The New Zealand Space Agency is expanding its ability to track objects launched into orbit.
A pilot scheme will allow officials to monitor satellites launched from New Zealand, to minimise space debris and collisions as a "regulator of space activity".
Thirty-seven satellites have been launched into orbit from New Zealand in the past two years, six of which have since fallen back to earth.
Space Agency (NZSA) head Dr Peter Crabtree said a partnership with American company LeoLabs will allow them to monitor each satellite in real time to ensure companies are complying with their permits.
"Lower Earth orbit is rapidly emerging as the focus of commercial space activity and is home to thousands of satellites travelling at extremely high speeds around the globe, providing us with services we rely on every day," said Dr Crabtree, MBIE General Manager of Science, Innovation and International.
"It's also home to a growing population of debris, increasing the risk of collisions that could potentially create thousands of new particles of debris and damage expensive equipment.
"As a launching nation, we have a responsibility to minimise orbital debris and preserve space for future generations. Understanding where the objects that we launch are is the first step towards doing this."
The platform will alert the NZSA when a satellite is outside of its regulatory limits and at risk of collision with other objects.
"By ensuring these objects stay within the expected risk profiles, we develop an understanding of an operator's compliance record and potential collision risk. We are also meeting our international obligations as a responsible launching state," says Dr Crabtree.
Leo Labs has radar facilities in Alaska and Texas, but will be building another facility in the South Island.
It said the visualisation and analytics tools built for NZSA's regulatory mission have broader applicability for all space agencies, and New Zealand could share its progress with others across the international space community.
Dunedin's residents have called on central and local government to step up and protect in perpetuity a geological site dating back 23 million years. More than 160 people attended a meeting at Otago Museum last night, where they voted to go in to battle on behalf of Foulden Maar, calling it a treasure trove.
Dunedin residents call for protection of Foulden Maar
When most of us look out at our beautiful harbours and beaches we might think about the creatures living in the water, but probably don't give much pause for thought to the man-made products lurking under the surface. But a team of passionate divers have seen the damage discarded fishing gear and rubbish can do to our marine environment and are out to change it.
Team of passionate divers clean up rubbish in our waters
The Department of Conservation has now taken the reins from Westland District Council as the lead agency co-ordinating the clean-up of the Fox and Cook riverbeds polluted by the wash out of an old landfill on the West Coast - but without any additional funding. It's a big job with DOC now looking for 30 volunteers a day to help. Meanwhile, environmental action group Forest & Bird has raised questions that without additional funding, the DOC led clean up will come at the expense of important conservation work on the West Coast. DOC's Owen Kilgour is the Incident Management Controller for the Fox Riverbed Cleanup.
A newly released review from Otago University shows there's a direct correlation between the amount of tax imposed and a drop in the consumption of sugary drinks: finding for instance a 10% tax has reduced the purchase and consumption of sugary drinks by 10%.
The study looks at the effects of imposing a sugar tax in four American cities, the Catalonia region of Spain, and country-wide in Chile, France and Mexico. Kathryn Ryan speaks with lead author Dr Andrea Teng, a public health physician and senior researcher at the University of Otago. The review has just been published in international scientific journal, Obesity Reviews.
Research on sugary drinks: sugar tax reduces consumption by 10%
France is bracing for a heatwave with temperatures forecast to exceed 40 degrees this week - potentially breaking the record for June. Comparisons are being drawn to a heat wave in 2003, when almost 15,000 people in France died. Now, the north of the country - including Paris - is predicted to be the worst affected. Our correspondent Hugh Schofield is in Paris.
Bill McKay has a midwinter reminder of how poor our housing stock is and what we need to do about it.
Bill McKay is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of Auckland.
Where is the government at with the scheme to plant one billion trees in ten years? It follows concerns prime pasture is being converted into lucrative forestry land. Kathryn talks to Head of MPI's forestry service Te Uru Rākau's Julie Collins.
Will climate change be the end of the end of sauvignon blanc, and the beginning of bananas and pineapples in New Zealand? Maybe... So a Nelson-based iwi organisation is coming up with a plan to figure out which crops might disappear, and which might thrive under a changing climate. RNZ's Nelson-Tasman reporter Tracy Neal has the story.
Victoria University researchers have developed technology which can record and calculate bird numbers without the need of humans crashing in the bush scaring them away. Professor Stephen Marsland created the software, AviaNZ, which is free and can also be used to record predator numbers.
Professor Stephen Marsland: bird counting computers
A NIWA scientist is defending a report on the threat cats pose to Hector's and Māui dolphins against claims it lacks credibility.
A proposed Threat Management Plan estimated on average 334 nationally vulnerable Hector's and two nationally critical Māui dolphins died from toxoplasmosis every year, due to cat faeces in the water.
That dwarfed the 58 NIWA estimated died in trawl or set nets. NIWA used government-observer fishery data to estimate the number of dolphin deaths through bycatch from commercial fishing.
