The next Bishop of Waikato is embarking on a pilgrimage.
The Rev'd Dr Helen-Ann Hartley hits the road today, travelling the varied terrain of the Waikato and Taranaki as part of a five-day pilgrimage. She is undertaking the journey to be alongside her 'flock' in their places of worship, before she is consecrated and installed as the 7th Bishop of Waikato on February 22nd.
This fulfills a promise she made upon her election, in which the British-born Bishop declared, "I am greatly looking forward to putting on my tramping shoes and gumboots, getting to know people where they are, and finding out more about the landscapes and industries that are integral to life and ministry in the Diocese."
Helen-Ann says since ancient times people have gone on pilgrimages, and she is emulating the physical and spiritual journey that Christians have undertaken through the ages.
"We too as individuals and as a diocese are on a journey and I am looking forward to travelling and... finding out what God is already doing throughout the diocese and people’s hopes for the future.”
While everyone is welcome to attend her ordination later in the month, spending time with the Bishop on this pilgrimage is another way of being part of a diocesan celebration; and people are invited to join her as she stops in various places along the way - including St Mary’s Cathedral in New Plymouth, Katikati, Taumarunui, Okato, and Raglan Beach. Those interested can find twitter updates under the keyword, #pilgrimsprogress.
Rev'd Dr Helen-Ann's journey will end with prayer this Friday at St Peter’s Cathedral in Hamilton, where her pilgrimage began today.
"...from farmland to beaches, church happens in many ways in our lives, it will be good to be amongst it."(Rev'd Dr Helen-Ann Hartley)
- Rhema Media/ press rls
Related article: "New Bishop for Waikato"
Auckland's mayor has offered to kickstart the city's three-billion-dollar underground rail project.
Auckland Council has already spent more than a hundred million dollars purchasing property on the route. Now, Len Brown is promising to contribute 250 million dollars of council money if the Government funds half the total cost of the project from the year 2020.
Opposition MPs see the situation as a 'no-brainer' and are urging the Government to seize Len Brown’s offer with both hands. Labour’s Auckland Issues spokesperson, Phil Twyford, says everything seems to be falling into place, with various stakeholders coming to the party -
"Precinct Properties, the owner of the Downtown centre, are even offering to start digging the first section of tunnel themselves.What would it take to get the Prime Minister to say yes?"
Mayor Brown wants to see work commence next year and Mr Twyford believes his enthusiasm for this endeavour merely reflects Aucklanders' desire "to see the rail project up and running as soon as possible."
However, Len Brown's promise to provide the seed money has earned criticism from North Shore councillor George Wood. He says Mr Brown should not make such a sweeping offer before reaching a formal agreement with the Government to ensure its half-share. Mr Wood is also questioning how the Council is proposing to raise the 250 million dollars.
George Wood says Mr Brown has not explained where the money will come from.
- Rhema Media/ Newstalk ZB
Our Prime Minister has won a few favours in trans-Tasman talks today, but commentators are questioning whether he could have done more.
John Key met with his Australian counterpart today to discuss several issues, including the twin economies, trade and the rights of New Zealand citizens across the ditch.
The outcome of those bilateral talks led political editor Barry Soper to tweet that Kiwis living in Australia will now qualify for student loans...but not much else.
While the Australian Prime Minister is not budging on other aspects of social welfare, he has agreed to uphold the proposal made by the previous Australian Labor Government. Mr Abbott's Coalition government has agreed to extend access to student loans for the children of long-term Kiwi expats.
When questioned over the fairness of Kiwis paying Australian taxes without any of the benefits, the Australian PM says they are lucky to be given unbarred access to a life in Australia. Mr Abbott pointed out that despite not having access to social welfare there, they do have the same automatic right as citizens to live and work in Australia - unlike residents from any other country.
Tony Abbott says he expects New Zealanders in his country to be "lifters not leaners".
All things considered, New Zealand's Prime Minister has come away with a sense of a growing economic relationship between the two countries. The talks have yielded an invitation to this year's G20 meetings, hosted by Australia and commencing later this month.
John Key says he is grateful for the honour and believes it will be of economic significance to this country.
- Newstalk ZB
"Today when I heard that President Obama has called for the release of my husband, Pastor Saeed Abedini, I wept." (Naghmeh Abedini)
The family and supporters of an American-Iranian pastor imprisoned in Iran for over a year have welcomed Barack Obama's public acknowledgement of the need for his captors to release him.
Saeed Abedini's plight has just been highlighted by the US President at a National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. The event opened with light banter, but quickly turned to serious matters.
President Obama talked about the role that faith has always played in progressing the human condition, which led him to expound on how important it is to uphold freedom of religion - not just in the United States, but to promote it everywhere as a key objective of U.S. foreign policy.
Barack Obama concluded his address at the Prayer Breakfast by honouring two Americans whose faith remains resolute in the face of persecution - Korean missionary Kenneth Bae, and Pastor Saeed.
"We pray for Pastor Saeed Abedini... And as we continue to work for his freedom, today, again, we call on the Iranian government to release Pastor Abedini so he can return to the loving arms of his wife and children in Idaho."
While several social media users expressed the view that the government's unequivocal support was a long time coming, the American Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ) - the lobby group representing the Abedinis - published a statement simply welcoming the President's endorsement of Pastor Saeed's freedom.
"...we're hopeful that this new level of engagement by our government - President Obama publicly calling on Iran to release Pastor Saeed - will bring even more attention to the unjust treatment of a U.S. citizen who has been imprisoned for more than a year simply because of his Christian faith," wrote Executive Director, Jordan Sekulow.
