Home' Greymouth Star : November 26th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Thursday, November 26, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1095 - Pope Urban II urges the faithful
to wrest the Holy Land from the Muslims,
heralding the start of the Crusades.
1703 - A two-day “Great Storm’’ rages
throughout southern England,
flooding the Thames and Severn
rivers, 8000 people lose their lives.
1789 - A day of Thanksgiving is
set aside by United States President
George Washington to obser ve the
adoption of America’s constitution.
1960 - An unforgiving electorate
returns the National Party, led by Keith
Holyoake, in the general election after the
three-year term of the Labour Government led
by Walter Nash, which is remembered most for
its ‘’Black Budget ’’.
1965 - Ray Columbus wins the first Loxene
Golden Disc award for Till We Kissed.
1989 - New Zealand gets a third television
channel when TV3 goes to air.
1993- A police helicopter and traffic spotter
plane collide over Auckland, killing four.
2005- The All Blacks complete a second
‘’grand slam’’ tour of the British Isles nations,
defeating Scotland 29-10; the New Zealand
rugby league team keep Australia scoreless
for the first time in 20 years to secure the Tri
Nations title with an emphatic 24-0 win in the
final at Leeds.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
William (Bill) Wilson co-founder Alcoholics
Anonymous (1895-1971); Bruno
Hauptmann, convicted kidnapper-
murderer of Lindberg baby
(1899-1936); Rich Little, Canadian
impressionist and voice actor (1938-
); Tina Turner, US singer (1939-);
John McVie, British musician (1945-
); Peter Facinelli, US actor (1973-) .
“ Love your neighbours, but do not pull down
the fence.” — Chinese proverb.
“O my strength, I will sing praises to You,
for You, O God, are my fortress, the God who
shows me steadfast love.” — (Psalms 59:17).
On Saturday the
Hokitika Fire Brigade
its centennial with
the staging of the West Coast fire brigades
championships. Today it can proudly look back
on a history of operations which have saved
millions of pounds. Currently the brigade
stands 20-strong under the leadership of chief
fire officer M Davidson and possesses two
modern well-equipped appliances ready for
ser vice at a moment ’s notice.
The brigade was born 100 years ago when 58
hardy residents of the hardly-built goldrush
centre submiited their names for ser vice under
the leadership of a Mr Milliard. A total of
£300 was made available for the purchase
of a hook and ladder carriage from Ballarat,
Australia, and the site of the fire station was
granted by the Government on the Camp
Reser ve in Revell Street.
On July 18, 1869, the most disastrous fire
in Hokitika’s history broke out in the centre
of Revell Street, when 17 business premises
and several cottages were gutted. Damage
was estimated then at £30,000, and the local
brigade was highly praised for its efforts to
quell the blaze.
It is untrue that All Black for ward Kel
Tremain will play the 18 holes of the Lions
Club golf tournament on Sunday with a
hockey stick. However, said organiser Mr Bob
Donaldson yesterday afternoon, Tremain who
will be playing in the “mugs’ class” had told him
that a hockey stick would do.
Tremain is one of New Zealand and the
world’s renowned sportsmen who will be in
Greymouth for the Sportsmen’s Dinner on
Saturday and who has agreed to play in the
Lions Club event.
uFood for thought
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Why is the Government so reluctant
to get its hands on the housing crisis?
Reviewing its performance over the past
seven years, it is clear that John Key is
prepared to do just about anything to
reduce homelessness — except build the
houses that people so desperately need.
In Auckland, where the crisis is most
acute, Dr Nick Smith keeps announcing
the creation of special housing areas
(SHAs) to streamline the building
consent process. Nine more of these were
promulgated by the Minister for Building
and Housing on Monday, bringing the
tally to 106 SHAs — space for upwards of
48,000 new homes.
Dr Smith is inordinately proud of his
creation. But, having made space for all
these mini-Edens, the Minister, like the
Creator God of the Book of Genesis, has
simply blessed the property developers,
instructed them to “be fruitful and
multiply”, and withdrawn from the scene.
Actually building houses, in numbers
sufficient to significantly reduce
homelessness, is not something this
government believes the State should
be doing. It is the National Party’s firm
belief that the actual process of house
construction should be left to the market ’s
“ invisible hand”. (Presumably, the one
wielding the invisible hammer).
Unfortunately for Dr Smith, the market
has so far displayed minimal interest in
constructing homes for poor people. (Or
even, it must be said, for tolerably well off
people). According to the Labour Party’s
housing spokesman, Phil Twyford, the
Auckland City Council has been able to
account for only 102 houses completed in
Dr Smith’s SHA’s since 2013.
