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Auckland withdraws divisive survey

Following strong reaction from Auckland’s diverse communities, Auckland Council has withdrawn two research surveys perceived as encouraging racism.

A survey by Auckland Council has evoked strong reaction from the communities.  (Photo: Philip Capper)

A survey by Auckland Council has evoked strong reaction from diverse communities. (Photo: Philip Capper)

The council had sent the surveys to 20,000 households in Northcote and Balmoral – two of Auckland’s most culturally diverse communities.

People were asked how they felt, from “very cold” to “very warm”,  towards ethnic groups including Pakeha, Chinese, Indian, Korean, and “other Asian” people, says a report in The Aucklander newspaper.

The surveys, which cost $18,000, asked locals to say if their interactions with the ethnic groups were favourable or unfavourable; whether immigrants contributed to the economy; and if it was a good idea to have Asian businesses grouped together.

Auckland is home to 150 ethnicities as per the last Census. Some neighbourhoods have significantly higher Asian population. Balmoral and Northcote are two such neighbourhoods. As many as 40% people in Mount Roskill are Asians. This number is 21% in Northcote. At a national level, New Zealand is predominantly an European country (74%), with Asians accounting for only 12% of the total population.

Defending the survey, the council says the intention of the surveys,  was to enable an understanding of how interactions between people from different ethnic and cultural groups in a commercial context, influence wider social cohesion.

While the council has withdrawn the survey, it believes that the research was necessary. “Research on Auckland’s ethnic diversity and how it relates to precincts and local economic development is an important part of making Auckland the world’s most liveable city, says Harvey Brookes, Acting Chief Planning Officer, for the council.

“However, despite the council’s research ethics approval processes, we understand that at least one question in this survey may have caused offence to some people.

“Although this question was based on similar questions asked in national and international research in this area, we acknowledge that the question could be perceived as legitimising discrimination.

“We will write to the recipients of the survey, asking them not to complete it and advise them that the council will not process any surveys which have been returned.”

The council will review the survey design and consider issuing a re-designed survey at a later date.

Auckland Council wants to understand these demographic changes across Auckland’s communities and neighbourhoods, and explore the social and economic effects and implications of those changes.

The main objective of this type of research is to support Auckland Council’s work in local economic and community development by exploring the effects of change in the Dominion Road area and in Northcote.

Entertainment Lifestyle News

Women-only swim sessions irk some in NZ

Free swimming pools auckland new zealand

New Zealand’s Hamilton City may have a tough job on hand as it proposes to re-introduce women-only swimming sessions at the council-owned swimming facility.

Aimed at attracting more women to swimming, the proposal is being labeled as “man ban” by one of New Zealand’s largest news outlet – Stuff.

Stuff reporter Aaron Leaman says, “A man ban at one of Hamilton’s public pools is in the works to lure more women into the water, but critics have slammed the idea as “separatist thinking”.

Under a proposal being worked on by city council staff, men could be excluded from the Gallagher Aquatic Centre during twice-weekly women-only swimming sessions.”

It is ironic that a mainstream publication is labeling women-only sessions as “men-ban” plan, without clearly understanding the need for such sessions.

Similar line is towed by David Farrar on KiwiBlog. “That’s fair enough – so long as male ratepayers no longer have to fund the pool.” David overlooks the fact that many sporting facilities are funded by women-ratepayers and are predominantly used by male sportspeople.

The Stuff story has evoked strong reaction.

Disappointing headline to this article, says local community leader Anjum Rahman.  “To me, this issue is similar to women’s only gyms. It’s about providing access to people who otherwise wouldn’t be going to a swimming facility. I wouldn’t mind if the men had a similar session, if it meant more of them could access a pool.”

Agrees former race relations commissioner Joris de Bres. “If you frame stories like this, it’s no wonder you get a negative reaction. What’s wrong with “swimming sessions for women”. How tiresome. The separatist tag applied by the spokesperson for the residents and ratepayers is just silly.

“It’s perfectly permissible under the Human Rights Act; it’s done in a number of other centres. No one’s right to go for a swim is denied by this. I hope the Council goes ahead with the proposal.”

The article shows lack of cultural understanding of the media outlet. Hamilton is a diverse community, and it includes people from cultures where women traditionally wear loose garments and cover their heads, as well as women who have left countries which are not as peaceful as New Zealand is, says New Zealand-born Deborah Russell.

“Many of these women might like to swim, and would benefit from learning to swim, but do not want to wear the form fitting and really rather revealing clothing that New Zealanders usually wear when swimming.”

This is a classic example of people not understanding the difference between equality and equity and how treating people the same can marginalise people, says health professional Ruth DeSouza.

“I see this kind of thinking in health so often, where if a group has their unique needs met, there’s a zero sum game thinking mentality where if one group has something that responds to their unique needs, the fear is I will miss out, even though my needs are being catered to all the time.”

Many cities around New Zealand have already offered women-only sessions, including New Zealand’s biggest cities – Auckland and Wellington.

In fact, swimming lessons for Muslim women conducted at Auckland’s Cameron pool won the New Zealand Recreation Association Award for excellence, innovation and effectiveness.

The swimming programme was established in 2004 by the Auckland Somali Community Association, to help Muslim women improve their health, combat isolation and make connections within the community.

