France tax rebate to boost New Caledonia’s AirCalin airliner fleet

An AirCalin promotion poster at Tontouta International Airport, New Caledonia. Image: David Robie/PMC

By RNZ Pacific

New Caledonia’s international airline, AirCalin, has been given tax rebates by France to buy two new Airbus airliners.

The French High Commission in Noumea announced the Economics and Finance Ministry had approved the concession for the purchase of two Airbus A330-900neo planes, which are expected to be delivered in May next year.

The statement did not say how much the airline had saved.

It said this support would help AirCalin develop its activities, be it for tourism or medical evacuations.

The statement said this was also a sign of the French state’s support for the airline and for New Caledonia.

AirCalin flies to destinations in the Pacific, including Auckland in New Zealand, and also provides a service to Japan to link passengers from and to France.

-Partners-

This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

PNG government faces mounting pressure over Maseratis splurge

One of the 40 Maseratis imported by Papua New Guinea for APEC 2018 … threatened two-day strike looms. Image: EMTV News

By Johnny Blades of RNZ Pacific

Papua New Guinea’s government is under mounting pressure to account for a purchase of 40 luxury vehicles for next month’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the capital of Port Moresby.

Shipments of the Maserati sedans from Italy arrived in Port Moresby last week, to be used for ferrying around APEC leaders and other dignitaries at the summit on November 17-18.

APEC Minister Justin Tkatchenko said the Maseratis were “being committed to be paid for by the private sector” where demand was so keen they would sell “like hot cakes”.

READ MORE: Facts triumph PNG government spin in Maserati furore

Putting the value of each car at a little over US$100,000 (NZ$150,000), Tkatchenko initially said the Maseratis were being paid for with “no overall cost to the state”.

Amid a public outcry about the Maseratis, the opposition Madang MP Bryan Kramer said the deal could be illegal if the vehicles have been bought by the private sector without any cost to the government.

-Partners-

With PNG’s Public Finance Management Act requiring any state assets to be acquired or disposed of by calling for public tender, Kramer said the government must reveal when the public tender was called.

He has linked the purchase to an invoice for US$6,357,684 to PNG’s government from a Sri Lanka-based auto spare parts and sales company, Ideal Choices.

Since his earlier statement, the minister admitted to Australian media that the government paid a deposit for the purchase. But he has not explained how it would recover its costs after on-selling cars at what is expected to be a depreciated price tag.

Meanwhile, as the jigsaw around the costs of this opaque deal falls into place, the company which transported the cars, Air Bridge Cargo, confirmed its freight planes were chartered by PNG’s government.

Strike looms
Opposition MPs have called for a nationwide strike later this week in protest against the government’s Maserati deal, which has been criticised as being excessively extravagant for a government struggling to fund basic health services.

“While the country faces a polio outbreak, failing health and education systems, systemic corruption, and escalating law and order issues, prime minister (Peter) O’Neill appears to be more concerned about impressing world leaders,” Kramer said in a statement.

“The bottom line is, we cannot afford to be this extravagant. Our country is broke and the O’Neill government continues to be irresponsible and reckless.”

Papua New Guinea APEC Minister Justin Tkatchenko … facing calls to be sacked. Image: Koroi Hawkins/RNZ

Facing calls to sack Tkatchenko and step down himself, O’Neill said yesterday that the vehicles would be sold to the private sector in a public tender.

This would happen in a transparent process, he explained, as soon as the APEC summit concluded in mid-November.

“Like many other international events that we have hosted in the past in the past 40 years, there has always been an arrangement where the private sector will buy those vehicles, so that it saves government money,” the prime minister explained.

Disastrous ‘optics’
But the Maserati deal has made for disastrous “optics”, triggering global media attention and outrage among Papua New Guineans.

“The Italian automobile manufacturer must now come out publicly to explain why they agreed to sell 40 Maseratis destined for PNG APEC to a small dealership based in Colombo, Sir Lanka,” said Kramer.

The outspoken MP said he could not envisage world leaders agreeing to be ferried in luxury vehicles that appear to be procured through a small backyard dealership.

However, Tkatchenko continues to defend the import, saying the kind of service provided through Maserati was standard for APEC summits.

This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

O’Neill replies on Maseratis, shuns ‘racist’ critic as opponents call strike

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says the Papua New Guinean government will not spend any money on the purchase of 40 Maserati luxury sedans to be used to ferry APEC world leaders next month. Video: EMTV News

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says all 40 Maserati executive vehicles being delivered to Papua New Guinea for the use of world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit next month will be sold to the private sector by public tender after use.

