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Paranoia to the people

New Zealand

New Zealand is not taking any chances with electronic voting. It won’t be using it widely until 2023. One fear is lack of privacy: Big Brothers may be watching people vote online.

You’re hired

Australia

Car-share schemes have become so successful in Sydney that companies – not just families – are using them to replace their fleets. One of the country’s three largest car-share firms, Sydney-based Charter Drive, has clients ranging from property developers to software companies. Executive director Paul Reichman says the company is finalising deals to have car-sharing integrated into office and residential complexes as well. Expensive fuel, a sluggish economy and global warming are factors encouraging more and more people to use the schemes, which allow you to borrow a car from a club for the time it’s needed. In Sydney and Melbourne local authorities have allocated free parking places around the city – so no one has to walk too far to hire a car.

Green wing

New Zealand

New Zealand’s national carrier is doing its bit to make the country one of the world’s greenest nations with a Boeing 747 flight due to take off from Auckland by the end of this year, flying partly on bio-fuel. If the test flight works, the airline hopes to use the fuel, made with seeds from the hardy jatropha plant found in Africa and India, to replace 10 per cent of its conventional fuel by 2013.

Virgin Atlantic flew the world’s first jumbo-jet partly fuelled on babassu and coconut oil from London to Amsterdam in February but many saw the flight as a PR stunt. Air New Zealand is trying a combination of new strategies – such as running on airport power until take-off and adjusting flight routes for optimum fuel efficiency.

Meanwhile, New Zealand is the only country in Asia and Oceania to rank in the top 10 of Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI), 2008.

“The government has made the ­environment top priority on a par with other priorities such as healthcare and education,” says Christine Kim, co-author of the Index.

An example is the €2.8m project, begun in 2007, to help New Zealanders use less electricity, fuel and water.

Who is the greenest of them all?

The EPI ranks countries on 29 indicators including pollution control and natural resource management.

01 Switzerland
02 Norway
03 Sweden
04 Finland
05 Costa Rica
06 Austria
07 New Zealand
08 Latvia
09 Colombia
10 France

140 Guinea-Bissau
141 Yemen
142 Dem Rep Congo
143 Chad
144 Burkina Faso
145 Mali
146 Mauritania
147 Sierra Leone
148 Angola
149 Niger

Good migrations

Pacific Islands

From November, the Australian government is allowing short-term visas for Pacific islanders to help cope with a massive shortage of farm workers. Two thousand five hundred workers from Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tonga and Papua New Guinea will be allowed to enter Australia for up to seven months per year. The pilot programme will closely followa system already in place in New Zealand, which has proved successful. It is estimated that in Australia there is a shortfall of 100,000 agricultural workers. Pacific leaders have been pushing for a seasonal labour programme, saying it would be more effective than foreign aid. While the previous government of John Howard refused to play ball, Kevin Rudd’s team could see their point.

A fish called wonder

Australia

Until recently, buying and ordering fish in Australia was a complicated task. It has over 4,000 indigenous species, many of which have different names in different regions (although, of course, not all are edible). Since July, however, the Australian Fish Names Committee has been busy trying to simplify things. From now on each fish is to be sold by just one name. According to the official list, red snapper and king scallop are out. People will have to learn their new names: bight redfish and commercial scallop.

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