The successful programme attracts as many as 150 Muslim women from all over Auckland arrive at Cameron Pool every Sunday night just after it closes to the public at 6pm. For the next two hours, and for a nominal charge of $2, they get exclusive use of its facilities, overseen by specially trained pool staff.

Cameron Pool even provides ladies-only gym area and offers free sessions for women.

gym for women Cameron Pool Auckland


Lifestyle News

Aucklanders shying away from cars

New Auckland trains

New Auckland trains

New Zealand’s largest city – Auckland – is sending signals that show that the tide in turning against use of cars for commute.

According to the latest figures released by Auckland Transport,  Aucklanders took 7.3 million trips in public transport in March – an increase of 4% in the number of people using public transport compared to March last year.

The year to March also saw strong growth with just over 71 million trips.

Rail continues to be the star performing with more than 11 million trips in the year to March, up 14% on an annual basis.

The jump in rail numbers reflects the improved on-time performance, integrated ticketing and the renewed interest in rail with the introduction of the electric trains, says Auckland Transport Group Manager, Public Transport Mark Lambert.

“March saw a record number of people using Auckland’s train services.”

The first electric trains started yesterday on the Onehunga line.

The Northern Express bus service also had a record month in March, up 6% for the year.

Other bus services carried 52 million passengers in the year to March, an annual increase of 3%.

Meanwhile, there was an increase of 9% in cycling in March compared to March 2013. The morning peak saw a rise of 20%.

Business Lifestyle News

NZ’s rabbit pizza sold out

Hell New Zealand pizza
Hell New Zealand pizza

Hell Pizza’s billboard in New Zealand, made of real rabbit fur, created outrage in the country.

Once New Zealanders got over the shock of Hell Pizza’s billboard made of rabbit fur, they were so quick to grab a bite of the new rabbit pizza, that the outlet  sold out the product within three weeks of the launch.

On the back of the rabbit pizza, Hell recorded the highest ever week sales in the store’s 18-year history.

Wellington-based Hell tried to source more wild rabbit from its Southland suppliers; however, weather conditions defied the professional hunters.

Rabbits were first released in New Zealand by Captain Cook in 1777. They are considered a pest and can be hunted all year.

“We initially thought that 600kg would suffice, but soon realised that demand for the product was far greater than we forecast,” says Hell general manager Ben Cumming.

In the short time, Hell sold 6,562 pizzas which the restaurant equates to around 13,000 Kiwis trying the rabbit pizza.

Set up in 1996 by  Callum Davies, Hell has branches in the UK, Korea, Canada and India. In 2006 it was sold to the franchise Tasman Pacific Foods which owns Burger King.

Hell Pizza is known for its controversial marketing campaign – in 2006, the pizza outlet marketed their Lust Pizza with 170,000 free condoms.

Rabbit Food Facts

  • The USDA has stated that rabbit is the most nutritious meat known to man. It has about half the amount of cholesterol of chicken, turkey, beef, pork, or lamb and 33% less sodium than chicken.
  • Rabbits will produce 6 pounds of meat on the same feed and water as a cow will produce 1 pound of meat on the same feed and water.
  • Two rabbits can produce nine million kittens in three years
  • “Easter Bunny Syndrome” is a phrase used to describe people that happily eat other meats but have an aversion to rabbit due to the “cute” factor. (Source: Yahoo News)


Lifestyle News Study Abroad

NZ launches online tool for depression

Depression among youth

Depression among youth

New Zealand has launched SPARX – a clinically tested self-help tool developed especially for young New Zealanders.

The online game-style tool developed by Auckland University will help young people develop skills to deal with feeling down, depressed or stressed.

An initiative of the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project, SPARX is a welcome tool in a country with 20% depressed youth.

“We know mental health is a big issue for teenagers with around one in five young people experiencing some form of problem during adolescence,” says Prime Minister John Key.

“It’s important that they can get help when they need it,” says John.

SPARX is designed to fill a treatment gap with young people who may not currently be seeking help. Users can access, register and start using SPARX independently and anonymously in their own time – making help available to more young people around New Zealand.

As an e-therapy SPARX has been widely tested with young people in New Zealand and has been found to be an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression.

A study in the British Medical Journal in 2012 found use of SPARX resulted in a ‘clinically significant’ reduction in depression, anxiety and an improvement in quality of life.

SPARX is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which teaches skills to cope with negative thoughts and feelings, including behaviours important in protecting against depression – problem solving, being active, positive cognition, social skills, and relaxation.

It is also designed to fit alongside other forms of mental health treatment including face to face therapy, medication, family therapy and working on other issues in the young person’s life, like dealing with bullying, and addressing alcohol or drug abuse.

Recording artist Stan Walker is supporting the launch by allowing his latest single ‘Bully’ to be used to get the SPARX message out to young people.

The Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project was launched in April 2012 and is investing $62 million over four years in a range of initiatives to improve youth mental health, delivered in schools, online, through communities and health services.

(Photo credit: Deviant Art)

Lifestyle News

Auckland enters electrifying future

Auckland Trasnports, trains in Auckland

Auckland Trasnports, trains in Auckland

Auckland has finally caught up with the rest of the world with an upgraded rail network.

A new era in New Zealand’s public transport is being ushered in today with the launch of Auckland’s NZ$500 million electric train fleet.

The trains have been launched at Britomart by Mayor Len Brown along with Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee and Auckland Transport Chairman Dr Lester Levy.

