Home' Greymouth Star : October 13th 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Friday, October 13, 2017
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uLetters to the editor
1792 - Cornerstone of the White House
is laid during a ceremony in the District of
1844 - Greenwich Mean Time introduced.
1974 - Death of American TV personality-
columnist Ed Sullivan.
1992 - The pyramids, the Sphinx
and other monuments survive a
Cairo earthquake that kills at least
400 and injures more than 4000.
1993 - A fanatical fan of tennis
player Steffi Graf is convicted of
stabbing her arch-rival Monica
Seles but receives only a two-year
1994 - Swiss police say cult guru Luc Jouret
was among the charred bodies found in the
deaths that cost the lives of 52 of his disciples.
1998 - A gas explosion sets off a pile of
gunpowder used to make illegal fireworks in
Tultepec, Mexico, obliterating a two-block
area and killing at least 10 people.
2010 - The rescue of 33 Chilean miners
trapped beneath 610m of rock ends the
longest underground entrapment in history.
2015 - Investigators find a Russian-made
missile brought down MH17 over
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Margaret Thatcher, former British prime
minister (1925-2013); Lenny Bruce,
US comedian (1925-1966); Frank
Gilroy, US playwright (1925-2015);
Nana Mouskouri, Greek singer and
politician (1934-); Paul Simon, US
singer-musician (1941-); Marie
Osmond, US singer (1959-); Kelly
Preston, US actress (1962-); Sacha
Baron Cohen, British comedian (1971-); Ian
Thorpe, Australian swimmer (1982-).
“One man’s transparency is another’s
humiliation.” — Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn
Fein, political ally of the Irish Republican
“He learned obedience through what he
suffered.” — (Hebrews 5:8).
Today was the last
day in the working
life of Arthur Edgar
Elliston, ‘fix-it ’ man
at the Inangahua County Council for 20 years.
With octogenarian status only a few months
away, one of the district ’s most colourful
identities is to join the ranks of the retired.
Edgar retired 20 years ago from an average
working lifetime’s association with the quartz
mining industry in the Reefton district, but
go to seed in retirement. Then he joined the
outside staff of the council. Officially he has
been a labourer. Unofficially he is the authority
on the town’s water and sewerage systems,
parks beautification, and turns his hand with
remarkable success to carpentry, blacksmithing
and a host of other jobs.
Edgar Elliston was born at Blacks Point, just
outside Reefton. His father was a pioneer of
both Blacks Point and Reefton before either
was on the map.
Former West Coaster Mr Jim Mulcare, now
83, has been commissioned to write the histroy
of the old West Coast Provincial Farmers’
Union and its successor the present Federated
Farmers. He has been on the Coast this week
assembling material. The dominion secretary of
Federated Farmers, of which Mr Mulcare is a
life member, asked the former Coaster to write
He was formerly provincial secretary of the
branch here but he has been set a difficult task
because all the early records were destroyed by
fire. Mr Mulcare is considered the only person
alive who could possibly recall the details. He
has a particularly retentive memory.
uFood for thought
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hen a rocket blasted
off from Mahia
Peninsula in May
this year, New
the 11th country to
launch into space.
It was a small step in what Peter
Crabtree and others hope could become a
larger leap into the global space race.
Crabtree, the Ministry of Business,
Innovation and Employment ’s general
manager of science and innovation, is
tasked with overseeing the New Zealand
The agency was launched in April 2016,
but Crabtree says the work began in late
2015, when US-NZ aerospace company
Rocket Lab approached MBIE with a
plan to carry out rocket launches in New
“Their launches were going to be out of
the United States but they very quickly
realised that they could t get what we call
the tempo of launches out of the US, 50
to 100 a year, it was never going to be
“The request came and we thought sure,
it will be quite simple, but it wasn’t — it
became very clear there were loads of
either obstacles or preconditions that we
didn’t have here.”
The United States needed “bolted-
down assurances” that its missile control
technologies would be protected —
provided in a Technology Safeguards
Agreement — while New Zealand
itself had to develop a policy and legal
framework to govern what took place here.
“Little pockets of government had been
focused on things like remote sensing and
earth obser vation, but we had no national
space policy at all. ”
Within four months, the basic template
had been set up with a speed Crabtree is
still proud of.
