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NEWS FROM THE ISLANDS

No problems atoll

Oceania [ISLAND LIFE]

New Zealand soldiers have been crushing car wrecks and bulldozing landfill in Tuvalu in an effort to tackle the worsening sanitation crisis in one of the world’s smallest nations. The main atoll of Funafuti is strewn with debris from the overflowing pits, dug by American servicemen excavating coral during the Second World War, which serve as the local rubbish dump. There is nowhere else on the 2.4 sq km atoll for a ­replacement dump, although some relief has come in the form of a European Union-funded rubbish compactor and plans to establish a ­recycling programme. To the east, the New Zealand territory of Tokelau is to replace the 20-year-old ferry (below) that is the island group’s only link to the outside world. A ­renewed emphasis on maritime safety in the wake of a sinking in Tonga that killed 74 last year has hastened the replacement of the vessel, considered inadequate for the two-day journey to neighbouring Samoa. The feasibility of establishing an air service to the population of 1,400 is also being investigated.

International travel looks likely to become less of a headache for Vanuatu’s jetset, with plans to phase out the handwritten passports that raised eyebrows at borders around the world. A new electronic system is expected to improve border security, and stamp out the practice of government ministers issuing diplomatic passports as favours to foreigners.

And leaders in the Pacific Islands Forum have extended an olive branch to suspended member Fiji. They are considering allowing the military regime to participate in regional free trade talks.

Extremely piste

New Zealand [CRIME]

Queenstown, in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, is the adventure capital of the world: you can throw yourself off all manner of things, raft down rivers and hit five skifields. But authorities have curtailed drinking hours after police said that an after-hours crime wave was “almost exclusively” fuelled by booze. They also said Aussies were regularly featured in police line-ups.

Gender agenda

Australia [EQUALITY]

Efforts to raise the number of women serving on the boards of Australia’s highest-ranked firms are paying off. At the top 200 ASX-listed companies, the proportion of women has risen from 8.3 per cent at the start of the year to 9.8 per cent now. There is still a long way to go, however. More than half the ASX 200 firms still have no women on their boards.

Pipped at the point

New Zealand [TRADE]

For 89 years New Zealand and Australia have been engaged in a war of the apples but now New Zealand has been named victor. It all started in 1921 when Australia banned New Zealand apples which had been infected with fire blight. It took until 1986 for the Kiwis to mount a counter attack. In 2006 Australia finally removed the ban but replaced it with an onerous monitoring regime. So New Zealand went back into the fray. “A small number of our orchardists were keen to give it a go on principle,” says Pipfruit New Zealand chief executive Peter Beaven.

Wellington took Canberra to the World Trade Organisation in 2007, claiming the regulations were not based on science. The WTO agreed. Although Australia has appealed, it can only appeal on points of law and growers expect to begin exporting by Christmas – it’s thought the trade could take between 5 and 7 per cent of New Zealand’s production. “They just see it as justice, really,” says Beaven. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Big blow

Australia

An AU$1bn (€700m) wind farm to be built at Macarthur in Victoria will be the largest in the southern hemisphere. Once completed in 2013, the farm will comprise 140 wind turbines capable of producing enough power to serve 220,000 homes. The Australian government aims to reduce carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2020.

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