The Auckland arrest of billionaire Kim Dotcom, an investor and online piracy facilitator file-sharing host, in his mansion made worldwide news headlines – and cost Kiwi taxpayers at least $70,000. Along with American agents, the New Zealand police had been conducting an investigation into Dotcom’s website Megaupload since August of last year. He and six others were part of a group called the “Mega Conspiracy”, charged with reproducing and illegally distributing “free” copies of proprietary works such as software, films, TV programmes, music and books.
Dotcom was granted New Zealand residency in November 2010, under a scheme whereby he had to invest $10 million in government bonds and pass a test of good character. Despite strict regulations about the sorts of foreigners permitted to take up residency in the Pacific nation – thin people, people with low blood pressure, and the non-handicapped – Mr Dotcom, thought to be an obese diabetic with a slipped disc and hypertension, was welcomed with open arms. The health requirements link under the NZIS investor category information page is a 404. His past criminal convictions, sufficient to refuse him ownership of Kiwi land, were nonetheless glossed over when granting him residency. In 1998 he had been sentenced to two years for handling stolen goods and credit card fraud. In 2001, he was charged with illegal speculations on the stock market and fraudulent misuse of funds. The following year, he was arrested in Thailand and sentenced in Germany for fraudulent misuse of funds. Presumably, there is a statute of limitations for the purposes of evaluation of fitness for residency? Yes, dating from 1950, and it was repealed in January 2011.
Kim’s lifestyle, in a country where according to Darrin Hodgetts, poverty is the biggest growth industry, was conspicuous and even frightening, but no one could accuse him of not spreading the money around: large dollops were tossed merrily to politicians and the New Zealand Government. But it wasn’t actually the New Zealand Lifestyle he was after. Internet security expert Jeffrey Carr has suggested that “New Zealand is under the radar, away from Interpol and a better lifestyle than Eastern Europe.”
Now a father of five, Dotcom was charged this time with five counts of copyright infringement and money laundering, along with other employees of his company and its subsidiaries: Megaporn, Megavideo, Megaclick, and Megarotic. When the police showed up for the bust, at his birthday party no less, he barricaded himself inside his mansion’s safe room with a sawed-off shotgun, which he had purchased for his family’s safety.
His English was undoubtedly good enough to pass; however, investor-category candidates only need an IELTS score of 4 out of 9 to gain residency. It is clear that some immigrants are more equal than others, in a nation that trumpets its lack of corruption as a point of attraction. Russian mining billionaire Abramov, incidentally also a citizen of Cyprus, and roughly a dozen others have become new residents under this category. Kim Dotcom is now out on bail, his order of arrest nullified and voided.
It turns out that John Banks, Auckland Mayor, is alleged to have given the German scofflaw unlicensed immigration advice. But that was not the least of it. Current allegations under investigation suggest that Banks’ mayoral campaign received “donations” in two hefty $25,000 chunks from Dotcom that, along with gambling den Sky City’s, were listed as anonymous. Although Banks has distanced himself from the issue, claiming faulty memory, it is clear there was schmoozing going on. Banks had attended parties at the Dotcom mansion, proposing toasts, and enjoyed personal helicopter taxi services. ACT party leader Banks is small business and regulatory reform minister and an associate minister for the commerce and education portfolios.
What is unclear is where Kim received the inspiration for Welcome To The Good Life, on his first album Bailhouse Rock. The lyrics – “Sleep all day, party all night / have whatever you want, whenever you like” –suggest an esprit that Joe Blogs could never afford to embrace, even if he did like.
Unfortunately crimes against tourists in Northland don’t seem to be abating despite the widespread publicity that some recent incidents have attracted.
Anke Kuballa, 20, and Marc Busch, 22, bought a touring van for $1,600 in Auckland and were driving it north to Whangarei a month later when the clutch failed. They paid $600 to a local Whangarei mechanic to have it fixed. Shortly afterward they were doing some shopping in the town and when they returned to where they’d left the vehicle found that it had been stolen, along with $13,000 worth of belongings including passports, three cameras, two iPods, four backpacks and camping gear.
According to an article in the Northern Advocate the couple said they thought it would be a good idea if tourists were warned about thieves as soon as they arrived in NZ. We agree with them.
We’ve also said that we think that tourists should have access to free, safety deposit boxes or lockers in some tourist towns. It would give them somewhere safe to leave valuable equipment, cash and passports and also make them less of a target for muggers and thieves.
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Today we were reminded that Mia Pusch wasn’t the only German cyclist to have died in New Zealand in the last twelve months. Much the same as Mia, another German national was also killed by a truck and it was moving in the same direction as he was.
