St Helena News Alerts is a current affairs feature on the Inside St Helena App, designed to give users a sense of what’s happening on the island from week to week.
We are posting short-format, St Helena Island news items, two to three times per week. The bite-sized reports of the approx. 100 – 200 words was chosen to be easily digestible and at the same time, informative.
Topics covered range from St Helena government news to community stories and significant events. We try to cover stories that users of the App, around the world, might find interesting.
In producing St Helena news stories each week, our focus will be on keeping the reports factual and relevant. We do this by reaching out to the island’s officials and councillors for additional comment, when appropriate, in anticipation of questions that readers might have.
A push notification is sent out to all App users with every News Alerts story, helping to ensure the latest reports aren’t missed.
A St Helena News Archive
The very first St Helena News Alert report was published on the App on 24 June, 2019, as part of the live-testing phase before official launch..
Copies of all the News Alerts will eventually be archived here on the website.
March – April, 2020
To view the very latest news stories, look on the Inside St Helena App itself.
Don’t forget, the Inside St Helena App is free to download, so it means keeping abreast of news from St Helena is now easier than ever.
Rupert’s Evacuation – 2.5 Tonnes Of Rocks Removed
Approx. two and half tonnes of unstable rocks on the steep hillside above the homes of residents in Rupert’s Valley, were removed and secured today, in a very smoothly executed operation by the Rock Guards team.
Residents in the areas immediately below were evacuated for two hours, as a precaution, with police on hand to ensure public safety.
Using crowbars, a sledgehammer and a hand-ratcheted winch, the four Rock Guards set about dislodging and breaking apart the problem rocks, about 100m above the houses.
A large, rope cargo net, the type used for discharging break bulk cargo from ships, had been erected in the days previous. The debris was all neatly caught in the net, including the largest single rock estimated to weigh over a tonne.
Rock Guards leader, Matthew Williams, has seven years’ experience securing the hillsides. The newest member of the team has just three months in the job.
From start to finish, this particular operation took approximately two weeks, spanning the period from initial survey of the hillside, securing the rocks temporarily with steel cables, installing the catchment net and working with the emergency services to arrange evacuations and public safety.
The Rock Guards are part of SHG’s, Infrastructure & Transport Directorate. Securing the rocks on the hillsides above Jamestown and Rupert’s Valley is a full time job.
Egg Production Frustrations Boiling Over On St Helena
SHG today announced they are importing a fourth batch of day-old chicks for local egg production. The chicks will be distributed to local egg producers and small-holders, once a short period of quarantine is complete.
The process of SHG importing these chicks is not without controversy.
On Wednesday (31 July), SAMS (South Atlantic Media Services) reported on a one-man protest, by Chicken Farmer, Roddy Yon, that took place outside the Castle entranceway, in Jamestown, ‘against the continued importation of eggs and chicks to St Helena.’
Roddy made his stand at 10am, amongst broken eggs and pieces of paper on the ground with protest slogans, while he banged ‘a shovel and pipe together.’
SAMS went on to report in their Sentinel newspaper that Roddy had taken issue over SHG continuing to import batches of chicks, resulting in an over-supply to shops. This in turn was making business difficult for egg producers like him.
Today’s press release began by stating a ‘three year SHG-private agricultural partnership agreement’ with Roddie’s Chicken Farm, ended in mid-2017.
The government said they never intended to ‘take on the role of chick supplier,’ however, felt it necessary ‘following a serious deterioration in the supply of what is a staple food product.’
After establishing a local demand existed for more than 3,000 chicks, SHG began importation a year ago. Three batches of chicks have since been imported. The batch arriving this month is expected to be the last until possibly late 2020, when demand will be reassessed.
Speaking to Inside St Helena today, Roddy took issue with detail of the press release, saying, “The information being supplied by ANRD (Agriculture & Natural Resources Department) to SHG is false – they don’t understand chicken farming.”
