Major Site Changes at PacificEyeWitness

pacificEyeWitness is undergoing some big changes and revamping the site.  About time, we thought!

To search for posts submitted before April 2010, you can search and read them right here using the search button.

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Breaking: NZ Cabinet Minister Resigns Suddenly

UPDATED: “Disgraced former minister Phil Heatley was repeatedly warned by officials about his ministerial credit card use, new documents reveal.  Mr Heatley, 42, quit his fisheries and housing portfolios yesterday after moves by Prime Minister John Key to put his spending under more scrutiny by Auditor-General Lyn Provost…”(Source: Dominion Post, 26th February 2010). Read more

Full text of resignation speech by Minister of Housing and Fisheries Phil Heatley. Read out at a press conference an hour ago.

I have called this media conference today to announce my resignation as Housing Minister, Fisheries Minister and a member in John Key’s Cabinet.

I contacted the Prime Minister this morning to let him know of my plans and he has accepted my resignation.

Firstly, I want to say that it has been a privilege to serve the people of New Zealand as a Cabinet Minister in this National Government, but I believe that I have failed to live up to my own standards and for that I am embarrassed and immensely sorry.

The decision today comes after I had a closer look at my Ministerial Credit Card expenses covering the past 18 months.

As I explained earlier in the week, I was not as familiar as I should have been with the rules; in fact, I was careless. I have apologised and have undertaken to pay back any money wrongly billed.

However, a closer inspection of my accounts has revealed an error in addition to that already in the public arena. On reconciling my accounts I discovered an expenses claim that sits apart from the rest.

I charged two bottles of wine already highlighted this week to my account as food and beverages. There was no food included in this purchase, and I accept this could be viewed as an inaccurate representation of the expense.

But rather than arguing semantics about whether this was deliberately misleading or not, I have decided that this is one step too far and I offered my resignation to the Prime Minister this morning.

Furthermore, today I have submitted my accounts to the Office of the Auditor General to conduct an independent inquiry, and I expect those results will be made public in due course.

I believe this is the right course of action.

I have absolutely no desire to become the focus of a distraction for this Government, which has much to do to grow the economy, invest in jobs and help Kiwis get ahead.

I do intend to remain in Parliament as an advocate for Whangarei, and I want to thank the wonderful people from my electorate who have rung to offer their support.

I also want to thank my wife, Jenny and family for their ongoing support in what have been a tough few days.

Heatley’s Profile on

In the National-led Government, Phil Heatley is:

  • Minister of Fisheries
  • Minister of Housing
Phil Heatley is 42 years old and the electorate MP for Whangarei.

He attended Maunu & Whau Valley Primary, Kamo Intermediate and Kamo High Schools in Whangarei.

Being born, raised and educated in Whangarei, he has strong personal ties to the electorate with his own family and extended family all residing there.

In 1990 he completed a Masters with honours degree, majoring in Horticultural Engineering. After finishing his studies he returned to Whangarei to work.

Phil’s personal interests include carpentry, tennis, boating and fishing.

In 1993 both Phil and his wife Jenny, a registered nurse, worked voluntarily with an international relief agency aboard a nine-story, 12,000-ton hospital ship. When in port crew undertook medical, agricultural and construction work in developing countries.

After returning from overseas in 1995, Phil was employed as a Professional Engineer for a NZ Dairy Board subsidiary in Northland. Nationally, Phil was responsible for working on behalf of the dairy industry in relation to the Resource Management Act (1991).


Analysis: Why NZ dropped First Past The Post Electoral System

By Vienna Richards

Update: this post was originally posted 27th October 2008. With the recent announcement that there will be a referendum on the electoral system at the next election,  this has been reposted.

(Auckland-28 October 2008) I’ve been reading some misinformed articles lately that seem to read more like a political party campaign rather than a genuine analysis and backgrounder of why NZ switched to MMP as an electoral system. As a political science student once upon a time, the radar went off. So let’s revisit a portion of New Zealand’s political history.

New Zealand’s Chief Electoral Office:

In 1993 New Zealanders voted in a referendum to change their voting system from the traditional first-past-the-post (FPP) method to Mixed Member Proportional representation (MMP).

Criticism of the voting system intensified after the 1978 and 1981 elections. On each occasion the Labour opposition actually secured more votes overall than National, but the latter won more seats in Parliament and remained in government. Read the rest of this entry »

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Police Hotline for Missing Toddler Aisling Symes

If you have any information please call the hotline: 0800 4 Aisling (0800 4 2475 464)

Aisling has been missing for over a week today. This child needs to be found. Help find her. She needs to be home with her parents. If you know anyone, who has had anything to do with her disappearance, do the right thing and call the New Zealand police at the hotline on 0800 4275464.

