Ministry for Primary Industries has cut the number of days its observers spend on snapper boats at a time when cameras in an electronic monitoring trial were failing. Two years ago ministry fishery observers spent 511 days at sea. In 2015/16 that had been reduced to 210 days. Video monitoring began in January this year but there were problems with new onboard cameras. About 80 percent failed for a number of months this year. The ministry has been criticised this year over its failure to prosecute fish dumping. Green Party primary production spokesperson Eugenie Sage said MPI was failing to monitor the East Coast snapper fishery, one of the most highly valued by recreational fishers and important commerciallly. "MPI talks about the critical importance of observers for good fisheries management and here they are having dispensed with 60 percent of the observers." MPI controversially awarded the electronic monitoring contract to Trident Systems - a company owned by the fishing industry. It was recently revealed that 80 percent of Trident's cameras failed during their first few months. Trident Systems chairman Jeremy Fleming recently said there had been problems with water getting into cables and condensation in the cameras. "MPI have been as concerned as we have and they've worked with us to address the problems." Mr Fleming said the cameras were now working at a "pretty satisfactory" level. MPI's inshore fisheries manager Steve Halley said the ministry became aware in about April that Trident's cameras were not working properly. "Camera monitoring is new technology and at the beginning of the significant expansion to electronic monitoring in this fleet there were some technical issues with the cameras but those have been resolved," Mr Halley said. "So we are now monitoring 17 vessels with a high degree of confidence." Greenpeace executive director Russell Norman said the reduced observer numbers combined with failing cameras meant there had been effectively no monitoring of the snapper fleet for months. "When we roll out video monitoring it means that there won't be human observers, or far fewer human observers present. "And that's why it's so critical that the video monitoring system has complete integrity and has the complete confidence of the people of New Zealand - which, of course, is why it can't be done by a company which is controlled by the fishing industry," Dr Norman said.
Europe's and Russia's new satellite at Mars has sent back its first images of the planet. The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) arrived on 19 October, putting itself in a highly elliptical parking orbit. This must be circularised over the coming year before the mission can begin full science operations. But scientists have taken the opportunity of some close passes to the planet in recent days to check out the TGO's instrumentation. A structure called Arsia Chasmata on the flanks of one of the large volcanoes, Arsia Mons. The width of the image is around 25km. There is delight at the quality of the pictures returned from camera system, CaSSIS (the Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System). TGO passed over a region called Hebes Chasma at its closest approach, just 250km from the Martian terrain. "We saw Hebes Chasma at 2.8 metres per pixel," said Nicolas Thomas, the camera's principal investigator from the University of Bern, Switzerland. "That's a bit like flying over Bern at 15,000km/h and simultaneously getting sharp pictures of cars in Zurich." Two of TGO's sensors - NOMAD and ACS - also came through their early tests. These are the sensors that will make a detailed inventory of Mars' atmospheric gases. In particular, they will go after the components that constitute less than 1 percent of the planet's air - chemical species such as methane, water vapour, nitrogen dioxide, and sulphur dioxide. Methane is the main focus. From previous measurements, its concentration is seen to be low and sporadic in nature. But the mere fact that it is detected at all is really fascinating. The simple organic molecule should be destroyed easily in the harsh Martian environment, so its persistence - and the occasional spikes in its signal - indicate a replenishing source of the gas. The speculation is that it could be coming from microbial life somewhere on the planet. It will be CaSSIS's job to look for possible geological forms on the surface that might tie into methane sources. A fourth instrument, FREND, will sense hydrogen in the near-surface. This data can be used as a proxy for the presence of water or hydrated minerals. This again is information that could yield answers to the methane question. TGO was the unspoken success on the day ESA's Schiaparelli lander crashed into Mars. The surface probe had been dropped off at the Red Planet by TGO and was making its ill-fated descent just as the satellite took up its parking orbit. The successful insertion almost went unnoticed in the fuss over Schiaparelli. TGO is the first phase in a joint venture at Mars that Europe is undertaking with Russia. The second step in this project known as ExoMars is to put a robot rover on the planet in 2021. It needs a large injection of cash on the European side to go forward, however - just over €400m. Research ministers from ESA member states are meeting this week in Lucerne, Switzerland, to try to resolve this budget problem. Seeing TGO perform so well should at the very least give the politicians a warm feeling as they push through their difficult discussions. - BBC