While eventually 57 electric trains will run across Auckland by mid-2015, only seven trains are being commissioned this month. The new trains are faster, quieter and can run in both directions of a track. (For features of the new train, watch the video at the end of this article.)

The City Rail Link with its three new stations will see journey times reduced – the trip from New Lynn to Aotea will take just 23 minutes and from Panmure to Newton 27 minutes.

New Auckland trains

Len Brown says the new trains are world class. “Now is the time for Aucklanders to get on board and I know they absolutely will. Recently we hit the 11 million mark for annual trips, and given these trains and agreement on the City Rail Link, our aim of 20 million trips is now a very realistic target in the coming years.

“The new trains are setting up public transport in Auckland for the future. Combined with the City Rail Link, the new trains mean that in time we will see trains operating every seven to ten minutes on all lines”.

To mark the launch of the trains, 5000 Aucklanders are enjoyed free ride between Britomart and Newmarket and return on Sunday. Comments from members of the public include: “They’re so quiet”, “The ride is so smooth” and “These trains are really good”.

Dr Levy says Aucklanders have good reason to be excited, “The new trains are a huge step up from what our customers have been used to. They are enviromentally friendly, energy efficient and produce no air pollution. The trains are modern, comfortable, safe and a pleasure to ride”.

The trains travel faster than the current fleet and will allow services to run more often and get passengers to their destination quicker.

Each train has seating for 232 passengers and standing room for more. The trains have wider doors making it easier for passengers.

The central carriage is at platform level for wheelchairs, prams or bikes and automatic ramps mean a seamless transition between the platform and the train.

Open gangways between cars mean passengers can move from one end of the train to the other.

Tomorrow morning the first paying services start with the electric trains running on the line between Britomart and Onehunga.


  • There are now 12 electric train units in Auckland. Seven have been commissioned – that is, they  have their registration and warrants with five more about to be tested.
  • The supplier, CAF has used equipment from Japan, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Spain – taking the best from the world to create trains specifically for Auckland.
  • It takes more than 15,000 hours to fabricate and assemble one electric train unit, there are 110km of wiring in each unit.
  • Each train is tested for 1000 hours on the tracks.
  • To create the weight of passengers while we were testing the trains, we used 1800 20kgs sandbags on each train.
  • To date we have trained 47 drivers, 86 train managers and 13 supervisors.
  • We have spent 3008 hours on driver training and 1504 hours on theory.
  • Drivers have spent 752 hours on the electric train simulator.
  • To date we have driven more than 25,000kms with the electric trains during testing and commissioning.

Entertainment Lifestyle

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Australia with Prince George

Duchess Catherine Middleton in Australia 2014

Duchess Catherine Middleton in Australia 2014


Following their successful visit to New Zealand, the British royalty – Duke William and Duchess of Cambridge Catherine Middleton visited Australia and attended the annual Anzac Day dawn service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also met three of Australia’s surviving Victoria Cross recipients at a reception hosted by the Governor-General.

Twitter was abuzz with the photos of the royal visit to New Zealand. Here’s a selection of photos, courtesy ABC News Australia.



Lifestyle News Politics

Kejriwal vs Modi: AAP opens war room in Varanasi



The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Wednesday opened its war room in Varanasi’s Mahmoorganj area, opening up a new front in the high-profile battle between party supremo Arvind Kejriwal and BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

As part of its first activity, the AAP cited its own survey covering 80,000 households out of the total 3.14 lakh in Varanasi and said Kejriwal was trailing behind Modi by 50,000 votes.

Of the 16,00,000 voters, 300,000 are Muslims.

With Mukhtar Ansari deciding against contesting from Varanasi, trying to avoid a major split in the Muslim vote bank,  AAP is hopeful of an inroad. But the party keeps distancing itself from Ansari for obvious reasons. Another beneficiary may be Congress nominee Ajay Rai.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, as BSP nominee Ansari got 1.85 lakh votes, losing to BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi only by about 17,000 votes.



Lifestyle News

Get India elections analysis with conf call in US

The Wall Street investor conference calls analyzing Indian elections are getting a growing number of callers.

A large and varied number of people across the United States are dialing into a unique conference call that takes place every week to discuss what is being described as the most consequential elections in India’s history.

Elections in India, Modi, Gandhi, Kejriwal

Though of interest and open to everyone, most callers are having more than a passing interest in India – they want to get expert opinion on the election trends in India, or to understand the economic policies of various political parties, or to evaluate the investment environment in India post elections, says a statement issued by US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), the organisers of the call.

Participants across 9 cities, which included leaders of the Indian American community, policy-makers at Capitol Hill, investment bankers and investors from the Wall Street along with technology entrepreneurs and academicians are connecting through the call.

The discussion points during the calls touch upon subjects such as possible outcomes of the elections, impact on trade and investments in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, energy, aviation, IT, status of civil liability bill, possible shift in India’s foreign policy.

This series of weekly conference calls include noted analysts from India providing their expert opinion to the American callers. The calls have so far featured Dr. Jagdeep S. Chhokar, the founder member of Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-profit organization that’s working for government and electoral change in India; and Dr. Anupam Srivastava, Managing Director of Invest India.

