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Posts tagged ‘Land of the White Cloud’

New Zealand gun owners turn over their weapons for money

July 13, 2019

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Dozens of Christchurch gun owners on Saturday handed over their weapons in exchange for money, in the first of more than 250 planned buyback events around New Zealand after the government outlawed many types of semi-automatics.

Police said they paid more than 430,000 New Zealand dollars ($288,000) to 169 gun owners during the event. The money was paid directly into the bank accounts of gun owners. New Zealand lawmakers in April rushed through new legislation to ban so-called military-style weapons after a lone gunman killed 51 people at two Christchurch mosques in March.

The government has set aside more than NZ$200 million to buy back weapons such as AR-15 style rifles, although many gun owners remain unhappy with the compensation on offer. Under an amnesty, gun owners have until December to turn over their now-banned weapons.

Police said at least 14,000 guns around the country are banned under the new legislation. There are an estimated 1 million to 1.5 million guns in New Zealand and 250,000 licensed gun owners. Under the buyback scheme, gun owners are compensated between 25% and 95% of the pre-tax price of a new gun, depending on the condition of their weapon.

People who own guns that are not banned under the new laws can also turn over their weapons during the amnesty, although they won’t get any compensation. Police said a half-dozen such weapons were turned in during the Christchurch event.

Police are using hydraulic machines to crush the gun barrels and firing mechanisms of the weapons that are handed in, rendering them inoperable, before disposing of them. Mike Johnson, an acting district police commander, said the Christchurch buyback had been a success and the attitude of gun owners “outstanding.”

Police Minister Stuart Nash said the results from the first collection were very encouraging. “Many of those who handed over firearms commented how easy the process is, how the prices are fair, and how police made the whole event go smoothly,” Nash said in a statement.

But Nicole McKee, the secretary of the Council of Licensed Firearms Owners, said the government was shortchanging gun owners by trying to complete the buyback on the cheap. She said gun owners were forced to rely on police assessments of the condition of their guns and weren’t getting paid anything for the thousands of dollars they had spent on tax as well as certain accessories and ammunition.

“They do want to abide by the new laws but they have no incentive and they’re having fingers pointed at them and are being treated like criminals,” McKee said. “They’re angry at the way they’re being treated.”

The council has launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise money to fight against possible further government-imposed gun restrictions. McKee, who declined to say how much money they had raised, said they hadn’t received any money from the U.S. National Rifle Association as far as she was aware.

She said the group wasn’t in communication with the NRA, other than receiving a note of sympathy from the U.S. organization after the March attacks. Hera Cook, a public health researcher who co-founded the group Gun Control NZ after the March attacks, said that before the massacre, most New Zealanders had no clue how easy it was to get hold of weapons capable of being used for mass killings.

She said she hopes the government enacts further gun control measures, including creating a register of guns and introducing shorter license periods for gun owners. She said some of the gun owners complaints about getting short-changed or treated badly appeared to have some merit, and that “wasn’t a good look” for the government.

Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian white supremacist, has pleaded not guilty to terrorism, murder and attempted murder charges following the March attacks. He remains in jail ahead of his trial, which has been scheduled for next May.

Prince William meets New Zealand mosque attack responders

April 25, 2019

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Britain’s Prince William on Thursday met with some of the police officers and medics who were the first to respond to last month’s mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The Duke of Cambridge arrived in Christchurch in the afternoon after earlier attending an Anzac Day service in Auckland alongside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. At the service, the prince laid a wreath of red and white flowers on behalf of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

William is on a two-day trip to New Zealand and plans to meet later with survivors of the mosque attacks in which 50 people were killed and 50 others wounded. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush told reporters after the meeting with first responders that the prince had been very supportive and had wanted to make sure the officers and medics were looking after themselves.

Bush said the prince told staff that “A good friend doesn’t pick up the phone when people are in need. You travel to their place and you put your arms around them.” Anzac Day is a memorial holiday on the anniversary of New Zealand and Australian soldiers, known as Anzacs, landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. More than 10,000 soldiers from the two countries were killed during that World War I campaign in what is now Turkey.

On Friday, William will visit the two mosques where the massacres took place March 15.

Major Threats to New Zealand’s Environment Highlighted in Government Report

Apr. 18, 2019

By Jordan Davidson

New Zealand’s pristine image as a haven of untouched forests and landscapes was tarnished this week by a brand new government report. The Environment Aotearoa 2019 painted a bleak image of the island nation’s environment and its future prospects.

