Toktok No 38 / Summer 2019

Source: Pacific Media Centre

Analysis published with permission of PMC

Pacific Media Centre

ISBN/code: ISSN 1175-0472

Publication date: Monday, February 18, 2019

Publisher: Pacific Media Centre


Pacific journalism academic Professor David Robie believes the media play a critical role in exposing abuses of power in a world increasingly hostile towards journalists.

However, journalists in the Pacific are frequently “persecuted by smallminded politicians with scant regard for the role of the media,” he says.

Speaking at the 18th University of the South Pacific Journalism Student Awards ceremony at Laucala campus in Suva, Fiji, last October, Dr Robie said despite the growing global dangers surrounding the profession, journalism was critically important for democracy.

Dr Robie said that while such “ghastly fates” for journalists – such as the extrajudicial killing of Saudi dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey earlier that month – may seem remote in the Pacific, there were plenty of attacks on media freedom to contend with, while trolls in the region and state threats to internet freedom were “also rife”.

Read more


+ New communication award created for Pasifika women

+ Coverage of New Caledonia/Kanaky referendum, November 2018

+ Wansolwara and AUT coverage of Fiji elections, November 2018



Massey professor named Senior New Zealander of the Year

Source: Massey University

Professor Bill Glass from the Centre for Public Health Research.

Professor Bill Glass from the Centre for Public Health Research has been named Metlifecare Senior New Zealander of the Year in the 2019 Kiwibank New Zealanders of the Year awards.

Professor Glass has, throughout his long and distinguished career, considerably advanced occupational medicine, workers’ health, and policy development in New Zealand, through original research, his work as an occupational physician, and his long involvement with WorkSafe.

One of the major successes of his career was the creation of the Asbestos Exposure Register. His efforts have resulted in better health outcomes for countless workers by not only highlighting the dangers posed by substances like asbestos, lead and silica, but also by offering solutions to reduce exposure.

College of Health Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane Mills congratulated Professor Glass.

“Congratulations Bill on receiving this well-deserved recognition of your major contribution to New Zealand in the field of occupational health. We are very proud that you have chosen to continue your research in the Centre for Public Health Research. Your leadership and mentoring is much appreciated by all at Massey and we thank you for your local contribution to our research culture.”

The awards recognise those aged 67 and over who are making a positive contribution to New Zealand. Mental health advocate, comedian and TV personality Mike King was named New Zealander of the Year for shining a light on the effects and impacts of mental health, particularly among Māori and young people.

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Surprise te reo Māori finding in pre-diabetes research