“It’s been interesting lately talking to
other parties in the world where they ’ve
taken years and years to work on their
space laws and they haven’t got anywhere,
and we were quite lucky because we had a
blank sheet of paper.”
The New Zealand Space Agency is
rather less grandiose than it sounds: the
team is made up of between 15 and 20
staff, and until July this year it had to
make do with existing MBIE funding (it
has since been given $4 million a year to
develop its regulatory regime).
The biggest challenge, Crabtree says, has
been the ‘classic small government thing’
of lacking expertise.
“ We didn’t have the experience or
technological depth, but the focus is on
picking things up quickly but also working
with international partners who can bring
that to you...
“I set the challenge which was, can we
move as fast as Rocket Lab?”
New Zealand has what Crabtree deems ‘a
natural resource endowment ’ when it comes
to space-related activities, such as a range of
“ You want to launch a rocket to the
east, and you want to launch a rocket over
the ocean, and you want that ocean to be
relatively clear of ships, and you want the
sky to be relatively clear of planes.
“There are very few places in the world
that tick all the boxes.”
The way New Zealand ’s space regime has
been set up also appeals.
Crabtree distinguishes between ‘old space
actors and new space actors’: the former
have relied on government funding, while
the latter — like Rocket Lab — are largely
paid for by private capital.
Other countries’ rules have been set up for
old actors, with big launches that happen
infrequently, while New Zealand’s have
been designed primarily for the new kids
on the block.
“Here we’ve got very small rockets,
potentially very frequent launches, so
we’ve got a regime which is in essence
proportionate to the risks associated with
One of the goals is to entice other
companies to piggyback on Rocket Lab’s
success. While launches are valuable to the
economy, Crabtree says the most lucrative
slice of the space economy comes from
ser vices — remote sensing, navigation
systems, telecommunications, hazard
management, precision agriculture and
“ With Rocket Lab, what we have
is an anchor tenant: they ’re got an R
and D presence here and they ’ve got
a manufacturing presence and as the
manufacturing presence steps up, it feeds
through the whole supply chain and that ’s a
really exciting thing here.”
Team New Zealand provided the carbon
composite technology which was invaluable
to Rocket Lab, and Crabtree says the
benefits can flow in the other direction.
“If you’re doing space commercial activity,
you’re solving hard problems and those
hard problems are very relevant to other
“So much of our consumer technology
that we have now essentially evolved out
of space programmes — everything from
watches to telecommunications were
generated by these big science projects and
Beyond the economic calculations,
Crabtree hopes a booming space industry
can encourage children to develop an
interest in space and technology.
“Kids get interested in science either
through dinosaurs or space, and we’ve had
lots of dinosaur kids, but space hasn’t really
had a fair go.”
The agency has been providing
educational materials for schools to use,
while universities also want to attract those
keen on making a future contribution to
the space race.
While Rocket Lab is the only game in
town at present, the agency is hopeful that
other companies could eventually choose to
launch rockets from New Zealand.
“ We’ve been out in the world trying to
seek to understand what that market looks
like now, and what it might look like in a
few years’ time.”
At the moment, Rocket Lab is leading
the pack in small launches due to its lead in
technology and investment, but Crabtree is
sure that will change.
“The prospects are big so others will
be chasing, and others will face the same
constraints Rocket Lab has faced in terms
of where could you launch from, so we’re
very clear to other parties around the world
that New Zealand could be a destination
As new companies and countries enter
the market, we are seeing what Crabtree
describes as ‘a democratisation of space’.
With current treaties largely based on big
state interests, space rules and governance
will need to adapt to new forms of activity,
including something as simple as the
increased risk of collisions in a more
“ We need to make sure we’re a really
responsible participant in that, so we’ve got
a long-term interest in helping shape that
global regime as well as operating within
There is also a need to manage foreign
actors keen to make the most of New
Zealand’s conditions; a recent report
expressing concerns about Chinese
influence here noted that companies
Shanghai Pengxin and Kuang Chi Science
have used New Zealand dairy farms for
Crabtree says the new Outer Space
and High-Altitude Activities Act, which
comes into force in December, will allow
the Government to reject any space or
high-altitude activity not in New Zealand’s
interest, including on national security
“It will all be decided on a case-by-case
basis, and we have a whole lot of tests in the
regulations: who are these people, are they
fit and proper people?”