Regional councils might be able to control fishing to protect native species in their regional plans following a landmark ruling by the Environment Court. The decision relates to the Bay of Plenty Regional Council after the Motiti Rohe Moana Trust pushed for controls around the Rena wreck. The trust and Forest & Bird want fishing to be regulated in the area, particularly around Astrolabe Reef, where the Rena grounded in October 2011, to allow the ecosystem to recover. The regional council believed it did not have the power to control fishing or fishing methods. However, the Environment Court said councils could impose fishing rules for the purpose of protecting native species or for recognising the relationship of Māori with their taonga. Forest & Bird environment lawyer Sally Gepp said it was a very important ruling. "After the Rena incident there were some controls put in place and an exclusion zone was put in place and marine life has really flourished in the area since then, but as soon as that was removed and fishing activities got back in there, many of the fishable species have been stripped off the reef again." The regional council's integrated planning manager David Phizacklea said the reef was an area with unique biodiversity, and one that should be protected. But the council was not sure the biodiversity had suffered as much as Forest and Bird - and the Trust - claimed. "We have heard anecdotally that obviously with the restriction being lifted there has been heavy fishing in that area, but as to whether that's had an impact on biodiversity, that's unknown." The council said it thought deciding which people can fish, and how, should be a matter for central government. Mr Phizacklea said the council needed to understand the declaration, and go through more appeals, before it could be sure what its responsibilities around the reef were. Ms Gepp said the decision set a nation-wide precedent and other regional councils would be looking at it with interest. The Motiti Rohe Moana Trust said it was very pleased with the clarity the Environment Court's ruling has provided. Tourism and the Rena wreck Rena wreck - boat itself worse than oil 'Someone is going to get hurt or die' Smaller vessels allowed near Rena wreck site
The tail of a feathered dinosaur has been found perfectly preserved in amber from Myanmar. #ICYMI: Feathered dinosaur tail discovered in lump of amber from a market in Myanmar https://t.co/qj0LLAzZuS pic.twitter.com/0BwmjLpQ3X— ABC News (@abcnews) December 9, 2016 The one-of-a-kind discovery helps put flesh on the bones of these extinct creatures, opening a new window on the biology of a group that dominated Earth for more than 160 million years. Examination of the specimen suggests the tail was chestnut brown on top and white on its underside. The tail is described in the journal Current Biology. "This is the first time we've found dinosaur material preserved in amber," co-author Ryan McKellar, of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada, said. The study's first author, Lida Xing from the China University of Geosciences in Beijing, discovered the remarkable fossil at an amber market in Myitkina, Myanmar. The 99-million-year-old amber had already been polished for jewellery and the seller had thought it was plant material. On closer inspection, however, it turned out to be the tail of a feathered dinosaur about the size of a sparrow. Lida Xing was able to establish where it had come from by tracking down the amber miner who had originally dug out the specimen. Dr McKellar said examination of the tail's anatomy showed it definitely belonged to a feathered dinosaur, not an ancient bird. We can be sure of the source because the vertebrae are not fused into a rod or pygostyle as in modern birds and their closest relatives," he explained. "Instead, the tail is long and flexible, with keels of feathers running down each side." Dr McKellar said there were signs the dinosaur still contained fluids when it was incorporated into the tree resin that eventually formed the amber, indicating it could even have become trapped in the sticky substance while it was still alive. Co-author Mike Benton, from the University of Bristol, added: "It's amazing to see all the details of a dinosaur tail - the bones, flesh, skin, and feathers - and to imagine how this little fellow got his tail caught in the resin, and then presumably died because he could not wrestle free." Examination of the chemistry of the tail where it was exposed at the surface of the amber even showed up traces of ferrous iron, a relic of the blood that was once in the sample. The findings also shed light on how feathers were arranged on the dinosaurs, because 3D features are often lost due to the compression that occurs when corpses become fossils in sedimentary rocks. The feathers lacked the well-developed central shaft - a rachis - known from modern birds. Their structure suggested that the two finest tiers of branching in modern feathers, known as barbs and barbules, arose before the rachis formed. Kachin State, in north-eastern Myanmar, where the specimen was found, has been producing amber for 2000 years. But because of the large quantity of insects preserved in the deposits, it has over the last 20 years become a focus for scientists who study ancient arthropods. "The larger amber pieces often get broken up in the mining process. By the time we see them they have often been turned into things like jewellery. We never know how much of the specimen has been missed," said Dr McKellar. "If you had a complete specimen, for example, you could