Source: University of Otago

Monday 18 February 2019 2:27pm
Dr Andrea Teng.
New research from the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge has found people who speak te reo Māori have a reduced risk of progressing from prediabetes to diabetes.
The groundbreaking research, which has been published in the Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice journal, observed more than 14,000 participants with prediabetes. The study, led by researchers at the University of Otago’s Wellington campus and including collaborations with the National Hauora Coalition, Waikato DHB, and the University of Waikato, aimed to identify potential traits that could protect or progress a patient towards diabetes.
The paper links primary health care data with other data held in Statistics New Zealand Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI) to analyse pre-diabetes progression rates.
Lead author Dr Andrea Teng, a senior research fellow with the University of Otago’s Department of Public Health in Wellington, says the study is the first to examine pre-diabetes progression to diabetes in New Zealand.
“We were able to look at this by age, sex, ethnicity and socioeconomic position. This information could help direct pre-diabetes programmes to those who need it most,” she says.
The research found that Māori and Pacific peoples had a greater rate of progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes. This is largely because they had more advanced pre-diabetes at the time it was diagnosed through higher HbA1c levels.
However, one of the more unexpected findings from the study was a correlation between the patient’s ability to speak te reo Maōri and a drop in progression to diabetes.
“A cultural protective factor was the evidence of an association between speaking te reo (Indigenous language, with 87 per cent of te reo speakers being Māori) and 19 to 88 percent lower progression to diabetes, independent of age, sex, income, education, deprivation, ethnicity and HbA1c,” the study reads.
“This finding suggests that language and cultural identity are positive for health, particularly in Indigenous communities” say the researchers.
The paper is the first study to find a relationship between diabetes and Indigenous language.
Co-author Dr. Nina Scott from Waikato DHB says the language factor was one of the most novel findings from the research.
“There was evidence for the association between te reo Maōri and pre-diabetes progression even after adjusting for socioeconomic factors,” she says.
Dr Scott says further work needs to be done to assess the full value of te reo for health and the importance of a cultural connection.
“It may be that people who speak te reo are protected from diabetes in other ways from those who don’t that we could not measure in this study,” she says.
The study is a collaboration from two of Healthier Lives National Science Challenge flagship research projects, and brings together health researchers, communities and big data experts to answer important research questions in a new approach to research. This study aimed to specifically answer questions about the incidence of diabetes in Māori communities and will help towards addressing and reducing New Zealand’s large inequities in health care.
The full paper can be accessed here:
For more information, please contact:
Dr Andrea TengSenior Research FellowDepartment of Public HealthUniversity of Otago, WellingtonTel +64 4 806 1616Email
Dr. Nina ScottTe Puna Oranga (Māori Health Service)Waikato District Health BoardTel +64 7 839 8899 x97528Email
Matiu WorkmanCommunciations Advisor (Māori)University of OtagoMob +64 21 279 9139Email


Clues in Otago research as to changes in babies’ brain formation in obese mothers

Source: University of Otago

Monday 18 February 2019 9:54am
Associate Professor Christine Jasoni.
University of Otago researchers have discovered a clue as to why there are changes in the way babies’ brains are formed in mothers who are obese during pregnancy, which can potentially lead to an elevated risk of mental illness, including autism spectrum disorders.
Lead researcher Associate Professor Christine Jasoni, from the Brain Health Research Centre and Centre for Neuroendocrinology, says public health studies to date indicate that a mother’s obesity during pregnancy is associated with an elevated risk for autism spectrum disorders as well as other neuropsychiatric disorders such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), anxiety and depression.
Until now, there has been no evidence as to how this happens. However, in a world-first study, Associate Professor Jasoni and Research Fellow in the Department of Anatomy, Dr Kelly Glendining, have discovered some answers.
They used animal models to look in a region of the brain called the hippocampus, which is important in memory, learning and social interaction, to see if they could detect changes in the way its neural circuits formed.
“We reasoned that if the offspring have changes in behaviour that are similar to autism or other mental illness, then there could be changes to the areas of the brain that makes these behaviours happen normally,” Dr Jasoni explains.
“And, that’s exactly what we found: The ‘love hormone’ oxytocin, which is important for bonding and social interaction, was faulty in the brains of offspring whose mothers were obese during pregnancy.”
Dr Jasoni says she suspects these changes cause the neural networks that control social behaviour to function improperly.  They are now seeking more funding in a bid to carry out further research to find out more.
“Right now we need to understand more about what’s going on and if the changes we have found are actually causing the changes in social behaviour that are characteristic of autism spectrum disorders,” she explains.
“Sometimes there can be multiple changes in the brain, but not all of them actually cause the disorder or disease.  People already give oxytocin therapy for autism spectrum disorders in children, but it is of limited usefulness.
“If our findings can be extended so that we understand what’s going on in the cells of the brain when oxytocin is not working properly, then we will have a few novel targets to attempt intervention.”
The paper was recently published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences and is available as Open Access
For further information, contact:
Associate Professor Christine JasoniBrain Health Research Centre, Centre for NeuroendocrinologyDepartment of AnatomyTel +64 3 479 3071Email Topham-KindleySenior Communications AdviserTel +64 3 479 9065Mob +64 21 279


Social media can improve lives post-disaster – new research

Source: University of Canterbury

18 February 2019

Newly published research has shown the important role social media can play supporting health and wellbeing following a disaster.