“There is significant interest in the U.S. about the upcoming elections in India. Policy makers, businesses, and investors want to evaluate the developments. Major policy and business decisions would depend on the outcome of these elections. Through this initiative we aim to provide a better understanding of India to our U.S. members so that bilateral relations which are seeing a rocky present, have a cooperative future,“ said Sanjay Puri, the chairman of USINPAC.

USINPAC plans to conduct these calls May 16.

“In an age when we all live with information overload, key decision-makers want a quick, crisp, and high-quality analysis from the real situation on-ground. The financial community on Wall Street is long used to such analyst calls that help them to forecast or price company stocks. We are doing something similar, but with a big difference – our callers are interested in a country, not a company stock,” Puri further added.

Lifestyle News

Indian voters go all out with selfies of voting

Indian voters have never shown such enthusiasm towards elections, politics and their right to vote.

Indian voters, especially the first time voters, not only came out in big numbers for voting in the second phase of the largest voting exercise in the world, they also showed off their privilege on social media by posting pictures of their finger with election ink on them.

New Delhi, which had recorded an abysmal 54% voting in 2009 general elections, reported a whopping 64% voter turnout.


Art Lifestyle Sport

Prince George gets his first bike in NZ

Prince George will take his first bike home from New Zealand – an Avanti Lil Ripper 12” bike with a bespoke design.

The Avanti Lil Ripper was gifted to the Duke of Cambridge by Avanti New Zealand founder John Struthers at the official opening of the Avantidrome – an indoor cycling track for all types of cyclists – from beginner enthusiasts to professionals.

British Royal Family in New Zealand

The bike features a bespoke design by Shane Hansen, one of New Zealand’s leading contemporary artists.

John Struthers, Avanti founder, said it is a privilege to gift one of Avanti’s popular children’s bikes to Prince George on his first visit to New Zealand.

“We’re sure, as with all new parents, it will be exciting for the Duke and Duchess to see their son riding his first bike. We understand a child’s first bike has always been a significant event in any family.”

“It is a pleasure to be part of the official opening of the Avantidrome. Avanti is committed to cycling in New Zealand and to continually designing bikes with leading edge technology, for family recreation through to high performance cycling teams. We are excited that this new world-class facility will cater to these groups,” he said.

The Avanti Lil Ripper’s lightweight alloy frame, wheels and no pedals is perfect for teaching balance and confidence in the early years of learning to ride, said an Avanti spokesperson, in a statement. Integrating bespoke artwork personalised the bike for the Royal family and will be a reminder of their time in New Zealand, the statement said.

Artist Shane Hansen said the Big Adventure design was aptly named because a bike signified a “big adventure” for young and old alike.

“The design was created to represent Prince George’s first visit to New Zealand and in a bigger context, his future journey through life.

“Maori motifs signify the planting of seeds, the nurturing and growing of relationships and connection to the people of this land. The flowing nature of the design creates movement, helping to carry Prince George forward and negotiate life’s ups and downs, with a balanced approach,” he said.

A replica of the Prince’s bike has been made as a reminder of the Royal visit and will be on display at the Avantidrome.

Avanti has a long and strong association with cycling in New Zealand and Australia. This includes more than $1m to develop the platform of bikes that will power the Avanti Racing Team during 2014.

Business Global Indians Immigration Lifestyle News

Ethnic people urged to join govt boards

Ethnic people in New Zealand


Do you believe you could make a difference to New Zealand communities? The Office of Ethnic Affairs in New Zealand is urging ethnic people to nominate themselves to be considered for appointment to government boards, committees and advisory groups, including those of Crown companies.

Ethnic people in New Zealand

The positions give an opportunity to contribute to the prosperity and strength of New Zealand’s economy and communities.

The OEA is consulted by agencies that support the Government’s appointment of candidates to more than 400 state sector boards and committees. The OEA provides an avenue through which ethnic people can register their interest and availability to take up board appointments.

Minister Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi is requesting people from the Indian communities to express their interest to be considered for these roles on the boards.

“As the face and heart of New Zealand becomes more diverse, it’s crucial that leaders in ethnic communities play a more active role shaping decision-making,” says Kanwaljit.

“It’s important every New Zealander feels inspired and has the opportunity to step into leadership roles in our neighbourhoods, workplaces, on boards and in broader decision making authorities,” says the New Delhi-born minister.

KanwaljitBakshi“This is one of the reasons I aspired to become a Member of Parliament. As a country we are extremely proud of our diversity and it’s increasingly seen as a competitive advantage on so many levels particularly when it comes to business.

“That’s why we’re working to make sure that we create the best culture and environment possible for this exchange of knowledge and skills.

“The 2014 series of EthnicA conferences, which began last weekend, help do just this;  stressing the importance of diverse leadership for New Zealand’s success.

“Migrant businesses are a wealth of international knowledge for other New Zealand businesses. Likewise migrant businesses are able to learn and feed off New Zealand businesses that have an institutional understanding of operating in our domestic environment.

“These conferences are part of a fantastic pool of programmes organised by the Office of Ethnic Affairs (OEA) to tap into New Zealand’s ethnic diversity and find new avenues to develop and strengthen leadership across the board.

“At the event a range of speakers told experiences operating ‘in two worlds’ because to be successful we have to learn to navigate and balance both the demands of our working life, with the demands of our home or community life.”