Roddy, who has been in the chicken farming business since 2010/11, said he was able to adequately meet island demand for eggs with 500 laying hens while airport contractors, Basil Read, were on island. With SHG now “flooding” the island with thousands of “commercial chickens being supplied at subsidised rates of £2.50 each, they are creating a cut-throat business.”
Roddy supplies eggs to Solomons at £3.40, with a retail price of £3.80 per dozen. Eggs can now be bought at some outlets in town at £2 per dozen.
Roddy, who currently has 600 hens, said he will soon be “throwing away eggs by the dozen” when they all start laying and might be forced to cull his numbers. He said the current situation has been created by a lack of communication.
478 Leave In Six Months For A Life Overseas
St Helena’s total population at the end of June 2019 was estimated to be 4,425, the lowest since weekly flights began in October 2017.
Estimates at the same point a year ago were 4,199, indicating a population drop of 226 in a year.
SHG’s Statistics Office published the findings this week, along with other interesting data collected during the first six months of 2019.
Births & Deaths
The number of deaths (18) is the same as births from Jan – end June, 2019. ‘This is only the second time that the number of births has equalled or exceeded the number of deaths in a six-month period since 2005’ stated the report.
Births break down as 10 girls and eight boys.
Immigration Officers recorded just 59 tourists (non-St Helenian) for the whole of June 2019. St Helenian holiday-makers for June 2019 totalled 56.
A total of 258 arrivals by air were recorded in June. An additional five came by sea. The June 2019 total arrivals are down by 22 compared to a year ago, June 2018.
Leaving For A Life Abroad
Of the 3,185 passengers on departing flights in the first six months of 2019, a total of 478 left ‘either to find temporary work overseas or to emigrate.’
Interestingly, the statistics reveal an increase of 127 in the St Helenian population from June 2018 to June 2019, and now stands at 4,349.
Available census data indicates St Helenians living abroad in following countries:
Ascension Island (March 2019): 496
Falklands (October 2016): 315
England & Wales (March 2011): 2,645
Note: the above is a summary – full SHG report with definitions and methodology here.
Councillors Vote To Make Cannabis Oil Legal On St Helena
Legislative Council passed a motion on Friday (26 July) allowing cannabis oil to be prescribed for medicinal purposes on St Helena.
In presenting the motion, Councillor Brian Isaac detailed the plight of St Helenian patients who were prescribed the oil during medical treatment in South Africa. St Helena, however, lists the oil as a controlled drug and has deemed its import illegal, thus denying these patients their prescribed medication.
Mr Isaac argued the denial of the medicinal CBD oil violated the basic human rights of patients. He mentioned a report by the World Health Organisation that extolled the benefits of cannabis oil in treating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, MS, pain, anxiety, depression, cancer and diabetic complications.
All eleven other councillors then rose in turn to offer considered contributions to the debate.
There were suggestions to await the outcome of an expected UK clinical report in October 2019, on the use of cannabis based products, to help guide decision making on St Helena.
Speaking in support of the motion, Councillor Gavin Ellick said “When it suits us we adopt British law, when it doesn’t suit us we’re taking on St Helena law. Now this is not right.”
The full motion, as presented:
That this House resolves that Government bring forward as a matter of urgency a policy and proposed legislation to allow cannabis oil to be prescribed and dispensed by a medical practitioner ‘for medicinal purposes’
After 43 minutes of debate, the motion passed without objection.
Clint Beard Voted On To ExCo
Councillor Clint Beard (pictured) is the newest member of Executive Council, following an election this morning at the start of a Formal Legislative Council session, at the Castle.
Cllr Beard replaces Cllr Christine Scipio, who declined to accept a nomination for her to remain on ExCo.
Cllr Gavin Ellick (aka Eddie Duff) also declined a nomination to serve on ExCo.
Cllr Cryuff Buckley accepted a nomination, but failed to gain sufficient votes to be elected.
