Across the Ditch: Fires Blaze Out of Control Near Christchurch + PM Decides In Favour of Pike River Mine Families

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Across the Ditch: Australian radio FiveAA.com.au’s Peter Godfrey and EveningReport.nz’s Selwyn Manning deliver their weekly bulletin Across the Ditch. This week: Weather + FX + Fires blaze out of control near Christchurch.

ITEM ONE – Civil Emergency in Christchurch

The Government has declared a civil emergency in Christchurch after a scrub fire in the Port Hills bordering south Christchurch blazed out of control.

It is believed that the fire was deliberately lit.

Wednesday night saw hundreds of families evacuated from their homes as the blaze spread northward toward Christchurch City’s residential areas.

On Wednesday morning it was confirmed that one helicopter pilot who was part of the firefighting effort was killed. It was also confirmed he was a former NZ Defence SAS special operations soldier who had serviced in Afghanistan.

ITEM TWO – Pike River Mine Disaster

Last night families of those who died in the Pike arrived coal mine disaster met with new Prime Minister Bill English in an attempt to stop Solid Energy from sealing the entrance to the mine.

Solid Energy is the Government owned company that owns Pike River Mine.

The families have been maintaining a picket outside the entrance to the mine, in a move to stop contractors from permanently sealing the entrance. The bodies of their loved ones are still inside the mine.

The former Prime Minister John Key had initially promised the families that the bodies of their loved ones would be recovered. That promise was reneged upon, even though mining experts have said it is now safe enough inside the mine for a recovery operation to commence.

However, late last night (Wednesday) new Prime Minister Bill English told the victims’ families that the entrance to the mine will NOT be sealed.

His decision is expected to lead to another evaluation of whether a recovery operation can now safely commence.

ITEM THREE – Oddities

Over the last few weeks ending the holiday and anniversary weekend season, roads and highways around Auckland (north and south) have been predictably at gridlock.

But recently, things went from bad to worse. First a car pulled over in the fast lane and suddenly went up in flames. Then a day later, a cat caused the vehicles of tens of thousands of commuters to a standstill as it strolled down the motorway.

The cat became a bit spooked and it took highway patrol officers quite a while to pick it up and clear the backlog of traffic.

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Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 25 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn is former co-founder of 36th Parallel Assessments (36th-Parallel.com) and has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.

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