Dolphin expert Liz Slooten said the theory was nonsense and fishing nets posed a much greater threat to dolphins than the disease spread by cats.
The man behind the theory, Jim Roberts of NIWA, said a quarter of all dolphin deaths he looked at were attributed to toxoplasmosis and it was worth further study.
An infected cat could shed about 20 million toxoplasmosis cysts, he said.
"It's not something that we typically hear about very much, but there are some things we know about the toxo parasite, which is that it's incredibly hardy and can last for about a year in sea water," Dr Roberts said.
"There is lots of research quite recently looking at vaccines for cats, so they don't shed the cyst."
However, Otago University dolphin expert Professor Slooten was surprised the theory that cats posed a greater risk to dolphins than fishing nets had even seen the light of day.
The figure of 300 dolphin deaths a year from toxoplasmosis was "wildly exaggerated" and had been based on a sample of just 28 dolphins, she said.
"So far, the only species anyone in the world is worried about in terms of toxo is seals and sea lions, the very endangered monk seal for example.
"There's no suggestion anywhere else in the world that this is a problem anywhere like the magnitude that's being suggested.
"If there really were 300 dolphins being killed each year by toxo, then not only Māui but Hector's dolphins would be free falling towards extinction," Dr Slooten said.
Only about 60 Māui dolphins and about 15,000 Hector's dolphins remain.
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said it was important to educate people about the impact of cats.
"It's ensuring that their faeces don't go into streams and waterways, so cat owners that keep their cats indoors can help, and things like riparian planting," Ms Sage said.
The government is proposing to significantly expand areas of ocean around New Zealand where of set nets and trawl nets will be banned to better protect the rare dolphins.
Flygskam is rapidly replacing hygge as the media's favourite Scandinavian word. But whereas hygge introduced the world to the warm and fuzzy Danish concept of feeling good due to the simple pleasures in life, the Swedish word flygskam - or flight shame - is all about bringing your holiday ambitions down to earth.
Back in April Public Radio International reported that Swedish opera singer Malena Ernman - better known as the mother of teenage activist Greta Thurnberg - turned down a trip to New Zealand due to environmental concerns.
The report focused on Sweden's Flygskam movement which is being credited with an eight percent drop in the number of Swedes flying so far this year. (And an 8 percent increase in train travel.)
In the last couple of months the NZ Herald, Stuff and RNZ have all run stories mentioning flygskam (pronounced fleegskaam.)
Last Sunday RNZ's Jim Mora ran a follow-up interview with British climate researcher Roger Tyers – who travelled to Beijing on the Trans-Siberian railway for environmental reasons.
"I spent three years of doing a PhD looking at emissions from flying. I didn't feel comfortable on doing a research trip, which is about environmental behaviours, and flying to China to do it," Tyers said.
And last week TVNZ took up the flygskam zeitgeist with a report in its Being a Better Consumer series.
The report, by journalist Jenny Suo, left viewers in no doubt as to the significance of tourism's contribution to carbon emissions - fully eight percent of total emissions world-wide.
But the advice being given would have been music to the ears of the world's airlines and the tourism industry in general.
"In less developed places like the Pacific islands, which struggle to process too much waste, live and eat like a local. Bring a keep-cup and avoid plastic... If you're flying choose and airline with modern aircraft and off-set your carbon emissions. In some cases it's just a couple of extra dollars."
If only Greta’s mum – Malena Ernman had thought of that. According to Air New Zealand’s on-line carbon calculator it would have cost her just $61.60 to off-set the 2718 kg of carbon produced by a single passenger travelling return from Stockholm to Auckland.
But of course the Flygskam movement doesn’t buy into the idea that planting trees and flying somehow cancel each other out. Just as you can fly without buying off-sets you can plant trees without taking to the skies.
They’re not alone in questioning the assumptions behind off-setting.
Deutche Welle recently quoted Pope Francis as saying if you follow the logic of offsetting you would try and deal with the curse of war by forcing munitions manufacturers to build hospitals for the victims of their bombs.
Pope Francis view will be informed by the centuries old debate over whether the Catholic Church’s practice of allowing people to buy indulgences during the Middle Ages contributed to an increase in sin.
There’s no shortage of academic articles on the topic with the majority concluding it did – but there are dissenters.
In a paper titled: The Economics of Religious Indulgences economists Alberto Cassone and Carla Marchese conclude given the right conditions indulgences don’t necessarily encourage sin.
And the promoters of offsetting are no doubt banking on that being the case – but the evidence is sketchy.
In Offsetting Green Guilt Yale University economist Matthew Kotchen wrote that carbon offsets pose interesting new areas for economists to study – namely: "Could voluntary carbon offsets, like indulgences of yor, actually increase people’s gas-guzzling, energy consuming ways?"
Matthew Kotchen concluded: “My own view is that purchasing offsets is better than nothing… Yet when considering ways to reduce your own carbon foot-print, you should compare offsetting to the more certain alternative of directly reducing your emissions… Reduce what you can, offset what you can’t."
