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Entertainment, New Zealand - Mar 12, 2014 16:25 - 0 Comments

‘Beam me up Scotty!’ – Star Trek’s Captain Kirk arrested in land of hobbits

Actor Chris Pine, who plays Captain James Tiberius Kirk in the Star Trek movie reboots, will need more than the help of Bones and Spock to get him out of his latest mess.

New Zealand’s Ashburton Guardian newspaper is tonight reporting Pine is cooling his heels in the foothills of the Southern Alps, where the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed, after being picked up by local police for driving under the influence last weekend.

It’s understood Pine had just wrapped filming Z for Zachariah when he got caught.

Other celebs in the area included his girlfriend Iris Bjork Johannesdottir and Wolf of Wall Street star Margot Robbie, although they were not directly involved in the incident according to reports.


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New Zealand, World - Aug 30, 2014 14:26 - 2 Comments

Judith Collins forced to resign – the fallout

Justice Minister Judith Collins has been forced to walk the plank by Prime Minister John Key in  what appears to have been the deliberate scuttling of her ship, rather than the result of enemy attack.

2014-08-30 13.33.16

An ‘anonymous’ source whose identity the Prime Minister admits is known to his office sent the PM’s chief of staff a copy of an email originally written by blogger Cameron Slater in 2011. The leaked email did not appear in Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics book, yet if Hager had seen it there is no doubt he would have used it, as the allegation was far more serious than the email he did use about Collins leaking the name of a civil servant to Slater.

NZ First leader Winston Peters told TV3′s Patrick Gower this afternoon that the email appears to have been leaked from within National circles in a bid to force Key to remove Collins – although Peters claims the motivation was to divert attention from his own allegation that a Collins’ supporter was making quiet approaches about a possible leadership bid.

Either way, it seems likely that Collins has taken a direct hit from within, rather than without. It’s not the first time a story of infighting within National has emerged.

Turning to the email that broke the PM’s back, Slater claims to have had a lengthy phone conversation that day with Collins and reported to his other contacts that the Minister was “gunning” for Serious Fraud Office boss Adam Feeley, who’d been caught up in a scandal over a champagne bottle.

As Collins had stated on other occasions, Feeley was “operationally independent”, so any inference of the Minister taking part in a campaign to “undermine” the head of the SFO was a constitutional no-no.


Read John Key’s statement:

Judith Collins resigns as a Minister

Prime Minister John Key today announced that Hon Judith Collins has resigned from Cabinet.
Mr Key says the resignation of Ms Collins followed the receipt of new information that raises allegations about Ms Collins’ conduct as a Minister.

“The relationship between a Minister and their Chief Executive is vital, and goes right to the heart of a trusted, effective government.

“This new information suggests Ms Collins may have been engaged in discussions with a blogger in 2011 aimed at undermining the then Director of the Serious Fraud Office. Ms Collins was the Minister responsible for the SFO at the time.

Mr Key released an email which had been recently been provided to his office.

“I have spoken with Ms Collins about the matters in the email, and she strongly denies any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour on her part.

“Ms Collins accepts these are serious allegations and that resigning as a Minister is the honourable step to take in these circumstances.

Mr Key says Ms Collins resignation takes effect immediately, and Hon Christopher Finlayson will be Acting Minister of Justice, Hon Craig Foss will be Acting Minister for ACC, and Hon Hekia Parata will be Acting Minister for Ethnic Affairs.


This morning I informed the Prime Minister that I am resigning as a Minister from Cabinet.

A new allegation has come to light from an email conversation from 2011 between Cameron Slater and others suggesting I was undermining the then Director of the Serious Fraud Office. I was not party to this email or discussion and have only today been made aware of it.

“I absolutely and strongly deny this and any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour. I am restrained in clearing my name while I am still a Minister inside Cabinet and I believe the right thing to do is to resign as a Minister so I am able to clear my name.

I have asked the Prime Minister for an Inquiry into these serious allegations so that my name can be cleared. I will, of course, cooperate with any Inquiry.”

“The Election should be focused on the issues that matter such as law and order, health, education and the economy and I do not want this matter to be a distraction for the Prime Minister or the National Party during the campaign.

“I am a strong advocate for the people of Papakura and I will continue to put the same passion and energy into representing them.

“I am getting on with my job as MP for Papakura and will campaign strongly for re-election this year.


