Cycling crashes down in South Canterbury

The number of cycling crashes in South Canterbury looks set to hit a five-year low this year.

New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) statistics showed there had been only five crashes involving cyclists in South Canterbury this year, the lowest since 2008.

Timaru Cycling Club president Dave Hawkey said roads were safer to cycle on because motorists were getting the message about sharing the road.

Mr Hawkey believes motorists are becoming used to the sight of cyclists on roads, which means they are more inclined to share the road with them.

“It’s because it (cycling) is becoming more of a popular pastime. There are certainly more cyclists out there, far more than there have been, and people are adopting safer driving.”

Timaru District Council road safety co-ordinator Daniel Naude said there was a small percentage of drivers who ignored the messages, but overall drivers were more aware of their surroundings.

“When numbers [of crashes] go down it’s always a good sign,” he said.

Mr Naude said sharing the roads between cyclists and motorists was a give and take situation. He encouraged cyclists to make sure they were visible, and motorists to be more aware.

“The thing is with cycling, if you are involved in an incident you come off worse because you do not have much protection.”

He said many places in the Timaru District were cycle-friendly as there was not much traffic congestion on roads.

NZTA southern regional safety co-ordinator Lee Wright said, there were some excellent cycle safety initiatives in the district.

“The city’s School Travel Programmes have targeted young cyclists and students, and the lowering of speed limits through the city’s streets has helped create an environment that makes it safe for all road users.

“We all use the roads. Some of us prefer to drive, some ride, others walk, but it’s easy to forget that road users are all the same people, they just chose to travel in a particular way on a particular day.”

NZTA figures showed Timaru’s crashes peaked at 17 in 2008, followed by 12 in 2010 and 2012, 10 in 2009 and nine in 2011.

This year’s crashes have included one fatality, one serious crash and three minor incidents.

_Emma Cropper reporting for The Timaru Herald


Most prison inmates have suffered head injuries

Brain-injured offenders are packing Kiwi prisons, leaving experts calling for better assessment and rehabilitation of those suffering head injuries.

Ministry of Health figures show 64 per cent of prisoners have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), compared with just 2 per cent of the general population.

Studies put the number even higher, with 80 per cent of non-Maori and 90 per cent of Maori prisoners suffering from TBI.

Neurologist Richard Seemann said it was “a given” brain injury was linked to offending behaviour.

Seemann said the frontal lobes of the brain were “the part in charge of putting brakes on behaviour – so, you think a thought but don’t say it out loud, or think about doing something but decide not to do it”.

People with frontal lobe injuries had trouble recognising consequences, resisting impulses, or discerning appropriate behaviour – tendencies that could land them in trouble with police, he said.

Max Cavit, manager of brain-injury support provider ABI Rehabilitation, said while many people with brain injuries would never offend, some developed behavioural issues that landed them in court.

Common effects of brain injury such as sexual disinhibition, poor risk judgment, difficulty empathising and anger-management issues were also associated with offending.

“We’ve had a one man who had no history of sexual offending … who after a severe brain injury … ended up in the prison system,” Cavit said.

Another client, following a gunshot wound to the head, “developed a liking for drinking and jumping into stolen cars”.

A 2012 study by University of Canterbury Professor Randolph Grace found children who experienced head injuries were more likely to offend as adults.

Experts say proper recognition and rehabilitation of brain injuries would help people to manage their behaviour, and could help stem the tide of offending.

Cavit said rehabilitation was needed for those with brain injuries to develop strategies to manage symptoms.

“We tend to think, ‘Just get over it, just control that behaviour’, but it’s like asking someone who’s lost an eye or an arm to just use that arm or see out of that eye.”

Treatment in the justice system worked to reduce reoffending, and programmes to track and manage brain injury in Australian prisons had seen recidivism drop by 20 per cent, Cavit said.

He urged New Zealand prisons to consider adopting something similar.

“All the places in the world that have done this, have seen it work. The fact that it works is not in dispute. It’s just how to implement it.”