Next, the agency will focus on building
up the science and innovation side of the
equation, fuelling the labour market for
the new industry, and finding funds to help
bring in other Rocket Labs.
Our humble space agency has already
attracted the interest of bigger players:
Crabtree has already spoken to Nasa,
and hopes to bring the European Space
Agency over in the near future to show
how our modest model can succeed.
“ Instead of seeing small as a problem,
being small and agile is an advantage.”
NZ’s leap into space
With New Zealand’s entry into the space race has come our very own space agency.
SAM SACHDEVA of Newsroom, spoke to NZ Space Agency head Peter Crabtree
about the challenges of entering orbit and where the industry is headed next.
PICTURE: Rocket Lab
A rocket is launched from Mahia Peninsula.
Michael Georgy and Maha El Dahan
While Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
was accusing the west of turning a blind eye
to Islamic State smuggling, a member of his
parliament was quietly doing business with
the group, farmers and administrators in
the militants’ former stronghold said.
The arrangement helped the Syrian
government to feed areas still under its
control after Islamic State took over the
north-eastern wheat-growing region during
the six-year-old civil war, they said.
Traders working for businessman and
lawmaker Hossam al-Katerji bought wheat
from farmers in Islamic State areas and
transported it to Damascus, allowing the
group to take a cut, five farmers and two
administrators in Raqqa province they said.
Katerji’s office manager, Mohammed
Kassab, confirmed that Katerji Group was
providing Syrian government territories
with wheat from the north-east of Syria
through Islamic State territory but denied
any contact with Islamic State. It is not
clear how much Assad knew of the wheat
Co-operation over wheat between a
figure from Syria’s establishment, which
is backed by Shi’ite power Iran, and the
hardline Sunni Islamic State would mark a
new ironic twist in a war that has deepened
regional Sunni-Shi’ite divisions.
Reuters contacted Katerji’s office six times
to request comment but was not given
access to him.
His office manager Kassab, asked how the
company managed to buy and transport
the wheat without any contact with Islamic
State, said: It was not easy, the situation was
very difficult. When asked for details he
said only that it was a long explanation. He
did not return further calls or messages.
Damascus, under US and EU sanctions
over the conflict and alleged oil trading
with Islamic State, strongly denies any
business links with the hardline Islamist
militants, arguing that the United States is
responsible for their rise to power.
The self-declared caliphate they set up
across large parts of Syria and Iraq in
2014 has all but collapsed after western-
backed forces drove them out of their Iraqi
stronghold, Mosul and surrounded them in
Raqqa, where they are now confined to a
Russian and Iranian-backed Syrian forces
are attacking them elsewhere, such as Deir
al Zor on Syria’s eastern border, where
Kassab says he was speaking from, in a
continuing struggle for the upper hand
between world powers.
Five farmers in Raqqa described how
they sold wheat to Katerji’s traders during
Islamic State rule in interviews at the
building housing the Raqqa Civil Council,
formed to take over once the city is retaken.
“The operation was organised,” said
Mahmoud al-Hadi, who owns agricultural
land near Raqqa and who, like the other
farmers, had come to the council’s cement
offices to seek help.
“I would sell to small traders who sent
the wheat to big traders who sent it on
to Katerji and the regime through two or
three traders,” he said.
He and the other farmers said they all had
to pay Islamic State a 10% tax, or zakat, and
sold all of their season’s supplies to Katerji’s
traders under the multi-layered scheme.
Local officials said Katerji’s traders bought
up wheat from Raqqa and Deir al-Zor and
gave Islamic State 20%.
If a truck is carrying 100 sacks, they
(Islamic State) would keep 20 and give the
rest to the trucker, said Awas Ali, a deputy
of the Tabqa joint leadership council, a
similar, post-Islamic State local body allied
to the Kurdish-led forces now attacking
Ali said he learned of the details of the
arrangement with Katerji by speaking with
Islamic State prisoners and others who
worked in the group’s tax collection and
road tolling systems.