look at how feathers were arranged across the whole body. Or you could look at other soft tissue features that don't usually get preserved." Other preserved parts of a feathered dinosaur might also reveal if it was a flying or gliding animal. "There have been other, anecdotal reports of similar specimens coming from the region. But if they disappear into private collections, then they're lost to science," Dr McKellar said. Dr Paul Barrett, from London's Natural History Museum, called the specimen a "beautiful fossil", describing it as a "really rare occurrence of vertebrate material in amber". "Feathers have been recovered in amber before, so that aspect isn't new, but what this new specimen shows is the 3D arrangement of feathers in a Mesozoic dinosaur/bird for the first time, as almost all of the other feathered dinosaur fossils and Mesozoic bird skeletons that we have are flattened and 2D only, which has obscured some important features of their anatomy. "The new amber specimen confirms ideas from developmental biologists about the order in which some of the detailed features of modern feathers, such as barbs and barbules (the little hooks that hold the barbs together so that the feather can form a nice neat vane), would have appeared also." Earlier this year, scientists also described ancient bird wings that had been discovered in amber from the same area of Myanmar. - BBC
A vote on mandatory palm oil labelling today could affect thousands of supermarket products. The vote on whether to make labelling compulsory will be held at a meeting of the Australia New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation in Brisbane. The food and grocery industry is against such a move but health and environment groups say a change is urgent. Dr Jenny Gray, head of Zoos Victoria, Australia, said palm oil was everywhere - from the pantry in the kitchen to the bathroom shelf. Most consumers didn't know because the labels didn't specify the type of oil. "Our estimate is that between 50 to 70 percent of products on supermarket shelves contain palm oil." She said prominent health professionals, environment and nutrition groups had pushed for change for several years. Dr Gray said UMR polling showed 92 per cent of New Zealanders and 84 per cent of Australians wanted mandatory labelling, and tens of thousands of people had signed petitions for change. It was time the politicians made a decision, she said. Environmentalists said the rapid expansion of palm oil plantations was destroying the habitats of endangered species like orangutans and tigers, and consumers needed to know. Unmask Palm Oil founder Ben Dowdle has led the campaign in New Zealand. "We want consumers to be able to choose what products they buy. At the moment labelling is generic and scientific, which means that a consumer wanting to buy certifiable palm oil or make a health-based decision for a certain type of vegetable oil simply can't do that." Some major supermarkets chains including Foodstuffs used 100 percent sustainable palm oil in their home brand products and encouraged suppliers to voluntarily declare if they used palm oil, he said. "We have a really messy mix of voluntary and generic labelling ... it just isn't working." The Food and Grocery Council does not support mandatory labelling. It said because of limited space on a grocery pack, governments generally reserved mandatory labelling for issues of consumer health or safety. Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin did not accept it would be too costly or difficult. "They can change labels quite quickly when they want to." Nutritionist and Auckland University of Technology lecturer Caryn Zinn said consumers should know what was in the products they used. "Maybe the palm oil issue might raise that awareness about how processed everything is in our modern world." Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew, said mandatory labelling may not be agreed today, but ministers were considering a technical evaluation and would decide on the next step. "If a decision is taken, New Zealand will disclose its position and how we voted," she said in a statement
Timing, as they say, really is everything. As we humans were lucky the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that shook New Zealand in the early hours of Monday 14 November struck in the middle of the night - not the middle of the day - so, too, were animals. If there had to be a time that would let most animals off lightly, then mid-November was (there never is a good time for a big earthquake, is there?) not a bad time. We are not talking pāua and crayfish. They took a hammering as their subtidal home was rudely shunted upwards, out of the cool water into the heat and glare of the sun. As a rough guide, the bigger the animal, the better off they were. The calm before the storm Let's paint a picture of what was happening in the marine animal kingdom on the night of Sunday 13 November. Out in the Kaikōura Canyon, a few whales - the sperm whales and perhaps some beaked whales - were feeding and resting. Spring is a quiet time for whales at Kaikōura, but the previous day University of Otago whale researchers had seen a familiar whale, Jonah. The usual large pods of dusky dolphins were feeding, resting and playing offshore. Closer to the shore were the two residents pods of little Hector's dolphins, the adult females heavily pregnant and soon to give birth. The pelagic seabirds - dozens of species of albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters - were fishing for squid that