Corrections offender health director Bronwyn Donaldson said prisons did not screen for historic brain injuries when prisoners arrived, but if staff had concerns about a prisoner’s cognitive functioning, appropriate screening could be organised.

_Tess McClure reporting for The Press

Coastal Spirit win knockout cup in unlikely fashion

No one really wanted it to end this way. Not really.

90 minutes of toil. Crunching tackles and lung-busting runs. The type of game that leaves the crowd exhausted.

With extra time beckoning in the ASB Women’s Knockout Cup, a long ball deflected higher than any Christchurch building and fell into the Glenfield Rovers goalkeeper’s arms.

She fell into the goal.

Game over. 1-0.

That’s how Coastal Spirit’s exceptional season finished.

After a season of training sessions on bitterly cold evenings and Saturday morning matches on unforgiving frozen soil, who wants to win it like that?

Coastal topped the Women’s Premier League, winning 13 of 14 matches. In the first round of the knockout cup, they demolished Waimak United 17-0. Three girls were selected for their age group at national level over the course of the season.

Dunedin Technical and Seatoun AFC, acknowledged to be decent sides, were dispatched 7-0 and 4-0 respectively on the road to the English Park final.

Coastal Spirit had never won the knockout cup before. They had come close but fell in the semis in 2012, and finished runners-up the year before that. This was their greatest season.

The final was a sellout. It was supposed to be an advertisement for the women’s game and a group of players that usually plays in front of crowds numbering less than two-dozen.

For 90 minutes, it was.

The football may not have been the most technically proficient, but tactically, the two sides were a fair match.

The crowd soared with every half-chance and jeered when a refereeing decision didn’t go the way of their favourite team. There wasn’t a mention of the men’s looming Chatham Cup final during the game.

Coastal full-backs Laura Merrin and Meikayla Moore played inspired. School on Monday but who cares?

Lily Alfeld was in defiant form between the sticks, beating away everything Glenfield had to offer.

At the final whistle, the Coastal players came together and celebrated on the halfway line, joy sprawled across their young faces.

Pamela Yates, Glenfield’s unfortunate goalkeeper, hung her head.

“You’ve got to feel sorry for her,” a woman in the stands muttered.

She could have just as easily been talking about women’s football.

_Max Towle

Farming, fishing lead ACC claims in Timaru district

Farming and fishing are the most dangerous occupations in the Timaru district, according to the latest ACC injury claims figures.

Of the 2427 claims, 618 came from those sectors.

“It’s just the nature of the work,” said South Canterbury Federated Farmers Dairy chairman Ryan O’Sullivan.

“Quad bikes would be a large component of that. Most of those accidents are quite serious,” he said.

Too many farmers did not wear helmets, and he said he

had recently put an emphasis on making sure his workers wore protective gear on the farm.

“It’s making sure the equipment is fit for purpose. It’s something that has evolved a wee bit with health and safety, but at the same time it’s wanting your staff looked after.”

Mr O’Sullivan said many of the accidents were unavoidable because they involved working with unpredictable livestock.

ACC spokeswoman for Federated Farmers Katie Milne said stress from droughts or cattle prices had a huge effect on farming injuries. “When you’re not 100 per cent fit and healthy you’re more likely to have an accident.”

The ACC claims showed the 46-54 age group made the most claims in Timaru with 537, followed by 35-44 year-olds, who submitted 465 claims, and 55-64 year-olds, with 441.

In the past 10 years, ACC claims for workplace injuries in the Timaru district had dropped 20 per cent.

Miss Milne was not surprised because there had been a concerted effort from all workplaces to improve health and safety.

However, Workplace Safety Systems trainer Barbara Ford, of Timaru, said the figures were misleading.

“They’re not going down as we would like to see them,” she said. “We still have a long way to go.”

“There’s a lot of work that has to go in, and that will be raising standards.”

Alliance’s Smithfield freezing works employs about 500 workers, and plant manager Rob Lindsay said they had a five-year strategic plan in place to improve health and safety to achieve a zero workplace injury rate.

More than half the claims were for soft tissue injuries.

He put a strong emphasis on reporting accidents, then investigating how they could be avoided.