German tourist Stephan Stoermer had been on a cycling world tour since 2006, he was winding his way through 26 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia since early 2006 before arriving in New Zealand. He died a week before his tour was scheduled to end when he was hit by a logging truck near Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty on March 12, 2009.
As if it was a portent of worse to come two months previously Police Superintendent Steve Fitzgerald, a road safety expert and National Commander of the Police Communications Centres, was killed when he was involved in a collision with a truck as he cycled home in Petone. At one time Mr Fitzgerald oversaw all NZ road policing operations and achieved significant and sustained reductions in road deaths and injury crashes. That same day, and in a separate incident, Des Eyre also died in Wellington when he collided with a truck.
Another German cyclist died on 6 August in a hit an run at Leeston, 45 km south west of Christchurch. 34 year old Jens Richardon (above, centre) had been living in NZ for a few years. He must have been quite familiar with the peculiarities of the roads and of the local driving habits. His body was eventually discovered by a passing motorist at 7.30pm and police located the offender’s car, a dark blue BMW 3251, 20km away.
Slumped over bar
The driver of the car that hit him was seen slumped over a bar shortly before the crash. Phillip Kirkwood Hamilton, 40, of Southbridge, pleaded guilty on 6 November 2009 to driving under the influence of alcohol causing death and failing to stop for an injury accident. He had drunk around 10 pints of beer at a bar in Rolleston from around 2.30pm that day. He told police he knew he had hit a cyclist but panicked because he had been drinking.
He was remanded on bail for sentencing until 8 February and the judge ordered a pre-sentence report on his suitability for home detention, and a victim impact statement from the dead cyclist’s wife.
Home detention? for drinking a skinful and then killing another man?! it’s an utter disgrace and is beyond belief. That would be an insult to Mr. Richardson’s memory and will send a message out to the local community that if you drink, drive and kill someone you’ll likely get off with little more than a slapped wrist. There should be zero tolerance for crimes such as these, it’s important that justice is seen to be done.
Stephan Stoermer kept a blog of his journey which was completed for him after his death, here is a rough translation from the original German of the last entry: (link)
“On 12 March 2009 he arrived at Tauranga Bay of Plenty. He got no further. He got no further. One on the same street in the same direction errant truck ran over him, just like that.
How do we learn from New Zealand in New Zealand is such a thing, more or less than normal: Cyclists must – if they do not want to be killed – to avoid any motor vehicle, no matter which way this comes out.
Niguel Short, author of the famous bike tour leader neuseeländsichen Pedall ‘Paradise, writes in the introduction to Bicycle Tours in New Zealand at Relevant Traffic Laws:
Cyclists should give way to cars and trucks … or you may be run over!
New Zealand might be a crank ‘Paradise but it is not Utopia! Thus it might be worth investing in a mirror to keep an eye on the moronic drivers approaching from behind.
The Bay of Plenty Times reported on 17 March 2009 about the accident:
Cyclist this week from one world tour finish
17/03/2009 by Vicki Waterhouse
The tourist killed after he was hit by a truck while cycling near Te Puke had been biking around the world for the past three years and was due to fly home on Friday.
The man was named today as Stephan Stoermer, 38, of Frankfurt.
Mr. Stoermer died on the way to hospital after he was hit by a fully load logging truck on State Highway 2 near Te Matai Rd last Thursday night.
Mr. Stoermer had traveled through 25 countries on his bicycle, throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Australia.
On his website he talked about being on the move all of his life, but not for the purpose of arriving at a destination.
“I’m always looking for a new, different mode of traveling,” he wrote.
Mr. Stoermer began his journey in the northern hemisphere’s spring of 2006.
He said on his website he enjoyed touring the world on a bicycle because he always met people with whom he could tour for hours or days and had the most interesting conversations with them.
On this three-year tour he was meeting people from various cultural backgrounds who shared his interest in cycling.
He also sought to promote environmentally friendly travel and motivate people to use bikes.
His website features hundreds of pictures of himself on the road in various locations.
Senior Sergeant Ian Campion of road policing said Mr Stoermer’s family in Germany had been notified of his death.
Mr Campion said according to Mr. Stoermer’s travel documents, he was due to fly out to Frankfurt on Friday after traversing 26 countries.
0wA5oGRlTI/AAAAAAAAAI8/htDHt3C/span>He arrived in New Zealand on December 30 and had traveled the South Iceland.
The Rotorua logging truck driver who drove the truck which hit Mr Stoermer has not been charged over the incident. Police are still investigating the collision.
Mr Campion said it may be some time until the cause of the crash was determined.
This investigation will probably result hardly anything, since there are no surviving witnesses to give except the truck driver himself, who wrote Websklave in March 2009. That’s not quite true anymore. On 30 September reports Stephen Stormer-sister Ulrike Hertel, after receiving a detailed police report:
In fact there were witnesses to the accident, and as a result of the investigation of truck drivers because of “reckless driving resulting in death is indicted.”
