fund another government agency to administer our gun laws. Who do proponents of this idea suggest should pick up the tab?
I am sure we will all be watching closely during the final stages of the Arms Legislation Bill next week.
The association welcomed the overwhelming public and political support for the Arms Amendment Act passed last April. The Arms Legislation Bill has been subjected to much more politicking, and, yes, the association has taken part in that because it is our role to argue for measures that enhance the safety of our members in their jobs. That, in turn, makes our communities safer places.
I accept there is “give and take” at this level of legislative reform. What the association asks is that the commitment made last year to improve public safety through tighter controls on the use and possession of guns is delivered next week.
References
[2] Edmond D Shenassa, Michele L Rogers, Kirsten L Spalding, Mary B Roberts, (2004) Safer storage of firearms at home and risk of suicide: a study of protective factors in a nationally representative sample, J Epidemial Community Health 20014;58-84-848.doi:10.1136/jech2003017343 http://jech.bmj.com/content/58/10/841 See also: American Public Health Association (2018), Reducing Suicides by Firearms, Policy Number 20184; Hutching, Gerard, (2017) Access to guns helps fuel farmer suicides – study, Stuff, May1, 2017, https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/92078704/access-to-guns-helps-fuel-farmer-suicides; S Chapman, P Alpers, K Agho, M Jones (2006) Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms: faster falls in firearms deaths, firearm suicides, and a decade without mass shootings, www.injuryprevention.com 
[8] ibid p.38 (Llim)