University of Canterbury must improve crisis student communication and support

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Student communication

University of Canterbury James Hight libraryOn 22 July 2016 a woman was sexually assaulted while walking through the University of Canterbury owned Ilam Fields.

In response to a request from the Police, who informed UC Security of a “physical assault”, an email was sent to all students that day.

On 24 July 2016 a reporter from The Press contacted the University in response to the Police releasing a statement to the media. The Police told The Press that the assault was actually a sexual assault, and this fact was published in an article that day. In response to an Official Information Act request, most of which was initially declined, the University said that “the Police appeared not to have told the University of the sexual nature of the incident before telling the media”.

However, the University did not inform students of the sexual nature of the incident after it became public knowledge. The assault was alluded to in a 28 July UC blog post, which included 10 ’safety and security tips’ and a list of ’support for students’ links, including a link to the UC Health Centre. This content was also included in the next edition of the ‘Insider’s Guide Newsletter’, a weekly digest sent to all students, on 31 July.


Last night a student died suddenly at the Rochester and Rutherford Hall of Residence.

The death has been reported as sudden and not suspicious, often used by the media as code for a suspected suicide.

UC acting vice-chancellor, Dr Hamish Cochrane was quoted by the media as saying “all the university’s students and staff were advised [Sunday], and made aware of the support available”.

Communication to students consisted solely of a UC blog post listing four UC support services that are available to students, including the UC Health Centre. Links to blog posts appear for a few days in the sidebar of Learn, UC’s online learning management system which is regularly accessed by students and staff. However, no email was sent to students, and there was no acknowledgment that a student had died.

Late on Sunday night, a link to the blog post was included in the ‘Insider’s Guide Newsletter’ emailed to students.

UC Health Centre Counselling under pressure

Students are struggling to access support.

The UC Health Centre provides free counselling to UC students, however their website states that counselling appointments “are in high demand [and] you may have to wait a few weeks to be seen”. During office hours there is an on-call counsellor to deal with students facing an “emergency situation”.

During this year’s UCSA elections one group of candidates asked students on Facebook which one out of four campaign policies they thought was most important. “Increased mental health awareness and support” was voted second. In response to a question asking how the UCSA should help support those with mental health issues, students voted overwhelmingly for “increased health centre funding for more counsellors”.

Students wanting to skip the UC Health Centre counselling waiting list could choose to pay for sessions with a private counsellor or psychologist. Students may be eligible for the disability allowance, however there are restrictions, including a maximum payment of $61.69 a week (appointments with private psychologists can cost $150 or more).

Submission on the Bill extending benefit sanctions to people serving community sentences

Stacks of coins

My submission on the Social Security (Stopping Benefit Payments for Offenders who Repeatedly Fail to Comply with Community Sentences) Amendment Bill:

This Bill would extend the sanction regime to people on benefits who have a community sentence and who fail to comply with that sentence.

I note that section 186 does not give those people already on community sentences a grace period before this sanction can be applied to them.

This Bill highlights failures in the New Zealand justice system and does not address the underlying causes of non-compliance with community sentences.

A very concerning part of this Bill is that it would negatively affect children. If the Ministry of Social Development knows a child is dependent on the person whose benefit they propose to cut, the benefit can still be cut, but “only” by half. On the levels that benefits currently are, cutting a benefit in half will still be devastating for a family, and for the welfare of a child.

A person’s benefit can be restarted if they start to comply with the community sentence, but it’s unclear how they will be able to comply with their sentence if they have no money for transport. They might also not have money for food, rent, power or health costs – things that we recognise as minimal entitlements of prisoners. This Bill might push vulnerable people to committing petty crime in order to survive.

Our social security legislation should be a safety net. This Bill will further erode that. It will not make a positive difference to people or to society. It will not “rescue” people from their situation. It will not rehabilitate them. It will not increase public safety.

The Department of Corrections should be given more resources to take practical steps to address non-compliance. This Bill is not one of them.

Image credit: Nathaniel_U

No money spent by airports on ‘lost luggage’ auctions

Airport passengers with luggage

Last month the member’s bill of Nuk Korako, a National Party list MP, was drawn from the ballot. The Airport Authorities (Publicising Lost Property Sales) Amendment Bill will replace, in relation to the advertisement of lost property auctions: “the insertion of suitable advertisements in a newspaper circulating in the district where the airport is situated” with “publicising the sale in what the authority considers to be a fair and reasonable manner”.

