This week, the mission to rid Aotea Great Barrier Island of pests and bring back the birdsong, what’s going on at KiwiRail with cancellations and line failures galore, the cavalier attitude to workplace safety that’s affecting our cohort of trade apprentices, whether self-tests are the answer to New Zealand’s wave of new syphilis cases, and the lessons learnt – and yet to be learnt – from our last outdoor education tragedy in Mangatepopo.

Whakarongo mai to any episodes you might have missed.


The mahi bringing birdsong back to Aotea’s forests

The forest block of Te Paparahi, in the north of Aotea Great Barrier Island, looks untouched from the gravel road that runs past it to one of the island’s many deserted white sand beaches.

Some of the field workers clearing tracks on Aotea. Photo: Supplied/Tū Mai Taonga

The nearest shop is about 30 minutes’ drive away and the area around here is rarely gets visited – except by locals who live in the nearby community, the farmers on the neighbouring block and a few surfers. 

But a short walk into the bush reveals an unwelcome eeriness. There’s virtually no birdsong here, because the area is overrun with feral cats and rats. Last year it recorded the lowest number of birds of any of the 18 sites monitored around the island.

Sharon Brettkelly visits the island and the people behind Tū Mai Taonga, a new project to restore the forests.


How KiwiRail got off track

Commuter rail services in Auckland and Wellington have hit major problems in the past week, with the fault laying squarely with KiwiRail. How have things gotten so bad at the state-owned rail operator?

Sharon Brettkelly talks to rail historian Andre Brett, who explains some of the history before KiwiRail came into being – the privatisation of the railways, the asset stripping and the eventual government buyback in 2008, as well as underfunding that has led to “one blunder after another” in recent years.

“We’ve had decades of under-investment in the rail network and policies that since the 1950s have focused very single-mindedly on roads. That’s not going to be turned around overnight,” he says.


Lives treated lightly

Workplace safety inductions are often brushed over, dismissed as being an overreaction to risks that will probably never play out. 

A horrific case in Nelson, however, should bring employers up short. 

Photo: Getty Images

The case, at marine engineering firm Aimex Limited, is another in a long line of teenage boys who – at the start of what should be promising trade careers – are maimed for life. 

Alexia Russell takes a look at New Zealand’s cavalier attitude to workplace safety, talking to WorkSafe’s CEO Phil Parkes, and AUT professor of construction management John Tookey. 


DIY testing for STIs?

All other measures notwithstanding, it turns out New Zealanders aren’t great at having safe sex.

Crown research institute ESR reported that syphilis case numbers increased by 41 percent last year, from 99 cases in the first quarter of 2022 to 140 in the fourth quarter – and other STIs, like gonorrhea and chlamydia, are also on the rise.

While some test kits require samples to be posted away to a laboratory for processing, others take a prick of blood or saliva swab and are able to deliver results within minutes. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

Sarah Robson speaks to Family Planning’s national medical adviser Dr Beth Messenger and microbiologist Gary McAuliffe about the opportunities and risks involved with taking a leaf out of the Covid response’s book and self-testing for STIs.


Abbey Caves and NZ’s tragic outdoor education history

The death of a student at Abbey Caves in Whangārei on Tuesday is a terrible reminder for some of New Zealand’s worst school outdoor education tragedy: the 2008 Mangatepopo canyoning disaster.

The entrance to Abbey Caves, Whangārei. Photo: RNZ

Safety regulations have been tightened since six students and a teacher from Auckland’s Elim Christian College died while on a course with the Outdoor Pursuits Centre (OPC) in the central North Island. 

“If we’re still seeing accidents we may need stronger regulations,” professional caver and guide Neil Silverwood tells Sharon Brettkelly.


Long Read: The Teenage Animal

This is The Detail‘s Long Read – one in-depth story read by us every weekend.

Photo: NZ Geographic

This week, it’s The Teenage Animal by Kate Evans, published in NZ Geographic‘s May-June issue.

You can read the full article, with accompanying illustrations, here.

Adults have complained about teenagers since the dawn of time, but it turns out evolution has good reasons for giving adolescents deep-seated social insecurity and a propensity to take silly risks. Just like humans, animals go through ‘wildhood’—a time of experimentation, creativity, danger and learning.


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