He confirmed this would be conducted in a transparent process right after the APEC leaders’ summit on November 17-18 as frustrated opposition MPs have called for a national strike this Thursday and Friday.

Opposition MP Bryan Kramer announced on social media he had spoken to Oro Governor Garry Juffa and East Sepik Governor Allan Bird at the weekend. They agreed to call the strike as a “nonviolent act of defiance”.

READ MORE: Uproar as PNG buys 40 Maseratis for APEC summit

“We agreed that we are sick to death of seeing our people suffer while our own members of Parliament who were mandated to fight for our people’s welfare are instead colluding with overseas opportunists only to steal from our people,” Kramer said.

-Partners-

“We are disgusted. We have heard your views and expressions on social media and we share the same concerns about the corruption and scandals led by the O’Neill government.

“I asked for the support from governors Juffa and Bird and we have agreed that enough is enough. If we continue to sit back and watch you struggle to put your children through school in the hope of a job that will never exist, if the economy continues as it is, how can we call ourselves leaders?

“The degree of mismanagement and corruption is overwhelmingly out of control. If we are to wait any longer there will be nothing left to fight for.”

Former PM’s backing
A former prime minister, Sir Mekere Morauta, MP for Moresby North-West, also supported the strike call in protest at what he branded the “continuing corruption” by the O’Neill government.

“Astonishing revelations in the last couple of days about the crooked contract to buy luxury Maserati cars for APEC, and then secretly sell them to private sector cronies, is the last straw,” he said.

Prime Minister O’Neill said the government was doing nothing secret but was prepared to host a successful APEC summit next month.

When asked by Loop PNG to give a response to a statement by Australian politician Pauline Hanson about the 40 Maseratis, he said he did not respond to “racist” Australian politicians who had no idea about Papua New Guinea.

The prime minister added there had been no cuts to the PNG health budget as speculated on but the government had increased spending to combat the polio outbreak.

Increasing awareness
O’Neill said the government was also increasing awareness that parents must allow their children to be immunised early to avoid such diseases.

He added that like all previous events hosted by governments in the past, all vehicles would be sold to the private sector in a public tender.

The prime minister said all APEC hosting nations, including Australia, had provided appropriate standard vehicles for all leaders in the past.

O’Neill said it would be inappropriate for the country to transport national leaders in landcruisers.

One Nation Party Leader and Queensland Senator Pauline Hanson said she was furious with the government of PNG over the purchase of the Maserati vehicles, and called for the withdrawal of Australian aid.

The minister responsible for APEC, Justin Tkatchenko, described Hanson’s statement as not only defaming the country but a “total disgrace”.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill explaining to media about the Maserati car purchase for APEC 2018 next month. Image: EMTV News screenshot

Previous practice
Theckla Gunga of EMTV News reports: the practice of importing expensive vehicles for hosting APEC leaders’ summits has been adopted by host countries in the past.

In 2017, the Vietnamese government, through a public-private-partnership, imported Audi vehicles to use during the APEC leaders’ week.

Two years earlier, the Philippines imported 200 BMW sedans to ferry world leaders and delegates during the APEC summit.

After the meetings, those vehicles were sold to the public, or bought by the private sector.

The Pacific Media Centre has a content sharing arrangement with EM TV News.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Rabi landslide? Not a big problem, horseback and walking the answer

Riding on horseback is the main way to get around Rabi Island after the landslide blocked the road … or just walk. Image: Blessen Tom/Bearing Witness

By Hele Ikimotu on Rabi, Fiji

The rebuilding of a road on Fiji’s northern Rabi Island is currently in the works.

Fiji’s most recent natural disaster, Tropical Cyclone Keni, destroyed many parts of the country’s main towns.

One of Fiji’s outer islands, Rabi, was also affected by the cyclone.

Although the cyclone did not pass through the 66 sq km island in the Vanua Levu group, heavy rain and wind caused the landslide, blocking a road which connects the main village of Tabwewa to the rest of the island.

The landslide has meant that it is unsafe for locals to use the road. They must either walk around the rubble – or ride a horse.

This is not the first time a landslide has happened in Rabi due to the impacts of harsh weather.

