'Don't buy it off the street'- Homeless drug user's synthetic cannabis warning

A homeless man on Auckland's Karangahape Road who says he fell unconscious after one puff of synthetic cannabis is warning people not to buy the drug on the street.

Synthetic cannabis, or "sinnies" as it's known on the streets, has now been linked to nine deaths in the past month.

The homeless man told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp he's tried a lot of drugs in his life, including LSD, mushrooms, and synthetic cannabis.

"And all I can says is when I had one toke on it, one puff, I fell into an unconsciousness that lasted, I can't estimate, but I'd say about 20 seconds," he said.

"And I woke up and I felt like I'd been unconscious for hours. It's a strong drug, synthetic, stronger than marijuana. If you're buying it off the street, don't. Don't buy it off the street."

A bouncer outside a K Road nightclub said when he spoke to people about the issue he was surprised that a lot of clientele carry synthetic cannabis.

"I'd say 50 per cent of the crowd tonight would have it in their bags or their wallets," he said.

Ross Bell from the Drug Foundation says "the government made a choice in 1975 to leave control of drugs in the hands of the black market". Source: Seven Sharp

A young man on K Road said it took only one use of synthetic cannabis by a friend to "mess round with his brain" and the drug has ruined his life.

New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said people are "buying bags of who knows what", whereas six months ago synthetic cannabis containing a different chemical wasn't causing problems.

Mr Bell said police and the coroner have chosen not to release test results from some of the current synthetic cannabis products.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne would not comment before he meets with the chief coroner today.

Mr Bell said the nine deaths are as a consequence of a Government policy choice a few years ago to leave drug control in the hands of the black market, rather than regulate the sale of some lower risk substances.

The message on the street was clear when Seven Sharp went looking. Source: Seven Sharp



Man works his way up from the bottom to become executive chef at top Auckland restaurant

Being an executive chef for one of the best restaurant's in Auckland is a tough gig.

But Wallace Mua climbed his way up from the bottom to become a top chef at the Hilton Hotel's FISH Restaurant.

He started working there as a humble dishwasher and put in the hard yards to attain his dream.

"I was lucky that I got a job at a restaurant, my boss said I got the job because I sat there smiling the whole interview and I didn't have any idea," Mua says.

TVNZ1's Seven Sharp learned more about his journey in the video above.

Wallace Mua cooks at FISH Restaurant at the Hilton Hotel. Source: Seven Sharp

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The Auckland school that's making kindness cool with their kids

The problem of being kind to others may have been solved by a school in Auckland.

Somerville Intermediate in Howick has created an Undercover Kindness Agency for its students.

Deputy Principal Chris Hall came up with the idea that sees random outbreaks of generosity in the playground.

"I thought it was a good idea in my head. I wasn't sure it would resonate with any of the students, I canvassed them and on the first day and had 90 students sign up," Mr Hall says.

Since then even more students have signed up to join the secret club.

Psychologist Jacqui Maguire says being kind is also helpful to the giver.

"There's decades of scientific research which shows that being kind to others has benefits to the giver. that includes lower blood pressure, increased energy and increased life span," Ms Maguire says.

The kids in the Undercover Kindness Agency are hopeful their kind ways will catch on.

Somerville Intermediate has created an Undercover Kindness Agency. Source: Seven Sharp

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Victoria University student told she couldn’t return to hostel after she tried to kill herself

Warning: This story discusses details of assault and suicide that may be triggering.

A first-year Victoria University student was evicted from her hostel the day after she tried to commit suicide.

Dani tried to end her life in October 2017 at Cumberland House, in Wellington.

Her father flew down from Tauranga to be with her.

Hours after being discharged from hospital the next day, the hall manager told her she could not stay because of health and safety reasons.

"Me and dad went back to the hall and the hall manager asked to meet with us. She did the whole mandatory 'are you okay' thing, but was then like 'okay, you can't stay here, we don't want you to stay here'".

"I understood it as there were exams going on which were stressful, obviously a lot of gossip, but my dad asked 'whose health and safety are we talking about here?'."

In a statement Victoria University Student and Campus Living Director Rainsforth Dix said the hall environment was not conducive to Dani's recovery.

"The University has to weigh up the rights of individuals against the collective good of the hall community and the potential impact on other students," she said.

"In this case, following an incident, the Head of Hall met with the student and a parent. They were told that after a critical incident, the counselling service recommends a period of respite before returning to the hall.

"They were also advised that in this case, the hall environment was not considered conducive to the student's recovery."

The hall also kept the remaining weeks of her rent which she had paid in advance.

After her father emailed university management, the money was refunded.

"That was only because my dad pushed. They were willing to keep my money that I'd paid up until November 18. They run it as a business."

Accepting a place at Cumberland House in October 2016, she filled out all the paperwork - including disclosing under the medical conditions section - that she had been clinically diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, depression and anxiety.

Dani said the hall staff and Residential Assistants were ill-equipped to deal with the "real and gritty" issues she had faced.

At the start of 2017, a few weeks after she moved in, she was sexually assaulted.

A short time after that she requested a room change due to a falling out with her roommate.

She was moved three doors down from the person who had assaulted her at the start of the year.

Some months passed and Dani started dating another student; shortly after she became pregnant, and miscarried.

"I had to go through this experience on a really gross student hall bathroom floor, it wasn't fun. And I didn't feel that I could go to any of the staff and be like - 'hey this has just happened, what do I do'."

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said evicting someone because they have had a mental health crisis was not appropriate.

He said people under 25 were the age group that experienced the highest levels of psychological distress and that the highest rate of suicide in New Zealand was among those aged between 15 and 24.

He said the eviction likely caused significant distress at a time when Dani needed kindness and understanding.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

By Emma Hatton

rnz.co.nz

Dani had a tough first-year at University. Source: rnz.co.nz


Infighting puts Māori Women's Welfare league at risk amid annual conference

Infighting is threatening to mar the Māori Women's Welfare League's annual conference this week. 

It was once spearheading social change, courted by governments and led by legends.

Now, plagued by internal strife, the group is now facing questions around its relevancy.

"There are so many fights to be fought and I don't think that's the place where we want to be having a fight," social commentator Hayley Putaranui told 1 NEWS.

This week's annual conference is shaping up to be a contentious one.

On the agenda is a motion to dismiss some members, and Mere Mangu is one of them.

"They are actions that are foreign to tikanga Māori and we can follow it up in the legal system. But at the end of the day responsibility rests with our national president," Ms Mangu said.

She says it's payback for supporting ongoing High Court action questioning whether the president can legitimately serve more than one three-year term. 

Prue Kapua was voted in for a second term last year. 

"I wouldn't have ever anticipated it would have gotten to this point," Ms Kapua said.

The cost of the division is that younger women are not engaging and questioning the league's relevance. 

"Looking forward to 2020-2030 what is the league's place there? Why would I want to be associated with it and what would I get out of it as well, And what could I give back?" Ms Putaranui said.

Ms Kapua said: "We can only do that when we're internally well organised and working well together."

The Māori Women's Welfare League has a proud past but its future at risk as the infighting drags on.

Plagued by internal strife the group’s now facing questions around its relevancy. Source: 1 NEWS