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HNZ promises 'genuine' approach to compensation for tenants turfed out after meth testing fiasco

Housing New Zealand is promising to take a considered approach to compensating those who were turfed out of their homes unecessarily.

As many as 800 current and former state house tenants will be eligible for some form of assistance, following a report released by the agency yesterday acknowledging it was wrong to evict them on the basis of methamphetamine contamination.

That could range from an apology from Housing New Zealand, to cancellation of meth-related debt and repayment, to a grant for household items and moving costs.

The Housing Minister Phil Twyford expects that to be in the $2-$3,000 range.

"But it's going to be done on a case-by-case basis, so it could end up in certain circumstances being more than that. So several thousand dollars, likely," he said.

The agency is undergoing a range of changes. On Friday Mr Twyford announced the Government would enshrine in law the objectives of Housing New Zealand, which he said overall are "to provide decent housing and be a fair and compassionate landlord."

Part of the change is scrapping the requirement for the agency to return a surplus to the Government.

Mr Twyford said this will give Housing New Zealand financial flexibility, so it can build more state houses and invest in more support for tenants.

But an Associate Professor at Massey University Chris Wilkins, who heads the drug research team at SHORE & Whariki Research Centre, is questioning the decision not to provide blanket compensation to state housing tenants - saying it could save the agency money.

He predicts issues in finding evidence of tenants using methamphetamine and being responsible for it, given it is now accepted that the standard for safety is much higher.

Mr Twyford said the standard for receiving a pay out is based on the former chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman's report [ https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/358454/meth-house-contamination-debunked-by-pm-s-science-advisor], which said levels 10 times higher than the ones people were evicted for were still unlikely to have adverse effects on health.

Mr Wilkins said court action could be likely, if Housing New Zealand refuses compensation for some tenants.

"I think that's a real possibility. Given that they're not paying out too much, and there's a lot of fault here from both the scientific view and the policy development view and the agencies that carried out the policy...

"If I was Housing New Zealand, I'd look for a way to basically resolve this as quickly as possible and try and make good on some of those issues."

Housing New Zealand is encouraging all those who may be eligible for an assistance pay out to contact a dedicated Meth Line on 0800 006 077 or email meth.enquiries@hnzc.co.nz.

It said this will be a "genuine process" and that the team will take a "comprehensive, considered approach to how the right form of assistance is assessed for our tenants."

Gia Garrick

rnz.co.nz

Housing New Zealand houses. Source: rnz.co.nz

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Doctor's stark warning after Christchurch synthetic cannabis overdoses

"There's no doubt, if you're smoking this stuff, you're gambling with your life."

That's the stark warning to users of synthetic cannabis from an emergency room doctor in Christchurch after a "nasty batch" of the drug has caused 10 people to overdose in the city in the last 48 hours.

Dr Mark Gilbert said there are eight people still critically ill and "we can’t guarantee they’ll live".

The people were unconscious when they arrived at the emergency room, the doctor said.

"When the patients come to the emergency room, we're finding they're in various states of unconsciousness, they can’'t really tell us anything, we get very little information, sometimes no information."

He offered a stark warning to people using synthetic cannabis.

"There’s no doubt, if you’re smoking this stuff, you’re gambling with your life," he said.

"We’d strongly advise that particularly at the moment, where there seems to be a bad batch in Christchurch, that people stay away from smoking even small amounts of this."

"It seems there's no safe level of this drug to smoke."

Dr Gilbert said it appeared the "bad batch" of the drug being sold was "causing particularly severe affects".

He went on to say: "The symptoms of this range in severity, but they generally start off with some agitation and confusion then precede to coma and seizures and in severe cases, cardiac rhythm disturbances and this can precede to cardiac arrest and death," he said.

Emergency department doctor Mark Gilbert says the patients have been critically unwell as a bad batch of the drug is sold. Source: 1 NEWS

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Suge Knight, once one of gangsta rap's biggest moguls, agrees to 28-year sentence after murder charge reduced

Former rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight pleaded no contest today in a US courtroom to voluntary manslaughter and after he ran over two men, killing one, nearly four years ago.