The five Executive Council members for the next two years have now been confirmed, by vote, as Anthony Green, Russell Yon, Lawson Henry, Derek Thomas and Clint Beard. Apart from Mr Beard, the other four members are existing members who retain their ExCo seats.
Harpers Reservoir One Runs Dry as Wait For Rain Goes On
Posted 23/7/19 – SHG Press Release Extract
ST HELENA WATER LEVELS – SHG UPDATE
- Island water storage is at just 26 days
- Daily consumption rises slightly to above 1,100,000 litres
- No significant rainfall is forecast for the next week
- This is an Island-wide issue and until the situation improves we must all restrict our water usage to essential use only
The Island’s water stocks remain dangerously low, with water storage for St Helena down to just 26 days. With no recent substantial rainfall and daily consumption levels rising slightly to just over 1,100,000 litres of water, the Island’s water situation remains serious.
Again, it is not forecast for St Helena to experience any significant rainfall over the next week with predictions at just 0.5mm of rain Island-wide. This in turn means that there will be no surface water run-off going into the Island’s reservoirs.
Harpers Reservoir One has run dry and is currently empty (pictured).
To preserve our precious resource it is important that we all continue to cut down our water use to essential use only. Remember we are currently under a hosepipe ban with Connect Saint Helena (CSH) having enforced Island-wide water restrictions on Monday, 24 June 2019.
In the interim, Connect St Helena are continuing to pump from Chubb’s Spring, and are also continuing to pump water from Hutt’s Gate to Red Hill at a rate of 200,000 litres per day. The relining of Levelwood Reservoir is complete with the hope that water will begin to catch here soon.
African Slave Heritage Re-Connecting With St Helena by Fibre-Optic Undersea Cable
St Helena’s hopes for a high-speed, fibre optic broadband connection has received a huge boost with the news a service could be in place by August 2021. SHG have announced plans to connect to Google’s, ‘Equiano’ subsea cable project.
It is likely the Equiano project’s cable survey ship might be seen in St Helena’s waters as early as next month (August 2019) as survey work is already underway.
Data speeds ‘ranging from a few hundred gigabits per second up to multiple terabits as demand varies’ have the potential to transform both lifestyles and business prospects for the island.
The news will come as an enormous relief for many islanders who struggle to keep within their monthly broadband data quotas. Many people regularly stay up to access the internet between midnight and 6am, when the service is free.
The cost of the fibre optic service to end users is still to be determined. Currently, a gold internet package on island costs £82/month for 11GB data. A silver package is £40.51/month for 3.8GB and bronze is £20.23/month for 1.6GB.
Last year, in June 2018, St Helena secured 21.5 million euros from the European Development Fund, to support connectivity through an undersea cable project.
The ‘Equiano’ subsea cable is a new project connecting Europe (Portugal) with South Africa, announced on 28 June 2019 and is fully funded by Google. The project is expected to be completed in 2021.
A Reuters report says, 99 percent of the world’s internet data traffic is carried on subsea cables.
The cable, ‘Equiano,’ is named after Nigerian-born boy, Olaudah Equiano, kidnapped and sold into 18th century slavery in North America and England. Equiano went on to eventually buy his freedom and become a prominent campaigner in London for the abolition of slavery.
Between 1840 – 1872, thousands of victims of the Transatlantic Slave Trade who were rescued on the Middle Passage from slave ships crossing the Atlantic, were brought to St Helena.
SA Record Breaker, Adam Tas, Live At The Mule Yard
Saints had front row seats to an Adam Tas concert, Friday night (19 July) at the Mule Yard.
Adam is a South African singer and TV personality, here for a week, filming a St Helena fishing documentary.
The 150 strong audience were treated to an intimate hour of vocals and acoustic guitar, which included Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond covers amongst a string of well-known hits.