  • UC Associate Professor of Marketing Ekant Veer (pictured right), of the College of Business and Law, says the All Right? campaign’s approach to social media ticked all the right boxes. All Right? manager Sue Turner says Facebook has helped to open up and normalise conversations about health and wellbeing.

Newly published research has shown the important role social media can play supporting health and wellbeing following a disaster.

The All Right? wellbeing campaign was created in 2013 to support people’s mental health and wellbeing following the devastating Canterbury earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. Research on the impact of the campaign’s social media activity was recently published in the journal Health Promotion International.

Paper co-author, University of Canterbury Associate Professor of Marketing Ekant Veer, of the College of Business and Law, says the All Right? campaign’s approach to social media ticked all the right boxes.

“While social media provides a great platform to have a conversation with a community, a lot of the time it can fall flat or feel preachy,” says Assoc Prof Veer.

“What All Right? has shown is that by getting the tone right, tapping into people’s everyday experiences, and alternating between engaging and specialised content, social media can be a force for good.”

According to the research, 85% of respondents to an online survey had taken action as a result of what they had seen on the All Right? Facebook page.

Almost all respondents agreed that the All Right? Facebook posts:

  • were helpful (98%)
  • made respondents think about how they are feeling (97%)
  • gave respondents ideas of things they can do to help themselves (96%)
  • regularly made them think about their wellbeing (93%).

“The Facebook page goes far beyond simply telling people what’s good for them. It’s led to actual behaviour change that is improving the wellbeing of people in Canterbury,” he says. “The level of behaviour change that All Right? has achieved is phenomenal.”

All Right? manager Sue Turner says Facebook has helped to open up and normalise conversations about health and wellbeing.

“Everyone is an expert in their own wellbeing, and Facebook enables us to gather people’s own ideas on what makes them happy, and amplify these wide and far. It’s created a community of people who feel more connected, more accepted and more informed.

The research demonstrates the importance of mental health promotion, Ms Turner says.

“Facebook is one of many tools All Right? uses to grow understanding of how people can look after their wellbeing. Growing emotional literacy can encourage you to do more of the things that make you feel good, improve your quality of life, and help to reduce the need for service-level care.

“Social marketing can never replace specialist mental health services, but it can play a much bigger role in building resilience and promoting mental health and wellbeing across a population.

“As the evaluation shows, when done properly, social media can make a really positive difference in people’s lives,” says Ms Turner.

About All Right?

The All Right? campaign was established in response to the impacts of the Canterbury earthquakes on the wellbeing of Cantabrians. The campaign is a joint project between the public health unit of Canterbury District Health Board and the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.

Calder K., D’Aeth L., Turner S., Begg A., Veer E., Scott J. and Fox C. (2019); ‘Evaluation of the All Right? Campaign’s Facebook intervention post-disaster in Canterbury, New Zealand’, Health Promotion International DOI:


U.S. Ambassador Scott Brown visiting EIT

Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

13 mins ago

On Friday, the U.S Ambassador to New Zealand, Scott Brown visited EIT’s Pettigrew Green Arena. He and his family are attending Napier’s annual Art Deco Festival and are taking part in the vintage car parade on Saturday. Being a successful triathlete, the 59-year-old Ambassador took the chance to meet with members of EIT’s School of Health and Sport Science.  

In particular Mr. Brown sought advice regarding his training regime in preparation for the World Masters in Switzerland later this year. EIT sports science lecturer, Dr Carl Paton, who coaches a wide range of world champion athletes, shared his expertise with Mr. Brown and offered his advice to further discuss the Ambassador’s training.

“You are like a kid in candy shop,” said Ambassador Brown to Dr Paton looking at the high-quality training and research facilities at the Pettigrew Green Arena.