-Partners-

Janet Tawaketini, whose last time on Rabi was in 1995, is visiting the island and was shocked to see the remnants of a previous landslide, also in Tabwewa.

“That’s where my great grandparents’ graves were. Their grave and their bones are literally gone,” she said.

A building company from Savusavu has been sent over to Rabi to fix the most recent landslide.

Hele Ikimotu and Blessen Tom are in Fiji as part of the Pacific Media Centre’s Bearing Witness 2018 climate change project. They are collaborating with the University of the South Pacific.

The mudslide-blocked Rabi road under repair. Image: Blessen Tom/Bearing Witness A digger to the rescue on Rabi’s blocked road. Image: Blessen Tom/Bearing Witness

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

WestConnex M4 East violates Australian pollution standards – even before tunnel opens

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: WestConnex M4 East violates Australian pollution standards – even before tunnel opens

A talk by Dr Paul Torzillo at a meeting of Camperdown Residents against WestConnex on Air Pollution and Impacts on our Health. Video: Spontaneous 45

Since the New South Wales State government was elected in 2012, the massive WestConnex super expressway system in Sydney has been a great example of how this administration just can’t seem to get its head around planning transport. Poorly justified, poorly planned and critiqued by infrastructure experts, the project is still steaming ahead, driven by the Berejiklian LNP corporate-backed machine, hell bent on getting the 33 km network of tollways sold before the next election, early next year.

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: By Wendy Bacon

You may not be able to see it but it’s the deadliest form of air pollution. It can penetrate deep into the lungs and bloodstream, causing heart attacks, lung cancer, and premature death. It’s called particulate matter, also known as particle pollution or PM.

Over the last month, I’ve been investigating Particulate Matter in the context of WestConnex. The results are disturbing. So far, this year air pollution has exceeded daily average national goals on at least 10 occasions along the route of the WestConnex M4 East, a tunnel between Homebush and Haberfield that is expected to open next year.

Daily exceedances of national goals are supposed to be rare in Sydney.

Before I report in more detail on the results of my investigation, I need to explain some background information. If you already know these facts, you can skip to the results section.

Protests in Haberfield before M4 East construction began. Image: Lorrie Graham

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PM, roads and your health
Particulate matter is extremely small solid particles and liquid droplets suspended in air. PM10 is 10 micrometers or less in diameter, PM2.5 is 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter. There are also even smaller ultrafine particles that are not currently measured in Australia.

Short or long exposure to PM can damage your health. The smaller the particle the more dangerous it is. There are no known safe levels of PM 2.5. As well as being linked to cancer and heart disease, PM can also worsen pre-existing respiratory illnesses including asthma. These facts have been well established by scientific research.

More recently, research has shown that PM 2.5 may be linked to increased risks of dementia.

Vehicle emissions, especially diesel, contain PM. Government departments responsible for health, environment, transport and urban planning have known for years that living close to busy roads increases health risks due to PM exposure.

In 2017, University of Sydney Professor of Respiratory Medicine Paul Torzillo told a meeting in Camperdown (where a major WestConnex Stage 3 construction site is planned) that,

Every major program and project like this around the world leads to more cars and more vehicles coming into cities. It’s been very well looked at by a number of research groups. Every single infrastructure project like this leads to more cars and more vehicles coming into cities and you have a greater contribution to air pollution from traffic-related pollution.

Traffic-related pollution – there is a huge amount of evidence that air pollution increases death from cardiovascular disease, that’s the leading cause of death in Australia. It leads to increased hospital admissions from heart disease. It leads to increased stroke. It leads to increased respiratory disease, and it leads to increased deaths from respiratory disease. It leads to higher rates of low birth weight in kids. And there are major reviews by WHO that occur every few years or from groups that are consulted by them and every time one of these reviews occurs the evidence about the strength of the relationship between pollution and bad health get stronger and stronger. There’s no question about this……It’s absolutely true that pollution levels for half a kilometer each side of roads are much higher than they are outside that. Pollution levels will be higher at entry and exit points. They’ll be higher at stack points. But there are big measurement problems here.

  • Professor Paul Torzillo, Executive Clinical Director and Head of Respiratory Medicine at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred (RPA) hospital, May 2017.

A graphic of a WestConnex M4 interchange. Image: ABC The WestConnex route. Image: The Conversation

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) measures PM 10 and PM 2.5 in accordance with national standards. (Two weeks ago City of Sydney Deputy Mayor Jess Miller raised concerns about the effectiveness of this OEH monitoring because some OEH monitors do not meet national standards. I’ll discuss this further in another post.)