A pretty impressive rendition of ‘House of the Rising Sun’ rounded off the performance, a song Adam said he traditionally ended gigs on that now has a special meaning. It’s the first song he learned on guitar, taught by his mother who passed last year.
The 37-year-old songwriter has nine studio albums under his belt and is known for his ‘course grater’ voice and ‘emotion-laden’ lyrics.
Along with St Helena’s famous tortoise Jonathan, Adam’s name also makes an appearance in the Guinness Book of World Records. His record is for performing at 41 different venues within 24 hours.
What a feat!
St Helena To Run 100% On Renewable Energy In Less Than 3 Years
St Helena aims to be 100% self-sufficient on the national grid, through renewable energy by 1 April 2022.
Currently, approximately 74% of the island’s electricity is generated from burning fossil fuel (diesel). Wind turbines accounts for around 18% and 8% is generated from solar energy.
The ambitious target is part of the government’s Climate Change Policy, endorsed by Executive Council on Tuesday (16 July).
One of the policy’s objectives commits St Helena to becoming 100% self-sufficient on renewable energy in less than three years.
The policy aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, maintain/improve energy and water consumption and reduce risks from weather-related hazards through the protection of the natural environment.
In the policy’s foreword, Governor Rushbrook acknowledges that St Helena will not escape the impact of climate change and says we must be prepared for the changes that are likely, and mitigate whenever we can against its negative effects. He says, we all need to consider how our homes, buildings, wastes, transport, energy generation and personal use of resources can have less of a toll on the environment and ultimately the climate.
Climate change action plans are to be developed that will include accelerating island-wide programmes and educational campaigns.
Saint FM App For Android
Local radio station, Saint FM, have announced the availability of their own app from the Google Play store.
The app allows people with a reliable internet connection to listen to the station’s live feed from anywhere in the world.
Contacting the studio direct from the app is possible from the app, along with a sharing feature to social media.
The app is only available from the Google Play store for Android devices. An iOS version for Apple devices is not available at this time.
The service is currently still in live-testing, however, everything seems to be working smoothly with downloads and operation.
SHG PRESS RELEASE
HAND, FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE ON ST HELENA
The Health Directorate is aware of a very small number of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease cases. As a precautionary measure, the following information is being released:
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is a viral infection that can affect young children. It does not usually pose a serious threat to a child’s health but can be an unpleasant condition particularly if it affects younger children.
Typical symptoms of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease include:
- Cold-like symptoms, such as loss of appetite, cough and a moderately high temperature of around 38-39°C (100.4-102.2°F)
- A non-itchy red rash, made up of spots or small fluid-filled sacs (vesicles), which usually develop on the hands and feet, but may also occur on the knees, elbows, groin and buttocks – sometimes the rash can develop into painful blisters
- Painful mouth ulcers
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is a self-limiting condition, which means it will get better on its own without treatment. The symptoms will usually pass within seven days.
However, the symptoms can be uncomfortable so possible treatment options include:
- Using paracetamol, ibuprofenand mouth gels to relieve the pain of mouth ulcers
- Drinking plenty of fluidsto help relieve a high temperature
These items can all be obtained from the Pharmacy or from local stores. There is no need to see a Doctor for this condition.
But you should contact your Doctor if your child is not drinking any fluid or their symptoms last longer than seven days.
A person with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is highly contagious until about a week after the symptoms begin. Because of the way the infection is spread, outbreaks of the disease can occur in places where groups of children need to have their nappies changed or use a potty, such as nurseries or childcare centres.
You should keep your child away from school or nursery while they are unwell.
However, there is no need to wait until the last blister has gone before your child can return to school or nursery, providing they are otherwise well.
The Health Directorate cannot issue sick certificates for parents whose children are unwell. Please contact your HR department for guidance on Parental or Emergency leave.
Retail Prices Up By 4% Over The Past Year
Retail prices rose, on average by 4% over the past year, this is according to estimates released by the SHG Statistics Office.