Pastor Saeed's wife, Naghmeh Abedini, also shared her reaction to President Obama's speech. Mrs Abedini, who recently celebrated another birthday without her husband, turned to Facebook to thank all those who have supported her fight to free her husband."All I could see was each of you standing with us through your prayers, by calling your government officials, signing petitions, and sending the kids and I Bible verses and encouraging us not to give up and to continue.
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Each prayer and each voice counts. God Bless you all, Naghmeh."
- Rhema Media
The principal of the first Christchurch school mergeed under Ministry of Education reforms is finding it challenging to keep the community together.
Waitakiri School in eastern Christchurch started this week. The school has been split into two campuses, with the junior classes staying on the Windsor school site and the seniors on the former Burwood School site.
Principal Neil O'Reilly says the separation means he is keeping fit riding his bike between each campus.
The senior and junior campuses will be combined once the new school facilities on the Windsor school site are constructed. That is expected to be built in 2016.
- Newstalk ZB
It could be close to being struck out, but our cricket heroes see huge merit in the Future Tours Programme.
The 10 full member nations of the International Cricket Council (ICC) will vote on a revised set of controversial proposals next week; however the board has already given support to making bi-lateral tour agreements. That means New Zealand Cricket (NZC) could be granted its wish for regular tours by India in exchange for supporting a watered down version of the ICC's hotly contested governance and revenue-sharing revamp - a scheme which poses a possible loss to NZC of $50 million over the next eight years.
NZC board member, Martin Snedden, says they have had already significant success in confirming a playing programme with Australia, India and England. He and the NZC's chief executive, David White, went into last night's ICC executive meeting in Dubai amid widespread outrage.
Several cricket veterans have expressed their dismay, such as former ICC chairman Ehsan Mani and former NZC chairman Sir John Anderson, who helped establish the Future Tours Programme. Both men want the ICC's radical proposal dismissed outright, as does Black Cap, Kyle Mills. The accomplished speed bowler thinks players should always be able to get the exposure and experience gleaned from touring the big countries, without compromise.
Kyle Mills says he has had the luxury over his career to do that, and hopes future generations will get the same chance.
- Rhema Media/ Newstalk ZB
New and familiar faces have been welcomed to Parliament as the House sits for the first time this year.
National MP Sam Lotu-Iiga has been sworn in as minister, taking on Pacific Island Affairs; and two new MPs were also sworn in to Parliament at 2pm.
National's Joanne Hayes replaces Katrina Shanks, who retired from politics at the end of last year; while Labour's Poto Williams has been waiting to take her seat in the house since having won the Christchurch East by-election last November.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett picks up the Local Government portfolio, while the prodigal Peter Dunne makes a ministerial comeback. He has been sworn in as Minister of Internal Affairs and returns to the role of Associate Health Minister.
The United Future leader quit his portfolios last year after refusing to cooperate with an inquiry into who leaked a GCSB report to media.
- Newstalk ZB
It is business as usual at Port Taranaki, after a chemical scare yesterday.
Two drums of aluminium phosphate on a wheat ship started fuming in the afternoon, and had to be removed with a crane. Disposal experts are trying to find a safe way of removing the drums from the port entirely.
Port Taranaki chief executive Roy Weaver commended a swift reaction for preventing what could have been a more serious situation. He says it was a textbook response, and staff, contractors and emergency services acted appropriately. The CEO acknowledged lessons have been learned.
Port authorities are trying to get things back to normal at the busy western port. Port Taranaki is operating as normal today, and is expected to be back on schedule by this afternoon.
Mr Weaver says says they've got a full port at the moment, including offshore vessels supplying three offshore oil rigs. It is hoped the chemical scare won't cause any major disruption to the offshore rigs.
- Newstalk ZB
Further information has emerged about yesterday's school shooting in the United States.
The young boy accused of opening fire in a New Mexico school may have warned some classmates not to attend class that day. The child reportedly burst into the gym of Berrendo Middle School, which was filled with 500 students, pulled out a shotgun and started firing. In the melee he wounded a teacher and two students.
The attack ended when the teacher persuaded the boy to put down the gun and surrender to police.
Wednesday 15.01: ROSWELL SCHOOL SHOOTING
Two teenagers have been airlifted to a Texas hospital after a school shooting in Roswell.
Berrendo Middle School remains on lockdown after the shooting. A 14-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl have been hospitalised and are reported to be in a critical condition.
It's understood the students were in the gym preparing for class at around 8am local time when the incident occurred. A 13-year-old, believed to be the shooter, has been taken into custody.
Roswell has a population of around 50,000, the fifth-largest city in the state of New Mexico.
- RBG News/Newstalk ZB
The Black Caps have the opportunity this evening to add a Twenty20 series victory to their test triumph over the West Indies.
Commentator Bryan Waddle says there should be no reason for New Zealand not to end the two-match T20 series like it started - with an emphatic victory. Waddle says it will require a repeat of the levels attained in Auckland for the first T20 match, some disciplined and asured batting, as well as control with the ball. Saturday's game saw the Black Caps thrash their opponents decisively by 81 runs, with some stellar bowling and fieldwork; while the bold pairing of captain Brendan McCullum and Luke Ronchi led the batting attack to finish the NZ innings with 189 runs and 5 wickets.
However, the 'Windies' have already shown an ability to fight back after defeat - as with the One-Day International series - much of that due to lapses by the Black Caps. It's thought the hosts can expect to ward off a formidable revenge as the West Indies rally to finish their tour on a positive.
The capital is expected to put on fine weather for the evening match at Westpac Stadium, where the Kiwis will host the Caribbean visitors in the final match of their New Zealand tour. Play starts at 7pm.
- RBG News/ Newstalk ZB