Saturday, May 30, 2009

Unitec staff very unhappy with head honchos

Sunday, 30 August, 2009

In Unison

Academic staff morale is at an all time low due to the pressures the Unitec senior executive have been putting on staff, the Unitec Council recently heard.

At a council meeting on August 10 members heard a long list of complaints complied by Unitec academic staff representative Jan Patterson. Ms Patterson says “a large number of staff have indicated that they are very dissatisfied with the management of Unitec by the chief executive and his management team.”

She also outlined the impact the problems are having and will have on students.

The comments come after academic staff members raised concerns about the proposed changes to the institution, most of them under the Sustainability Project –Unitec’s plan to cut costs and save money through a large series of restructuring across the institution.

She had comments from lecturers, managers and heads of departments.

A common complaint was staff felt they were being ignored and not included in the decision making process, that despite how much time they spend providing feedback to proposed changes, they are effectively ignored.

However, Unitec chief executive Rick Ede says he takes issue with the accusation. He says they have been very thorough with gaining staff feedback.

“We listen to every piece of input (but) listening is one thing; consultation does not mean adapting the response to every single input we get.” Staff also felt the leadership team did not understand how existing Unitec systems function, and were rushing to make big changes without thinking of the effects on staff and students.

Another person wrote “staff feel they just cannot sit powerlessly and watch how Unitec is heading towards its own destruction.” They also felt that their workloads were too high and this is at the expense of quality.

“If bosses want high school level of teaching - we can deliver that, but with this workload (it) is impossible to do research, be current and innovative and create new paradigms in areas of our expertise,” one comment said.

Further, another commented that this is causing them to lose their uniqueness and their quality students because lecturers cannot provide them with quality time necessary for learning at this level.

They felt there was no rationale behind the changes, that there has been no indication of a problem with the current situation.

Ms Patterson also brought up the need to review and evaluate the management at Unitec, with the ability to provide anonymous feedback from those who are being managed – something akin to the SEQUALS that students write on academic staff.

Staff said that the culmination of these problems felt “as if a huge train is leaving the station down a wrong track and they are still on the platform.”

Dr Ede says the Council decided to keep with the changes proposed because they are “each seen as being in the best long-term interests of students and staff.” In regards to the low morale and uneasy relationship with the senior executive, Dr Ede says he will “ensure that appropriate, ongoing communication is maintained” with all staff.

He says the low morale is because of uncertainty in the institution, but as plans start to come to fruition, morale should lift.

When asked about comments the expressed at lack of faith in he and his executive’s abilities to do their jobs Dr Ede says “every staff member has the right to express their opinion about the changes.

“I’m prepared to be judged on the record of Unitec’s performance over time as will my team.”

Of the comments that were quite personal towards various executive members, Dr Ede says they were “not appropriate, not professional and not tolerable under our Code of Conduct.”

He believes some of the comments were demeaning or derogatory. “I expect all staff to treat each other with respect and tolerance throughout such debates, and to maintain a professional demeanour. There are no grounds for anyone to turn these disagreements into personal attacks.”

Saturday, May 23, 2009

AC/DC fires up charity climber

1:37PM Saturday May 23, 2009

The Herald, Stuff

Australian rockers AC/DC provided the soundtrack for one of more than 300 firefighters who, weighed down with gear, raced up 51 floors of Auckland's Sky Tower for charity today.

The race, in its sixth year, was to raise money for the New Zealand Leukaemia and Blood Foundation (LBF).

A record 365 firefighters competed.

Participants must wear firefighting gear, which weights 25kg, to climb to the observatory of the tower.

Firefighters do their own fundraising.

LBF chief executive Pru Etcheverry said she was "very humbled" by the firefighters' fundraising efforts.

"There has been traditional bucket shaking, hangis, casino nights up north, stair climbs and head shaves - all sorts of things. "

The firefighters are timed over the 51-floor climb.

Volunteer firefighter Lisa McCallum of Waitakere's Bethells Valley station said AC/DC kept her going through the challenge.

"I had my iPod on listening to AC/DC Thunderstruck and I just rocked all the way up," she told NZPA.

Kamo firefighter Hamish Cate was one of about 50 firefighters down from Northland.

He said the race was like running up stairs in a sleeping bag with all his firefighting gear on.

- NZPA

Bridge protesters may return

Herald, Stuff,
Last updated 17:30 24/05/2009

The organisation behind today's Harbour Bridge protest, which blocked traffic and caused major delays, says another crossing might be needed to make their message clear.