The Bill is unnecessary

The explanatory note to the Bill says that it “would allow authorities to use modern means of communication as well as future, unforeseen, means of communications as the airport authority may determine fit.” This isn’t true. The current Airport Authorities Act does not restrict airports from advertising any auction in new media. If airports wanted to advertise their auctions on their website, Facebook, or Snapchat, there would be nothing stopping them.

The Airport Authorities Act only provides a suggested template for what airports may wish to include in any bylaws they create. The Act states:

any local authority or airport authority may, in respect of the airport which it operates, make such bylaws as it thinks fit for all or any of the following purposes:

 

 

(ff) providing for the establishing and maintaining of facilities at the airport for the reception and storage of lost property, and, after the insertion of suitable advertisements in a newspaper circulating in the district where the airport is situated, providing for the sale by way of auction of any such property that is unclaimed after being held by the authority for not less than 3 months:

 

provided that in the case of lost property which is perishable or valueless the bylaws may provide for the disposal of the property in such manner as may be determined by the authority

This does not mean that airports must have this as a bylaw. Many airports do not have any bylaws at all. Hawke’s Bay Airport has a lost property bylaw, however it only requires that those finding lost property hand it in.

It follows that if an airport does have a clause requiring the advertising of a lost property auction in a local newspaper, for example, Auckland International Airport, amending the Airport Authorities Act will not change that bylaw. The airport would have to have the bylaw changed, which could happen even if Mr Korako’s Bill does not pass.

Airport lost property auctions are rare and advertising them is free

I asked eight airports how much money they spent on advertisements for lost property auctions within the last year. Of the six that replied, only one airport, Dunedin Airport, has held an auction and placed an advertisement for it in the last year. The cost to them? $0. The Otago Daily Times doesn’t charge them.

The responses from the airports are below this post.

Airports don’t care

Airports don’t have an issue with this part of the Airport Authorities Act. The Ministry of Transport did not receive any submissions on this part when they were reviewing airport legislation.

In any case, minor and technical changes to acts can be made through the annual Statutes Amendment Bill.

To be fair, Mr Korako isn’t solely to blame. Minister Simon Bridges had the opportunity to include this Bill as part of the Ministry of Transport’s review of the Airport Authorities Act, but chose not to. It’s more convenient for the government that Mr Korako’s bill reduces the chance an opposition member’s bill will be drawn.

A similar bill that should be included in the Statutes Amendment Bill instead of taking up Parliament resources is Matt Doocey’s Companies (Annual Report Notice Requirements) Amendment Bill which also was recently introduced to Parliament.

The government wants to block bills from opposition members that might make them confront difficult issues that aren’t on their agenda. This Bill is a waste of Parliament’s time and resources, and as Andrew Geddis said, we, as New Zealanders, deserve better.

Airports respond

Queenstown Airport

Queenstown Airport has a bylaw that covers lost property, however it has not held an auction within the last year, instead it has donated property to the Salvation Army. The property was not of significant value and included: second-hand clothing, sunglasses, reading glasses and books.

Christchurch International Airport

Christchurch International Airport has a bylaw that covers lost property, however the airport has not placed any lost property auction advertisements within the last year.

Dunedin Airport

Dunedin Airport is the only airport that replied that has placed an advertisement for a lost property auction within the last year. They are not charged for placing the advertisements, which run in the Otago Daily Times.

Their policy is to advertise lost property twice in the Otago Daily Times with all property being held for at least three months before being auctioned. Any remaining property is donated to charity. Any valuable item or identity documents are handed to the airport police

The Airport provided an example of an advertisement they have recently run.

Invercargill Airport

Invercargill Airport has not placed an advertisement for a lost property auction within the last year. They donate lost property to charity or give it to the police.

Invercargill Airport does not have a bylaw relating to lost property. They have a lost property policy from 2012, and a draft replacement policy written in 2015 that has not been approved.

Hokitika Airport

Hokitika Airport has not received any lost property since 2002. They have no written policy on lost property. In practice, any lost property is handed to Air New Zealand staff as it likely belongs to one of their passengers or someone accompanying one of their passengers and Hokitika Airport staff are not present at the airport on a regular basis.

Hawke’s Bay/Napier Airport

Hawke’s Bay Airport has a bylaw relating to lost property, however the bylaw does not cover the disposal or auction of that property.

They have not placed an advertisement for a lost property auction within the last year.