Who could apply to be considered for the board roles

In order to be considered for board roles, you need to display at least one of the following characteristics:

  • have held a position on a board or committee at any level
  • have been elected to a board or council position
  • have a leadership role in a corporate environment, professional association or community group
  • are a director of a business
  • have good networks/connections within your community or a particular sector
  • have corporate, legal, accounting or financial expertise or experience
  • experience in managing commercial assets

For more information, visit OEA website.


Immigration Lifestyle News Work Abroad

NZ ranked world’s most socially advanced country

New Zealand is the most socially advanced nation in the world according to a global index published by US-based nonprofit, the Social Progress Imperative, and released at the 2014 Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.

move to New Zealand

New Zealand topped the rankings across a wide range of measures–according to the Social Progress Index 2014 which ranks 132 countries based on their social and environmental performance. The result was described as “exceptional” by Michael Green, Executive Directive of the Social Progress Imperative.

The Social Progress Index, created by a team led by Professor Michael E. Porter of Harvard Business School, is designed as a complement to GDP and other economic indicators to provide a more holistic understanding of countries’ overall performance.

What is social progress?

Social progress is defined as the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens to improve their lives, and create the conditions for individuals and communities to meet their full potential.


Measuring a country’s social progress outcomes the Index identifies a number of areas in which New Zealand is performing strongly compared to countries with a comparable GDP per capita, including on ‘Personal Rights’, ‘Water and Sanitation’ and ‘Personal Freedom and Choice’.

Until now, the assumption has been that there is a direct relationship between economic growth and wellbeing, says Professor Michael E. Porter.

“However, the Social Progress Index finds that all economic growth is not equal. While higher GDP per capita is correlated with social progress, the connection is far from automatic. For similar levels of GDP, we find that some countries, like New Zealand, achieve much higher levels of social progress than others.”

It’s some accolade that across so many measures New Zealand outperforms countries like the United States, UK and Australia, says
Michael Green, Executive Director of the Social Progress Imperative.

“It’s particularly on the measure of ‘Opportunity’ that New Zealand performs strongly thanks to it’s top global rankings on ‘Personal Rights’ and ‘Personal Freedom and Choice’.”

The Social Progress Imperative created the Social Progress Index working in collaboration with scholars from the Harvard Business School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as well as international organizations in social entrepreneurship, business and philanthropy led by the Skoll Foundation and Fundacion Avina as well as Cisco, Compartamos Banco, Deloitte Global and its member firms (Deloitte).

The result is particularly impressive in the context of New Zealand’s relative economic weakness compared to countries that finished much lower on the Index. New Zealand enjoys the world’s 25th highest GDP per capita of $25,857, finishing ahead of the United States in 16th ranking with a per capita GDP of over $45,000*; the UK in 13th with a per capita GDP of over $32,500*; and Australia in 10th with a per capita GDP of $34,669*.

Key global highlights:

  • The top five countries in order of ranking are: New Zealand, Switzerland, Netherlands, Iceland, and Norway.
  • Canada is the best performing G8 country.
  • Brazil is the top of the BRICS, followed by South Africa, Russia, China and India. Apart from Brazil, the BRICS are all significant under-performers on social progress, suggesting that, for China and India in particular, rapid economic growth is not yet being converted into better lives for their citizens.

Key New Zealand findings:

Of the 54 indicators measured within each country to make up the overall Index ranking, New Zealand scores top spot in no less than 20, across a wide variety of different measures. These include tying in first place globally on measures of homicide (less than 2 per 100,000 people); levels of corruption and religious tolerance.


New Zealand scores strongly on the ‘Access to Basic Knowledge’ component finishing 2nd globally. Included in this is secondary school enrollment on which New Zealand scores top.

New Zealand also finishes top ranked on ‘Personal Freedom and Choice’, owing to impressive results on religious freedoms and freedom over life choices.

On ‘Tolerance and Inclusion’ New Zealand scores fourth globally, thanks partly to its high tolerance for immigrants and religious tolerance.

On the ‘Access to Information and Communications’ measure New Zealand scores 7th globally, which is a relatively strong result compared to countries of a similar GDP. The result owes partly to an exceptionally high rate of mobile telephone subscriptions (more than 110 for every 100 people) as well as ranking number one globally for press freedoms.

Other findings

According to the researchers New Zealand doesn’t have any specific weaknesses. However, the Social Progress Index 2014 highlights obesity as a challenge to ‘Health and Wellness’ – more than one in four New Zealanders are obese.

Also, one of New Zealand’s weaker score is on ‘Nutrition and Basic Medical Care’ (28th), a result partly of its 36th place ranking on the measure of maternal mortality (15 deaths per 100,000 live births). The top ranking country on this measure is Estonia with just two deaths per 100,000 births. Similarly, New Zealand’s child mortality rate of 5.7 deaths per 1000 live births is more than double Iceland who ranked in first place with just 2 deaths per 1000 live births.

Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation, said: “Making social progress a true imperative means putting the progress of humanity and our wellbeing on an equal footing with GDP. The Social Progress Index prioritizes and measures what matters, capturing data that ranges from basic needs such as health to the building blocks and guarantees of opportunity such as education and rights.

Health News

NZ doctors putting patients at risk

doctors shortage Auckland hospital

Mistakes by doctors are inevitable in the current working environment, says the union representing New Zealand’s resident doctors.