Sport has a vital importance for Mr. Brown, he served as a board member for the USA Triathlon Foundation, introducing youth to the sport of triathlon. Following some micro fractures after an accident, it took him a year to be able to run again and Mr. Brown recently completed the Triathlon NZ National Sprint Championships with his favoured discipline noted as swimming. 


Nat Waran, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Education, Humanities and Health Science and Kirsten Westwood, Head of School of Health and Sport Science told him about the broad range of interests EIT has in terms of teaching and the community based research which reflects community needs.


Mr. Brown also enquired about job opportunities EIT graduates have. “Sport is a learning context for a lot of our students,” said Kirsten Westwood. “They build skills in order to establish their own business for example. A lot of our graduates work for Sport Hawke’s Bay, coach other athletes, work in gyms or as health advisers and with communities or in public services.”


The new EIT Institute of Sport and Health Science at the Sports Park in Hastings will be opened in July as both a research center and an important institution for community sport and health opportunities.


Student well-being paramount as year begins – Vice-Chancellor

Source: University of Otago

Friday 15 February 2019 3:04pm
Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne
As the University of Otago welcomes students back for the 2019 academic year, Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne has some advice to ensure their experiences are both fun and safe.
“Students come to Otago from across New Zealand and the world, to receive not only a world-class education, but to have a safe and enjoyable student experience,” she says.
She hopes students excel academically, make new friends, and take part in the many cultural activities and sports pursuits on offer, and encourages them to respect the community, be considerate, and take care of each other along the way.
“Look after yourself and look after your friends. Be a good bystander. Call out bad behaviour when you see it. Call out people who put themselves or others or our environment at risk. Treat each other and our community with respect.”
The University of Otago provides outstanding pastoral care to all students, both in and out of the classroom, and has common-sense rules covering general life on campus, as well as in the Code of Student Conduct.
For those situations when something does go wrong, there are student services available to assist including Campus Watch, Student Health, and sexual violence support and prevention centre Te Whare Tāwharau.
Key safety and support messages:
Campus Watch
Campus Watch, which works 24/7 in the North Dunedin community, offers pastoral care to the University community. This includes a free walk home service, a Safety Patrol, and assistance as and when required 365 days of the year.
The Safety Patrol covers the student flatting area, ensuring the streets and house frontages are clean and tidy, proactively discouraging criminals from frequenting the area, and ensuring student behaviour is kept to a reasonable level.
The University also has its own Campus Cop who acts as a vital link between the Police, University students/staff and the community.
Snr Constable Woodhouse offers advice on safety and security, as well as taking complaints regarding thefts, lost property, etc, and works closely with Proctor Dave Scott.
Code of Student Conduct
To maximise the safety of our community, the University has a Code of Student Conduct.
The code allows the University to proactively address student behaviour, without involving the court system.
The common-sense rules that form the Code of Student Conduct are distributed to every incoming student, and are available for review on the University’s website. Breaching these rules may result in consequences including fines or community work, or exclusion from the University.
Flat security
North Dunedin is often targeted by thieves looking for flats with relaxed security. Deterring them can be as simple as making sure the last person to leave the house, locks the door.
Campus Watch has free UV pens available to mark valuables if required.
Lime scooters
The Dunedin campus is considered a pedestrian precinct with users of e-scooters, skate-boards and bikes expected to dismount and walk. Signs are posted at entrance points to campus reminding users of the need to dismount.
Additionally, the campus will be geo-fenced as a “no park” zone for Lime scooters. Acceptable parking hotspots will be designated on the campus perimeter.
The University strongly recommends e-scooter users wear helmets and is making them available to borrow from a range of locations across campus, including in the residential colleges. University branded helmets will also be available to purchase from campus retail shops.
For everyone’s safety, scooters will be locked out between 12–5am every night. Keep an eye out for Lime’s Operation Team, which will be out and about in North Dunedin, and their aim is to ensure students are using scooters safety and respecting the ride.
Student Health
Student Health provides a comprehensive range of primary health care services including doctor, nurse, mental health and well-being, and psychiatry appointments.
It works within the University, but is also independent so confidentiality is assured.
The University strongly recommends all students, particularly those living in residential colleges, be vaccinated against meningococcal disease. Vaccinations are available at Student Health.
Te Whare Tāwharau
Te Whare Tāwharau is a sexual violence support and prevention centre for the University student community. It provides support, advocacy, education and research related to sexual violence on campus.
A walk-in centre is available for any student impacted by sexual violence. The centre is staffed with trained volunteers who will listen, and who can provide information and referrals for additional support.
As well as conducting workshops in residential colleges, Te Whare Tāwharau also offers training for on how to handle issues related to sexual violence.
The centre works in collaboration with other relevant services on campus including Student Health, Disability Information and Support, University Volunteering and the Proctor’s office.
For more information, please contact:
Joanne GalerTeam Leader Media EngagementUniversity of OtagoMob +64 21 279 8263Email