National Standards
PM 10
An annual average of 25.0 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter). Victoria wanted 20 but NSW would not agree. Victoria has adopted the stronger standard for itself.

Average 24-hour levels must be no higher than 50 µg/m3.

PM 2.5
An annual average of 8.0 μg/m3 and a 24-hour average of 25.0 μg/m3.

No exceedances are allowed.

Exceptional events
In 2016, Federal and State governments introduced the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure (NEPM) ‘exceptional event’ rule for determining compliance against PM10 and PM2.5 goals:

Exceptional event means a fire or dust occurrence that adversely affects air quality at a particular location, and causes an exceedance of 1 day average standards in excess of normal historical fluctuations and background levels, and is directly related to: bushfire; jurisdiction authorised hazard reduction burning; or continental scale windblown dust.

National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure,

Any exceedance day deemed to be “exceptional” is not included when determining compliance with NEPM goals, while an exceedance determined to be a ‘non-exceptional’ event is (NEPM Section 18, 3C and 3D). Note that “exceptional’” is defined narrowly. A hot and dusty day in Sydney does not qualify, and does count against the goals, unless it is during seasonal burn-off, directly linked to an actual fire, or a continental scale dust storm.

Westconnex M4 East and air quality
Construction of the M4 East has now been underway for two years. However, back in 2015, it had not yet been approved. With all this evidence about PM available, it’s not surprising that residents who live or have children attending schools near:

  • major construction sites serviced by heavy diesel trucks
  • future portals where traffic will concentrate
  • unfiltered ventilation stacks
  • major roads that will become busier due to toll avoidance

and many other citizens and health professionals were concerned about how the project would negatively affect air quality, both during construction and after the tunnel opens. At WestConnex EIS sessions, NSW Roads and Maritime Services representatives were like a broken record, constantly reassuring residents that their concerns were unfounded. But residents and community action groups didn’t trust them and submitted thousands of submissions to NSW Planning objecting to WestCONnex M4 East on the grounds of air quality. Councils’ hired independent experts whose analysis found major flaws in the WestConnex EIS.

Jozefa Sobski, a highly respected retired senior public servant recently awarded an Order of Australia for her services to women, included these words in her submission:

The air quality issues have not been addressed. The ventilation stacks will be close to Haberfield Public School, the Infant’s Home and residents of Walker Avenue, Ramsay Street and Denham. What scientific proof will be provided that air quality will not be considerably affected for the worse during and after construction is complete?

On November 15, 2015, the Inner West Courier reported:

“The parents at Haberfield Public School fear our children will be at the centre of a toxic triangle of pollution stack and portals after three or more years of construction just metres away from the school,” Haberfield Public School P & C vice president Sherrill Nixon said. Ms Nixon said the streets around Haberfield Public School will see three years of noise and heavy truck movements during construction, only to end up with polluting exhaust stacks less than 500m away.

“The impact on our school community is devastating,” she said. “We insist our kids’ learning and wellbeing comes first.”

Read Sharon Laura’s submission. Her home is 150m from the Ashfield/Haberfield interchange, 300 metres from the Stage 1 and Stage 3 tunnel ventilation stacks, and 600 metres from the City West Link, Haberfield interchange. All of these are currently being constructed. In her submission, she expressed concerns about the impact of diesel trucks, hundreds of which now move around Haberfield each day. She wrote:

I also object to the increase in localised pollution around construction sites. In particular around the Parramatta Rd construction exit onto Bland St, Ashfield by large numbers of diesel vehicles heavily laden, revving up or idling and thus spewing out the most dangerous pollutants. Pollutants which will sit and hang low around the natural gully which surrounds the Parramatta Rd and Bland St intersection, and pollutants that may not disperse quickly or at all, – depending on the local weather conditions and volume of trucks using this location.

In other words, many citizens, councillors, local MPs and action groups did all in their power to warn of the potential harm that could be done to residents and workers. The problem is that no one listened or if they did, they were not prepared to refuse the WestCONnex M4 East application.

In its response, WestConnex EIS dismissed construction impacts as ‘temporary’ and not sufficiently significant to quantify. Temporary in this case can be as long as three years or even six years if you are unlucky enough to live in St Peters Haberfield or parts of Ashfield. This could encompass a child’s first five years or his or her primary school years. It is not temporary. Nevertheless NSW Planning adopted this view.