Thousands of protesters broke through police barriers today to walk and cycle across the Harbour Bridge to protest its lack of cycle lanes and walkways.

The bridge was closed to northbound traffic for about more than hour from 10am, causing major delays and backups, after the protestors illegally broke onto the bridge's north lane.

Tonight the New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA) said the protest had not altered its stance on the issue.

GetAcross spokesman Bevan Woodward was disappointed in the NZTA's response but said the group, formed around 18 months ago, would not give up.

He had hoped the NZTA would have realised the strong support for walking and cycling on the Harbour Bridge, and said they should have co-operated with the organisers earlier.

"They really mismanaged the situation today. They were not prepared for it, they would not meet with us before hand to talk about how it could work without inconveniencing the traffic."

GetAcross want to work with the NZTA over the issue in a "positive manner", he said.

While he did not want to protest again, it was possible.

"If the Transport Agency don't pull their head out of the sand and wake up to the high level of support of this and how vital it is to the Auckland region, then there will be another protest and it will be a whole lot bigger than today. It will make today look like walk in the park. It will be massive."

NZTA and the police were critical of the organisers, "who did not keep their commitment to not force their way on to the bridge", NZTA regional director Auckland and Northland Wayne McDonald said.

Protesters were moved on to lanes three and four to avoid a swaying motion on the clip-on lanes, he said.

"We wanted to avoid people trying to move from the clip-on on to the truss section over gaps in the road deck which are dangerous for anyone not in a vehicle, especially small children," Mr McDonald said.

Green Party Co-Leader Russel Norman also attended the protest and said while he was disappointed with in NZTA for not co-operating with organisers, he has happy with police actions.

"At the end of the crossing, people were applauding the Police," Dr Norman said.

The police were put in a tricky position by the incompetence of the transport agency but they put public safety first .

"It was just tremendous to be there - it was a real celebration of walking and biking, and showed just how Aucklanders could get around if the Government had the gumption and the brains to think beyond building motorways."

The motorway had to be closed in several places to protect protesters, causing widespread congestion.
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Some motorists were trapped in the closures for up to two hours, and special arrangements had to made for an oxygen tanker that needed to make an urgent delivery to the North Shore.

- NZPA

Protest closes Auckland Harbour Bridge

Stuff, the Herald, ODT, TV3 and Tv1

Sun, 24 May 2009

Auckland Harbour Bridge is open to traffic again after thousands of protesters forced their way through police barricades closing all four northbound lanes this morning.

The protest was organised by the Auckland GetAcross campaign group, in response to the New Zealand's Transport Agency's rejection of at least three proposals to allow cycling and walking on the bridge.

Last week NZTA decided not to allow the protest for safety reasons.

The group said it wanted to celebrate the bridge's 50th birthday as well as protesting the lack of cycle and pedestrian access by crossing it .

Event spokesperson Bevan Woodward told NZPA the group had not intended the crossing to take place against the wishes of police and NZTA, but they could not stop "people power."

Mr Woodward earlier told the crowd it was in NZTA regional director Wayne McDonald's hands whether they could cross.

Mr McDonald was also at the event and was heckled when he told protesters they could not cross.

Mr Woodward said he was surprised by the level of support the protest received.

Auckland Regional Transport Authority chairperson Christine Rose told the protesters the bridge needed to be open to cyclists and walkers because "we want a city that burns fat not oil."

Commuter cyclist Peter Schmiedeskamp told NZPA the bridge needed to be permanently opened to cyclists and walkers.

"It's important we all show our support to get over the bridge it's a premium section of roadway in New Zealand, if we are serious about being green, then this is an important place to make a stand ."

Protesters, including children crossed the bridge on foot and on bikes.

Police said there were no arrests or injuries during the protest.

The bridge was close to northbound traffic for about an hour between 10am and 11 am caused major delays and backups.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Air NZ strike to end tonight

Stuff, Taranaki Daily News
Last updated 15:01 10/05/2009

The lockout of striking Air New Zealand cabin crew is set to end at midnight.

About 240 crew employed by Air NZ subsidiary Zeal walked off the job on Thursday after two months of fruitless negotiations over pay parity with staff employed directly by the airline.

The workers are represented by the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union.

The cabin crew was picketing at the Auckland Airport today as "the last rally before the troops go back to work" union spokesman Strachan Crang said.

He said some flights had been cancelled during the protests and others consolidated, causing delays. However, Air NZ could not be reached to confirm this.