The report, which was put out by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand, is a follow-up to a 2015 report. While stopping short of making explicit suggestions, it “provides evidence to enable an open and honest conversation about what we have, what we are at risk of losing, and where we can make changes,” according to the report’s summary.

It found that New Zealand’s native plant and animal life has been decimated by invasive species, with 75 animal and plant species having vanished since humans settled the islands. The risk of extinction has worsened for 86 species in the last 15 years, while only improving for 26 species over the last decade.

The numbers in the report tell a dark picture. Almost 4,000 of New Zealand’s native species are currently threatened with or at risk of extinction. Marine, freshwater and land ecosystems all have species at risk: 90 percent of seabirds, 76 percent of freshwater fish, 84 percent of reptiles and 46 percent of plants are currently endangered or on the precipice of extinction, according to the report.

“New Zealand is losing species and ecosystems faster than nearly any other country,” said Kevin Hague from the conservation group Forest and Bird to The Guardian. “Four thousand of our native species are in trouble … from rampant dairy conversions to destructive seabed trawling – [we] are irreversibly harming our natural world.”

The report highlights the dairy industry as particularly problematic since maintaining a herd is land-intensive. The report found that converting land to pasture use contributed to nearly 173,000 acres of natural vegetation loss since 1996 and nearly 2,500 acres of wetland loss since 2001.

“It is undeniable that the dairy industry deserves the title of the dirtiest industry in New Zealand, and urgent action is required,” Greenpeace senior campaign and political advisor, Steve Abel said, New Zealand based Newshub reported.

“To turn this around, the Government must institute policies that will lead to land use change, get rid of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, dramatically reduce cow numbers, and invest millions into regenerative farming.”

The rapid increase in dairy farming has wreaked havoc on the country’s freshwater. The report found that over 82 percent of river water near farmlands was unsuitable for swimming due to pathogens, which have also threatened three-fourths of New Zealand’s freshwater fish with extinction.

“The biggest degradations in New Zealand’s environment in recent years have been caused by the dairy industry,” said Abel to Newshub. “As a nation reliant on an international reputation of being clean and green, we’re failing pretty epically.”

Source: EcoWatch.

Link: https://www.ecowatch.com/new-zealand-conservation-biodiversity-2634969155.html.

New Zealand Parliament passes sweeping gun restrictions

April 11, 2019

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s Parliament on Wednesday passed sweeping gun laws that outlaw military style weapons, less than a month after the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch where 50 people were killed and dozens were wounded.

A bill outlawing most automatic and semi-automatic weapons and banning components that modify existing weapons was passed by a vote of 119 to 1 in the House of Representatives after an accelerated process of debate and public submission.

The bill needs only the approval of New Zealand’s governor general, a formality, before becoming law on Friday. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke emotionally during the bill’s final reading of the traumatic injuries suffered by victims of the March 15 attack, whom she visited in Christchurch Hospital after the shootings.

“I struggle to recall any single gunshot wounds,” Ardern said. “In every case they spoke of multiple injuries, multiple debilitating injuries that deemed it impossible for them to recover in days, let alone weeks. They will carry disabilities for a lifetime, and that’s before you consider the psychological impact. We are here for them.”

“I could not fathom how weapons that could cause such destruction and large-scale death could be obtained legally in this country,” she said. Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, was charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 counts of attempted murder. The royal commission set up to investigate issues surrounding the massacre is examining how he obtained a gun license in New Zealand and purchased weapons and ammunition.

Ardern, who has won international praise for her compassion and leadership since the shootings, was able to win rare bipartisan support for a bill that makes it illegal to own a military-style semi-automatic rifle. The only dissent was from the libertarian ACT Party’s lone lawmaker in Parliament.

The law includes a buy-back scheme under which owners of outlawed weapons can surrender them to police in return for compensation based on the weapon’s age and condition. Anyone who retains such a weapon after the law formally passes on Friday faces a penalty of up to five years in prison. Some exemptions have been allowed for heirloom weapons held by collectors or for professional pest control.

Ardern said lawmakers had a responsibility to act on behalf of victims of the shootings. “We are ultimately here because 50 people died and they do not have a voice,” she said. “We in this house are their voice. Today we can use that voice wisely.”