Under political pressure from the NSW LNP government, NSW Planning overrode the concerns of Councils, residents and independent health experts and approved the M4 East.

Monitoring along the M4 East
The Sydney Motorway Corporation is currently operating 6 monitors along the route of the M4 East, which will open next year along with two huge unfiltered ventilation stacks. One stack is in Homebush, the other in Haberfield. NSW Planning requires the monitors to be operated for one year before the tunnel opens. The monitoring is designed to reveal the impacts of the stacks on local air quality. There are a lot of problems with this strategy, which is aimed at allaying residents’ concerns.

Planning does not require any monitoring to measure the impacts on residents living near the tunnel portals or of the construction impacts that last for years. Nevertheless, the SMC monitoring is useful and provides us with a rare glimpse of air quality in the Inner West Parramatta Road corridor and evidence to use in evaluating WestConnex’s environmental claims for the M4 East and other WestConnex projects, the Western Harbour Tunnel, the F6 and Northern Beaches Link.

Map of monitoring stations for Westconnex monitoring site. Map: Wendy Bacon blog

Sydney Motorway Corporation, which controls WestConnex, hired a company called Ecotech to do the monitoring. The monitors were turned on in mid-December 2017. Since February, I have been taking snapshots of the data on the website. The data shows the average 24 hour level ( at one point each day) and the average so far for the year (only 3 months of 12).

The readings are taken at ten-minute intervals. Frustratingly, the data disappears altogether after 30 days. Also, no rolling hourly averages are shown, which means that peaks during the day are hidden from view. This means that the daily average graphs are rathre misleading because they have a straight line from one point in the day to a point in the next. By comparison, the NSW OEH monitors show rolling hourly averages.

The hourly averages can only be calculated by following the website closely. So far I have taken many snapshots of the data. Getting a more nuanced picture is important because the short-term effects of both PM 10 and 2.5 can be serious.

The data published on SMC Ecotech website has to go through a validation process before it used for monthly reports, which only include very general results. So far there has only been one monthly report—I will come back to that in another post.

Measuring and predicting air quality is a highly complex and technical matter but some basic points can be made. Local air quality strongly reflects broader regional air quality. It can also reflect local impacts including dusty construction sites and nearby traffic. In following the website, it quickly becomes apparent that wind direction is a strong influence at all locations. Wind changes in Sydney are very frequent and can cause readings to go quite rapidly up and down. It’s important to remember that when the wind changes, it may be blowing pollution across the road or to another suburb. The monitors only measure the air quality at one particular location. The air quality may be better or worse at other locations in the area. For example, nearby trees can reduce levels of pollution.

I will begin with some reporting about Haberfield.

Results
In this post, I will report only on the two of 6 M4 East monitors that are in Haberfield.

Haberfield
Haberfield has been suffering the impacts of WestConnex for more than two years. Hundreds of homes and trees were torn down. Huge construction sites were established. Road building, tunneling and spoil recovery happens 24 hours a day. When the road opens there will be portals on both Wattle Street and Parramatta Road. If Stage 3 is approved, there will be more construction sites for another three years.

There are two monitors in Haberfield, one at Haberfield Public School and one at Ramsay Street.

Haberfield Public School
Haberfield Public School (HPS) fronts Bland Street. With the school’s approval, a monitor was placed at the back of the school. It is 200 metres from Parramatta Rd which is a major traffic route and the site of a future portal. Currently the road is being widened and the portal constructed. The HPS monitor is about 410 metres from the location of the unfiltered ventilation stack.

So far the results at the monitor for Haberfield Public School are worrying. However only three months of data have been collected, so the annual average is only an indication of the trends.

PM 2.5

According to the January report (the actual results are no longer on the website), the average for was 9 µg/m³. Since I started monitoring the site in early February, the average has been slowly rising until it is now just over 10 µg/m³.

Here is a search I did of PM 2.5 between February 7th and March 7th 2018.

Search done on Ecotech website. Graph: Wendy Bacon blog

This snapshot below of a graph of Haberfield School average daily levels of PM 2.5 between February 23 and March 7 shows that the levels were only below 10 μg/m3 on a few days. Not surprisingly, the annual average graph was climbing steadily towards 10 μg/m3. The spikes in levels show the weaknesses of measuring only averages.

