Rental house prices & Antarctica mission: visual stories online

I’m enjoying the work coming out of the NZ Herald’s data ‘department’ (not sure it’s big enough to warrant that description but I like the sound of it). This week Harkanwal Singh, the Data Editor, has published an interactive map of New Zealand showing changes in rental prices for houses since 2001, and 2006.

It’s fascinating moving round the map and seeing the changes, suburb by suburb. More fascinating is where high-rent areas sit cheek-by-jowl with low-rent areas.

The graphic is nicely set up: just move around the map like you would on Google Maps and hover over a suburb to see a summary of median rents and the number of houses that are rented. Harkanwal’s written a useful set of guide notes to go with it.

The Nz Herald’s rental map shows changes in the median rental prices of houses since 2001, and 2006. You can explore the map city by city, region by region, and suburb by suburb.


Can’t remember what a ‘median’ number is? has a simple explanation with examples.

Mathsisfun Median Explanation: Place a list of numbers in value order and find the middle number. For example, take 12, 3 and 5. Put them in order, 3, 5, 12. The middle number is 5, so the median is 5.


Stuff, meanwhile, has published a pretty, interactive feature about the trip a team of scientists are taking to Antarctica to investigate the feeding habits of blue and humpback whales, and to look at icefish and grenadiers, which are prey of toothfish. The graphic’s broken into sections: The Vessel, The Journey, Whale Size, Whale Numbers.

Included is a particularly sobering graph showing a steep decline in blue whale numbers in the Antarctic region from an estimated 250,000 in the early 1900s to near extinction in 1960 and a small recovery since they became protected in 1966. Sigh.

The interactive makes the material very accessible and I imagine will be well-visited by schoolchildren this year.

Stuff’s interactive Going South graphic shows whale sizes and numbers, along with information about the scientists on their way to Antarctica to study whale feeding habits.

The New Zealand-Antarctic Ecosystem Voyage is an interesting one, not least because the team are going to ‘listen’ for whales using sonobuoys:

Sonobuoys deployed from the ship will provide bearings towards the source of the low frequency whale songs even when the singing whales are hundreds of kilometres away.

“Crossed bearings from multiple sonobuoys will accurately pinpoint the location of the whales,” said Science Leader with the Australian Antarctic Division, Dr Mike Double.

They’re also going to moor an echosounder under water in Terra Nova Bay and leave it there over winter “to see what happens”. The larvae and eggs of Antarctic Silverfish, which are prey for seabirds, fish, whales and seals, are found in the bay but the scientists want to know more about the adults.

“When the ice clears in spring, you find lots of eggs and larvae of silverfish but you don’t see the adults. We don’t know if the adults move in during winter and lay their eggs there, or if the eggs drift in from somewhere else,” said Voyage Leader and NIWA Principal Scientist Dr Richard O’Driscoll.

Here is Dr O’Driscoll talking about the trip, which has taken more than 12 months to prepare and is a collaboration between NIWA (the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research), Antarctica New Zealand and the Australian Antarctic Division.

Looking forward to the updates.

See also:



Bookmarks for January 28, 2015

Scientists voyage to Antarctica for whale research | NIWA

New Zealand scientists voyage to Antarctica to research humpback and blue whale feeding habits, and study icefish and grenadiers| NIWA

A poster of Māori weather and climate indicators from NIWA

Māori weather and climate indicators – a poster from NIWA | Evolving Newsroom

How weather balloons are used in New Zealand | MetService Blog

Now I know: weather balloons are designed to burst. “How weather balloons are used in New Zealand” | MetService Blog

Genetically modified mosquitoes may be released in Florida Keys to battle Dengue

Genetically modified mosquitoes may be released in Florida Keys to battle Dengue if British researchers win approval | Associated Press

Forget about used clothes and food drives—donate your data to save the world – Quartz

Forget about used clothes and food drives—donate your data to save the world | Quartz

Airpnp lets you pay a stranger to use their toilet (New York) 

Rent a potty in NYC: Airpnp lets people pay to use a strangers’ toilets | am New York

The week ahead in New Zealand news: McCully in Jordan, Tolley in Norway, Finlayson in Poland | Evolving Newsroom

