July Commonwealth Place

By Murray Burt

Rebecca Kitteridge, new SIS head, has steely strength and discreet style

Rebecca Kitteridge, new SIS head, has steely strength and discreet style

NZ’s new spy boss comes to job with good record and high praise from the Prime Minister

Former Secretary of the Cabinet and Clerk of the Executive Council, Rebecca Kitteridge, has taken over the position of Director of Security for the Security Intelligence Service (SIS).

Announcing the appointment, Prime Minister John Key said Kitteridge was a “highly respected and professional” public servant. 

She replaces Warren Tucker, who retired from the post.

In her former job, Ms Kitteridge was seconded to conduct a high profile compliance review of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) late last year, Key said. Her report found that more than 80 people may have been illegally spied on by the agency.

Key then ordered an inquiry by former senior public servant David Henry after details of the Kitteridge report were leaked to Fairfax Media.

Ms Kitteridge “will bring strong leadership skills, excellent relationship management skills and a highly collaborative approach to the role of Director of Security,” Key said.

Melbourne setting Australian pace for ban on smoking in public

A bid to make Melbourne one of the world’s first smoke-free communities has won support in other Australian capitals, though some politicos and even anti-smoking groups worry it may be unworkable.

The proposal was given new momentum recently when a test survey found overwhelming support for Melbourne Council’s imposition of a total ban on smoking in the city.

The concept has appeal elsewhere in Australia.

The lord mayor of the City of Perth supports trials. Effective last month people there can be fined $100 for smoking in city malls.

Victoria Premier Denis Napthine said it would be impossible to implement. “I think it’s totally unworkable… it’s totally unreasonable,” he told Fairfax Radio.

Sydney City Council supports a ban on smoking but it doesn’t have the power to penalize offenders, a spokeswoman said. Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore wants the state government to implement any bans to ensure they are uniform across all councils, she said. NSW Premier Mike Baird said the government will take the possibility on board.

The City of Perth became the first West Australian council to ban smoking in major pedestrian areas when its malls went smoke-free last November. Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi, said there was a lot of public support for the ban, and wants to ultimately outlaw smoking entirely in the area.

Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg wants smoke-free areas such as Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall expanded, though he expects he will face resistance.

“We already have among the toughest laws in the country and they will be further strengthened over time, to actually save people and reduce the burden on public health,” he told AAP.

Tourist driver in stop sign crash that killed three in Christchurch

A Dutch tourist driving in suburban Christchurch faces charges that he missed a stop sign and hit a car seriously injuring its driver, killing the driver’s wife, his daughter and a little friend.

Police called it a horrifying crash, one of the city’s worst.

Shane Summerfield, 48, regained consciousness to find he had lost his wife Sally and child, Ella, 12, and that the collision had also killed Ella’s best friend, 12-year-old Abi Hone. They all are from the Christchurch suburb of Sumner.

Dutch tourist Johannes Jacobus Appelman, 52, appeared in Christchurch District Court his arm in a sling. He faces three charges of careless driving causing death and one of careless driving causing injury in the mid-afternoon crash. He was remanded on bail until July 10, and has surrendered his passport.

The case adds fuel to the concerns that many tourist motorists are ill-equipped to cope with driving circumstances in New Zealand.

Summerfield said he and the Hones held no animosity towards the Dutch driver. “He’s as much a victim in this as everyone else…At the end of the day, this could have happened to anybody…. He will have to spend the rest of his life living with this on his conscience. You wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”

Scientists say Pacific isles growing, disputing fears they are sinking

A recent finding by climate scientists say that many low-lying Pacific islands are growing, not sinking, Philippa McDonald reports from Auckland

The report runs contrary to the view that atoll nations are sinking to inevitable extinction, an example of which is the Commonwealth’s tiny isle nation of Kiribati. Its president, Anote Tong, told CNN last month he expects its populace will seek alternative settlement — and such space has been offered by the government of Fiji.

In the optimistic growth report, the Kiribati Republic was one island named as a survivor. Others were Tuvalu, and the Federated States of Micronesia. They are among those which have grown, largely due to coral debris, reclamation and sediment.

The findings, published in the magazine New Scientist, were gathered by comparing changes to 27 Pacific islands over the last 20 to 60 years using historical aerial photos and satellite images.

Auckland University’s Associate Professor Paul Kench, a member of the team of scientists, says the results challenge the view that Pacific islands are sinking due to rising sea levels associated with climate change.

“Eighty per cent of the islands we’ve looked at have either remained about the same or, in fact, gotten larger,” he said.

Some are dramatically larger, by 20 or 30 per cent or so, he said. “We’ve now got evidence the physical foundations of these islands will still be there in 100 years.”

But Dr Kench says this does not mean climate change does not pose dangers….The lands may still be there but will they still be able to support human habitation?” he asked.

Single malt scotch distillery proposed for up-country Southland

Desiree Reid, a 30-year-old Southland entrepreneur, wants to build a whisky distillery and brew a distinctive single malt whisky.

Elements of her plan includes a perfumery and museum, according to a report in the Southland Times.

Plans by the Zescent Group that Ms Reid runs, have been welcomed by most of the Cardrona valley residents where she wants to build, and were supportive after her successful presentation at a resource consent hearing in Wanaka.

Reid, who was the youngest elected representative of the Fonterra shareholders’ council, sold her South Canterbury farm and moved to Wanaka last year to start a business.

Murray Burt writes this column to raise sensitivities to the value of the Commonwealth and lift the curtain on our understanding of a third of the population of the world. Enjoy.

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