On March 5, the daily average reached 23 μg/m3, only two below a national exceedance.

PM 10
On February 15, the PM 10 daily average shot up to just over 50 μg/m3. (Some of the other five WestCONnex monitors also recorded more than 50 μg/m3 on that day.) If this was a NSW OEH site, that would be a national exceedance unless it was later classed as an ‘exceptional event’.

This is a screenshot of a search I did of PM 10 levels at Haberfield Public School between February 1 and 27, 2018. This graph also shows that the annual average for PM 10 so far this year is hovering around the 20 μg/m3. If we were in Victoria, anything above 20 μg/m3 would be an exceedance for a full 12 months.

It shows the daily exceedance on February 15 but doesn’t show that on February 23 around midday, the PM 10 climbed to 131 μg/m3. One of the disadvantages of averages is that it doesn’t show the peaks and troughs. The data could easily presented in a way that showed the variation and still show the averages.

Haberfield Public School PM 10 search from website Feb 1-28.

Ramsay Street
The Ramsay Street monitor is about 100m west of the corner of Wattle Street and Ramsay Street. Major construction work is happening not far away. It’s also near a very busy road which would be expected to get even busier when the tunnel portal opens nearby. Many trees in this area have been destroyed, including very large ones. Trees help reduce PM.

The results at this monitor are also disturbing.

There has been at least one exceedance of the PM 2.5 daily average of 25 μg/m3. The annual average for PM 10 is about 9.6 μg/m3 for the first three months of the year. There have been at least 3 days exceedance of the daily average limit of 50 μg/m3 for PM 10. The annual average for PM 10 is so far showing at about 23 μg/m3, which is only two below the national daily average limit of 25 μg/m3. This is well above the limit that has been agreed to in Victoria.


A bad day in Sydney
The weather on Sunday, March 18 was unusually hot and gusty for a Sydney autumn day. Temperatures soared across Sydney and by late afternoon the PM 10 levels were climbing. The weather was unusual but is likely to become more common as climate change progresses.

In the evening, I checked the website and noticed some very high levels of PM 10, both at Haberfield School and the site of the Ramsay Street monitor. Night work was scheduled near the corner of Ramsay Street and Wattle Streets. not far from the Ramsay Street monitor.

According to the website, at 8.30 pm, the PM 2.5 level at Ramsay Street was an extraordinarily high 51 μg/m3 and the PM 10 was 48 μg/m3. At Haberfield School, the levels were 15 μg/m3 for PM 2.5 and 68 μg/m3 for PM 10. Ten minutes later, the levels remained nearly the same at Haberfield school but at Ramsay Street, the PM 2.5 was still very high at 51 μg/m3 and the PM 10 levels had shot up to 112 μg/m3. At 9.50 pm, the Ramsay Street levels remained the same for PM 2.5 μg/m3 and had climbed to 88 for PM 10.

I wanted the check whether levels were rising at other monitors in Sydney on the OEH site on which rolling daily averages get updated hourly. Unfortunately, the OEH website for that page was not working and was not fixed until Monday morning. I later confirmed that the levels were high for PM 10 but mostly not nearly as high as Ramsay Street.

By 9.10 pm, at Haberfield School, the website showed PM 2.5 had increased to 21 and the PM 10 to 54 μg/m3. By this time, the PM 2.5 levels at Ramsay Street had dropped back to 12 μg/m3 but the PM 10 was an extraordinary 438 μg/m3. Twenty minutes later it was still at that level at 9.30 pm. The PM 10 was also rising higher at Haberfield School.

At 10 pm, the air quality had deteriorated even further. By this time the PM 10 levels at Haberfield School was 260 μg/m3 and the PM 2.5 was at 23. Other sites along the route were also high. Ramsay Street PM 10 had dropped back to 239 μg/m3 but even more worrying the more dangerous PM 2.5 was **183 μg/m3 ** where it stayed until sometime between 10.50 and midnight. In case, you don’t believe me, I took a snapshot.

Snapshot from website at 10 pm March 18.

I would like to know what caused the very high levels of PM 2.5 at Ramsay Street on Sunday night. While the PM 10 levels were high (although mostly not nearly as high) at monitors across the region, the PM 2.5 levels were much lower elsewhere. Does WestConnex have monitors on site? Were workers including young night traffic controllers warned? If the levels were that high at the monitor, could they have been even higher elsewhere? How many residents were exposed?