Auckland and Wellington International Airports

Auckland and Wellington airports are not subject to the Official Information Act. Auckland International Airport reportedly donates at least some lost property to charity. Wellington International Airport passes valuables to the police.

Nelson and Palmerston North Airports

Nelson and Palmerston North airports did not respond to an Official Information Act request within the statutory timeframe.

Image credit: Monika

Minister of Internal Affairs Peter Dunne incorrectly declared Ministerial credit card transactions as Uber rides

Hon Peter Dunne
Hon Peter Dunne, Minister of Internal Affairs

On 18 August the Department of Internal Affairs proactively released Ministerial credit card statements and reconciliations for the previous quarter.

Peter Dunne, Minister of Internal Affairs, made two payments on his Ministerial credit card in April while on official travel in New York through the payment processor Square. Square is a service designed for individuals or businesses to accept payments through an application on a phone or tablet. The payments were for the equivalent of NZD $137.56 and $152.69.

These were declared in his international travel reconciliation form as payments for Uber taxis.

The receipts for these transactions show these were clearly payments through Square, and not payments for Uber rides.

Receipts for Uber rides are sent by Uber and look very different to the receipts provided by Mr Dunne. Uber receipts include details of the pickup and destination locations, miles, and trip time.

Mr Dunne’s office refused to comment on what the payments were for, stating questions asked would be responded to in accordance with the Official Information Act.

Image credit: New Zealand Tertiary Education Union

MOH recommends HPV vaccine for men who have sex with men, but PHARMAC doesn’t fund it

Vaccine vial
Not the HPV vaccine

Update 30 May 2016: PHARMAC is currently consulting on a proposal to widen funding for the HPV vaccine to everyone under the age of 26.

PHARMAC currently funds the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for all girls under 20. The intention is that through ‘herd immunity’, males will be protected too. However, herd immunity does not help males who exclusively have sex with other males (and herd immunity doesn’t kick in for males at all until female vaccination rates are above a certain percentage).

The Ministry of Health’s Immunisation Handbook even recommends the HPV vaccine (and the Hepatitis A vaccine) for men who have sex with men (MSM). MSM are at higher risk for HPV infection, anal cancer and high-grade anal intraepithelial neoplasia. They are more likely to acquire HPV compared to other males. But they’d need to pay around $500 to buy the vaccine’s three doses themselves.

In August 2013, the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee recommended that the HPV vaccine for males aged between 9 and 26 years who self-identify as having sex with other males be listed in the Pharmaceutical Schedule (aka funded) with a high priority.

The application’s status is now ‘ranked’, which PHARMAC describes as “prioritised; PHARMAC has assessed the application and has ranked it against other funding options”. It has had this status since November 2013, well over two years.

It is preferable to vaccinate people at a younger age to reduce the chances of exposure to HPV strains prior to vaccination–the younger people are vaccinated, the stronger the immunogenicity. PHARMAC sitting on this means that for some people the vaccine will be less effective when it is eventually funded than if they received it today.

The Human Rights Act 1993 is meant to protect New Zealanders against this sort of discrimination, but it would be much easier if PHARMAC just did the right thing.

Below: PHARMAC’s response to an Official Information Act request on this topic. The funding of medicines is a numbers game so naturally all mentions of relevant dollar figures have been redacted by the agency.

In the interests of full disclosure, I filed a Human Rights Commission complaint about this issue last year.

2-steps to get a text when someone from Trade Me pays you

Trade Me

Providing awesome customer service to buyers on Trade Me involves being super responsive. One way to help with this is to set up a text that’s sent to you by your bank when a buyer pays you so you know you can ship an item. Follow the two easy steps below to do that – they should work with all banks.

1) Set up a separate bank account for Trade Me payments to go into.

You should be able to do this through your bank’s online banking.

Keep in mind you don’t have control over how money is deposited into your account and in-branch or manual deposits might cost you – consider using an online savings account to avoid fees. Generally banks will stop buyers from depositing to online savings accounts in a branch, and electronic deposits are free.

Giving out your main account to Trade Me buyers might mean you’re charged transaction fees if they deposit at a branch.

2) Set up a text alert through online banking.

Set up a text to be sent to you when your balance goes over $0 on this account or a deposit is made to it that’s greater than $1.

Text alerts are generally free, but a minority of banks charge per text sent to you. As an alternative, email alerts are almost always free.

ASB text alert set up
Westpac text alert set up
BNZ text alert set up

2.1) Reset the alert.