“We still have a lot of work we want to continue with,” he said. “We need to start hitting it hard, the easy stuff has been achieved.”

Ministry of Innovation, Business and Employment spokesman Britton Broun said ACC claims may not reflect workplace safety.

“The Health and Safety in Employment Act requires employers to notify them of serious injuries, which does not necessarily compare directly to ACC criteria for claims.”

_Emma Cropper reporting for The Timaru Herald

Horse becomes regular fixture on Chch streets

“A horse walks into a bar” is usually a set-up for jokes.

For Christchurch residents, however, it has become a reality, with Beautifoal the horse now a regular at local bars and cafes.

The horse and her owner Richard Hayden are of no fixed abode, but have become a fixture on city streets since they moved from Blenheim to Christchurch.

C1 Espresso owner Sam Crofskey said staff first noticed a horse walking past the inner city cafe months ago.

Since then, Beautifoal has become a regular, stopping by to use the drinking fountain and graze the parsley patch. Occasionally, she’s even been welcomed through the cafe doors to mingle with customers.

Crofskey said Hayden and Beautifoal seemed to share a close bond. “I don’t know much about human-equine relationships but they really seem to be best buddies.”

He said the pair were a great addition to the town centre.

“The horse adds colour to the city. The city is a different place now, and if there was ever a time for Christchurch to have a colourful character and his horse friend, now is surely the time.”

Beautifoal has also become something of a regular at the local pub.

Hannah Storey, of the Miller Bar on Lincoln Rd, said Hayden and Beautifoal would pop by for a drink from time to time, and occasionally offered the customers rides down the street.

“It’s definitely not something you see every day, a horse wandering up and down Lincoln Rd,” she said. “It sends our customers into hysterics.”

Crofskey said Hayden was always “polite, smart and funny”, and rejected claims from critics that he should not have the horse in the city.

Christchurch vet Kate Archbold said she stopped to examine the horse when she spotted her in the Moorehouse Ave Shell station.

Archbold said concerns about the horse’s welfare were unfounded, and Beautifoal was in “excellent condition”.

“She’s the most amazing horse, so calm, with a great disposition.” Archbold said Hayden had taken good care of Beautifoal, and the pair “definitely have a very strong bond”.

The pair have recently been joined by two dogs, who sleep in Beautifoal’s saddle bags.

Hayden and his horse have made headlines before, after interrupting a cricket match in Blenheim last year.

SPCA chief executive Barry Helem said the organisation had not had complaints about Beautifoal, and there was “no welfare issue that we’re aware of”‘.

_Tess McClure reporting for The Press

Farming works hard to appeal to young

Agriculture is the “flavour of the month” at one Timaru high school, despite worries from the farming sector that the subject is being overlooked.

South Canterbury Federated Farmers provincial president Ivon Hurst said students were not aware of the opportunities agriculture offers.

“In 10 years’ time, starting as a sharemilker, someone could be worth $10 million,” Mr Hurst said.

“It’s academic snobbery regarding farming being the pits.”

Mr Hurst believed students were learning less about farming because more families were growing up in urban areas.

However, local schools such as Mountainview High are pushing the subject and the skills students learn from agriculture.

The school has more than two hectares of farmland, and principal Derek Friend said agriculture studies were popular.

“It’s just flavour of the month at the moment,” he said.

With a large interest from the year 11s this year, Mountainview is looking to introduce National Certificate of Educational Achievement standards at level two next year.

A recent report undertaken by accounting firm KPMG found the public perception of the industry did not represent the sector as an “attractive profession”, and agriculture education was not recognised enough in New Zealand secondary schools.

Only 1 per cent of university students graduating had an agriculture-related degree. Instead, students were choosing “softer” subjects.

Roncalli College principal Chris Comeau said there were not enough enrolments to justify an agriculture class.

“People have a perception that farming is just sitting on a tractor.”

Aoraki Polytechnic was working with Lincoln University, high schools and local industry leaders to boost the agricultural programmes it offered.

“It is challenging to recruit students into agriculture,” said acting chief executive Alex Cabrera.