When early risers were getting up around Haberfield School on March 19th, the PM 2.5 levels were 27 μg/m3. At midday, the PM 2.5 was 30 μg/m3. By the time children were getting ready to leave school, the PM 2.5 was still 27 and PM 10 was 117 μg/m3.

According to the OEH website, it appears that only at Liverpool in Sydney’s South West were PM 2.5 levels nearly as high as at Haberfield School for most of Monday, March 19th. (The fact that there was somewhere else in Sydney was as bad as Haberfield, doesn’t make the situation any better.)

On March 20th, between 6 am and 2 pm, the PM 10 levels at Haberfield School averaged approximately 65 μg/m3. For short periods, the level was higher than 110 μg/m3. This observation is for 8 hours so it does not represent another national exceedance. It does, however, provide evidence of the air quality experienced by children at school that day.

As I finish writing this report, it’s now 9.30 pm on the evening of March 22nd. The air has cooled and it has been pouring for hours. The wind is low. The levels of PM 10 have gone down in Haberfield and elsewhere in Sydney. When I last checked at 8.10 pm on Thursday, the PM 2.5 level at Haberfield School was 10 μg/m3 and at Ramsay Street, 13 μg/m3. This is much higher than other monitors across Sydney.

Update: When I checked the Ecotech website at 8 am on March 23, the levels were 12 μg/m3 and 11 μg/m3.

Conclusion
I have a lot more information and analysis to present about air quality, including about other sites along the M4 East. I would appreciate any assistance with further information or analysis.

Apart from being seriously concerned about the impact of WestConnex on the health of Sydney’s communities, there are several specific issues that concern me.

  • How does this information reflect on the methodology and results of the AIr Quality report in the WestConnex EIS? What should be done if the assumptions and predictions on which the approval was based turn out to be based on misleading or false information?
  • Why were the community’s views not shown more respect by decision makers in NSW Planning? Consultation without respect is meaningless. An EIS that is controlled by Sydney Motorway Corporation and conducted by a company [AECOM that has a big commercial in WestCONnex], was bound to present the material in a positive way. I’m not suggesting that information was falsified but that the process was limited and hopelessly biased towards approving the project without sufficient protection for the community. For more on AECOM’s role, read one of my investigations published in New Matilda or this piece by Carmen Lawrence .)
  • What is the situation at other WestConnex construction sites in St Peters, Arncliffe, and Kingsgrove where there are no monitoring reports available? Or further West on the widened M4 at Auburn North Public School that lies on a narrow strip of land between the WestConnex M4 and Parramatta Rd, which is busier since tolls were imposed on the widened M4.
  • Originally Haberfield residents were promised that there would be no major above-ground construction in Haberfield even if Stage 3 was approved. But this has now changed. If Stage 3 is approved, WestCONnex wants to establish a major construction site even closer to the school on the corner of Bland Street and Parramatta Rd. This Stage 3 proposal is currently being actively considered by NSW Planning. We must try to stop its approval. In the light of the evidence available, I find it hard to believe that any responsible person could approve these sites.
  • How much worse will the air quality get when the tunnels are opened? How many people will suffer life-threatening health illnesses or other health problems as a result of WestConnex, NorthConnex and other major road projects? What about the apartments on the southern side of Parramatta Rd where there is no monitor? WestConnex tore down buildings that sheltered these buildings from Parramatta Rd traffic and now they look directly over the construction site.

Hundreds of people are living in apartments overlooking the construction site where the portals will be. There is no monitor on that side.

  • The community needs more independent experts on their side. Many health experts warn against the health impacts of car dependency and massive road projects but detailed professional research and analysis on specific locations need time and money. Many environmental firms only work for big government and corporate players. Is there a role for citizen scientists that could amplify the work of independent scientists?
  • If you start following the website, you’ll find that there are quite a few negative results, mostly for PM 10. You obviously can’t have negative PM. The community needs to know how these odd readings affect the overall findings and what a negative reading at one point of time means for the readings shortly before or afterward. Do these get adjusted upwards later? I contacted two industry sources who did not wish to be named. Both confirmed they are errors. One attributed the errors to intense moisture. The other said it could be moisture but could also be caused by other factors. Extremely positive results of 985 also occasionally appear and I have assumed those as errors which also need explaining.

This is a complex situation that needs more media attention. If any other journalist needs information, I am happy to share information.