Their latest Bulletin reports the biggest increase in prices has been in ‘Communications’ (12.5%), the effect of an increase in landline telephone services and an increase in broadband internet services in the past year.
The lowest increase has been in ‘Household Energy’ (1.5%), reflecting the unchanged price of electricity.
The overall Retail Price Index (RPI) was measured at 104.9 in the second quarter of 2019, compared to 100.9 for the same period last year. This indicates the increase of 4%.
The Statistics Office explains how RPI is calculated:
‘The basis for the RPI is the average weekly cost of goods and services purchased by households on St Helena, sometimes called the ‘shopping basket’. Items which households purchase more of, such as food, have the biggest share of the RPI basket. The current RPI uses a basket from the latest Household Expenditure Survey in 2017; prices representing the groups of items in the basket are collected every quarter, and the price of the total basket is compared to the price in the baseline period, the first quarter of 2018. By convention, the value of the basket in the baseline period is scaled to 100, and the RPI values are quoted in relation to that baseline. For example, an RPI value of 120 means that average prices have increased by 20 per cent compared to those recorded in the baseline period.’
Click here for the full bulletin.
Governor Rushbrook on Ascension Island
Governor Philip Rushbrook is currently on his first official visit to Ascension Island.
His seven-day tour will include the various departments of Ascension Island Government and a public meeting tonight to engage with the island’s residents.
SHG reported the governor’s arrival in a press release.
Governor Rushbrook arrived on Ascension on Monday 8 July. He returns to St Helena on Sunday 14 July, on the monthly scheduled SA Airlink flight.
First Burial in New Dungeon Cemetery
The new Dungeon cemetery extension saw its first burial on Monday 1 July, three days after proclamation of its establishment was approved by ExCo the previous Friday.
Brian ‘Hocky’ Hopkins, aged 69 from Longwood was the first person to be laid to rest in the new three-acre graveyard.
The site used to be grazing land and is located in the field opposite the original cemetery, overlooking Gordon’s Post. Entrance is accessed from the top of Gordon’s Post road. A gravel track runs the width of the site, wide enough for two cars.
SHG reported that council members noted, ‘the existing cemetery at the Dungeon is full and not having a cemetery for certain faiths will be problematic as no alternative sites are currently available for this purpose.’
The multi-faith Dungeon Cemetery falls under responsibility of SHG and not the Anglican Church.
SHG estimates the extension to have a capacity of 3,200 plots. There were 52 deaths registered on St Helena in 2018 and 26 births.
Kylie Resigns: “It’s heart-wrenching”
Legislative Councillor, Kylie Hercules, submitted her letter of resignation on Monday (1 July) this week, after serving two years of a four-year term.
Miss Hercules will take up a new career path as a legal executive at the Public Solicitor’s office once she vacates her seat at the end of August.
SAMS Radio 1 made the announcement of Miss Hercules resignation on Wednesday afternoon.
Speaking to Inside St Helena’s News Alerts, today, Miss Hercules revealed “it’s heart-wrenching” to leave LegCo, but there’s also “excitement” at what lies ahead.
She explained how serving on council feels like “fighting a losing battle” with constant frustrations of not being able to make more meaningful changes.
The councillor from Longwood said there is often the “political will” amongst elected members to get things done, “…but then we don’t have administration on our side. They’ll drag their feet.”
She went on to say, “We don’t all work together. Officials should be working together with elected members, with the government, you know the governor… but it doesn’t work like that. It’s more or less like we’re pulling apart.”
Miss Hercules also raised concerns over the important decisions councillors are expected to make, often with insufficient time to scrutinise important papers and without suitable access to independent expert advice. “I keep saying we should have somebody who is independent, and outside of government, advising us against yes and no and, you know, these are the pros, these are the cons,” she said.
Asked to pick a highlight of her time in office, Miss Hercules cited her work as part of the social security review working group, which she feels will make a real positive difference to people’s lives.