“We are here just 26 days after the most devastating terrorist attacks created the darkest of days in New Zealand’s history,” she said. “We are here as an almost entirely united Parliament. There have been very few occasions when I have seen Parliament come together in this way and I cannot imagine circumstances where that is more necessary than it is now.”

Ardern said that there was some opposition from firearms owners, but that the response to the proposed legislation was overwhelmingly positive. “My question here is simple,” she said. “You either believe that here in New Zealand these weapons have a place or you do not. If you believe, like us, that they do not, you should be able to believe we can move swiftly. “An argument about process is an argument to do nothing.”

Foreigners among those targeted in New Zealand mosque attack

March 16, 2019

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — Several of those killed or wounded in the shooting rampage at two New Zealand mosques on Friday were from the Middle East or South Asia, according to initial reports from several governments.

The live-streamed attack by an immigrant-hating white nationalist killed at least 49 people as they gathered for weekly prayers in Christchurch. Another 48 people suffered gunshot wounds in the attacks.

Bangladesh’s honorary consul in Auckland, Shafiqur Rahman Bhuiyan, told The Associated Press that “so far” three Bangladeshis were among those killed and four or five others were wounded, including two left in critical condition.

“One leg of an injured needed to be amputated while another suffered bullet injuries in his chest,” Rahman Bhuiyan said. He declined to identify the dead or wounded. Two Jordanians were among those killed, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run Petra news service. Foreign Ministry spokesman Sufian Qudah had earlier said that a Jordanian man was killed and eight others were wounded.

Christchurch Hospital chief Greg Robertson said Saturday that seven of the 48 gunshot victims admitted after the shootings in had been discharged. Robertson said a 4-year-old girl who had been transferred to an Auckland hospital was in critical condition and 11 patients who remained in Christchurch were also critically wounded.

“We have had patients with injuries to most parts of the body that range from relatively superficial soft tissue injuries to more complex injuries involving the chest, the abdomen, the pelvis, the long bones and the head,” he said.

Many patients will require multiple operations to deal with their complex series of injuries, Robertson said. He said a 2-year-old boy was in stable condition, as was a 13-year-old boy. Mohammed Elyan, a Jordanian in his 60s who co-founded one of the mosques in 1993, was among those wounded, as was his son, Atta, who is in his 30s. That’s according to Muath Elyan, Mohammed’s brother, who said he spoke to Mohammed’s wife after the shooting.

Muath said his brother helped establish the mosque a year after arriving in New Zealand, where he teaches engineering at a university and runs a consultancy. He said his brother last visited Jordan two years ago.

“He used to tell us life was good in New Zealand and its people are good and welcoming. He enjoyed freedom there and never complained about anything,” Muath told The Associated Press. “I’m sure this bloody crime doesn’t represent the New Zealanders.”

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said four Pakistanis were wounded, and Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal tweeted that five other Pakistani citizens are missing after Friday’s attacks. Malaysia said two of its citizens were hospitalized, and the Saudi Embassy in Wellington said two Saudis were wounded.

India’s high commissioner to New Zealand, Sanjiv Kohli, tweeted Saturday that nine Indians were missing and called the attack a “huge crime against humanity.” Indian officials have not said whether the nine were believed to be living in Christchurch.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at least three Turkish citizens were wounded in the attacks in New Zealand and that he has spoken to one of them. Afghanistan’s ambassador to Australia and New Zealand said two Afghans are missing and a third person of Afghan origin was treated and released from the hospital.

Two Indonesians, a father and son, were also among those shot and wounded, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said. Nasir said the father is being treated at an intensive care unit and his son is in another ward at the same hospital. He declined to identify them.

The man’s wife, Alta Marie, posted on Facebook that her husband and their son are both alive, but wounded. Marie said that both were shot in the attack Friday at Christchurch’s Linwood Islamic center.

“My husband was shot in multiple places and has a drain in his lung,” she wrote on Facebook. She said she was with her son, who is “traumatized” after being shot in his back and leg.