"The important thing is we have had a huge amount of public support," Mr Crang said.

The information Air NZ had put out over the pay difference were "stretched figures" he said.

The union said Zeal staff were paid up to $30,00 a year less than their Air NZ colleagues, a figure the airline has rejected.

Air NZ said the union was making comparisons with long-haul cabin crew who earned a similar base salary but had higher allowances paid in foreign currency while they were on international stopovers.

Air NZ has responded to the strike by locking out Zeal staff and bringing in management to push the trolleys on board affected flights.

About 100 staff were trained to act as crew, including chief executive Rob Fyfe and other senior management, said airline group general manager of short haul airlines, Bruce Parton.

The cabin crew will be going back to work tonight, but will continue the low level industrial action like refusing to comply with the uniform policy and refusing to carry out standby duties.

Mr Crang said mediation had not been set up with the airline yet as union representatives had been spending the last four days representing their members' interests.

- NZPA

Student Remains In Custody In Road Rage Case

The Herald
1:58PM Monday Apr 27, 2009

Auckland Unitec student Bio O'Brien, accused of assaulting an elderly man who later died, will spend another four weeks behind bars.

O'Brien, 27, from the central Pacific island group of Tuvalu, appeared in Auckland District Court today, charged with assaulting Jasmatbhai Patel, 78, on Carrington Road, Mount Albert, in Auckland on April 8. It was an apparent case of road rage.

Mr Patel, of Te Atatu, later died in hospital.

Lawyer David Niven did not seek bail for O'Brien this morning.

He said he should know in four weeks time what other charges O'Brien will face.

Judge Allison Sinclair remanded O'Brien in custody until May 25 when he will appear at a pre-depositions hearing.

- NZPA

Road rage incident leaves driver in hospital

stuff.co.nz and all major media in NZ
Last updated 12:24 07/04/2009
A road rage attack has left a person in intensive care in Auckland Hospital this morning.
Police said the man was allegedly attacked by the driver of a BMW car on Carrington Rd in Mt Albert shortly before 8am.
The BMW and the victim's vehicle, a van, had been travelling south along Carrington Rd outside UNITEC at about 7.50am when a minor crash occurred.
Police said it appeared the driver of the BMW then got out of his car and attacked the driver of the van, pulling him from his vehicle to continue the alleged assault.
The BMW driver is in police custody at Avondale Police Station and has been arrested for assault. He is continuing to assist police with their inquiries into the incident.
Detective Senior Sergeant Simon Scott of Avondale CIB says Police would like to hear from witnesses to the alleged assault. Anyone who has information should call 09 820-5786.

Dogs kill endangered wekas

On Stuff, and ODT

09/05/2009

were killed last week by roaming dogs on Kawau Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

Department of Conservation (DOC) biodiversity manager Rory Renwick said the dogs were found in the grounds of Mansion House on Tuesday morning, with the dead weka, a peacock and a wallaby nearby.

The owner of the two dogs lost track of them when out walking, he said.

Kawau Island has about 3500 weka, two thirds of the population of the birds in the North Island.

"Kawau is by far the strong hold, but definitely can't sustain that kind of a hammering. We found 14 but there could well be a lot more of them (killed)," he said.

DOC is "trying to find out exactly what happened and make sure it does not happen again in the future," he said.

Mr Renwick could not say whether the owner of the dogs would be fined over this incident.

- NZPA

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Charities struggle to help needy

Sun, 03 May 2009 3:15p.m.

TV3 and printed in the Herald

The number of families seeking help from charities has risen dramatically because of the recession, and many find it "embarrassing" to ask for help.

The Salvation Army said it faced an almost 40 percent increase in the number of families seeking help.

In the first quarter of this year, the number of food parcels distributed jumped 44 percent from 7316 to 10,517 and the number of families receiving food aid climbed from 5600 to 7835, compared to this time last year.

Salvation Army spokesman Robbie Ross said they had seen an extra 5000 families who had gone into the Salvation Army for the first time.

"That marks where we are with the difficult financial times people are going through," he said.

However, many people were embarrassed to ask for help, he added.

"If you've been managing okay for all this time then you have to go and seek some help from a stranger, it's an embarrassing situation for people."

The Salvation Army food packages were made up from "a combined effort" of donations from companies, individuals and the organisation also bought a lot of the products used.

Despite the worsening financial times, donations were "holding up quite well" compared to last year, but they needed more, he said.

"The Salvation Army has the ability to help people, we don't have the resources and we need the whole nation to be a part of that," Mr Ross said.

