Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Let Us Spray: The Aftermath

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  • Craig Ranapia,

    This was, said Paul Norris, who chaired the awards news and current affairs judging panel that year, "extraordinary" and "out of order": an example of a government agency unacceptably attempting to influence the judging process.

    Um... what?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Eddie Clark,

    Bob brockie had a good column on this (if worded somewhat provocatively).

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 270 posts Report Reply

  • Bridget Dale,

    This is on a bit of a tangent - but I wonder if such poisoning and subsequent cover up has anything to do with the poison in Aucklands harbour at present?

    Since Aug 2009 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Jose Barbosa,

    On a related note, I remember interviewing a resident from Paritutu just after the documentary aired. He was mainly just fed up, as was the rest of the community he claimed, with journalists who kept on descending on the area every few years sparking yet another ultimately fruitless round of media attention.

    As to the doco itself, I remember thinking at the time it was a good crack at presenting difficult scientific and mathematical methodologies to the public. But it does seem a few errors in the ESR study were made much of.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 64 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    This week's Media Watch is on-line and worth a listen. Am I the only person who thought Keith Slater would have done himself a favour by not being quite so blithely dismissive of the issues raised by the BSA? I came away the uncomfortable impression (perhaps unfair) that the science (and rigorous reporting of same) was a strap-on to a 'little people vs. the evil corporate and callously indifferent bureaucracy' narrative, rather than an integral part of the story.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart,

    Bridget, it was a biotoxin. Not rat poison, dropped by DOC, as people were so quick to assume.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 623 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    This is on a bit of a tangent - but I wonder if such poisoning and subsequent cover up has anything to do with the poison in Aucklands harbour at present?

    In a word, no.

    The toxin identified, tetrodotoxin, comes from bacteria in several species of fish and marine animals. It's a mystery as to exactly what's going on right now, but this a natural poison.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17917 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    And to be fair, Let Us Spray was great television, and I'm sure nobody at Three was complaining about the media attention the story attracted. I've certainly got experience of how damn frustrating it can be when you've invested a lot of effort and time (though not 18 months in my case) in a story that doesn't quite pan out the way you'd expect -- or even completely fall over.

    But I'm not entirely confident that, in this case, good televison makes good journalism.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart,

    So did TV3 do the right thing, and resist a crown entity's bullying over a peripheral issue? Or do the BSA's decisions indicate there was something badly wrong with the story?

    The latter, I think, based on how badly science is covered, by and large, in the media. Looking forward to your show.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 623 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    In a word, no.

    The toxin identified, tetrodotoxin, comes from bacteria in several species of fish and marine animals. It's a mystery as to exactly what's going on right now, but this a natural poison.

    Lies! There is a conspiracy of silence between big government (DOC) and the chemical companies supplying them. It is a national scandal that now includes a sensational cover-up by government scientists. Dogs dying at Brown's Bay are just the collies in the coal mine on this one. We cannot forget the pooches poisoned whilst romping around our beaches. TV3 are going to make an expose on this, called:

    Let us Bay

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I've just clarified one point: The 2005 study was reviewed again, by a different set of experts, in light of Leonard's review.

    These reviewers did get all the raw data, including Appendix 0 (it's not actually customary for peer reviewers to be given such data), and they also found that the study was robust and the errors picked up by Leonard were not material. I'll certainly be asking whoever fronts from TV3 about this.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17917 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    I remember watching it and finding it quite gripping, but I was also like WTF when they presented a forensic accountant. It's not like there is an international shortage of epidemiologists.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 667 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart,

    The 2005 study was reviewed again, by a different set of experts, in light of Leonard's review.

    Just remind us, who was Leonard? You mentioned a forensic accountant who did a review but this seems to be someone else.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 623 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I remember watching it and finding it quite gripping

    Of course it was -- you'd have to be either a sociopath or dead not to be moved by a woman talking about the death of a child. Pushing emotional buttons is easy; constructing a reasoned and fact-based argument. Not so much...

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart,

    Just remind us, who was Leonard?

    Don't worry, I read Steven Price's summary and he covered this.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 623 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart,

    Sorry to be picky here, but the John Ferguson you mention in the post is actually John Leonard, who was the forensic accountant. Steven Price's assessment of him is qutie withering:

    The independent reviews of the Leonard report, including one by a WHO expert from the United States, are here. They acknowledge that Mr Leonard picked up a couple of minor glitches, but find that they are inconsequential. One reviewer suggests that Mr Leonard plainly didn’t have the expertise to review the study

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 623 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Don't worry, I read Steven Price's summary and he covered this.