Recently, a man died in an Auckland hospital from a tear in his aorta after the doctor overlooked an X-Ray. According to the coroner’s report, Trevor Bourke, 69, could have been saved had the doctor at the North Shore Hospital not forgotten to review his X-ray.

Trevor arrived at the hospital with chest pain on 25 May 2013. He passed away the next day.

Dr Aik Haw Tan, overwhelmed by a busy night shift, failed to review the X-ray that could have led to the diagnosis of the tear.

The New Zealand Resident Doctors Association (NZRDA) national secretary Dr Deborah Powell is concerned with the safety level of patients.

“Both the workloads and the hours resident doctors continue to be asked to work is high. Mistakes are bound to happen if doctors are overworked and tired. It is inevitable that patients will suffer in such circumstances.”

“My heart also goes out to Dr Tan,” Deborah says. “Here we have a doctor working through the night and he’s rushed off his feet with 75 per cent more than the usual number of patient admissions to get through.

“When Dr Tan saw Mr Bourke, his symptoms were very vague and certainly not suggestive of something as serious as an aortic tear. The conditions were stacked against him. Now one of his patients has died. It’s a tragedy for all involved.”

Deborah says the reality is that cases like this are just symptoms of the wider problem within New Zealand hospitals.

“Tragedies like this will continue to occur unless the issue of shortages and proper resourcing are addressed.

The Auckland district health board plans to cut staff costs due to a $12 million budget deficit.

In addition to physical and emotional loss suffered by patients, medical errors are also costing taxpayers thousands of dollars in payouts by the country’s health welfare provider – Accident Compensation Commission (ACC).

ACC paid as much as $7.6 million in 2011  to victims of treatment injuries – missed or delayed diagnoses, medication errors and erroneous surgery.

Two people who topped the list ended up as paraplegics after medical treatment have received more than $200,000 each in compensation.

ACC paid $7.6 million to 3600 people for treatment injuries in 2011, with further 1200 claims to be processed.

Lifestyle News

Families Commission seeks ethnic advisors

Immigration New Zealand

New Zealand’s ethnic communities have an opportunity to make their voice heard.

The New Zealand Families Commission is seeking expressions of interest from ethnic communities to be part of a reference group and represent their community on issues relating to families.

The reference group helps to ensure the Commission is well connected to the community and that the Commission’s work is relevant and needed, says Chief Families Commissioner Belinda Milnes.

The Commission is looking for people who can:

  • play a recognised leadership role within their community;
  • advise on key issues affecting their community and families;
  • provide high level advice on the current gaps in research and evidence relevant to issues affecting their community;
  • understand government processes relating to policy development, research and evaluation
  • demonstrate a sound understanding of various social science research methodologies.

The Commission also has two other groups that represent the views of Māori and Pacific communities respectively.

Members are appointed for up to three years. The reference groups meet three times a year in Wellington in March, August and October. Members are paid a meeting fee and travel costs.

Belinda says the Families Commission wishes to increase the use of evidence by people working across the social sector so that they can make better decisions – whether it’s about funding, policies or services – to improve the lives of New Zealanders.

“We do this by bridging the gap between those who research and produce social sector evidence, and those making decisions, about social issues or issues relating to families and whānau.”

The Commission works with others to grow and improve the evidence needed for informed decision making. It also facilitates the use of quality, relevant and timely research and evidence, and encourages best practice. And it promotes informed debate on key issues facing New Zealand as well as issues that affect families and whānau.

The Expressions of Interest and Terms of Reference are available on the Families Commission website. Expressions of Interest close on Monday 7 April 2014.

(Photo credit: St Pete Clearwater)

Health News

Hep A scare in NZ following apple infection

Hepatitis A alert New Zealand

A small quantity of fresh fruit sold in New Zealand in late February and early March may have been contaminated with Hepatitis A virus.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says the risk of transmission of the virus is relatively low.

“We have been advised that a person packing some varieties of apples and peaches in a Hawke’s Bay packhouse has been diagnosed with Hepatitis A,” says MPI Deputy Director General Scott Gallacher.

“This worker handled Royal Gala and New Zealand Beauty apples and Golden Queen peaches over a four day period while they would have been infectious. Hepatitis A virus can remain infectious on the surface of fruit for some months and transmit infection to other handlers and consumers.

Scott says while some potentially affected fruit has been traced and withdrawn from sale, it is expected that approximately 1400 cartons have been sold, with fruit either consumed or still in some people’s homes.

Scott says all fruit involved in this case was for domestic New Zealand supply and has not been exported.

The fruit concerned was on sale between 27 February and 13 March 2014 at the following outlets.

Royal Gala apples from:
All Countdown supermarkets in the North Island.
The following Christchurch retailers – G Morris and Son, Fresh Connection, United Fresh, Edgeware Supervalue.

Golden Queen peaches from:
All Countdown supermarkets in the North Island.
Pak n Save, New World and Four Square supermarkets from Taupo to Kaitaia.

The following Auckland retailers –  Dahua Supermarket (Albany), Lim Chour (K-Road), Fruit World Pioneer Plaza (Henderson), Manukau Fresh Fruit and Vege, Fresh for Less (Henderson), Save Fruit and Vege Shop (Manukau), Green Field Fruit and Vege (Green Bay), New Lynn Fresh.

Also Fresh World in Hawera.