The Salvation Army hoped its appeal week starting tomorrow would raise $700,000.

Auckland City Mission was also facing a drastic rise in demand because of the recession.

Chief executive Diane Robertson said they had seen a sixty percent increase in people asking for food parcels and assistance since November last year.

The city mission gave out food parcels to 70 food banks in the Auckland region, and was reliant on donations from big companies and individuals.

However, there was a decline in big bulk donations from companies and an increase in demand from all of the food banks, she said.

The mission tried to have fruit, vegetables, bread and meat in the food packages, but was struggling to meet the increasing demand because of the drop in donations.

"People on very low incomes are really struggling -- for people on benefits the money isn't worth as much, and then we have another whole new group of people who have been made redundant."

Ms Robertson said the mission saw a lot of women from low-income families, who came in after being made redundant from jobs where they were earning the families secondary income.

"A lot of women who have had jobs as cleaners and brought up the (family) income to be sustainable, they have lost their jobs."

People were also embarrassed to ask for help, she said. " People feel quite mortified and ashamed they are humiliated."

NZPA

De La Soul back in the game

21/04/2009
Stuff, printed in the Herald, TV3


Hip-hop group De La Soul are heading to New Zealand to celebrate their 20-year career, and hope to get to know the New Zealand culture while they are at it. Stacey Knott chat to rapper Trugoy the Dove.

American hip-hop group De La Soul are coming to New Zealand to celebrate their "20 years in the game", says group member David Jolicoeur, aka Trugoy the Dove.

The New York-based rap trio will be doing their most comprehensive New Zealand tour to date next month, taking their positive-message hip-hop to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Wanaka.

The group, made up of Kelvin Mercer, aka Posdnuos, Vincent Mason, aka Pasemaster Mase, and Jolicoeur released their debut, ground-breaking album 3 Feet High and Rising in 1989.

Jolicoeur says this tour will reflect what the group has accomplished over their career to date, and they will be playing tracks from their 20-year catalogue.

After the release of De La Soul's first album, critics said the trio's style was a move away from the more negative "gangsta rap" of the time, and would mark a new way for hip-hop.

De La Soul's career highlights centred on working with their musical heroes, such as fellow New York group The Beastie Boys, and Gorillaz.

"The highlights are the relationships and working with people we admire ... we record with people we share ideals with," Jolicoeur says.

However, subject matter has changed as the group has aged. Themes like family and marriage now come through the music, but Jolicoeur says the important thing is that band members keep true to themselves in their music.

The tour also marks 20 years since De La Soul were sued for copyright breach in what became a landmark lawsuit in the United States.

De La Soul were found guilty of sampling music from 1960s pop group The Turtles for their single Me Myself and I. The case changed hip-hop music, as it meant all samples had to be legally cleared before an album could be released.

"We lost a lot of the creativity that is the sampling thing, it's a part of what hip-hop is ," Jolicoeur says.

The change in law also meant De La soul's second album, De La Soul is Dead, was delayed in release so the samples could be cleared.

However, with the band's typically positive outlook, Jolicoeur says De La Soul hold no grudges over the case. They supported copyright laws after the lawsuit, and artists should "deal with it", he says.

"There should be laws to protect artists. We don't know how they feel about it, it could be a song for their child or family ... we respect the laws, and have to play the game accordingly."

He says hip-hop is everything to the group, which reflects why they have lasted so long. "We live it, it's the thing we feel."

Jolicoeur is constantly writing and rapping, even if he has no intention of releasing his works.

"I have tons and tons of stuff that will never get out."

>While De La Soul have toured New Zealand before, most recently in 2006, this time they hope to see a bit more of the country.

"We have a day off. We would love to see the place, there is so much to see other than clubs - there is the beaches, and ... cultural things."

The group are interested in different societies and cultures, and hope to finally get a taste of New Zealand's.

"We always meet people from New Zealand, they know our culture, we want to get to know theirs."

Tour dates:

May 12 Wellington, San Francisco Bathouse
May 13 Wanaka, Lake Wanaka Centre
May 14 Christchurch The Bedford
May 15 Auckland, The Powerstation

Mt Albert candidates brave the weather

09/05/2009
On Stuff, OTD, TV3 sites

National and Labour candidates for the Mt Albert by-election, supported by their leaders, braved rain to put up their hoardings today.

National list MP Melissa Lee and Prime Minister John Key were at a Mt Albert residence to put a hoarding up, with about 50 people in support.