New Zealanders reach out to Muslims in wake of mass shooting

March 16, 2019
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s stricken residents reached out to Muslims in their neighborhoods and around the country on Saturday, with a fierce determination to show kindness to a community in pain as a 28-year-old white supremacist stood silently before a judge, accused in mass shootings at two mosques that left 49 people dead.
Brenton Harrison Tarrant appeared in court amid strict security, shackled and wearing all-white prison garb, and showed no emotion when the judge read him one murder charge. The judge said “it was reasonable to assume” more such charges would follow. Tarrant, who posted an anti-immigrant manifesto online and apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live video of the slaughter in the city of Christchurch, appeared to make a hand sign, similar to an OK sign, that is sometimes associated with white nationalists.
The massacre during Friday prayers prompted a heartfelt response from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who pronounced it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” and said the shooter, an Australian native, had chosen to strike in New Zealand “because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion.”
Her fellow countrymen seemed to want to prove her right by volunteering acts of kindness. Some offered rides to the grocery store or volunteered to walk with their Muslim neighbors if they felt unsafe.
In online forums, people discussed Muslim food restrictions as they prepared to drop off meals for those affected. “Love always wins over hate. Lots of love for our Muslim brothers” read a handwritten card on a wall of flowers in a historic part of the city that stretched a full block.
Still, Muslims were advised to stay away from mosques while the nation’s security alert remained at the second-highest level a day after the deadliest shooting in modern New Zealand history. Ardern said 39 survivors remained hospitalized Saturday with 11 critically wounded. But updates were slow to come, and many families were still waiting for news of their missing loved ones.
Outside one of the two mosques, 32-year-old Ash Mohammed pushed through police barricades in hopes of finding out what happened to his father and two brothers, whose cellphones rang unanswered. An officer stopped him.
“We just want to know if they are dead or alive,” Mohammed told the officer. Hungry for any news, families and friends of the victims gathered at the city’s Hagley College, near the hospital. They included Asif Shaikh, 44, who said he was among more than 100 people at the Al Noor mosque when the attacker came in. He said he survived by played dead, but was desperate to know what happened to his friends who were there with him.
“It’s been 36 hours, I haven’t heard anything about them,” he said. Nearby, Akhtar Khokhur leaned on the shoulders of her friend and cried as she held up her cellphone with an image of her husband. “I still don’t know where he is,” she said.
Khokhur, 58, and husband Mehaboobbhai Khokhur, 65, had traveled from India to spend time with their son Imran, their first visit in the eight years since he moved to New Zealand. The couple was due to fly out Sunday.
Imran had dropped off his father, an electrical engineer, at the Al Noor mosque on Friday and was looking for a parking space when the shooting began. They have not heard from him since. The gunman had posted a jumbled, 74-page manifesto on social media in which he identified himself as an Australian and white supremacist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.
He livestreamed 17 minutes of the rampage at Al Noor mosque, where, armed with at least two assault rifles and a shotgun, he sprayed worshippers with bullets, killing at least 41 people. More people were killed in an attack on a second mosque a short time later.
Facebook, Twitter and Google scrambled to take down the gunman’s video, which was widely available on social media for hours after the bloodbath. The second attack took place at the Linwood mosque about 5 kilometers (3 miles) away.
The video showed the killer was carrying a shotgun and two fully automatic military assault rifles, with an extra magazine taped to one of the weapons so that he could reload quickly. He also had more assault weapons in the trunk of his car, along with what appeared to be explosives.
Two other armed suspects were taken into custody Friday while police tried to determine what role, if any, they played in the cold-blooded attack that stunned New Zealand, a country so peaceful that police officers rarely carry guns.
Tarrant’s relatives in the Australian town of Grafton, in New South Wales, contacted police after learning of the shooting and were helping with the investigation, local authorities said. Tarrant has spent little time in Australia in the past four years and only had minor traffic infractions on his record.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed Tarrant was involved in both shootings but stopped short of saying he was the sole gunman. During the Saturday morning hearing, a man who was not in court was charged with using writings to incite hatred against a race or ethnicity, but it was not clear if his case was related to the mosque attacks.
“We appear to primarily be dealing with one primary perpetrator, but we want to make sure that we don’t take anything for granted in ensuring New Zealanders’ safety,” Ardern said. New Zealand, with a population of 5 million, has relatively loose gun laws and an estimated 1.5 million firearms, or roughly one for every three people. But it has one of the lowest gun homicide rates in the world. In 2015, it had just eight.
Ardern said Tarrant was a licensed gun owner who bought the five guns used in the crimes legally. “I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change,” Ardern said. She did not offer too much detail, but said a ban on semi-automatic weapons would be looked at. Neighboring Australia has virtually banned semi-automatic rifles from private ownership since a lone gunman killed 35 people with assault rifles in 1996.
Before Friday’s attack, New Zealand’s deadliest shooting in modern history took place in 1990 in the small town of Aramoana, where a gunman killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbor.
Associated Press writers Kristen Gelineau in Christchurch and Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia contributed to this report.