“We are very excited about developing further opportunities in areas such as irrigation. Based on our liaison with local industry, other areas we are considering developing are agricultural mechanics and farm management practice.”

The polytechnic’s primary industries portfolio manager, Andrea Leslie, said agriculture was becoming a lot more technological, business-focused, and output-driven.

“We need a skilled, competent workforce in order to meet the developing demand of the industry. It is important not to overlook the opportunities available in primary industries.

“It is not just farming; it could mean irrigation, supporting sustainability and environment, food production, and business.”

_Emma Cropper reporting for The Timaru Herald

Medical clowning degree to be launched

Kiwis who believe laughter is the best medicine can now gain a degree in the subject, with the country’s first medical clowning qualification to be launched this December.

Professional “care clown” Dr Thomas Petschner has brought the qualification to New Zealand through Steinbeis University in Berlin.

Those who seek to become qualified clowners can do a certificate, diploma or full bachelor of arts in medical clowning.

The university’s International Institute for Medical Clowning is the first of its kind, with 240 people enrolled to study medical clowning worldwide.

Petschner said the occupation’s popularity was “just exploding”, with 600 new enrolments for next year – 20 of whom will be New Zealand Kiwi students.

Clown Doctors New Zealand, founded by Petschner in 2009, has sent trained performers into Christchurch hospitals for more than four years.

Clown Doctors managing director Rita Noetzel said she hoped the qualification would help medical clowning become a more creditable and valued occupation in New Zealand.

“In New Zealand, medical clowning is not really recognised as a profession the way it is in Europe and other countries.”

Noetzel said it was vital medical clowns were properly trained and educated, as they were working with sick children and vulnerable families.

“You’re not just a clown going to a birthday party, you’re dealing with people who are very unwell, and you’re trying to use humour for healing.”

Students of medical clowning will study performing arts, health science, psychology and practical clowning experience.

Christchurch hospital child services manager Anne Morgan said clown doctors made a tangible difference in the ward.

“They provide a way to help relax the children. It reduces anxiety, helps treatment, and helps their recovery.

“What we need for children is different types of distraction to take away from what’s happening round them,” she said.

Morgan said the clowns had become a valuable part of the hospital’s services.

Noetzel said the clowning was not only important to ill children, but helped family and staff as well. For staff working in wards with extremely ill children, she said, the clown doctors gave permission to laugh and relax.

_Tess McClure reporting for The Press

App puts information at firefighters’ fingertips

Local firemen are now able to tackle fires with the help of a smartphone application.

By entering a few details about weather conditions at the scene of a fire, the new application will help frontline firefighters know how fast, in what direction and how hotly a fire is burning.

“It saves us going to the computer or doing the calculations by hand,” said South Canterbury principal rural fire officer Rob Hands.

“After 30 seconds you have what you are looking for. There are a lot of gadgets out there, but this is one that is worthwhile.”

The application had been released last year on android phones, but after high demand from firefighters, a version for the Apple iPhone has been made available.

The application, Fire Behaviour Calculator, developed by the Christchurch-based Scion rural fire research team, had been pitched towards rural firefighters.

In a situation of more than one fire, the information frontline firemen could access from the application would allow them to predict which fire was the priority and where to send resources.

Data collected from experimental burns and wildfires were used to develop tools that help fire managers to make decisions about how best to tackle any given fire.

“These tools started out as paper-based lookup tables and field manuals,” senior fire researcher Grant Pearce said.

“Over time, we evolved these into software applications, which are now used widely by fire managers.”

By putting wind speed, relative humidity, slope, and other factors into their phones, fire managers can use the software to calculate a fire’s rate of spread, its intensity, flame length and a lot of other useful measures for firefighting.

Mr Hands said while they had used it in training exercises, they were still waiting for suitable fires to use it in the field.

_Emma Cropper reporting for The Timaru Herald

Underground trade in raw milk grows

An underground raw milk market is growing in Canterbury as people scramble to get their hands on the controversial product.