The week ahead in New Zealand news: schools back, McCully in Jordan, State of the Nation | Evolving Newsroom

SkyMall bankruptcy grounds flying yetis –

Publisher of SkyMall, the airline catalogue company, files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (US) } FT (regn wall)

‘Intergenerational’ retirement home sees students live alongside the elderly | CTV News

Like this idea. ‘Intergenerational’ retirement home sees students live alongside the elderly | CTV News

World’s Largest Traders Use Offshore Supertankers to Store Oil – WSJ

World’s Largest Traders Use Offshore Supertankers to Store Oil | WSJ (regn wall)

How PAPER Magazine’s web engineers scaled Kim Kardashian’s back-end (SFW) — The Message — Medium

An instructive piece from Paul Ford: How PAPER Magazine’s web engineers scaled Kim Kardashian’s back-end | Medium

How The Economist chose its first female editor-in-chief – Quartz

Interesting insight from @glichfield” How The Economist chose its first female editor-in-chief | Quartz

The week that was in New Zealand news: RMA, child abuse…

The week that was in the New Zealand news diary | Evolving Newsroom

Fairfax shifts Stuff to new platform, aims to emulate nimbleness of BuzzFeed :: StopPress

Fairfax shifts Stuff to new platform, aims to emulate nimbleness of BuzzFeed :: StopPress

Bryce Edwards: Challenges to the Treaty consensus – NZ Herald News

Is turbulence returning to race relations via a renewed debate about the role and place of the Treaty of Waitangi? For many years now there has been a growing political consensus about – New Zealand Herald

‘Horrific’ frilled shark pulled from the depths of the ocean |

Fearsome-looking frilled shark caught in Australia: also likes lurking deep underwater in the sea off NZ. | Stuff

New Zealand statistics to be released in February 2015 | Evolving Newsroom

New Zealand statistics to be released in February 2015 | Evolving Newsroom


Māori weather and climate indicators – a poster from NIWA

I notice that NIWA, New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, has a poster of Māori climate and weather indicators for download on its website. You can either grab the pdf or order a full-sized paid-for poster. This is a slice of it:

Maori Climate Poster from NIWA (part)

The weather (day-to-day state of the atmosphere, varying from minutes to weeks) predictors include:

  • From Te Roroa: The sound of breaking waves up the valley = Approaching rainfall and inclement weather is expected
  • From Te Whānau a Apanui: The plume from White Island lies to the left = Rainfall expected; The plume flattens and the end breaks off = Watch out for extreme weather

The climate (synthesis of weather, averaged over longer periods from months to years) predictors include:

  • From Te Arawa: Flowering starts on the upper branches of Pohutukawa and progresses downwards = A cold and winter-like season will follow; Flowering starts on the lower branches and progresses upwards =  A warm and pleasant season lies ahead
  • From Kai Tahu: Early and profuse flowering of Tï kouka (Cabbage) tree = A long hot summer follows

A good companion read for the poster is this piece on Te Ara, New Zealand’s encyclopedia, about Māori customs around weather and the creation stories of where wind, clouds, rain and storms come from.

The only weather predictor I remember from childhood is: Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight; red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning, which the UK’s Met Office interprets thus:

The saying is most reliable when weather systems predominantly come from the west as they do in the UK [and New Zealand]… A red sky appears when dust and small particles are trapped in the atmosphere by high pressure. This scatters blue light and leaving only red light to give the sky its notable appearance.

A red sky at sunset means high pressure is moving in from the west so therefore the next day will usually be dry and pleasant. “Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning” means a red sky appears due to the high pressure weather system having already moved east meaning the good weather has passed, most likely making way for a wet and windy low pressure system.

I came across a lot of sites featuring old-timey weather predictors. I like this one on Farmers Almanac about dew:

When the dew is on the grass
Rain will never come to pass.
When grass is dry at morning light,
Look for rain before the night.

Why? If dew has time to form on the ground overnight, it means the night was clear without any clouds. Clear skies allow the earth to cool, and water to condense in the form of dew (or frost at cooler times of the year). If the night is cloudy, the clouds act as a heat barrier keeping the heat in and not allowing dew to form. This saying assumes that if the night skies are clear, the day following will also be cloud-free.