rise close to the surface at night, or just resting on the water. These birds are fleeting visitors - here for the rich pickings one day, gone the next. The New Zealand fur seals, too, are close to giving birth. Pregnant mothers were out at sea feeding, as were the males and seals too young to breed. Ashore, in the breeding colonies scattered on rocky shore platforms right along the coast, including at the large Ohau Point seal sanctuary, the first few pups that had already been born snuggled close to their sleeping mothers. On rocky outcrops on the southern shore of the Kaikōura peninsula, red-billed gulls tucked eggs and chicks under them to keep them warm in the cool night air. In cool burrows amongst sheltering vegetation at the bottom of the nearby cliffs, little penguins dozed as they guarded their eggs and chicks. The lapping of gentle waves played a background lullaby. High in the Seaward Kaikōura Range, the full moon cast its bright light over the Hutton's shearwater colonies in the Kowhai Stream and Shearwater Stream. The small shearwaters were all in from the sea, incubating their single eggs at the end of long burrows dug in amongst the tussocks. When the earth moved When the first earthquake, near Culverden, struck at two minutes after midnight, the ground ripped apart at 3km a second. The 36km-long Kēkerengū Fault unzipped to the north in just over 10 seconds, and the fracture carried on out to sea on 34km of the Needles Fault. As the land tore and the mountains began to fall, the noise was horrendous. It would have been even louder and more terrifying in the sea. Undersea earthquakes are the loudest event in the ocean, and a magnitude 4 earthquake is on record as reaching 272 decibels. And sound travels faster and further in water than it does on land. The sound of the 2011 undersea earthquake off the coast of Japan, which caused a devastating tsunami, was recorded on underwater microphones on the coast of Alaska, hundreds of kilometres away. In a few week's time NIWA will be retrieving acoustic loggers that have been recording underwater sounds, especially whales song, in Cook Strait for the last few months; it will be interesting to see what earthquake sounds it recorded. How did the animals cope? The good news Professor Liz Slooten, from the University of Otago, says whales that were present would have probably swum away very quickly, and could have gone a great distance in a short period of time. "Sperm whales and beaked whales don't like loud noise at all." Very loud noises can make whales disoriented, causing them to strand, although there is no evidence this happened at Kaikōura . Indeed, the sperm whales - and the dusky dolphins - have already returned. The Kaikōura whale watch boat reported seeing Jonah, and other sperm whales, earlier this week. Prof Slooten is more anxious about the two populations of Hector's dolphins that live north and south of the Kaikōura township. She describes the little dolphins as stay-at-homes, and says if they fled offshore they could have soon ended up in unfamiliar territory. She is waiting to hear news of the dolphins, and says at this time of year the females are heavily pregnant, and due to give birth soon. Gary Melville drives boats for Albatross Encounter, taking tourists out to see pelagic seabirds such as albatrosses and giant petrels, which are at Kaikōura to feed, not to breed, and they never stick around long. "They're sort of here today, gone tomorrow," says Mr Melville. He says he is not surprised to hear that the seabirds are just as numerous now as they were before the earthquake. "I don't think it was any threat at all to our deep seabirds - I'm sure they probably might not even have noticed." Department of Conservation (DOC) ranger Mike Morrissey says that the red-billed gull colonies on the rocky reefs of the Kaikōura peninsula, and the little penguins that breed in burrows at the back of the shore there, were incubating eggs or guarding small chicks. They had a lucky escape from the tsunami. It struck at low tide, and generated a wave that didn't run up any higher than the usual spring high tide mark. Thousands of New Zealand fur seals breed along the Kaikōura coast. And although a large rock fall landed on part of the well-known Ohau Point seal sanctuary, Department of Conservation ranger Mike Morrissey says that the timing of the earthquake was a lucky break for the animals, coming as it did before most of them were due to give birth. Mr Morrissey has just returned from a boat trip to survey Ohau Point, and was excited to see hundreds of fur seal pups, just one or two days old, that have been born just 100-or-so metres north of Ohau Point. It's pretty clear that females returning to give birth in their usual spot have avoided the ongoing falling rocks and instead moved next door. Meanwhile, Ohau Stream - which is a popular playground for young seal pups and a must-see visitor attraction - is not as badly damaged as first thought. Mike Morrissey reports that the waterfall and stream are still flowing, although the pool at the base of the waterfall is now full of rocks and the track is damaged. And although Mr Morrissey suspects that a small number of fur seals would have been killed in the rock fall, he says he only found the body of one bull seal, and there was no smell of decomposing bodies. Hutton's shearwaters - the bad news Unfortunately, the news is not so good for the Hutton's shearwaters. These resourceful little seabirds breed high in the mountains, 20km inland and several thousand metres above sea level. There