Bill English continues to back Defence Force over SAS claims, refuses to launch inquiry

Prime Minister Bill English has once again ruled out holding an inquiry into claims of civilian deaths in a SAS backed raid on a village in Afghanistan in 2010.

The raid is at the centre of claims made by a new book by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, who say villagers were killed in the raid which was designed to find those believed responsible for an attack which killed a New Zealand soldier.

In an Official Information Act release yesterday, the New Zealand Defence Force said there may have been a civilian casualty in the raid.

Professor Al Gillespie reacts to the NZDF's statement following claims made in the Hit & Run book. Source: Breakfast

However, later yesterday, Defence Force chief Lieutenant General Tim Keating said the claims in the book were wrong as troops never operated in the two villages identified.

He also accused Mr Hager and Mr Stephenson of confusing stories.

Today on TVNZ1's Breakfast, Mr English backed Lieutenant General Keating's version of events and said there was no reason to look into "allegations of war crimes" because "as the CDF has pointed out, the villages that the book talks about are not the villages where New Zealand troops were operating".

"In a contest of opinions about that, I have every good reason to believe the defence forces who were actually there," he said.

Mr English said there would be further discussions about the issue, but the basis for an inquiry was "undermined" by Lieutenant General Keating's version of events.

Professor Al Gillespie reacts to the NZDF's statement following claims made in the Hit & Run book. Source: Breakfast

An official information act request has revealed a villager may have died in the 2010 raid, following revelations in a new book. Source: Q+A

Bill English has also again rebutted information from former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp, saying it is nothing new. Source: 1 NEWS

Under persistent questioning, Mr English insisted that at this stage there was no reason to hold an inquiry. 

Mr Hager responded lat night by saying the NZDF's response was "deeply pathetic".

"I can't believe this is what they’ve come back with. There is no credibility in what they're saying whatsoever. Is this really the best they can come back with?"

Bill English says he has 'every reason to believe the Defence Force' as the claims made in the Hit & Run book linger. Source: Breakfast


South Auckland charity The Aunties takes home top Women of Influence Award

The founder of a South Auckland charity group dubbed The Aunties has won the top honour at the Women of Influence Awards.

Jackie Clark set up the not-for-profit organisation six years ago to help vulnerable women and children who've experienced domestic violence.

The group's primary aim is to provide material needs to those they support.

"The Aunties believe everyone has the right to be safe, to have shelter, to be fed, to be loved, to dream, to read, to write, to have their say, and to be heard," the group proclaims on its Givealittle page. "Where any of those things are missing, the Aunties mission is to help provide them - the practical things, and also in terms of advocacy and pastoral care."

The group says it believes in manaakitanga - protecting the mana of the people they help so that they can find their way towards living independently, and with dignity and joy.

"Jackie and her fellow Aunties give without seeking anything in return and without judgement," said Westpac NZ chief executive David McLean, whose company co-sponsors the Women of Influence Awards. "She, and her core of other Aunties, ask vulnerable women what they need and then set about making it happen, in a completely selfless way.

"They have made an enormous contribution to our local communities at grassroots level."

The award ceremony was held last night at SkyCity in Auckland.

Here's the full list of winners:
Supreme Winner: Jackie Clark
Lifetime Achievement: Theresa Gattung
Arts and Culture: Miranda Harcourt
Board and Management: Dr Farah Palmer
Business and Enterprise: Angie Judge
Rural: Rebecca Keoghan
Public Policy: Charlotte Korte
Community/Not for Profit: Jackie Clark
Innovation and Science: Professor Wendy Larner
Diversity: Sarah Lang
Global: Sarah Vrede
Young Leader: Maddison McQueen-Davies

Jackie Clark set up the non-for-profit six years ago, which aims to help vulnerable women and children who have experienced domestic violence. Source: Breakfast


Around 360 Glenorchy homes still without power 48 hours after early spring snowfall

The Glenorchy township in Central Otago is still without power 48 hours after a spring snowfall caused major disruptions in the deep south.

Around 360 households have been affected.

Aurora Energy is hoping to have power restored to the area by this evening.

Around 360 households in the central Otago town are affected, with Aurora Energy hoping to have electricity back on by this evening. Source: Breakfast

In many places power was cut, schools were closed and flights cancelled. Source: 1 NEWS


Watch: Artist uses pyramid in central Auckland to spread some joy around town

A Kiwi artist are architect is using a pyramid in central Auckland to spread some joy.

Matt Liggins has made it his mission to ask people what makes them smile, but instead of rolling up to you on the street he's built a pyramid to help lighten people's moods.

TVNZ1's Seven Sharp's Lucas de Jong went along to take a look and share a laugh in the video above.

Matt Liggins has made it his mission to ask Kiwis what makes them smile. Source: Seven Sharp

Meet the transgender Wellington school caretaker brightening up kids' days

A transgender caretaker at a Wellington school has been using her musical talents to brighten up the kids' days.

Molly Mason was born as Michael, but soon discovered she was a female born in a man's body.

"I believe I'm a woman, and I associate as a woman, so I live my life as a woman," Molly told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp.

Molly has a love of music that began when she was just six.

Now, in her role as caretaker at a Wellington school, she uses her talent to good effect by beat boxing with the kids at lunchtime.

"When I realised that beat boxing and making sounds was something I couldn't live without, that was it, nothing else mattered."

However, to be this woman - that little boy Michael, had a fight on his hands.

"I got bullied from primary school right through until the day I left college and left Blenheim."

Molly is now proud to be transgender and says the stage is her safe place. She performs as her drag alter ego called Bette Noir.

"Anything that makes me sad, makes me worried, makes me scared, anything that I find stressful, it's not there, it's gone." 

Seven Sharp’s Arrun Soma spoke with Molly Mason. Source: Seven Sharp