Please call the HOTLINE f you have any information on Aisling’s disappearance.

Though we have been busy focused on the tsunami, and its devastation in Samoa, we have been closely following the sad story of two-year-old Aisling aisling symes missing in hendersonwho disappeared from West Auckland, New Zealand. We thought she would have been found by now. But sadly, no.

Aisling went missing from her grandparents’ home in Longburn Rd Henderson reportedly after 5pm last Monday 5th October, 2009.

Henderson Police are continuing their search for Aisling [pronounced Ashling] Symes after she went missing from an address in Longburn Road, Henderson Monday 5 October at about 5.30pm.

Aisling is aged two years. She is a tall girl for her age, of European appearance, with light brown hair.

Aisling is believed to be wearing green parka jacket or ski jacket, blue jeans embroidered with flowers, and has white tennis shoes on her feet.

Police are eager to hear from anyone who has information about the disappearance of Aisling Symes. Please call the hotline if you have any information.

If You Wish To Send Condolences to Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga Please Read is compiling all the messages of love and support that we have received via posts on this website and emails. We will be putting all your messages together into one document and forward it directly to the Government of Samoa ahead of this Friday’s national burial and funeral service for the families who have lost loved ones.

If you would like to add your message to send to the people of Samoa, or American Samoa, or to specific families and villages, post a comment here or email me directly and we will forward it  to the Government and leaders.

Please post  your  message as soon as possible by Wednesday 7th October 2009 (Samoa time).

We will also forward any messages we receive for victims in Tonga to the Government of Tonga. We hope that it will bring some measure of comfort to grieving families and friends in the Pacific at this time. If you are more comfortable with sending me a private email, please send email to

Breaking News: Turning A Corner On A Year-Long Experiment

If you haven’t already noticed I have refrained for the last few months from posting many of the media releases sent to me.  This will explain why. One of the experimental features of this site, which I set up late last year, was that I would use this as a way to post the media releases and press statements relating to Pacific news, issues and stories affecting our people.

I thought of the website I liked how Scoop takes away the gatekeeping role typically held by traditional media. Instead, Scoop publicly post for public consumption the same information that journalists have access to, and work with, in order to craft their stories.  Media statements, statements from victims, from companies, from interest groups telling you their view in their own words.

Last year, I thought, we need something like Scoop for Pacific people so that our people have access to the same source of information, raw material so to speak, that journalists often have. Direct from the source.

Instead of letting news media control the flow of information, I thought, why not let the people get the whole story unfiltered direct from the source? I saw a need and that was the inital intention behind Pacific Eye Witness (PEW). Or at least the same information that journalist receive but don’t necessarily share, particularly if it doesn’t fit the angle or too long and so on.

So last year knowing that I was about to leave NiuFM, I called one of Scoop’s founder Selwyn Manning  to pick his brain.

I had briefly met Manning during a media assignment covering the visit of the former US Secretary of State Condolezza Rice’s to New Zealand last year. Manning was kind enough to give me his time and share his experiences with setting up Scoop. I appreciated his generosity there. He didn’t have to share anything with me but I appreciated that he was willing to.

Long and short of it is that I was inspired by Manning’s positive response, and inspired by the encouragement of friends, family and those I respect in Pacific media, I set up this site. I was brimming with enthusiasm.

The Verdict

A year’s passed since that experiment started, and I can now pass judgement on the first year’s experiment with PEW.

The Pluses

Support came from many people I knew and total strangers who encouraged the set up of this website. They know who they are. Thank you.

Some unexpected surprises.  Receiving warm emails from Pacific people in the Middle East and families stationed in the Deep South. They were reading PEW. Australia, the USA, and the Pacific region make up the biggest group of readers here.

Getting Google first few pages and other search engines to pick up the site in a speedy fashion, within a week of being online. I set that as a goal and targeted certain stories to test out the advice I received from an IT technician at a call centre in the USA.  It worked. It pays to be teachable folks. That I am.

Finding out all the above was fantastic. It reaffirmed my own instincts on setting up PEW.

The Minuses

The workload. One would need to work 24/7 on this site to update, post and sift through and check every media release or press statement or request sent to PEW. But I’ve needed to rein it in and keep this project small for now.

Nontargeted media releases and statements. Many of the email traffic received were about things that affect all of us, or a niche market that wasn’t really Pacific. Received countless emails, with some interesting information, but not necessarily relevant to the purposes of this site.

The workload.

So what’s the answer you say. There will be some changes coming up and also some new features to introduce. That’s based on feedback and monitoring trends over the past year. Read my next post to find out more.