Mass shootings at New Zealand mosques kill 49; 1 man charged

March 15, 2019

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — Mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers killed 49 people on what the prime minister called “one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” as authorities charged one person, detained three others and defused explosive devices in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the events in Christchurch represented “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence” and acknowledged many of those affected may be migrants and refugees. In addition to the dead, she said more than 20 people were seriously wounded.

“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ardern said. Police took three men and a woman into custody after the shootings, which shocked people across the nation of 5 million people. One of the suspects was later charged with murder.

While there was no reason to believe there were more suspects, Ardern said the national security threat level was being raised to the second-highest level. Authorities have not specified who they detained, but said none had been on any watch list. A man who claimed responsibility for the shootings left a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto in which he explained who he was and his reasoning for the attack. He said he was a 28-year-old white Australian and a racist.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that one of the four people detained was an Australian-born citizen. Police Commissioner Mike Bush said Friday night that a man had been charged with murder. He did not mention the other three suspects and did not say whether the same shooter was responsible for both attacks.

Ardern at a news conference alluded to anti-immigrant sentiment as the possible motive, saying that while many people affected by the shootings may be migrants or refugees “they have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us.”

As for the suspects, Ardern said “these are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand.” Bush said police had found two improvised explosive devices in one car, a clarification from an earlier statement that there were devices in multiple vehicles. He said they had disabled one and were in the process of disabling the second

The deadliest attack occurred at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch at about 1:45 p.m. At least 30 people were killed there. Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.

Peneha, who lives next door to the mosque, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in his driveway, and fled. He said he then went into the mosque to try and help.

“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said. “It’s unbelievable nutty. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”

He said he helped about five people recover in his home. He said one was slightly injured. “I’ve lived next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they’re very friendly,” he said. “I just don’t understand it.”

He said the gunman was white and was wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top, giving him a military-type appearance. A video that was apparently livestreamed by the shooter shows the attack in horrifying detail. The gunman spends more than two minutes inside the mosque spraying terrified worshippers with bullets again and again, sometimes re-firing at people he has already cut down.

He then walks outside to the street, where he shoots at people on the sidewalk. Children’s screams can be heard in the distance as he returns to his car to get another rifle. The gunman then walks back into the mosque, where there are at least two dozen people lying on the ground. After walking back outside and shooting a woman there, he gets back in his car, where the song “Fire” by English rock band “The Crazy World of Arthur Brown” can be heard blasting from the speakers. The singer bellows, “I am the god of hellfire!” and the gunman drives away. The video then cuts out.

There was a second shooting at the Linwood Masjid Mosque that killed at least 10 people. Mark Nichols told the New Zealand Herald he heard about five gunshots and that a Friday prayer-goer returned fire with a rifle or shotgun.

Nichols said he saw two injured people being carried out on stretchers past his automotive shop and that both people appeared to be alive. The police commissioner warned anybody who was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand on Friday to stay put.

The man who claimed responsibility for the shooting said he came to New Zealand only to plan and train for the attack. He said he was not a member of any organization, but had donated to and interacted with many nationalist groups, though he acted alone and no group ordered the attack.

He said the mosques in Christchurch and Linwood would be the targets, as would a third mosque in the town of Ashburton if he could make it there. He said he chose New Zealand because of its location, to show that even the most remote parts of the world were not free of “mass immigration.”

New Zealand is generally considered to be a welcoming country for immigrants and refugees. Last year, the prime minister announced the country would boost its annual refugee quota from 1,000 to 1,500 starting in 2020. Ardern, whose party campaigned on the promise of raising the intake of refugees, dubbed the planned increase “the right thing to do.”

A cricket match between New Zealand and Bangladesh scheduled to start Saturday was canceled after the Bangladesh cricket team had a narrow escape. Players and members of the team’s coaching staff were reportedly on their bus, approaching the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Hagley Park when the shooting broke out.

Batsman Tamim Iqbal tweeted “entire team got saved from active shooters. Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers.” Mass shootings in New Zealand are exceedingly rare. The deadliest in modern history occurred in the small town of Aramoana in 1990, when gunman David Gray shot and killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbor.

Perry reported from Wellington. Associated Press writers Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, and Chris Blake in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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