are two Hutton's shearwaters colonies - the largest one up the Kowhai River is home to about 100,000 pairs of birds, which breed in burrows in amongst the tussocks. Mr Morrissey has flown over the colony and says the enormous rock slides are an impressive but depressing sight. He says rock slides have filled the valley to a depth of 70-80m in places, and he estimates that perhaps 20 percent of the burrows have been destroyed. The second smaller Hutton's shearwater colony is at Shearwater Stream on Nicky McArthur's farm. She says that DOC has flown over the site and thinks that at least 30 percent of the colony, which is on very steep unstable slopes, has disappeared. "It couldn't have come at a worse time of year. Laying eggs, both parents in at night, in October or November", which is the peak of the breeding season. "As well as the physical habitat that just slid of the side of the mountain, we don't know what other burrows have collapsed," says Ms McArthur. Mr Morrissey says it'll be many weeks before anyone can safely get into either colony to assess the real extent of the damage, and discover how many birds have survived. Ms McArthur says Hutton's shearwaters are considered to be an at-risk species precisely because of the risk of catastrophic events, such as this, affecting the two surviving colonies. A small glimmer of hope lies down on Kaikōura Peninsula. Over the last few years, the Hutton's Shearwater Charitable Trust has built a predator-proof fence and translocated chicks there to be the basis of a new insurance population. Growing numbers of birds are settling and breeding there, and this year there are 16 eggs being incubated. The numbers are still small, but who knows, maybe one day Hutton's shearwaters will breed right across the peninsula, as they probably did in days gone past. Hutton's shearwaters aside, Mr Morrissey says the wildlife of Kaikōura has come through remarkably well - and it'll be ready and waiting once the roads open and tourists return to town. Down in the canyon NIWA research has previously shown that the Kaikōura Canyon is one of the richest, most productive deep-sea habitats in the world. The sediments on the gently sloping floor of the steep-sided canyon were home to dense populations of burrowing sea cucumbers, spoon worms, bristle worms and irregular urchins. These large numbers of invertebrates in turn supported big fish populations, especially rattails, as well as better-known commercial species such as hoki and orange roughy. That may have all changed now, since large numbers of massive submarine landslides were triggered by the earthquakes. Dr Philip Barnes, from NIWA, says these landslides set off a massive turbidity flow of sand, mud and water, hundreds of metres thick, that travelled down the 60km-long Kaikōura Canyon and hundreds of kilometres north into the Hikurangi Canyon. "We detected a very recent turbidite about 10-20cm thick over a very large region, extending at least 300km from Kaikōura. It is still settling on the seabed from the water column and may not complete this process for some time," Dr Barnes said. The exact sources of the submarine landslides is yet to be determined. While the rich invertebrate life in the sea floor sediments will have been destroyed, events such as this happen every few hundred years and it won't be long before the new floor of the canyon is recolonised and the marine life there rebounds.
For the first time a psychologist has won New Zealand's top award for excellence in science, social science and technology. University of Auckland Emeritus Professor Michael Corballis was presented the Rutherford medal last night at the Royal Society of New Zealand's annual research honours dinner in Christchurch. Prof Corballis, 80, was the brain behind mental time travel - recalling memories and travelling to the future, much like imagining yourself on holiday somewhere - and has 50 years of other psychology studies under his belt. "I can tell you what I did yesterday and I can tell you what I might do tomorrow - so language, I think, is precisely to help us share our time travel." Growing up near Marton, in the central North Island, Prof Corballis' parents wanted him to enter a profession. It was not to be. "It was sort of a disaster really. "I started out in engineering, but I didn't really get past first year and then I did mathematics, and then I worked for an insurance company. All that time I didn't particularly like what I was doing so I simply went back to university at night and finished a degree in psychology. "I kind of got hooked from that point." As well as the medal, he received $100,000. President of the Royal Society of New Zealand Emeritus, Professor Richard Bedford, said this was a first because in the past the award normally went to people in medical and physical sciences or mathematics. "He will be the first psychologist [to win the award], just as Dame Anne Salmond was the first as an anthropologist to win it some years ago." Last night's other medal winners' areas of research included how light moved through fibre optic cables, how muscle movement could be mimicked using plastic, and how school leadership styles affected student outcomes. The winner of the Beaven Medal for excellence in translational health research, Professor Jane Harding, developed a $2 oral sugar gel used on the inside of newborns' cheeks to treat low blood sugar. It's now used in three-quarters of birthing units in New Zealand. Fifteen medal winners in total were celebrated at the Transitional Cathedral in Christchurch.