“ We now officially have more special
housing areas than actual houses built
in them”, Mr Twyford quipped. “ The
consenting rate still languishes at 4300
below the 13,000 new homes Auckland
needs every year just to keep up with
It is important to understand that this
exchange between Dr Smith and Mr
Twyford is not about homes constructed
for the poorest New Zealanders. These
two politicians are merely debating the
building of homes per se. In some parts
of Auckland, the average price of one of
these per se homes is fast approaching (or
long ago exceeded) $1 million. Hardly the
sort of small change your average, poverty-
stricken family is likely to find down the
back of the sofa.
Labour’s housing policy (assuming
it remains Labour’s policy) is called
Kiwibuild. It envisions the construction
(by private developers) of 100,000
“modern affordable homes” over 10 years
Just how the very poorest New
Zealanders are supposed to pay for a
“modest entry-level home” priced at
around $300,000 Labour does not explain.
(And that $300,000 figure, cited when the
policy was first released back in 2012, has
likely inflated to around $500,000 in the
current Auckland property market).
Kiwibuild would, however, assist
a great many young, middle-class
couples into their first home — which
is, unquestionably, a good thing. But,
it would do little to address the acute
shortage of low-and no-cost emergency
accommodation which is presently forcing
Maori, islander and immigrant families
into doubling-or tripling-up with relatives
and friends. That is when they are not
driven to sleep in caravan parks, under
bridges, or in their cars.
The Finance Minister, Bill English,
has, for some time, been arguing for a
whole new approach to managing the
burgeoning cost of New Zealand’s welfare
State. By inter vening early, says English,
the State can save millions — quite
possibly billions — of taxpayer dollars.
Children raised in poverty, whose lack
of a stable home environment often
requires a host of extremely costly State
inter ventions in later life, could, if targeted
early for State assistance, end up becoming
net contributors to society.
The rapid construction by Housing
New Zealand of thousands of units of
emergency accommodation would not
only contribute to the well-being of
thousands of New Zealand’s poorest and
most vulnerable citizens, but would also
largely pay for itself. Well-designed, warm,
and energy-efficient, such units could be
provided free-of-charge — at least initially
— while their occupants lives were
restored to some sort of order. Once family
life had stabilised, regular rental payments
English’s actuarial approach to
welfare would require considerable
political courage to implement. The
trick, electorally speaking, would be to
demonstrate the huge potential savings
in vote health, vote education and vote
corrections. National’s slogan could be:
“A tax-cut to every voter who provides a
future for every child. ”
Chris Trotter is a left-wing
Build now — save later
he forces fighting Isis
Iraq and Syria
Syrian army: The Syrian
army numbered 178,000
troops this year, according to
the International Institute
for Strategic Studies. Syria’s army has been
roughly halved from its pre-war strength
by deaths, defections and increased draft
dodging. In its fight against rebels and
jihadists, it relies on militias, which boast
150,000 to 200,000 members.
Iraqi army: The army counts 177,600
men, according to the IISS. After the
United States invasion in 2003, the
Americans dissolved the army, which was
then 450,000 strong, and rebuilt a new
force, which collapsed in June last year
when faced with Isis.
Washington and its allies then sought to
train the Iraqi army and the Government
to restructure it. Since September, it has
had at its disposal American F-16 fighter
jets. It depends on Shia militias, notably
the Popular Mobilisation units (Hashed
al-Shaabi) and Sunni tribes.
Kurdish forces and rebel militias: Kurds
have defended their own territory from Isis,
backed by raids by the US-led coalition
with Syria’s Kurdish People’s Protection
Units in the north and northeastern Syria,
and Peshmerga in northern Iraq.
In Syria, after the failure of a plan to
train rebels, Washington has offered
support since October 12 to a coalition of
Kurdish militia and rebel groups: the Syrian
Democratic Forces, an alliance between
the powerful YPG and other Syrian rebel
Elsewhere in Syria, the armed opposition
is fractured between a variety of moderate
and Islamist rebel groups, including the
powerful Ahrar al-Sham faction in north
and north-western Syria, the Army of
Islam near Damascus, and the Southern
Front in Daraa province. Some of those
forces have at times allied with al Qaeda
affiliate al-Nusra Front, which is in turn a
rival of Isis.
A US-led international coalition has
been conducting air strikes in Iraq since
September last year at Baghdad’s request,
and in Syria, where it has so far refused to
collaborate with the Damascus authorities.