Toi Ohomai Welcomes Proposals for Vocational Reform

Source: Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology

Toi Ohomai welcomes many of the proposed changes announced this week as part of the Government’s Reform of Vocational Education (RoVE).

Minister Chris Hipkins has proposed all 16 ITPs (Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics) merge under a single entity to be called the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology.

Chief Executive Dr Leon Fourie says the proposals give the sector an opportunity to make effective changes to ensure it delivers a world-leading system of vocational training for students.

“It’s a bold move with significant implications for polytechnics and industry training organisations, however we’re optimistic the proposed changes will bring about a strengthened and more sustainable VET and ITP sector. Ultimately the proposed changes are about improving the student experience and learner outcomes.

“We are pleased the Government is increasing the emphasis on vocational training to reflect the needs of industry and the rapidly changing modern workplace. We also agree it’s time for a step change for the vocational education sector and for the value of vocational education to be fully appreciated across our society and still maintain a regional identity.

“We therefore welcome many of the proposals, in particular the goal of expanded course delivery in more locations across the country and here in the Bay of Plenty and South Waikato, the redefined roles of education providers and industry training organisations, the delivery of training through education providers and the proposal for a unified educational funding system.

“We remain absolutely committed to improved regional delivery and this was also the key driver for the merger between Waiariki Institute of Technology and Bay of Plenty Polytechnic in 2016. We are proud of the resilience Toi Ohomai staff showed in working through significant change over the past two years while continuing to ensure student experience and satisfaction remain over 90 per cent. We will continue to embrace and live our values as we work through another potentially major process of change.

“We also recognise it will be critical that the new system ensures the Treaty relationship with tangata whenua is protected and prioritised. The new system will also need to ensure the closest possible links with businesses throughout the country and that it is flexible enough to respond quickly to individual regional needs.

“It’s important to note that a consultation period (until 27 March) needs to take place before anything is confirmed and there is a great deal of detail to consider. The outcome of the consultation will be key.”

Nationwide consultation will include: meetings with individual ITPs including separate feedback sessions for management teams, staff and students; six dedicated hui for iwi and Māori stakeholders including one at Rotorua; four community engagement days, including Rotorua, where a wide range of community stakeholders can engage with the Reform of Vocational Education team.

Dr Fourie says in the meantime, it’s business as usual on campus.

“We would like to reassure existing students and those proposing to enrol from New Zealand or abroad that they will continue to receive the highest quality vocational training and education from Toi Ohomai while this proposal is being worked through. It should not, in any way, affect your decision to enrol into any of our programmes of study – it remains business as usual for our students.”

More information and factsheets are available here.


Honey is flowing at EIT

Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

1 min ago

When Gui Vilhena turned 17, he took over his uncle’s bee hives in his hometown of Jundiai in Brazil and started to commercially cultivate honey. Once he finished high school, Gui studied animal husbandry at University of Sao Paolo, while continuing to produce honey and study bee genetics.

