Beneficiaries who fail drug tests not subject to harsh sanctions

The Ministry of Social Development is refusing to enforce harsh sanctions on beneficiaries who fail drug tests, and the Government is acknowledging the drug sanctions stigmatise the unemployed.

Viv Rickards is the Ministry's new deputy chief executive and he says imposing sanctions on people who fail drug tests just doesn’t make sense.

"For normal New Zealanders, they'll think we can stop their benefit - of course we can.

"But that's not our mode of approach, that's not our operating model, because doing that doesn't help people become employed and independent," Mr Rickards told 1 NEWS.

The Drug Foundation's executive director Ross Bell said that's an astonishing thing for the Ministry to say, but agrees wholeheartedly.

"If the sanctions regime isn't being used and the testing regime doesn't work - then lets scrap it."

The Greens social development spokesperson Jan Logie says her party wants them gone.

"They destabilise families trying to get by and that's not helpful for any of us.

"This was actually more about trying to stigmatize beneficiaries as lazy pot smokers than it was addressing any real issue."

Sanctions for failing drug tests were introduced by the former National Government in 2013 - and at that time it was estimated thousands of unemployed New Zealanders would fail the tests.

However, that hasn't occurred.

"You know we've had over 40,000 (47,115 last year) people going towards jobs where people require drug testing and out of that we've only had 170 people have come back where they've failed the drugs test," Mr Rickard said.

An advocate for Auckland Action Against Poverty, Ricardo Menendez March wants the drug sanctions axed.

"A lot of money is going into this fear-mongering atmosphere when really this money should be going into funding addiction support services."

The Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni says the drug sanctions have a negative impact on the unemployed.

"I agree they're stigmatising but I guess it's a hangover from the previous government that was trying to look like they were coming down hard on beneficiaries."

But National's deputy leader Paula Bennett believes new drug testing technology needs to be investigated.

"The way that we originally did that drug testing years ago was controversial it's not something that you do easily.

"Actually it's easy to test for marijuana, it's hard to test for meth, I think it is something that needs to be revisited."

The Government believes drug sanctions only stigmatise the unemployed, while National wants new testing technology to be investigated. Source: 1 NEWS

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Melania Trump opens up on marriage to the US President in exclusive TV interview

Melania Trump has spoken about her marriage to US President Donald Trump and rumours of his affairs.

The first lady gave a rare TV interview during a recent trip to Africa, with no questions off-limits.

Through it all, she's held her tongue. Ms Trump was silent when porn star Stormy Daniels stepped forward. She said nothing when the White House denied the affair, and she remained tight-lipped when the president later admitted to paying hush money to keep Ms Daniels silent.

Now, a much-hyped tell-all interview with the first lady has addressed allegations of her husband's infidelity.

"It is not concern and focus of mine. I'm a mother and first lady and I have much more important things to think about and to do," Ms Trump said.

"I know people like to speculate and media like to speculate about our marriage and circulate the gossip but I understand the gossip sells newspapers, magazines, and unfortunately, we live in this kind of world today."

She said it's "not always pleasant, of course, but I know what is right and what is wrong and what is true and not true".

Ms Trump insists she is not focused on the scandal, but it is clear she cannot ignore it.

She said she was not happy when her husband's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, appeared to put words in her mouth.

"She believes in her husband - she knows it's not true. I don't think there's even a slight suspicion that it's true," Mr Guiliani had said at the time.

Ms Trump said, "I never talk to Mr Giuliani".

"Why do you think he came out and said that? I don't know. You need to ask him."

A former model, the first lady moved to New York in 1996 shortly before meeting Donald Trump.

"He came with a date and he was known as kind of a lady's man."

During the interview, Ms Trump said she knew for 20 years that he had dreamed of being president, and she had pictured herself being a "very traditional" first lady by his side, saying, "I will support him. I will stand by my man".

While the first lady has continued to stand by her husband, their relationship has been widely scrutinized.

The first lady is adamant she still has a good marriage, despite many images appearing to show the contrary.