Mr Key said National would give the campaign "everything we've got and see how it goes".

"We've got a great candidate ... we have to acknowledge it's been a Labour seat for 63 years, it was won six months ago by 7500 votes, we're under no illusions about the sort of fight we are up against."

Ms Lee said she was "feeling great" about the campaign, and had already started door knocking.

"We are in the rain and cold to meet the people in Mt Albert to see what they are concerned about," she said.

Residents were concerned about the same things the rest of New Zealand was, she said.

She believed law and order was a big issue for people in the area.

"As a victim of a home invasion myself I understand exactly how they feel. I want to feel safe in my own home and on the street."

Labour candidate David Shearer and leader Phil Goff were also out putting up hoardings this morning.

Mr Shearer wanted to "get them all up and make a real impact."

He had also been talking to the people of Mt Albert, and said he had been getting good feedback.

"The vibe has been really good."

He said the big issues for the electorate were the Waterview Connection motorway, the "super-city", which people didn't understand, and the economy. Mr Shearer said he did not believe crime was such a big issue, but people did want "strong, safe communities."

Mr Shearer's campaign would be "old fashioned", with a lot of door knocking, he said.

-NZPA

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bad news for Waterview – here comes a motorway!

In Unison, May 14, 2009

A motorway that will run behind Unitec will stop criminals from South Auckland coming to rob Mt Albert, says National MP Melissa Lee.

This controversial statement was made last Wednesday at Unitec, where candidates for the up-coming Mt Albert by-election debated the proposed Waterview Connection; the final plan for it was released last week.

The Waterview Connection will complete Auckland's Western Ring Route and will be 60 percent underground with two tunnels and two motorways. It will go underneath Great North Road until it meets Blockhouse Bay Road where there will be a short stretch of motorway. It will then dip back underground before rising again after New North Road.

The Waterview Connection will mean 360 houses in the Waterview and Mt Albert area will be demolished. At the meeting, Ms Lee tried to tell the raucous audience about the benefits of the motorway.

While she “really feels” for the people who will be losing their homes for the motorway to be built, she says it needs to be finished. Ms Lee told the audience that people drive through Mount Albert from South Auckland to get to West Auckland.

The motorway could divert some of that traffic - and the criminals - away from the Mount Albert streets. This call was met with much booing from the crowd. ACT was the only other party at the forum that supports the motorway, but candidate John Boscawen presented an alternative route that he says would lessen the impact on the community. When Labour was in power, it had begun plans of a tunnel in the area, but this plan was rejected last week in favour of the motorway-tunnel plan. Labour candidate for the Mt Albert seat David Shearer, says Labour’s tunnel plan is the best option, and he will keep fighting for it.

The tunnel would have preserved the community he says, “but today we had the awful reality the 360 people will lose their homes, we will have a six lane motorway that will go right through the middle of the community.”

I believe we should be standing up for the communities instead of bulldozing their lives away.”

Mr Shearer felt the area was being targeted because it is poor. "If this motorway was being built for Paritai Drive or Remuera, we wouldn't be having this meeting."

He says the motorway will devalue property and be “a complete disaster”. Mr Shearer called for better public transport, which was met with huge applause from the audience. Green candidate and co-leader Russell Norman also called for better public transport as he is totally opposed to the “stupid motorway”.

He says that all around the world people are moving away from motorways, and National’s current plan is a “dinosaur approach” that does not take into account climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and the cost of borrowing the money to build it.

“Motorways do not work,” he says. The motorway will be congested from the moment it opens up because motorways attract more traffic, he says. He vowed to stand by Waterview residents who want to fight the motorway, and called for the need for “civil disobedience” to stop it from being built.

Julian Pistorius from the Libertarianz Party, which believe in the free market, seemed out of his depth at the forum, sticking to the same line that people should not listen to the politicians over this issue; instead they should leave it up to the free market. “No government has the right to violate property rights of people,” he says.

“This does not have to be rammed through by the force of government.” The audience were able to ask questions of the candidates, many of which were heated statements about the effect the motorway will have on the community, directed at Ms Lee. One irate Waterview resident said the government was “clogging up our beautiful city with goddamn motorways, Waterview is surrounded three ways by a marine reserve…we want public transport and rail.” While Ms Lee agrees there needs to be better public transport, she says there has to be roads, like the motorway, for the buses to go on. Work on the project is due to start in 2011 and should be completed within four years. It is estimated the route will cost approximately $1.4 billion.