Katerji’s trucks were well known and
the logo on them was clear and they were
not harassed at all, Ali said, adding that
Katerji’s people were active during the last
buying season, which lasts from May to
August. The farmers also said the trucks
were identifiable as Katerji’s.
The truck drivers were even allowed to
smoke cigarettes as they passed through
the checkpoints, something Islamic
State enforcers punished with whippings
elsewhere, Ali and several other sources
“I would sell an entire season’s supplies to
Katerji’s traders,” said farmer Ali Shanaan.
“They are known traders. The checkpoints
stopped the trucks and Daesh would take
a cut and let them pass,” he said, using an
Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
The wheat was transported via the new
bridge over the Euphrates River to a road
leading out of Raqqa, the farmers and local
officials said. Control of the bridge is now
unclear as the militants in Raqqa come
close to defeat.
Raqqa-based lawyer Abdullah al-Aryan,
who said he had been a consultant for some
of Katerji’s traders, said Katerji’s trucks
brought goods into Islamic State territory
as well as wheat out.
“Food used to come from areas controlled
by the government. Medicine and food,”
Islamic State rule involved shooting or
beheading perceived opponents in public
squares, imposing its own extreme version
of sharia, Islamic law, and then providing
basic goods such as bread and setting up
ministries and taxation.
Several farmers said they saw Islamic
State documents which were stamped at
checkpoints to allow the wheat trucks to
pass. They belonged to the department
which imposes taxes.
Islamic State may have exported some
of the wheat. Local officials and farmers
said the militants, as well as a rebel group,
had sold the contents of grain silos in the
north-east to traders across the Turkish
Assad has accused his enemies, including
Turkey and Western countries, of
supporting the group, something they deny.
In an inter view in March with a Chinese
news agency, published by Syrian state
news agency SANA, Assad said:
As for the other side, which is the
United States, at least during the Obama
administration, it dealt with Daesh through
overlooking its smuggling of Syrian oil to
Turkey, and in that way
Daesh was able to procure money in order
to recruit terrorists from all over the world.”
Asked whether Syrian companies were
dealing with Islamic State to secure wheat,
Internal Trade and Consumer Protection
Minister Abdullah al-Gharbi said in
August: “No, not at all.”
Speaking to Reuters at a Damascus trade
fair, he added: “ This doesn’t exist at all.
We are importing wheat from Russian
companies in addition to our local crop and
this talk is completely unacceptable.”
The wheat buying season ended in August
and IS has lost control of the wheat-
growing areas, either to government forces
or the Syrian Kurdish-led Syrian Defence
Assad has traditionally relied on a close-
knit set of businessmen most notably Rami
Makhlouf, his maternal cousin, to help keep
Syria’s economy afloat.
Makhlouf is subject to international
sanctions and relies on various associates to
Katerji is a household name around
Raqqa and elsewhere. Farmer Hadi likened
him to a late Greek shipping tycoon,
Aristotle Onassis. Katerji is the Onassis of
Syria, he said.
Katerji’s Facebook profile page shows him
shaking hands with Assad and he regularly
posts pictures of the president, who he
describes as a beacon of light for pan-
Arabism, patriotism and loyalty.
He is member of parliament for Aleppo,
a key battleground recovered by the
government late last year, and is part of
a new business class that has risen to
prominence during the war.
The United States and EU have imposed
a range of measures targeted both at the
government and some of the many armed
groups operating in Syria, but foodstuffs are
Flat bread is a subsidised staple for
Syrians, who have suffered under a conflict
estimated to have killed several hundred
thousand people and forced millions to flee
The government needs about 1.5 million
tonnes annually to feed the areas it controls
and keep Syrians on Assad’s side.
Syria’s bread-basket provinces of Hasaka,
Raqqa and Deir al-Zor account for nearly
70% of total wheat production.
While the government looks set to retake
much of Deir al-Zor province soon, Hasaka
is mostly under the control of US-backed
Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, who are also
likely to hold sway in Raqqa along with
Arab allied groups.
Ali, from the Tabqa council, predicted
that would not stop the wheat trade. People
like Katerji, with a lot of money and power,
their activities will never be completely
frozen,” he said. “It is just going to
disappear from one area and go to another.”
Syrian lawmaker buys wheat from Islamic State territory
A truck loaded with wheat in Syria.
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