It’s been a wild and unpredictable whirlwind in the seas of the Pacific this week with the arrival of Cyclone Pam, labelled one of the worst storms to ever hit this part of the world.
Vanuatu bore the brunt of the storm, reporting deaths of at least eight people. That figure is unfortunately likely to rise as communication with outer islands is restored (Vanuatu is made up of 65 islands).
Winds reached 320km/h, a speed at which Pam ripped through homes. Oxfam Australia reports that entire villages have been blown away. Roofs were torn off, and many unstable structures were torn down. The whole country is currently without power.
Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully, announced that New Zealand has donated $1 million to help Vanuatu and is currently assessing what other actions we can take to help out.
Leaving Vanuatu, Pam has set her sights on New Zealand, with the east coast expecting to be hit the hardest. The Civil Defence is advising people to be prepared with back-up supplies and gas for cooking as the power could go out.
Earlier in the week, it was revealed that back in November a threat was made to contaminate infant formula with 1080 if the government did not stop using the pest control by the end of this month.
What is 1080? 1080 is a poison that has been used in New Zealand for over fifty years; designed to kill pests such as possums, rats and stoats. It is usually distributed via aerial drops. The reason that 1080 is so controversial is that the poison is highly toxic to dogs and deer, as well as native birds. Members of the public have also been concerned about 1080 dropping into waterways.
See here for more information about 1080 and pest control in New Zealand.
Questions have been raised about why this threat was only revealed to the public this month. Prime Minister John Key stated the government and police needed time to create tests that would identify contaminated products.
The Northland by-election will be held at the end of this month, and the claws are out as National and NZ First MPs compete for the seat.
A by-election is a special election, between general elections, where a seat is up for grabs. Mike Sabin, a National MP, kept his seat after the general election in September last year, but resigned at the end of January this year. While reports have not been confirmed, rumours are flying that Sabin is part of an assault inquiry.
The two new contenders for the Northland seat (which has been held by the National party since 1996) are National MP Mark Osborne, and NZ First leader Winston Peters.