Learning how the budget works was the biggest revelation for the Councillor over the last two years who had previously questioned “like everybody else” why certain things weren’t being done. “You realise, there’s this little pot of money which is very limited and you gotta run this service, that service, that service, that service,” said Miss Hercules, speaking about the island’s annual budget.
Sure To Rollout New Recordable TV Set Top Boxes
Television subscribers will soon be able to record TV programmes and movies on their set top boxes. Sure SA Ltd announced today they will be enhancing their Television Rebroadcast service in September and rolling out new set top boxes with the ability to record content.
The new boxes will include HDMI digital output. Standard and Premium packages remain the same with up to 30 channels available.
Chief Executive, Christine Thomas said, “We apologise that customers are not currently able to buy replacement set top boxes directly from us. Islanders should rest assured we have been working tirelessly in the background to deliver this project in the shortest possible timeframe, with the aim of minimising the delay some customers are facing.”
Sure upgraded their television service to Digital Video Broadcast, Terrestrial 2nd Generation (DVB-T2) in October 2013. The current set boxes have a parental control facility and a limited Electronic Program Guide (EPG). Subscription fees are £40 p/m Standard and £54.50 p/m for Premium.
Welcome Rainfall But Reservoir Levels Still Dangerously Low
A refreshing 5.8mm of rain fell, on the same day water restrictions were imposed on St Helena (Monday 24 June).
This welcome downpour washed away June 2019’s contention as record breaker for the lowest monthly rainfall ever recorded at the Bottom Woods Met Station since records began in 1976.
Before this overnight rain, a paltry 0.4mm had been recorded for the month.
Occasional light showers are forecast for the next two days (Tue – Wed) by the Ascension Island Met Office.
Island-wide water restrictions, including a hosepipe ban, remain firmly in place and islanders are asked to reduce consumption to essential use only.
SHG reported today, we have just 25 days of raw water level stock available on island. At least two weeks of continuous meaningful rainfall is required to make a positive difference to reservoir levels. Consumption levels have not changed, and a reduction of 30% is needed to stabilise water levels.
The record for the lowest monthly rainfall remains with June 1998 when just 2.2mm of rain fell.
Hosepipe and Sprinkler Ban As Dry Weather Continues
St Helena is in danger of recording its lowest monthly rainfall of 0.4mm since records began in 1976 at the Bottom Woods Met Station, if rainfall for June 2019 doesn’t dramatically increase.
SHG have said, “The current exceptionally dry weather conditions coupled with a rise in consumption over the last year has resulted in St Helena now experiencing a serious water shortage with below 30 days of raw water level stock available on the island.”
Water restrictions have been imposed by the island’s utilities provider, Connect Saint Helena, from 24 June, with consumers asked to reduce consumption to essential use only. A hosepipe and sprinkler ban is also in place.
The legal notice includes the warning, “A person who fails to comply with this notice is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a maximum fine of £2,000 or imprisonment for up to 6 months or both.”
Total rainfall of 136.6mm was recorded at Bottom Woods from January to May 2019. This was 100mm less than the same period last year (236.8mm).
St Helena’s First Travel App
St Helena’s first Travel & Information App, called ‘Inside St Helena,’ designed by Darrin and Sharon Henry, is now ‘live-testing’ and available for free download from both Google Play and Apple’s App Store.
Inside St Helena is 3-in-1, modern day visitor guide book providing information about the businesses, services and attractions on the Island. The App is designed to help people connect quickly and easily using the picture-based main menu to navigate the various categories.
These categories include transportation options, hotels and self-catering accommodation, food venues, bars and pubs, things to do and a calendar of events.
Once the desired attraction or business page on the App is opened it reveals a range of information, including a description of services, location, prices, opening times and a choice of interactive contact options.
‘Inside St Helena’ began live-testing on 3 June, 2019.
The App’s official launch is 1 July, 2019.