If your alert relies on a balance increase, transfer the money out of the Trade Me account after you’ve received it.

This post contains personal opinions and advice of a general nature which are not intended to reflect the position of any organisation I am related to. No responsibility is taken for any loss suffered by following it.

What happens when a salaried YouTuber goes solo: the Daily Grace story

Grace Helbig

You might have heard of Daily Grace, or Grace Helbig. She’s a 28-year-old actress-comedian who uploads videos on YouTube Monday to Friday. DailyGrace has 2 million+ subscribers and 227 million video views, and Forbes listed Grace on their 30 Under 30 Hollywood & Entertainment list for 2014 along with Rebel Wilson, Jennifer Lawrence, Kelly Osbourne and Anna Kendrick saying “Helbig is one of the sharpest, funniest voices on YouTube”.

Daily Grace died on December 31 2013.

Not the person, it’s just DailyGrace isn’t Grace’s channel anymore and since the start of 2014 no new content has been uploaded. The videos being uploaded Monday to Friday on that channel are reruns (first reruns on YouTube?) and presumably Grace isn’t receiving any of the ad revenue from them. Until recently, Grace had a contract with a company called My Damn Channel, who are going through an identity crisis and rebranding as Omnivision Entertainment. She made videos on the YouTube channel DailyGrace and they paid her a salary and maybe a commission based on YouTube views.

“Grace leaving Daily Grace is kinda like a Pokemon evolving. You’re sad because you liked how cute it looked before, but you’re also excited because it can shoot lasers out of its eyes now.” –killmeeko

After five years, Grace and My Damn Channel have chosen to part ways which, as VideoInk says, is probably the hardest decision Grace has made in her career. My Damn Channel owns the content and intellectual property Grace created while in their employment, including the YouTube channel DailyGrace, 2 million+ subscribers, themed days (Sexy Friday etc.), catch phrases (you’ve been hazed, new viewser alert…), and Facebook page–her Tumblr and Twitter are still hers, presumably because they aren’t under the Daily Grace brand.

How do you deal with suddenly not being able to use any of the intellectual property you came up with? Compare a 2013 ‘commenting on your comments’ video with a 2014 one:

“Here’s the lesson: Many corporations think that by owning YouTube channels, they’ll have something valuable. But the value is not in the channel or in the number of subscribers. On YouTube, despite the corporatization of everything, the value is in people.” –Tim Helbig

The brand that My Damn Channel is asserting ownership over is effectively a person. People subscribed to DailyGrace for Grace, and have been steadily unsubscribing because of the new content drought and My Damn Channel/Grace drama. Grace is continuing to upload videos daily on her used-to-be-second-but-is-now-main channel ItsGrace, something she wasn’t allowed to talk about while she was still in charge of the DailyGrace accounts. Viewers were left with a cryptic goodbye on December 27 where Grace said she would be back making videos from January 6 after a break. She couldn’t say that these new videos wouldn’t be on the DailyGrace channel.

Is it fair enough that My Damn Channel is enforcing their rights under a mutually agreed contract which Grace would have either received legal advice over or had the opportunity to seek legal advice over? Probably. An arrangement that guaranteed an income for making YouTube videos would have looked pretty great five years ago, but as time goes on you’d start to realise that perhaps you could be earning more without the middleman taking a cut… and for doing what exactly? My Damn Channel is a business and they’ll want to get all the ad revenue they can from the old DailyGrace videos which they’re rerunning on YouTube. Grace is going independent, at least for the time being, and will have full ownership over the content she creates from now on. And at least 1.7 million subscribers have found their way to ItsGrace.

The sad thing is that some fans might never find Grace’s new channel (My Damn Channel hasn’t changed the about page for DailyGrace from “I vlog everyday! Five days a week!”, except for the removal of her social media links and stripping the themed days from the header image), Grace was faced with rebuilding her subscriber base from the 100,000 she had on her second channel, and that the day has come where My Damn Channel is exercising the control they have over a whole vault of content Grace made in an intimate setting–inside her home–by reuploading it in an attempt to keep up the appearance that Daily Grace is still alive.

But Grace still has herself, and maybe that’s all the matters.

“DailyGrace is Grace Helbig, which is me. DailyGrace [the channel] was a concept owned by My Damn Channel, but Grace Helbig is my personality, owned by myself…so that’s what I’m moving forward with and that’s what, to me, is priceless.” –Grace Helbig

Image credit: Grace Helbig