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Tonga death ferry trial due to start

The Princess Ashika manslaughter trials will start next month, with New Zealander John Jonesse one of four people fighting charges they were responsible for the deaths of 74 people when the Tongan ferry sank in 2009. The trial date of February 7 was confirmed at a pre-trial conference on Monday, it was reported. The Shipping Corporation of Polynesia, Jonesse, Ashika captain Makahokovalu Tuputupu, first mate Semisi Pomale, and the former acting director of Tongas marine division, Viliami Tuipulotu, face more than 40 charges.

Secret probe of Hutt mental health

Kate Newton and Julie Ash
A SECRET government inquiry is under way into treatment blunders and leadership problems within Hutt Valleys mental health services. Leaked documents show the Health Ministrys mental health director, David Chaplow, ordered the investigation in June, but both the ministry and Hutt Valley District Health Board have kept it under wraps since. In a letter to then-Hutt Valley chief executive Michael Hundleby, Dr Chaplow said he was ordering the inquiry under section 95 of the Mental Health Act after being made aware of problems with the service. There are two main areas of concern the leadership of the mental health services, and a number of clinical issues presenting as complaints involving individual patients, which may, in turn, be related to the leadership issue or to wider systemic issues. The service has come under fire three times in the past year from Wellingtons coroners. The latest was last Tuesday, when coroner Ian Smith released findings


James Barnden, 31, died in 2007 after administrative bungles at Hutt Hospital. The Stokes Valley man went to an appointment at the hospital on June 11. Christine McCarrison, the specialist meant to see him, was unaware of the appointment. Only Andrew Green, a second-year WelTec student working as a trainee, was present. He told the inquest he felt he could not turn Mr Barnden away, so assessed him, noting he had been thinking about suicide. Mr Green did not complete a risk assessment, made a second appointment for June 26 and put the file in his pigeonhole without reporting to Ms McCarrison or Mr Barndens GP. Two days before the second appointment, Mr Barndens mother found him dead.
into the death of Upper Hutt man Jerry Korewha. Fi Perez, whose husband Jerome, 40, killed himself in March 2008, welcomed the inquiry. Mrs Perez tried for six months to get help for her husband, a long-time bipolar sufferer, before he died. She said it was fabulous that

Mutilator case firms

The prosecution file against a person believed to have cut off a Tauranga puppys ears with a pair of scissors will be ready by next Wednesday, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says. SPCA inspector Jason Blair said he would give the file to a solicitor, who would decide whether the case was strong enough for it to go to court. He said he did not wish to prejudice court proceedings by disclosing details.

Depressed Lower Hutt man Jerome Perez killed himself in March 2008 after waiting months for a respite placement. The 40-year-old had struggled for years with bipolar disorder. His wife, Fi Perez, begged the health board for about six months to provide him with care and accommodation. When that did not work the pair decided to fake their separation. Mr Perez killed himself three weeks later. His death prompted Wellington coroner Ian Smith to call for improvements to temporary care facilities in the Hutt Valley health district. The DHB admitted that Mr Perez was denied respite care because of a lack of facilities.

Upper Hutts Jerry Korewha had chronic depression when he was hit on State Highway 2 near Upper Hutt, after smoking marijuana, in March 2009. His death was not found to be suicide, though the possibility existed. A former Mongrel Mob member, Mr Korewha was well known to police and was under post-detention conditions for a drink-driving conviction when he died. As part of those conditions, he was referred to the DHB, which missed his recent history of chronic depression and put him through four alcohol and drug treatment sessions instead. The coroner found the DHB failed to complete a simple check, did not follow its own protocols and may have had a management-level breakdown when it misdiagnosed Mr Korewha.
Deputy mental health director Susanna Every-Palmer said the inquiry which covers the two years from June 2008 was now well under way and the ministry expected to receive the completed report in a few months. It was ordered after Wellingtons five mental health district

Listeria sees recall

Salads and spinach are being recalled because of fears they contain the food-poisoning bacteria listeria. The Pams Fresh Express and Living Foods brands were sold in New World, Pakn Save, 4 Square, Gilmours, and independent fruit-andvege retail shops and wholesalers nationwide. No-one has reported illness, but anyone concerned about their health should seek medical advice, the companies said.

an inquiry was taking place. Too many people have died. The one thing that has really grated [with] me . . . is that the district health boards response each time is that We have made changes. Well, Jerome died in 2008 and the next guy died in 2009 . . . so thats just rubbish.