Carolyn-Rae Searle, a Weston A Price Foundation representative, said the demand for raw milk was rising. However, most suppliers were keeping a low profile because they were not certified.

The growing interest for the product has alerted the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), which is in the final stages of a farm gate sales regulation review.

Dairy farmers can sell raw milk on their farm as long as they are certified, sales are limited to five litres a person, and consumers are told the milk is unpasteurised.

Food safety concerns drive the restrictions as raw milk can carry bugs including listeria, E.coli, salmonella and campylobacter.

However, Searle said registering was too expensive for small suppliers who only had a few cows. As a result, an underground market was growing in the region.

“It’s word of mouth. It’s clearly not advertised.”

For Searle, this was more a return to traditional ways than a fad.

An uncertified supplier, who asked not to be named, said supplying raw milk without certification was a kind of “underground resistance” to government regulations and big milk producers.

“If you keep it underground then you can do it and keep going but if you advertise it then you have to conform to all the specifications.

“Just because the Government says it’s wrong, doesn’t mean we’re not going do it.”

Christchurch resident Jackie Donn has been buying raw milk for two years from “a private supply of milk which is quite legitimate”.

“I like the raw milk because it has far more goodness in it,” she said.

A raw milk drinker who asked not be named said her migraines, hay fever, and allergy to mosquito bites receded since she switched from pasteurised milk three years ago. Her son’s eczema had improved too.

The woman said she trusted her supplier despite them possibly not being certified.

MPI communications adviser Julie Buchanan said all dairy farmers must operate under a registered risk management programme.

“Shutdowns and legal implications can take place if they are found to be non-compliant,” she said.

Oxford farmers Geoff and Sandra Rountree will start selling the controversial beverage through a refrigerated vending machine at their farm gate this week.

The Rountrees are franchisees of raw milk company Village Milk, which has developed a network of six vending machines around New Zealand in just over a year.

Managing director Richard Houston said his franchisees were the only certified raw milk suppliers in the country.

_Cecile Meier reporting for The Press

Retirement village residents still out of pocket

Christchurch retirement village residents who lost their homes to earthquake damage are still fighting for compensation despite law changes to stop a repeat.

Changes to the Retirement Villages Code of Practice 2008 which took effect yesterday mean retirement villages will no longer be able to take a cut when paying out occupants of units damaged or destroyed by natural disaster.

The move follows a recommendation by Retirement Commissioner Diana Crossan in March.

However, the law change has come too late for many elderly unit owners left out of pocket after the Canterbury quakes in 2010 and 2011.

Under the Government’s original code of practice, residents who had bought a licence to occupy a unit for life were only reimbursed their original purchase price after losing their homes, less a portion held back by the owner.

Some were left with less than half the value of their homes, despite having paid insurance levies.

Joe Hollander’s mother, Kate Sheppard Retirement Village resident Grace Hollander, lost her unit to earthquake damage.

Hollander said the law change was “too little, too late” for those left homeless or out of pocket.

“The stable door’s been closed after the horse has bolted,” he said.

Rest home owners who had taken a chunk from the payout were “hiding behind the contracts”, he said.

“They’ve just got the money, got the insurance, and scarpered.”

Hollander said ex-residents of Kate Sheppard and their families had petitioned the finance and expenditure select committee for compensation, but they had heard nothing since a hearing in August.

Grey Power president Roy Reid said the organisation began lobbying for residents’ compensation in July 2012, but there was no timeframe for a decision from the select committee.

“We’re disappointed it’s taken [the] Government so long to process, because unfortunately some of those former residents have since died,” he said.

Building Minister Maurice Williamson said the ministry wanted to “make sure this couldn’t happen again and owners were protected in such situations”.

“We needed to ensure that retirees were not paying maintenance charges for future work on buildings that no longer exist or are not inhabitable due to events beyond their control.”

Age Concern chief executive Simon Templeton said the changes were a good thing, but it was “very disappointing to see that they [Kate Sheppard residents] have been so negatively affected and have not been covered by this”.

He urged those looking at buying rest home units to get legal advice before signing a contract.

_Tess McClure reporting for The Press