    And I briefly had him as "Ferguson", not "Leonard" in the original post, which will have added to the confusion. Corrected now.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17917 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Sorry to be picky here, but the John Ferguson you mention in the post is actually John Leonard, who was the forensic accountant. Steven Price's assessment of him is qutie withering:

    Yep, as above. I had the name correct in everything but the post, which I've corrected now.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17917 posts Report Reply

  • Roger Lacey,

    In a word, no.
    The toxin identified, tetrodotoxin, comes from bacteria in several species of fish and marine animals. It's a mystery as to exactly what's going on right now, but this a natural poison.

    I was initially a skeptic on the poisoning theory but I'm starting to think there is a lot more to the story on this than we are being told.
    From what I have heard reported, there is only one dog that has the biotoxin in it's stomach and I think the sea slugs are being made the scapegoat (scapeslug?) for the deaths. I've never seen or heard heard of dogs eating sea slugs before and why did several dogs eat them on the same day?
    It may be coincidence that the dog and sea life deaths occurred shortly after the poison drop on Rangitoto and that the affected area is not further up or down the coast but it's something that requires more thorough and transparent investigation.
    Some of the poison dropped on Rangitoto ended up in the water. I've even heard of a block landing on a kayak that was paddling past. The poison used is brodifacoum which unlike 1080 does not break down in water but it will bind to organic matter and disperse over time.
    I'm not calling this one way or the other, I just think there needs to be a more independent investigation than the current testing by interested parties.

    Whatakataka Bay Surf Club… • Since Apr 2008 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart,

    Russell - sweet, thanks.

    Roger Lacey - the toxicological investigations on the dead dogs were inconsistent with brodifacoum poisoning. It's fair to say that, as Russell noted, the transport pathways for the biotoxin tetrodotoxin are still not well understood, but at this stage the evidence points much more firmly towards the biotoxin than brodifacoum. This is what Dr Susie Wood, of the Cawthron Institute, has to say:

    Cawthron has already confirmed dog deaths from anatoxin, a neurotoxin from ‘freshwater’ algae, with a record number of river system fatalities around the country last summer in Nelson, Takaka, Wellington and Canterbury in particular.

    While there has never been a report of a dog dying from marine algae before, Dr Wood says evidence to date strongly suggests this is the most likely scenario with the freshwater cases displaying similar symptoms to the recent dog deaths “including frothing at the mouth and paralysis.”

    She says, “dogs are particularly susceptible because, along with neurotoxins, algae emit an odour which, while putrid to humans, is particularly appealing to dogs, and given they like to eat rotten smelly things, they are most likely to ingest it, which we know is often fatal.”

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 623 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Curtis,

    Isnt the Qantas Media awards just another contrived Reality show.

    There was the Columbia Journalism School who previously had a connection, who really were from Columbia Missouri.

    Im looking forward to the new Jetstar Media Awards... as something to avoid.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 183 posts Report Reply

  • Jo S,

    And journalists wonder why scientists are often so reluctant to deal with the media, and careful with their words when they do.

    When a passion for the facts is a central tenet of your life it can be very hard when people play fast and loose with them in a public arena, while touting them as "the truth".

    is it autumn yet? • Since May 2007 • 80 posts Report Reply

  • ChrisW,

    Peter Gluckman on Nine to Noon this morning commented on the folate in bread debacle - "the science became unstable because of its misuse in the media".

    Gisborne • Since Apr 2009 • 775 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    In relation to the Armageddon Death Beaches (tm), it could be worse....

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2291 posts Report Reply

  • Brickley Paiste,

    but it should be a fascinating show.

    Do you mean that without any irony deficiency?

    Im looking forward to the new Jetstar Media Awards... as something to avoid.

    That would be a fantastic way to add more categories to the already bulging Qantas stable. Jetstar Media Award for Best Albino Jouranlist who writes about Spores and Fungi? The number of awards they have makes it seem as if Qantas has a vested interest in having its logo plastered on every publication in the country. A hackneyed comment, I grant you, but one worth repeating.

    Since Mar 2009 • 163 posts Report Reply

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