New Zealand Beauty apples from:
All Countdown, Fresh Choice and Super Value supermarkets in the South Island.

The Ministry recommends people who bought potentially affected fruit between 27 February and 13 March 2014 to either cook the fruit well before eating, or if in doubt, throw it out.

“We advise anyone who becomes ill with the following symptoms contact their doctor. Look out for skin jaundice (yellowish tinge), yellowing of the whites of eyes, dark coloured urine and pale bowel motions. Early signs of Hepatitis A are fever, loss of appetite, stomach pains and nausea.

More information



Health News

Are antibacterial soaps worth the hype?

antibacterial handwash

A consumer rights protection magazine from New Zealand believes that antibacterial soaps do more harm than good.

Antibacterial soaps are little more than a marketing invention and at worst could actually be doing us harm, says Consumer New Zealand.

“Ads trumpet the soaps’ 99% bacteria-killing power successfully playing on our fear of germs and boosting multimillion dollar sales,” says Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin.

“But evidence these products provide any extra benefit is lacking – and there’s a chance they are doing us harm by reducing the effectiveness of drugs we rely on to fight infections when we do get sick.”

Triclosan and triclocarban are among the most common bacterial agents manufacturers use in their products. Both are being targeted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency has said it will require manufacturers to prove antibacterial soaps are safe for everyday use, and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing the spread of infections, Sue says.

The antibacterial agents are found in many products on supermarket shelves in New Zealand from brands like Dettol, Health Basics, Select, Protex and Palmolive, she says.

They are approved for use here but there is growing concern (that) use of antibacterial agents in consumer goods are contributing to the development of antibiotic resistance.

The growing use of antibacterial agents in consumer goods is contributing to concerns about their potential role in the development of antibiotic resistance, says the Consumer magazine.

Lab studies show bacteria exposed to antibacterial agents, such as triclosan, can become resistant to antibiotics. Whether this can also happen outside the lab isn’t yet known. Real-world studies have been limited and haven’t delivered definitive data for assessing the risk.

Both the FDA and scientific advisers in the EU have raised the need for more research. In a 2010 report on triclosan, the EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety stated the conclusions from lab studies can’t be ignored. The committee said it could only recommend the “prudent use” of the chemical where, for example, there was a clear health benefit.

Triclosan has also been found in waste-water in New Zealand. It’s one of the chemicals being tracked by researchers from the government-funded Centre for Integrated Biowaste Research, investigating the environmental effects of ingredients used in common household products.

Project leader Dr Louis Tremblay told Consumer NZ triclosan was an effective broad-spectrum antimicrobial but it should only be used where there was a clear benefit. It was overkill to use it in household soaps.

His advice was, if people wanted to do something for the environment, choose a plain bar of soap.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, studies cited by manufacturers to support claims that antibacterial soap provides any health advantage over using plain soap and water, have largely been dismissed by the United States FDA.

In December 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed a new rule that would force companies that make antibacterial soaps to prove that their products are effective and safe.

Federal regulators said that the two most common active ingredients in antibacterial soaps — triclosan and triclocarban — are no more effective at preventing the spread of illnesses than washing with plain soap and water.

Sue says antibacterial soaps were a solution to a non-existent problem – regular soap and water would get your hands as clean as they needed to be.

Product claims

Dettol Moisture Hygienic Soap

Claims: “Helps to remove germs and contains added moisturiser that helps leave your skin feeling soft and smooth”

Contains: triclocarban

Dettol Touch of Foam Hand Wash

Claims: “Kills 99.9% of germs … soft on skin, hard on germs, for healthy skin protected from germs and dryness”

Contains: benzalkonium chloride

Health Basics Antibacterial Hand Wash

Claims: “Enriched with plant extracts, aloe vera, and the indigenous harakeke flax”

Contains: triclosan (product being reformulated)

Palmolive Antibacterial Defence Liquid Hand Wash

Claims: “Kills germs and defends … specifically formulated to provide you with long-lasting antibacterial action”

Contains: triclocarban

Protex Antibacterial Soap

Claims: “Eliminates 99% of bacteria … contains higher levels of antibacterial agent than most of Protex soaps and leaves you feeling confident and clean”

Contains: triclocarban

Select Anti-Bacterial Original Hygienic Liquid Hand Wash

Claims: “Kills 99.9% germs”

Contains: triclosan

(Source: Consumer New Zealand report on antibacterial soaps.)

Health News Travel

Measles alert on Brisbane-Auckland flight

Measles symptoms cure(Photo: Dave Haygarth)

Passengers flying from Brisbane to Auckland on 23 February on an Air New Zealand flight may have been exposed to measles, the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) advises.

ARPHS has reported two measles cases who were passengers on Flight NZ136 leaving Brisbane at 11:15am on Sunday 23 February.

These passengers would have been infectious at the time of their travel on this flight, says Medical Officer of Health Dr Richard Hoskins.

It usually takes 10 to 14 days for measles to start showing any symptoms. Anyone on this flight who may have caught measles should be starting to feel unwell, if they’re not already, by Sunday 9 March, a statement from the health service says.

“Passengers who sat nearest the two cases have the highest risk and are our priority,” says Dr Hoskins, “and will be contacted by their local public health service. However because measles is an infectious, airborne disease, we want all passengers to be vigilant.”