Would you so much, since (insert a sentence or at least the old rauszunehmen) – simply because it is not true, and we otherwise the New Zealand police and their thorough work can not be met.
What the Websklave obviously likes to do.
Cremation in New Zealand
Stephen Stormer was posted on Saturday, 21 March 2009 at 11h30 cremated at the cemetery in Rotorua NZ. Michiel van Dijk and Anna Lim report on the book of condolence. You have set at the accident scene and a small compass to remember and evergreen. “
Police have released the name of the 19 year old German touring cyclist (see previous post ) who died in a road collision in Bulls Manawatu: Mia Susanne Pusch.
Mia had been in NZ on a cycling holiday since late October and was travelling towards Wanganui when she was struck by a truck heading in the same direction, according to a police statement.
Mia kept a public blog of her journey through New Zealand (translation) on the bike she’d called “pinkie”. In it she spoke about being constantly harassed by drivers honking their horns at her – either as by way of a greeting, often accompanied by a thumbs up sign. These positive honkers appeared to be particularly frequent in underpowered and overloaded vehicles, people on vacation, since the owners had generally learned that they didn’t need to hurry.
Then there were the less positive types – the negative tooters driven by the importance of an “incredible race against time”. Those who were fond of using a loud horn when a cyclist got in their way and slowed them down. The type that would sneak up at high speed to well within her safety zone (0.5 -1.0 metres) and then overtake with horn blaring, leaving her shaking with adrenaline.
Her mother is understandably distraught at her daughter’s death and we’d like to extend our sincere condolences to her for her unimaginable loss, it’s every parent’s worst nightmare to lose a child in such a way.
Cycling cannot be considered to be a safe pursuit in New Zealand when there are so many aggressive hoons owning the road. We are instantly reminded of the awful death in October of North Shore doctor Graham Robinson who was struck and killed under similar cirumstances whilst cycling outside of Helensville. The driver of the white Toyota Hillux sped off after hitting him and police have yet to track him down, despite having an excellent description of the vehicle.
We also recall the ‘Tamaki carnage’ a month earlier when a cyclist was critically injured and three others hurt when a car ploughed into a pack of 20 riders on Tamaki Drive, Auckland. News reports at the time stated
“Witnesses to the crash said the vehicle was turning from Cliff Rd on to Tamaki Dr when it collided with the pack, who were riding from the waterfront towards Vale Rd. They said the car appeared to slow down briefly before speeding towards the cyclists.
“She accelerated into the middle of the group, just cleaned the guys up,” said John Cooney. The driver was “roundly abused” by the riders when she stopped. Police inspector Willie Taylor said the driver appeared to have driven through a compulsory stop before colliding with the group.”
Heather McCracken’s report concluded with details of other cycling fatalities and high number of injuries on NZ’s roads during 2009
* Fatal cost of riding your bike
Seven cyclists have been killed so far this year on New Zealand roads.
Last year 10 riders were killed and almost 900 injured, with most crashes occurring at intersections on urban roads.
Last weekend cyclist Frank van Kampen, 46, was killed after being struck by a car near Otaki.
A 34-year-old cyclist was killed last month in a hit-and-run accident near Leeston, Christchurch.
Another Christchurch crash took the life of a 19-year-old cyclist in July.
Two cyclists have been killed in the Bay of Plenty, one in a May accident at a Mt Maunganui roundabout, and another following a crash involving a logging truck near Te Puke in March.
Two Dunedin cyclists have also lost their lives – one after colliding with a car in the city in March, and another in a crash outside of Mosgiel in June.”
Pretty awful figures for such a small country. NZ does have the worlds highest car ownership – 720 per 1000 people, even more than the United States’ 675 per 1000 people (in 2005) and when that’s combined with intolerance towards other road users the weaker and more vulnerable need to be better protected than they are at present.
We suggest a national network of safe cycling routes, in which bike riders are protected from collision hazards with motor vehicles and more publicity given to visitors about which roads are dangerous for cyclists, so that they may plan out their holidays around those routes before they leave home.
Something has to be done to re-educate NZ drivers too, perhaps a national advertising campaign to make them more aware of the difficulties cyclists face and that the roads are for all to share, a revision of the driving test and tougher penalties for dangerous driving causing death or injury.
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Today we heard the awful news that another tourist has been killed on New Zealand’s roads.
A 19 year old woman on a cycling holiday from Germany died after she was hit by a truck on State Highway 3 approxmiately 4km north of Bulls, Manawatu between the junctions with Neumans Line and Stantoft Road. Our thoughts are with her family at this difficult time.
Her death came days after American journalist Deborah Howell was killed near Springs Creek.
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