New Zealand In April, the government signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The relatively new declaration regulates human rights and the right to land and natural resources. New Zealand was one of the few countries that voted against the declaration when it was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2007. It was in particular the issue of the right to land that was controversial as the land in New Zealand is now often owned by private individuals. The Indigenous people of the Maoris have already regained some land and in other cases have been compensated for lost land. Mayor Pita Sharples said the signing of the declaration is proof that New Zealand supports the human rights of indigenous peoples. He also said he was determined to deal with the injustices that affected the Maoris in terms of land and natural resources.
According to COUNTRYAAH, New Zealand has a population of 4.886 million (2018). New Zealand plans to ban smoking at the country’s prisons from July 1, 2011. This was announced in June 2010. Judith Collins, Minister for Prison and Probation, two-thirds of the country’s prisoners smoke. Critics say that the violence in prisons would increase if they refuse interns cigarettes, but the rejected minister said that smoking is a danger to both prisoners and staff.
In August, the government proposed tightening the country’s alcohol laws to reduce drinking among young people. Raising the age limit from 18 to 20 to buy alcohol was one of the suggestions. Another was to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages aimed specifically at young people, such as milk-based drinks. According to Justice Minister Simon Power, the alcohol causes about a thousand deaths a year in New Zealand.
The worst earthquake in New Zealand in 80 years hit the city of Christchurch on the east coast of South Island on September 4. No man was killed, but the material destruction was great. About two-thirds of the 160,000 homes in and around Christchurch, the country’s second largest city, were damaged. The earthquake measured 7.1 on the Richter scale. Strict building standards are one of the reasons why the consequences became so minor in view of the strength of the quake. The following days many relatively strong aftershocks were registered. As late as December 26, a series of aftershocks arrived in Christchurch. The strongest measured 4.9 on the Richter scale. Buildings were damaged, a shopping center had to be evacuated and the power was temporarily broken, but no one was injured despite the fact that many were out shopping.
On November 19, 29 miners died in an accident in the Pike River coal mine on the west coast of South Island. It was the worst mining accident in the country in almost 70 years. The accident was caused by a gas explosion. When the rescue workers went in, another gas explosion occurred. The government appointed an independent inquiry to investigate exactly what caused the deaths of the miners. The investigation would also study the risk of explosions, the safety of the mines and the mining legislation. In addition, the police, the Ministry of Labor and the mining company would conduct their own investigations.
In October, the New Zealand government decided to grant a state grant of the equivalent of SEK 170 million to the American film company Warner Bros in order for the filming of two new “The Legend of the Ring” films to actually take place in the country. New Zealand, where the “Legend of the Ring” films have so far been recorded, was losing the new films due to a conflict between the film company and the union. The union criticized the company for wanting to use New Zealand actors who are not unionized instead of organized Australian actors. The director then threatened to move the recordings to another country. The filming of the new films is expected to provide New Zealand with thousands of jobs and revenue of around SEK 10 billion. The film recordings attract many tourists to the country. The two “Hobbit” films that will now be recorded take place before the adventure in the “The Legend of the Ring” trilogy. The films are scheduled to premiere at Christmas 2012.
In December, New Zealand’s Armed Forces released all of its previously clandestine reports of UFO phenomena. There are hundreds of reports written during the period 1954–2009, in which pilots, military and the public tell about their observations. The reports of a total of 2,000 pages have been published on the Internet.