Research support: Luke Bacon. Thanks to Lorrie Graham for 2015 photos of children protesting in Haberfield.

Wendy Bacon is an investigative journalist who is also a political activist. She wants her journalism to be useful to those who resist abuses of power and seek social justice rather than supporting existing power structures, which is what most journalism does. She is also a board member of the Pacific Media Centre and Frontline editor of Pacific Journalism Review. She blogs at Wendy Bacon.

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Driving the future – AUT launches NZ’s first electric bus

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Driving the future – AUT launches NZ’s first electric bus

AUT News video

By Lucy Handford

New Zealand’s first fully battery powered electric bus hit the road today, thanks to a joint initiative by Tranzit Group, EECA (Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority) and Auckland University of Technology.

The 35-seater bus became part of AUT’s fleet, servicing the university’s North-City Campus and South-City Campus bus routes.

As well as providing sustainable transport for hundreds of students every day, it will operate as a mobile research tool providing vital data to understand the economics and performance of electric buses on New Zealand roads.​

“Through the government’s Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund which encourages innovation and investment in low emission vehicles, EECA is supporting this demonstration of EV technology to create awareness and influence change in the sector,” said EECA’s Transport Development Manager, Elizabeth Yeaman.

The $738,500 joint funding from EECA and Tranzit Group has covered the cost of the development and build, charging infrastructure, and the upskilling of Kiwi engineers, meaning New Zealand’s first battery electric bus is also built on home soil.

Kiwi Bus Builders in Tauranga constructed the body of the bus, with electric engines and chassis built by Times Electric Group in China.

Tranzit Group’s Managing Director Paul Snelgrove said the project was an important step in the evolution of bus transport in New Zealand.

Green fleet viability
“There are more than 9500 large diesel buses in New Zealand and, in order to replace these with a greener fleet, we need to demonstrate the performance and viability of electric buses,” he said.

As well as providing a sustainable transport option, AUT will be researching the potential impact of EV buses on the electricity grid and gathering other key information.

This includes energy consumption, battery capacity, battery charging rate, duration and number of trips, mileage (km), average speed, charging duration and electricity consumption, regeneration and braking data.

PhD students Jun Su and Syed Muhammad Arif under supervision of Professor Tek Lie will be using the data collected to investigate the impacts of the bus.

“We’re proud to be the first university in New Zealand to launch a bus with zero tailpipe carbon emissions.

As well as a green transport option, this bus will provide the transport sector with vital usage, impact and environmental data and research to help shape the way forward,” said AUT’s associate director (facilities support) Sonia Simpson.

‘We prayed with them until they died’ – stories of Kiribati ferry survival

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: ‘We prayed with them until they died’ – stories of Kiribati ferry survival

Coming ashore … seven ferry disaster survivors reach Kiribati and tell their stories. Image: TVNZ video clip

By Barbara Dreaver, TVNZ’s Pacific correspondent

With 93 people still missing, the first reports of survival – and loss – are starting to emerge from the sunken ferry MV Butiraoi in Kiribati.

In the first interview with Radio Kiribati, one of only seven survivors Temake Ioane told how he had to watch his two children dying over several days.

Ioane said there were three explosions on the 17m catamaran and the third broke it in two.

LISTEN: Radio Kiribati Online

Many did not survive the sinking, but those who did managed to clamber on to three boats.

-Partners-

However, Ioane said the rubber boat was so overloaded it split in half, leaving only two small dinghies.

The father of two said he managed to get his two children on board one of them – along with more than 20 others who either were on board on clinging to the side.

Only seven survivors have been found and family members have attended a church service in Auckland.

Clinging to boat for 6 days
Speaking in I-Kiribati, Ioane, who himself was clinging to the side of the boat for six days, said the ones that floated alongside the boats were the first to die “we prayed with them until they died”.

It was on the sixth day, without food and water, that the old women and children on board the boat started to die.

The first was his three-year-old son Tauti Temwake and then his eight-year-old daughter Remwati. Others were delirious from lack of water and jumped off the dinghy thinking they were going to buy food, he said.

On the January 28, 10 days after the ferry set sail from the island of Nonouti, only seven survivors including Ioane were found by the NZ Air force P3 Orion.

Ioane said he last saw the other remaining dinghy with the captain on board and other survivors drifting towards land after the ferry sank.

They have not been found.

Barbara Dreaver is TVNZ’s 1 News Pacific correspondent. This article is republished with permission.

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