While on holiday in New Zealand in 2001 he fell in love with the country and came back the year after. Two years later he moved to New Zealand and started to work as a commercial beekeeper in Whitianga (Coromandel). Later he worked as a Biodynamic market gardener and a relief milker at Hohepa Homes. He then got a job as a beekeeper for a queen breeding business before EIT appointed him as Apiculture tutor.

“The most fascinating thing about bees is their relationship with plants. It’s interesting how they move around and pollinate them following an annual rhythm,” says Gui. The insects start by working on early flowers like tree lucerne, willow, then pollinating plums, almonds and peaches. They continue with apples, pears and citrus, followed by kiwi fruit and avocados. Manuka comes last.

“Beekeepers are pollination agents too. That’s because orchard owners contract them to move their bees around to pollinate their trees,” Gui explains. There are so many more interesting facts about the black and yellow insects. Bees for instance manage to keep the temperature inside the hive between 30 and 35 degrees, creating the best climate for the queen to lay her eggs. It takes 21 days for the eggs to turn into larvae and eventually bees.

On a warm day bees fly in and out without resting, indicating the best source of food by performing a little dance for their fellow bees. Gui has been stung many times and says stings should never be pulled out but scraped off with one’s nail in order to avoid releasing the toxin within.

“Bees won’t sting unless you block their way or try to brush them off once they have landed on you. It’s better to flick them off instead of rubbing them against you,” recommends Gui. Bees are very sensitive to pesticides, environmental change and radiation. “They have their own radio magnetic sensors and they are easily troubled by mobile phone radiance.

Another hazard is the varroa mite that can cause the collapse of a whole colony. “To protect them, we have to use treatment”, says Gui.

All apiculture students at EIT have their own beehive. There are 14 hives, each with 40.000 bees on site at the Hawke’s Bay campus in Taradale. Being surrounded by clover, eucalyptus, almonds and many more natives and exotics, the campus bees live within a little paradise. Potentially, every student could harvest up to 60 kilograms of honey each year.

The students started their NZ Certificate in Apiculture in August 2018. Throughout the winter months Gui taught them mostly apiculture theory. “A good thing about being a beekeeper, is that during the winter months it’s pretty easy.” At the moment though, the honey is flowing and the students have a lot to work on. “I like to call bees a pharmacy in a box. They have really everything we need,” says Gui.


Running on empty

Source: Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

14 Feb, 2019

Dangerous practices in the New Zealand trucking industry are symptoms of much deeper issues, says new research from the Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Research at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Business School.

Fatigue, speeding, infringements, and driver error are serious issues of concern but unless a more holistic approach to solving these problems is taken then it is unlikely changes will be seen, says Dr Clare Tedestedt George.

“This is not an individual workers problem, it’s not a migrant problem, it’s a labour standards problem. Targeting efforts at the individual will inevitably deplete resources with seemingly little payback. We need to ask why are they so fatigued, why are they speeding in the first place?”

Issues such as the competitive nature of the industry, the normalisation of dangerous practices, pay rates and pay structures, as well as the use of [dependent] contractors are all factors necessary to consider when addressing these symptoms.

Drivers, who are owner-operators, take on not only the financial risk but also the responsibility for ensuring healthy and safe work practices.

“In many cases they can’t afford to operate safely if it means reduced income. Short term goals about financially keeping their head above water have to come before longer-term health goals,” Tedestedt George says.

Employed drivers described a more positive experience compared to owner-operators, but across the industry below-par conditions are tolerated and written off as normal, creating barriers to change.

“Those that cannot handle it leave, and those that can, survive. It’s a survivor population but one that eventually dies young,” she says.

Ensuring drivers are safe and healthy is a responsibility shared among a number of different agencies, but efforts are not keeping drivers free from harm.

“A failure in systems thinking has meant that efforts are fragmented and ineffective, therefore not easily translated into working environments.”

Read more about Dr Tedestedt George’s research on The Spinoff.