The Death Row Records co-founder entered the plea in Los Angeles Superior Court and has agreed to serve 28 years in prison.

Knight was charged with murder, attempted murder and hit-and-run after fleeing the scene of an altercation in January 2015 outside a Compton burger stand. Knight and Cle "Bone" Sloan, a consultant on the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton were involved in a fistfight that ended with Knight clipping the man with his pickup truck and running over businessman Terry Carter, who died from his injuries.

Knight's attorneys have said he was acting in self-defence and was fleeing armed attackers when he ran over Mr Carter and Mr Sloan.

During today's hearing, Knight answered Judge Ronald Coen's questions, loudly and quickly saying "no contest" when the judge asked for his plea.

The plea deal calls for Knight to serve 22 years in prison on the voluntary manslaughter count, and another six years because it is a third strike violation.

Former music mogul and founder of Death Row Records Suge Knight

Knight, 53, was a key player in the gangster rap scene that flourished in the 1990s, and his label once listed Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg among its artists. Knight lost control of the company after it was forced into bankruptcy.

He has prior felony convictions for armed robbery and assault with a gun. He pleaded no contest in 1995 and was sentenced to five years' probation for assaulting two rap entertainers at a Hollywood recording studio in 1992.

He was sentenced in February 1997 to prison for violating terms of that probation by taking part in a fight at a Las Vegas hotel hours before Shakur was fatally wounded in a drive-by attack as he rode in Knight's car just east of the Las Vegas Strip. Shakur's slaying remains unsolved.

He had faced life in prison if convicted of murder for killing Mr Carter.

FILE - In this July 7, 2015, file photo,  Knight has pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter and after he ran over two men, killing one, nearly four years ago.
The Death Row Records co-founder entered the plea Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court and has agreed to serve 28 years in prison.  (Patrick T. Fallon/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Marion Hugh "Suge" Knight sits for a hearing in his murder case in Superior Court in Los Angeles in 2015. Source: Associated Press


Disturbing new study finds Kiwi teens are fatter and less fit than their parents

Today's teens are more fat and less fit than their parents' generation, according to disturbing new research out of the University of Otago.

The first-of-its-kind study, published today in the New Zealand Medical Journal, measured the fitness of 343 15-year-olds whose parents had been tested in the 1980s. Each generation was tested on an exercise cycle.

"We have seen a 25 per cent decline in fitness in girls compared to their mothers and about a 15 per cent decline in fitness compared to their fathers," researcher Helena McAnally told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning, explaining that the findings are unlikely to be unique to New Zealand.

"I think there's been a lot of social change over the years between the Dunedin study in the 80s, when they were 15, and now," she explained. "We're looking at increasing levels of physical inactivity in developed countries across the globe."

The downward trend is a concern, she said.

"Historically, we've been seeing health and wellbeing tracking towards more positive outcomes," she said. "This is looking like this generation is going to be less healthy than their parents' generation.

"Poorer fitness now could potentially lead to long term health problems later."

Professor Bob Hancox, who led the study, said in a statement that the findings fit the perception many of us already had of young people being outside less and tethered to screens more than any generation previously.

But Ms McAnally said today she remains optimistic that the situation could change. As happened with smoking, studies about the health implications could help prompt government initiatives that eventually see healthier outcomes.

The $7 million plan to tackle the fat is being deemed too weak. Source: 1 NEWS

She suggested ad campaigns and increased opportunities for people to be active.

"I know in Australia some schools have an afternoon dedicated to physical activity so that people don't have to organise taking their kids to sports outside of school hours," she said. "So there are things like that we could change that would be systematically embedding physical activity in young people's day-to-day routines.

"Investing in the health and wellbeing of our young people now is going to save money in the long term, so I think it's a sensible move."

Researchers tested the 15-year-old children of teens who were studied in the 1980s, researcher Helena McAnally explained to Breakfast. Source: Breakfast