The coalition comprises around 60
countries, including Britain, France, Syria’s
Arab neighbours and Turkey, as well as,
since late September, Tunisia, Malaysia
and Nigeria. It has ruled out any boots on
the ground but has sent in soldiers to train
Less than a dozen of the countries
actually carry out airstrikes, which have
totalled 8200 over the past year, and of
which the US has carried out 80%. Five
countries — the US, France, Canada,
Australia and Jordan — are taking part in
airstrikes in both Syria and Iraq. Others
are taking part in strikes in Syria but not
Iraq: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab
Emirates and Turkey, or in Iraq but not
Syria: Denmark, the Netherlands and
The US: Washington, whose aircraft
carrier USS Harry S Truman is expected in
the Mediterranean, has sent 3500 soldiers
to Iraq and will deploy in Syria some 50
soldiers from its special forces. They do not
take part in ground combat, except for one-
France: France is stepping up its
airstrikes in Syria after the November 13
terrorist attacks in Paris claimed by Isis. It
has mobilised 3500 soldiers, and deployed
in the eastern Mediterranean its aircraft
carrier Charles de Gaulle, more than
doubling its strike capacity.
Turkey: Turkey launched its first
airstrikes with the coalition on August 28,
and authorised the US to use its strategic
base at Incirlik.
Russia: An ally of the Damascus regime,
Moscow launched air strikes on September
30 in Syria, after boosting its military
presence over the northern summer and is
building an air base near the north-western
coastal town of Latakia. Its fleet in the
Caspian Sea is also firing cruise missiles.
Moscow, which is calling for a “ large
anti-terrorist coalition”, has according to
the Russian press sent up to 2000 soldiers.
Moscow has stepped up attacks on the
jihadists since the Paris attacks and the
downing of a Russian plane over Egypt’s
Sinai, though it continues to strike other
groups too. Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq
have been co-ordinating intelligence since
Iran: The Shia power backs the
regimes of Damascus and Baghdad
and has committed its elite troops, the
Revolutionary Guards, in Syria with some
Lebanon: The powerful Shia militia
Hizbollah has committed between 5000
and 8000 fighters to Syria, where it is
fighting alongside the Damascus regime’s
army. — AFP
Who is fighting Isis?
Geckos boast one of the most
impressive talents of any animal: the
ability to scamper up a smooth wall or
across a ceiling with ease. How do they
do it? Well, it is all in the genes.
Scientists recently said they have
sequenced the genome of the gecko
species Gekko japonicus, or Schlegel’s
Japanese gecko, and found the genetic
underpinning of the lizard’s gravity-
The gecko walks up walls and across
ceilings thanks to sophisticated
adhesive foot pads comprised of tiny
hairlike structures known as setae
covering the base of its toes. These
setae are composed predominantly of
beta-keratin, a protein found in reptiles
that is in the keratin family. Keratin is
the substance in human fingernails and
The scientists found in Gekko
japonicus an expansion in the genes
related to beta-keratin, accounting
for the gecko’s ability to generate its
setae. No such expansion exists in the
genomes of other reptiles lacking the
ability to walk on smooth vertical or
ceiling surfaces. All told, 35 such genes
“The findings provide a robust genetic
basis of adhesive setae formation,”
said Xiaosong Gu, a neuroscience and
regenerative medicine researcher at
Nantong University in China.
A gecko can cling to nearly any type
of surface, whether it is hard, soft,
smooth or rough. The new findings may
aid the development of “bio-inspired
adhesive technologies” mimicking the
gecko’s adhesive mechanism, Gu added.
Schlegel’s Japanese gecko, about 12cm
long, is a nocturnal insectivore found in
Japan and eastern China. Its climbing
abilities help the gecko catch prey and
Gecko foot pads are no recent
development. Geckos have existed since
the age of dinosaurs. Scientists in 2008
announced the discovery in Myanmar
of the remains of a gecko with adhesive
pads preserved in amber dating to 100
million years ago.
The study also revealed the genetic
foundation of the gecko’s sharp
nocturnal vision and its ability to
regenerate its tail, Gu said.
Geckos can shed their tail to escape
an attacking predator and then
later regenerate it. About 155 genes
related to regenerative abilities were
identified, providing fresh insight into
regenerative biology, Gu said.
The size of the gecko’s genome was
the largest of any reptile species whose
genome has been sequenced, Gu said.
Gecko’s amazing wall-walking
ability in the genes
Schlegel’s Japanese gecko.
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