The inquiry is being carried out independently by Barry Wilson, a mental health district inspector and lawyer from Auckland. District inspectors are appointed by the Health Ministry to investigate complaints, conduct inquiries and inspect mental health services.

inspectors raised concerns, she said. The clinical [concerns] are similar to those that have been reported in the public domain, such as in coroners reports. She would not provide specific details, saying patient privacy needed to be protected, and could not confirm whether the completed report would be made public. Section 95 inquiries were not normally announced publicly, she said. Before the inquiry was ordered, the district health board insisted it had made improvements to the mental health service, including a major restructuring in late 2009. Acting chief operating officer Toni Atkinson said the health board viewed the current inquiry as a quality improvement opportunity and believed recent changes had addressed historical problems. The DHB . . . is fully committed to implementing any recommendations. Dr Every-Palmer said the ministry believed the health board was trying hard and there had been significant management changes already. However, in June we did have concerns.

Policewoman better
A policewoman is making steady progress after breaking 11 bones in a head-on collision. Senior Sergeant Deirdre Lack broke both her legs and arms, and suffered a cracked pelvis when her car and another vehicle collided between Te Puke and Tauranga on December 22. Ms Lack, 40, has been moved out of intensive care at Tauranga Hospital, her mother, Robyn Lack, said. The driver of the other vehicle was discharged from hospital last week. Police will interview both drivers.

Too hot to handle: The deep-seated fire may burn for weeks. Photo: MANAWATU STANDARD

Swimmer dies
Anouschka Bloomfield, 32, of Motueka, died at Riwaka School pool yesterday morning. Mrs Bloomfield, who was married with two young children, was swimming laps at the pool when she had some sort of turn, police said. Senior Sergeant Rob Crawford said Mrs Bloomfield had a medical condition. St John team manager Gary Tobin said Mrs Bloomfields medical history may have caused her to become unconscious in the pool.

Fire crews leave blaze to die out

Kay Blundell

Marae theft charges

A woman, 47, appeared in Auckland District Court yesterday charged in connection with allegations of fraud and theft at west Aucklands Hoani Waititi Marae. Her arrest followed a complaint to Waitakere police that a substantial amount of money was taken from the maraes trust accounts between 2005 and 2009. The unemployed woman was charged with using a document for pecuniary advantage, causing a loss by deception, and theft. Her case was adjourned and she was remanded on bail to reappear for a pre-trial hearing on February 23.
Staff reporters, NZPA

A FEROCIOUS woodshed fire could burn for weeks after firefighters decided to stop fighting it. About $500,000 worth of top-grade firewood at a Levin business went up in flames early yesterday. With no local water supply, more than 100,000 litres had to be transported to the site. Firefighters decided yesterday afternoon to stop fighting the inferno and monitor it until it went out. The Fire Services Manawatu assistant area commander, Rodger Calder, said the fire was deep-seated and could burn for weeks. It simply isnt practical to keep throwing resources at it when there is no further damage that can be done. The building is made of concrete and steel and we can simply watch and wait for the fire to die out.

The cut douglas fir and yellow contorta was destroyed when a 65-metre by 25m shed at Speirs A-Grade Firewood in CD Farm Rd, Levin, caught fire. The suspected arson attack destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of top-grade firewood. The shed, which was fully stacked in 7m-high piles, was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived at about 3.30am. Thirty-five crew and 10 fire engines from Levin, Palmerston North and Whanganui were in attendance dur-

ing the height of the blaze. Speirs owner John Matangi used his three, large water tankers to transport water to the site. Mr Calder sent many local volunteers home. There was little risk sparks from the fire would ignite surrounding vegetation, particularly since rain was due to fall. One fire engine from Palmerston North would remain on standby to keep watch, he said. There would still be a lot of smoke coming from the building, but

he reassured neighbours that there was no danger. Mr Matangi said he was insured but it was heart-breaking seeing his firewood going up in smoke. It has taken two months hard-out work drying the wood and topping up wood from last year, now we will have to start again. Despite the blaze, he managed to deliver several loads of firewood yesterday. The Fire Service is treating the blaze as suspicious.

Insured but . . . Owner John Matangi was heart-broken to see his firewood go up in smoke. Photo: CHRIS SKELTON





Are your stairs giving you

Drop in house sales

THE number of house sales in all price brackets dropped last month. The Real Estate Institute of New Zealands latest statistics for December show that 4397 houses were sold 560 fewer than in the same month in 2009 and down on November, when 5138 properties changed hands. The number of listings and median house values were also down across most of the country, the figures show. Wellingtons median house price stayed steady on $400,000.

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