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When you can’t hear the fire alarm

At 4:20am on October 13 a deaf Whangarei woman’s kitchen was engulfed in flames while she and her great-granddaughter slept.

Thanks to the strobe light on her visible smoke alarm, the woman was woken and escaped the house safely with the 4-year-old child.

Without specialist alarms, many of the estimated 880,350 deaf or hearing-impaired people in New Zealand have to rely on seeing or smelling smoke to alert them to a fire.

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South Auckland’s uncomfortable memorial

On a triangle of reserve in Ōtāhuhu stands a memorial to Colonel Marmaduke George Nixon. It has been there since 1868. Now, like other statues around the world, there are calls to remove it.

Former senior Labour official and activist, Shane Te Pou, has launched a petition urging Auckland Mayor Phil Goff to relocate the memorial to the Auckland Museum.

Te Pou told RNZ: “It should not be standing in memory of who I think was a thug.”

Nixon’s legacy is a bloody one, which historians say involved the killing of Māori women.

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Rare ‘apology’ ruling divides small NZ community

An unusual High Court ruling recommends a former school librarian and her husband send apology letters to members of a small South Island community to correct defamatory statements – or pay a fine of $100,000.

The defamatory statements were made in letters sent to around 50 Rai Valley residents after an employment dispute between the former librarian, Faye Leov, and former principal, Loretta [Muff] Newton, escalated to involve the local community.

The letters claimed Newton bullied Leov and others in the school, that she misled the school board, had been dismissed from her role and was mentally unwell.

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Three ways NZ can save its native geckos

When Fiordland National Park rangers arrived to feed Graham in mid July, they found a crime scene. The padlock to Graham’s terrarium was gone. So was Graham.

Graham the Marlborough green gecko was 30 years old, his home was a terrarium near the entrance to the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre. He had outlived the other gecko in the terrarium and provided the sole reptilian welcome to visitors.

Like 76 percent of New Zealand reptiles, Graham faces the risk of extinction through habitat loss and predators. Poachers are an added pressure to gecko populations.

The theft of a lone gecko may not have rung alarm bells for authorities, but the discovery on August 11 of a duct-taped shut lunchbox with 58 native lizards jammed inside should. Of the geckos and skinks inside, only four were alive.

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Raoul Island Survivor – outweed, outplay and outlast

Halfway between New Zealand and Tonga lies a sub-tropical island paradise few will ever visit.

Pōhutukawa, with leaves twice as big as their mainland counterparts, cover the island.

Tui, parakeets and petrel populate the skies. The snorkelling is spectacular.

But the island is not open to the public and the lucky few who are allowed to visit and stay must first make it through a Survivor-style five-day “shakedown”.

Every year a handful of people are selected by the Department of Conservation (DoC) to become Raoul Island rangers, who spend a year living on the island eradicating weeds.

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The impatient man bringing the future to New Zealand

When Steve West was young he dreamed of a future full of electric vehicles.

“I fell in love with the idea of them as a child. They were painted as the future in those futuristic books you used to get. You would know the future had arrived when you were driving electric cars.”

Now in his 40s, Steve’s  company, which develops electric car-charging infrastructure,  is propelling New Zealand back to the future of his childhood dreams.

West, the co-founder of DJ software company Serato, saw a glimmer of his childhood dreams when Tesla’s electric Roadster launched in the United States. It was a car West desperately wanted but could not get. At that stage Tesla was not interested in selling to New Zealand.

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Cop welcomes refugees with a smile

“They’re not the best jokes and I’m not a comedian, but it does break the ice.”

For refugees fleeing torture, harm or imprisonment in their home countries, ethnic liaison officer Constable Rob Stanton is the first face of the New Zealand police force they experience.

The three-hour presentation he gives to new refugees at the Mangere resettlement centre explains their legal rights and responsibilities in New Zealand.

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Is it a bird? Is it a bee? No, it’s NZ batman

While Bat Appreciation Day  may pass unnoticed in New Zealand (it is in April), you might be one of the lucky few whose backyard is home to bats (pekapeka).

Surprisingly long-tailed bats, a species listed as vulnerable, have been found roosting in the West Auckland neighbourhoods of Swanson, Henderson Valley, and Waitakere.

Once common, bat numbers have dropped significantly with one species thought to be extinct and the two remaining species listed as vulnerable and endangered.

Auckland Council’s Senior Biodiversity Advisor Ben Paris has been leading the charge in mapping where the shy bats can be found.

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