A rare native jewelled gecko has been welcomed home to Otago with a strawberry and insect feast. The gecko, or moko kākāriki, was one of two taken from the Otago Peninsula and smuggled to Germany three years ago. They were returned to New Zealand last year, but one died in quarantine at Wellington Zoo. The survivor cannot be released into the wild because it might have been exposed to unknown biosecurity threats while overseas. A home has been found for it at the Otago Museum. The museum's director, Ian Griffin, said it was happy with its new habitat. "We've got a local expert who actually identified this particular gecko when it was recovered by the German authorities," he said. "He knew from which exact tree it was stolen, so we actually managed to bring a piece of the tree from its original home in the Otago Peninsula to its new enclosure at the museum, so hopefully it's felt very much at home." Dr Griffin said the male gecko, which had not yet been named, could live up to 40 years.
A new report from four of New Zealand's tourism leaders moots the possibility of privatising the country's Great Walks. The controversial suggestion is one of a raft of proposals contained in the Tourism Infrastructure Study, commissioned by the heads of Air New Zealand, Auckland Airport, Christchurch Airport and Tourism Holdings. The eight Great Walks managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC) lost more than $3 million in the last financial year, despite a 12 percent increase on the previous year in visitor numbers. DOC huts on the routes are already available, subject to a fee, but there is also some accommodation run by private operators. The report said the model of working with the private sector was strong, and had more potential. "The model could be logically extended to differentiated pricing for access to iconic scenic sites for international tourists, and working with private providers to develop commercial models for a wider range of infrastructure." This could happen without sacrificing the public right to access to the conservation estate, it said. Tourism Holdings chief executive Grant Webster said there was room to bring more commercial rigour to how the walks were operated. "It's just bringing some greater commercial discipline, is our suggestion in that place. We haven't invested the time and effort in this just for it to be put on a table somewhere. We're very keen to continue to work with government to try to get these philosophies in place. We believe in them." But Dave Hammond, a tourism consultant and the former chief executive of the Thames-Coromandel District Council, was sceptical. "I think that's a straw man. New Zealand being what it is, we've got quite a strong historic commitment to free open spaces and also Treaty of Waitangi issues. "I've been dealing with Cathedral Cove for a while, and that's been a partnership between local government, DOC, local iwi and local community - and those are the types of parties you need to put around issues like this." Federated Mountain Clubs spokesperson Robin McNeill was also dubious. "Why not charge access to beaches while you're at it? There's no real difference. In fact, if you were to charge for access to national parks, then you would be charging for access to beaches, because all of Lake Te Anau is in the national park." Conservation Minister Maggie Barry said the government would consider the report, and the range of ideas it raised, but no decisions had been made at this stage. She has previously said DOC was working with the tourism industry and others to explore options for sustainable funding. Her office said the ideas being considered included different fees for international and domestic visitors. The Great Walks - prices for DOC huts (per adult per night): Lake Waikaremoana ($32), Tongariro Northern Circuit ($32), Abel Tasman Coast Track ($32), Heaphy Track ($32), Routeburn Track ($54), Kepler Track ($54), Milford Track ($54), Rakiura Track ($22) Source: DOC
Researchers can predict which three year olds will grow up to be criminals or beneficiaries with poor health and a high chance of becoming obese. The renowned Dunedin Study of 1000 children born between 1972 and '73 looked back at test results for three year olds who had been assessed on their language, motor skills and social behaviour. The researchers said low scores were a highly accurate indicator for who would end up in what they call "a high cost group". These are people who make up just 20 percent of the study's subjects but account for 81 percent of criminal convictions and 66 percent of welfare benefits. The study's director Richard Poulton said the findings shouldn't be used to stigmatise or stereotype but instead tackle childhood disadvantage. He said neurological assessments of the children when they were three showed those who scored poorly in the tests generally had poorer life outcomes. "About 20 percent of the population will account for up to 80 percent of the cost to government wherever you look, whether it be in the justice system in terms of convictions, in terms of the Ministry of Social Development in New Zealand concerned about benefit use, the Ministry of Health bed nights used, or pharmaceutical scripts filled," Mr Poulton said. Gavin Andrews is a professor of psychiatry at the University of New South Wales in Australia and said the first three years of any child's life was crucial. "At the age of three if you came from a socio-economically deprived family, if you'd been abused, if you were not super bright, and if you had difficulty with self control, your trajectory through life would be much more difficult, in terms of health, wealth and wellbeing."
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