And if New Zealanders take up that advice and cut back on air travel like the Swedes have it won't be just environmental reporters talking about flygskam - it'll be all over the business pages as well.
Imagine your brain as a very soft lump of raw meat sitting inside your skull.(sorry I can't think of a good vegetarian option at the moment!) And each time your head gets hit or punched there's a risk your brain gets damaged by rebounding against your skull, or by getting twisted and torn as it shifts back and forth and sideways.
That's one of the powerful images presented in 'The Beautiful Brain', a series about the brain and how it gets affected by the sports we play. And it also looks at how sports like American Football and rugby are responding to these risks.
The show focuses on the degenerative brain condition called CTE (short for chronic traumatic encephalopathy) which shows up in an increased risk of dementia, problems with memory, depression, aggression and personality changes. And once you have it, there's no treatment: no cure.
We play some of Episode 2 of 'The Beautiful Brain' called 'An Inconvenient Truth' featuring interviews with Dr Bennett Omalu, the man who made the breakthrough linking CTE to repeated blows to the head in sport back in 2002, and Ann McKee the director of Boston University's CTE Center. 'The Beautiful Brain' is produced and narrated by Hana Walker-Brown, and is available exclusively via Audible.
A Christchurch insurance advocate says he is optimistic the new Canterbury Earthquake Insurance Tribunal will finally resolve the long-standing issues.
The government has launched an earthquake insurance tribunal to try and finally resolve insurance claims from the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes.
Dean Lester, who acts as a insurance claim preparer in Christchurch, said the tribunal will be able to make a considered decision on the matters in dispute without people facing the cost of a High Court trial.
He said often people with outstanding claims only have one or two sticking points, and don't want to take those to the High Court due to the prospect of a six-figure legal bill.
The Budget allocated $3.387 million for the tribunal over the next year.
It will be available to those dealing with the Earthquake Commission, the government-owned claims resolution agency, Southern Response and private insurers.
Cases can be transferred from the High Court and claimants can choose an advocate to work on their behalf.
The tribunal is based in Christchurch and chaired by former district court judge Chris Somerville.
In 2011 the High Court set up the Earthquake List in a bid to deal swiftly with earthquake-related litigation.
Wellington has become the latest city to declare a climate emergency.
The declaration was adopted at a meeting of the Wellington City Council this morning.
The councillors have also been considering a new strategy to make the city carbon neutral by 2050.
Five other councils, including Auckland and Nelson, have already declared climate emergencies.
Critics say in many cases those councils are not doing anything more than they have already been doing.
Daily podcast The Detail looks into whether declaring a climate change emergency will actually help.
The Westland mayor is delighted the Department of Conservation will take over the clean-up of the Fox River after devastating floods in March. An old landfill was eroded by the flood waters, spreading rubbish along kilometres of the West Coast and the Fox and Cook riverbeds. The clean-up was put on hold last month when the Westland District Council ran out of funds. Bruce Smith is the Westland mayor. He talks to Susie Ferguson.
The government has stepped in on the West Coast, three months after tonnes of rubbish spilled out of an old dump, into the Fox River and out on towards the ocean.
Westland District Council spent $300,000 on the massive clean up job and that amount was matched by the government, along with DoC staff resources. But the council quickly ran out of money and hasn’t been working on the problem since the end of May.
In taking over responsibility, Minister Eugenie Sage has emphasised this “is not a precedent for councils to relinquish their role”.
Volunteers have been pitching in, but they’ve been faced with an almost impossible task. Three metre high piles of plastic and other trash was mixed in with debris after the storm that started it all.
The rubbish is strewn through some of the most pristine areas of the country. Sage says tourism businesses in the area rely on the South Westland’s spectacular landscapes and New Zealand’s clean-green reputation. “Piles of rubbish in the riverbed also means the reality risks not matching the image,” Sage says.
There is still about a 21 kilometre stretch of coastline to clear, an area of about 1620 hectares.
Debris dams and log jams have trapped a significant amount of rubbish along the river. Heavy machinery is needed to remove them, and it will take significant volunteer power to finish the job.
Critics say the government’s rescue job needs to have come much sooner. They talk about this being on the scale of the Rena oil spill off Mt Maunganui in 2011 – and millions was spent on that clean up.
And they say a Local Government New Zealand report on infrastructure exposed to sea level rises shows about 100 landfills are vulnerable. Most are in Auckland, but Otago, Nelson, Canterbury and of course the West Coast all have closed landfills close enough to susceptible water ways to be at risk.
Forest and Bird Canterbury West Coast regional manager Nicky Snoyink says this event raises a great void in our response to such issues.
“First of all the lack of monitoring and enforcement going on on the West Coast to look at these legacy dumps, and understand the risks associated with climate change …. and also on a central government scale, what is the risk out there?” she says. “Have we done that piece of work to actually understand what is the risk as a nation? And what is the response plan to something like this?”
Who’s on clean up duty after the West Coast rubbish washout?