"Yes we are fine. Yes," she said of their relationship.

"It's what media speculate and it's gossip. It's not always correct stuff."

The first lady gave a rare TV interview while touring Africa. Source: 1 NEWS

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Tuatara surprises staff at National Kiwi Centre by giving birth

Some surprise arrivals in Hokitika have delighted staff and visitors at the town’s kiwi centre.

At some point in 2017, the centre’s female tuatara became pregnant and buried her eggs, but no one knew until now.

It was the smallest of movements that caught animal handler Karen Smith's eye when she was checking on the National Kiwi Centre’s tuatara.

“[I was] thinking it may be a mouse and then when I got a better look at it I realised it was a baby tuatara.”

Staff at Hokitika’s kiwi centre were unaware their female tuatara was even pregnant until the eggs hatched.

“I managed to scout around and find another three - so we ended up with four live baby tuataras,” says Ms Smith.

The tiny tuataras are kept separate from their parents and for good reason.

Adults tuataras will eat their offspring as soon as they hatch.

While tuatara births in captivity aren’t rare, here in Hokitika the odds were against them.

Tuatara are native to New Zealand, descended from the dinosaur period and can live to 100 or beyond.

Henry at Southland Museum became a first-time father at 111, and he’s the granddaddy to the new West Coast arrivals.

Karen Smith is certain there are more infants on the loose and is asking visitors to keep an eye out.

“I have been telling people to look for movement in here and if they see anything to come tell us up the front."

The tuatara became pregnant last year, buried her eggs, but no one knew until now. Source: 1 NEWS

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Homicide investigation launched after person found dead in Canterbury

Police have launched a homicide investigation after one person died in Charing Cross, Selwyn this afternoon.

One person has died in the rural area of Selwyn this afternoon. Source: 1 NEWS

Emergency services were called to the scene on Grange Road about 3.30pm.

Police believe an altercation took place between two men.

They say a number of people are assisting them.

A scene guard will remain in place overnight and a full scene examination will take place in the morning.


Opposing new liquor stores, licenses could become easier with free legal help service

Opposing new bottle stores and liquor licenses in your neighbourhood may soon become easier with free legal help now available.

New liquor outlets can become lightning rods for protest, including a proposed new bottle store which was met with local resistance in Christchurch.

Harewood resident Bruce Tulloch, who opposed the liquor store's opening, said: "particularly, we're not keen on people being able to go out at 8, 9, 10 o'clock at night and stock up on more booze - on impulse".

Mr Tulloch says Community Law got in touch and its advice helped hone their argument for the hearing.

"The lawyers will say, 'That's not relevant', 'that's hearsay', 'that doesn't apply' - the fact that people get drunk and bash each other over the head with bottles is not what we're talking about. What we're talking is whether it will affect the amenity and good order of your environment," Mr Tulloch said.

Community Law CEO Sue Moroney said the service is about helping people, particularly in low-income areas, who are often unable compete with the lawyers brought in by the alcohol industry.

"Many of these off-license provisions, particularly, are targeted at really low-income areas. so the people in those communities don't have, necessarily, the knowledge or information or the financial resources for that type of battle, so this is actually arming them with a free legal resource," Ms Moroney said.

New Zealand Alcohol Beverages Council executive director Nick Leggett described the battle between the alcohol industry and local residents as a "kind of David and Goliath".

"The alcohol industry is actually a whole lot of small business people, many thousands around the country running responsibly," Mr Legett said.

However, the Alcohol Beverages Council welcomed the initiative.

"All power to them. To be honest, I think it's an intrinsic Kiwi value that we want a level playing field," he said.

The pilot project will run for the next three years in six communities. If proven successful, the project will then be rolled out across the country.

"It means that the district licensing committee is likely to come out with the right decision rather than one side having all the legal resources and the other side having none," Ms Moroney said.

Free legal help is now available to help oppose new bottle stores and liquor licenses in your neighbourhood. Source: 1 NEWS