Measles symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and a rash that starts on the face and neck before spreading elsewhere.

Any passengers from this flight who feel unwell should phone their GP or call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice. It is vitally important to call first before seeing a doctor because measles is highly infectious, and people with measles can infect others in the waiting room.

New Zealand has experienced measles outbreaks very recently.

There have been 57 measles cases in Auckland so far this year. Nine of these caught measles overseas and brought it home with them. A similar measles outbreak in the year 2011-12 had nearly 500 people affected and 82 required hospitalisation.

Measles is a serious illness, says Dr Hoskins, and there is no treatment. “The only way to avoid catching measles is to have had two measles vaccines after your first birthday. Please check with your GP to see if you and your family are protected.”

Health Lifestyle

Why apple cider vinegar is so good for weight loss

Is apple cider vinegar good for weight loss

Apple cider vinegar for weight loss is a forgotten home-remedy which is coming back in fashion. Among many health benefits, weight loss is the most widely known, because apple cider vinegar helps lose weight in a healthy way. Let’s find out how. (There’s an amazing video at the end of this article that explains the benefits of apple cider vinegar.)

Benefits of apple cider vinegar

Apple has been around since the time of Adam and Eve, and for a good reason. Apple is one of the most important fruits in our daily diet.

Apple provides potassium which helps us in staying young and delays the aging process. High calcium content in apple keeps our bones healthy.

Organic apple cider vinegar is made from naturally-grown apples, and provides the much-needed enzymes and minerals without any adulteration.

Apple cider vinegar strengthens our immune system by restoring nutrients in our body.

Including Apple cider vinegar in our daily diet helps in staying healthy and losing weight by:

  • Supporting our digestion system,
  • Removing toxins from the body, and
  • Improving our immune system.

Apple cider vinegar also improves the quality of skin, strengthens our joints and muscles, and removes skin irritation.

Because of its cleansing abilities, cider vinegar also improves liver function.

How to choose the right apple cider vinegar to buy

There are many brands and many variations available in the market. Most known brands like Bragg offer good products to buy.

One important consideration to keep in mind while buying apple cider vinegar is that it should be organic and natural. Organic ACV is made from naturally-grown apples and offer the most health benefits including weight loss benefit.

The important element of apple cider vinegar is the “mother”. It is the strand-like element that is visible at the bottom of the ACV bottle. This element contains the most nutritious part of apple cider vinegar. This mother provides all the health benefits.

Avoid buying pasteurized ACV which is made by heating the vinegar so as to remove harmful bacteria. Unfortunately, pasteurization also gets rid of important nutrients and enzymes – these are the elements that make the “mother” of ACV, which provides the health benefits.

The mother is found only in unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Therefore it is important to buy unpasteurized cider vinegar.

Look for natural ACV in the market. The usual apple cider vinegar is distilled and refined, and does not contain the “mother” of cider vinegar.

Fresh and organic apples are used to make natural ACV.  It is then stored in wooden or steel barrels to mature. This helps in natural fermentation of cider vinegar, which produces the “mother” of vinegar.

Once opened, the bottle of apple cider vinegar can be stored for up to three to four years if it is stored in cool and dry place. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

How to drink apple cider vinegar

The recommended dosage of apple cider vinegar for weight loss is 1 to 3 tsp mixed in a glass of water, three times a day. You can drink more than the recommended quantity.

There’s nothing like too much apple cider vinegar. However, don’t go overboard with it. Let the taste be the guiding factor. See how you feel. You can start with 1 tsp a day and then increase it gradually.

Before drawing a teaspoon from bottle, shake the bottle well so that the “mother” gets mixed in your drink.

It is recommended that apple cider vinegar is not drunk by itself. Always dilute the vinegar with water. This is because of two reasons.

First, apple cider vinegar absorbs toxins from the tissues in the body, and drinking undiluted ACV may cause discomfort.

Second, because of its acidic content, undiluted ACV may erode the enamel on our teeth over a period of time. Therefore, always brush your teeth after drinking ACV. As an added precaution after drinking apple cider vinegar, you may rinse your mouth with water mixed with some baking soda, followed by rinsing the mouth with just water. This should remove the effect of ACV from your mouth.

You can also add honey to diluted ACV drink. Honey has many natural benefits and it will make your drink even healthier. Some people like to add cider vinegar to their tea or coffee or carbonated/aerated drink. Caffeine in tea/coffee may affect the absorption of vinegar by the body. It is advisable to have ACV with water.

The ideal time to drink apple cider vinegar is before breakfast and before dinner.

Apple cider vinegar for pregnant women and diabetics

Most brands of cider vinegar are safe for pregnant women as well as breast-feeding mothers. In fact, drinking ACV during and after pregnancy can be beneficial as it removes harmful toxins from the body and improves digestion, and may help in promoting normal delivery.

For diabetics, ACV may change the blood-sugar levels; it is advisable to consult the physician.

Apple cider vinegar has some fantastic external applications too. You can add it to your bath-water for a stress-relieving and skin-vitalizing bath.

ACV can be diluted and used to wash hair for a shiny hair. It helps in removing dead-skin built-up in your scalp, and improves the health of your hair by stopping hair loss.

For more details on how to use apple cider vinegar for weight loss, read this book: Magical Apple Cider Vinegar: Ultimate Guide for Weight Loss, Hair Fall and Skincare.