NIWA has a bunch of other posters for sale that depict, among other things projected rainfall, what the seabed looks like around New Zealand, undersea volcanoes, and the country’s energy assets.

Other NIWA posters

On a related note: If you’ve ever wondered how weather balloons are used in New Zealand, check out this post by Jacqui Bridges on the Met Service blog.



The week ahead in New Zealand news: McCully in Jordan, Tolley in Norway, Finlayson in Poland

Some of the events you may see covered in the news in New Zealand in the week beginning Monday January 26.

School’s back

Schools start going back this week (between Monday Jan 26 and Friday Feb 2). Education Minister Hekia Parata tells us in a press release that 750,000 children will be back in classrooms this week. More than 10,000 five-year-olds will be experiencing school for the first time at the start of this year; a total of 63,000 will be starting in the course of the year.

The best page I’ve found for checking school dates is this one on the beta site. I really like what they’re doing with this and the website. Some real effort has gone into thinking about how people actually use these sites and what kind of information we want to be able to find easily. 

Foreign Minister Murray McCully travels to  Ethiopia, Jordan

Foreign Minister Murray McCully is attending the African Union Summit Jan 26-27 in Addis Ababa, Ethopia to “hear directly from African leaders“. He is then travelling to Jordan (a fellow Security Council member country) to discuss security issues in that region. Both visits relate to New Zealand’s role on the United Nations Security Council.

The African Union’s aims include to promote democracy and peace, and increase unity and political and socio-economic integration of African nations. The theme of the African Union Summit this year (it’s the 24th) is:“Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”. You can see the Programme of Events here. (PDF)

State of the Nation speeches from Prime Minister John Key and Labour Leader Andrew Little

Mr Key and Mr Little are each expected to give a ‘state of the nation’ speech in Auckland on Wednesday Jan 28.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley visits UK, Norway

Social Development Minister is having talks with foreign counterparts in Scotland and Norway about child protection systems, and in the UK about “work underway in England and Wales to help long-term sickness beneficiaries and disabled people into work and to live independent lives.”

Chris Finlayson and Annette King attend Auschwitz commemorations in Poland

Tue Jan 27: Press Release, Finlayson to attend 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz

Reserve Bank OCR announcement

The Reserve Bank is next due to announce changes or lack thereof to the Official Cash Rate on Thursday Jan 29. The OCR is currently 3.50 and hasn’t been changed since July 2014.

The OCR influences the price of borrowing money in New Zealand and provides the Reserve Bank with a means of influencing the level of economic activity and inflation. Learn more about the OCR and monetary policy at

Rain please

Farmers, gardeners and households who rely on tank water are still hoping for a decent downpour of rain. The latest NIWA (National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research) Hotspot Watch report from January 23 says:

“Widespread [soil] dryness continues to cover the majority of New Zealand.”

Many places around New Zealand have prescribed water restrictions in place. In Carterton and Hamilton, for example, householders are asked to water their gardens only every second day. If you want to check restrictions in a particular area, there’s a list of council websites on this Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) page.

D’Urville, NZ’s first air mail and under-arm bowling

This week will see the anniversary of French explorer Jules Sébastien César Dumont D’Urville sailing through French Pass in the Marlborough Sounds in 1827, the start of New Zealand’s first regular air mail service out of Christchurch in 1921, and Trevor Chappell’s under-arm bowl in a limited-overs cricket match between Australia and New Zealand in 1981.

Urban Ecology Symposium in Auckland

Lecture Theatre 732, Tāmaki Campus, from 9am to 5pm on Friday 30 January. Please respond to by Monday 26 January.

Hosted by the Centre for Biodiversity and Biosecurity, University of Auckland and Landcare Research, the Urban Ecology symposium includes “a diverse range of talks on ecological research, the human dimensions of living environments and urban design. Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei will share their story and their future goals and challenges around the restoration of Whenua Rangatira and Okahu Bay, and the programme includes discussions about the way in which urban Auckland communities value trees, and the Kererū in fragmented urbanised landscapes.” – via Science Media Centre.

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