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New Zealand - Sep 29, 2014 21:41 - 0 Comments

It’s official – there could be snakes in NZ




Last issue Investigate broke the story that New Zealand has an undetected colony of venomous Australian Copperhead snakes in the remote wilderness of abandoned South Island gold mines. This was after a prospector and geologist encountered one on the West Coast. The Ministry for Primary Industry’s official report, just released to Investigate, concludes the land would be ideal for snakes and the South Island could be home to about 100. The only problem? No one else has seen them. This is the full report by herpetologist DYLAN VAN WINKEL of consultancy firm Bioresearches:


In 1990, while prospecting for gold beyond Nelson Creek (42° 24′ 50.59″ S; 171° 33′ 42.11″ E) in the Grey Valley, West Coast, a “greenish brown, 30-inch long” snake was observed coiling up the arm of one of the prospectors. The notifier reportedly flung the snake off his arm and down a sluice face to rocks below.

The notifier subsequently identified the snake as a Victorian copperhead (Austrelaps superbus) from comparative photographs of Australian species. Further correspondence with local West Coast gold miners and a scientist at Landcare Research lead to the suggestion that a colony of snakes could be present in the West Coast gold mining districts. It was also suggested that the snakes may have entered the country during the gold rush period of the 1860s and 70s, when thousands of miners emigrated from the Victorian goldfields to the West Coast. Any snakes that may have stowed away in miner’s crates and equipment on sailing vessels could have freely entered New Zealand, via ports at Charleston, Hokitika, Greymouth and Westport, given the absence of biosecurity inspections.

The following report provides information on the ecology of Austrelaps spp., and assesses both the probability of establishment and potential risks to native fauna if establishment of an Austrelaps sp. were successful in New Zealand.

Aspects of Austrelaps Ecology and Life Cycle

The genus Austrelaps Worrell 1963 (commonly referred to as Australian copperheads) is represented by three species, including the pygmy copperhead (Austrelaps labialis; c. 80 cm, up to 120 cm), highland copperhead (A. ramsayi; c. 1.3 m, up to 1.7 m), and the lowland or southern copperhead (A. superbus; c. 1.3 m, up to 1.7 m). The three species are distinguished from each other based on head scalation, length, and distribution (Cogger 2014).

The genus is confined to south-eastern Australia, including the islands of Bass Strait and Tasmania (approximate latitudinal range from c. 30°S to 43°S), and occurs across a wide altitudinal range (sea-level to c. 1000 m) and wide range of climate regimes (e.g. temperatures range between c. -2°C to 41°C throughout their natural distribution).

Austrelaps spp. inhabit a broad range of habitats, from coastal sand dunes to grasslands to riparian margins, open forest and alpine tussocks; preferentially selecting sites near to water or marshes/ wetlands. Austrelaps spp. are both diurnally and nocturnally active, and have the ability to remain active at temperatures below 10°C. They feed principally on ectothermic vertebrates, especially frogs, lizards and small snakes; however, they are known to prey on invertebrates (e.g. grasshoppers), small mammals and birds.

Austrelaps spp. (particularly A. superbus) are well adapted to cool and temperate climates, and all species employ an ovoviviparous reproductive strategy (i.e. development of embryos inside eggs that are retained within the females’ body until they are ready to hatch. Young are then birthed live). Mating occurs in late summer/ early autumn, and females give birth to litters of 3 – 32 young the following mid- to late-summer; after a winter quiescence period (Shine 1987). Reproduction may not occur each year.

Little information is available on the movement or dispersal rates of Austrelaps spp.; however, Shine (1979) suggested that gravid female A. superbus are generally sedentary, yet males may move more extensively. Austrelaps spp. are mostly terrestrial (ground dwelling) rather than arboreal (tree dwelling), but are known to climb trees occasionally.

Copperheads are notoriously secretive and inoffensive, preferring to avoid encounters with humans where possible. This significantly lowers the probability of close human interactions and as a result, snakebites from this species in Australia are relatively uncommon. Continued provocation will certainly result in defense behaviours such as body flattening, hissing and violent striking, in an attempt to bite. The venom is strongly neurotoxic, but is also powerfully haemolytic [destroys red blood cells] and cytolytic [induces tissue death and gangrene] (Cogger 2014).

Potential Threat to New Zealand

Austrelaps suberbus is a generalist with regard to habitat and prey selection, and is tolerant of cool to cold, wet climates within its natural range. These characteristics suggest that it is certainly possible for this species to survive and reproduce successfully on the West Coast, as well as in many other regions of New ZealandWOULD YOU LIKE TO READ MORE OF THIS STORY?

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