'Enough of these dinosaur views' - Government's plan to tackle workplace sexual harassment

1 NEWS has exclusive details of the government's plan to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace.

It comes after employees at law firm Russell McVeagh's Wellington office were accused of inappropriate behaviour towards student interns.

Green Party MP Jan Logie is one government politician particularly passionate about the cause - herself a survivor of sexual assault.

"It really is an age old question and you know it's a call for 'time's up'. Enough of these kind of dinosaur views and misuses of power," Ms Logie says.

She'll be working with the Ministers of justice, workplace relations, sate services and women.

"We are going to look at everything that we can do to make sure that our workplaces are safe," Ms Logie said.

"That victims are supported to go through a process where they feel the outcome is positive and that the people using violence are held to account and that we prevent further violence."

The Employment Act and the Humans Rights Act will be reviewed.

Worksafe is also being asked to investigate what assistance it can offer employers.

And business leaders also like the idea.

"Worksafe could provide some effective guidelines and assistance to help employers to make sure that sexual harassment doesn't happen in the workplace," Business NZ's Kirk Hope said.

The international Me Too movement is giving many women the power to speak out.

This week, Russell McVeagh was forced to face up to allegations of sexual harassment by staff against university students.

"We continue to be very sorry about what happened and that if they need any help or support, we're here for them, our door is always open," Russell McVeagh partner Pip Greenwood said.

The law firm Bell Gully also dealt with an incident in 2016, which they today told 1 NEWS clients had raised with them.

And while those firms say they have protocols and practices in place to deal with such incidents, Ms Logie is worried that many workplaces don't, and will only respond when the damage has already been done.

It comes after employees at law firm Russell McVeagh were accused of inappropriate behaviour towards student interns. Source: 1 NEWS



More chlorination likely with water services set to be centralised

The Government is set to strip councils of their power over water following Havelock North's 2016 gastro crisis which was a wake up call for the country.  

Speaking to Water New Zealand's conference today, the Local Government Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, gave her strongest hint yet of change. 

Havelock North's gastro outbreak prompted a review of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater nationwide.

The estimated cost of ensuring drinking water is safe is $500 million, and to fix water infrastructure, at least $2 billion. 

"The Government doesn't have a bottomless pit of money to throw at this," Ms Mahuta said.

But water won't be privatised. Instead, services are likely to be moved into a national water regulator and responsibility for water service stripped from the 67 councils and handed to a small number of entities.

Water NZ chief executive John Pfahlert said that would mean "you get better quality water and it doesn't cost as much to provide". 

But change for the water industry is unlikely to be without controversy.

Any change is likely to see authority over water taken away from local councils, and Local Government New Zealand will not be happy about that.

"We would have issues if it was compulsory because we believe bigger is not always better. New Zealand is incredibly diverse from the Far North to the Deep South," said Stuart Crosbie of Local Government NZ. 

Twenty per cent of drinking water is unsafe - so a national agency is likely to mean more chlorination.

"It's there for a good public health reason. So it'll take time for the communities like Christchurch and Geraldine and other parts of New Zealand which have traditionally not had treated water, to get their head around that," Mr Pfahlert said.

Back in Hawke's Bay, the health board is studying the long-term impacts of the campylobacter outbreak.

John Buckley's family believe he could be the fifth victim of Havelock North's gastro outbreak.

The 78-year-old died three weeks ago of a stroke, but prior to the crisis, they say he'd been healthy.

"He's spent a lot of time in hospital. He's had a lot of unexpected surgeries and bleeds and heart problems, kidney problems, all due to the campylobacter," said Kat Sheridan, Mr Buckley's daughter.

Ms Sheridan says the family wishes, "you can turn your tap on again and trustfully drink the water. Surely that's all we want".

Before any changes can happen Cabinet will need to approve the recommendations made in the review of water management. 

It comes after Havelock North's gastro crisis was a wake-up call for New Zealand. Source: 1 NEWS

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Massey University's Vice Chancellor faces reprimand from colleagues over handling of Don Brash debate debacle

Massey University’s Vice Chancellor is facing reprimand from her colleagues over her handling of the Don Brash debate debacle.

At the October meeting of the Massey University Academic Board, two motions to censure Vice Chancellor Jan Thomas will be debated, after she banned Don Brash from speaking on campus.

They relate to her decision to cancel the Don Brash event, and for the process of decision making revealed in today’s Official Information Act (OIA) release.

Massey University vice-chancellor Jan Thomas and Don Brash Source: rnz.co.nz

"I think it’s safe to say there's a proportion of staff who aren't happy with how things have proceeded," Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor, Chris Gallivan told Newstalk ZB.

If the motions are passed, they won’t have much more effect than to register staff's disapproval of the way Prof Thomas handled the affair.

"The University Council is the Vice Chancellor's boss. It will be for the University Council to deal with this as they so wish, it’s not up to the Academic Board," Prof Gallivan says.

The University Council has been approached for comment by 1 NEWS.

But the former National Party leader is calling on the university's Vice Chancellor to resign. Source: 1 NEWS

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Versions of synthetic cannabis in New Zealand up to 10 times stronger than strain that saw US 'zombie outbreak'

Experts are warning there are deadlier versions of synthetic cannabis available in New Zealand which are much more potent than the one which caused the so-called zombie outbreaks in the US.

The Government's been told two deadly types of synthetic cannabis are so potent they should be classified as class A drugs.

One of these drugs has been linked to a well-known case that rocked the United States in 2016.

"The concentrations we're seeing in New Zealand are much more potent than what we saw in the Zombie outbreak in New York," Health Minister David Clark says.

In some instances, the drugs found here were 10 times stronger.

The news comes after synthetic cannabis was linked to the deaths of at least 45 people since June 2017.

"I don't think we ever anticipated we'd get new synthetic drugs that would lead to so much harm," Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell told 1 NEWS.

Synthetic cannabis is already illegal - but the maximum punishment for dealers is two years in prison.

Making synthetic cannabis a class A drug would put it alongside methamphetamine, cocaine, magic mushrooms and lsd.

This would mean the police would have more power and the penalties would be significantly tougher for dealers and users.

The Government says it will make a decision on synthetic drugs in the coming weeks.

They're calling for the drug to be classified as Class A – the most harmful and dangerous. Source: 1 NEWS


Rihanna asks for Jacinda Ardern's help in tweet - 'Its been a big year for you'

Popstar and fashionista Rihanna has reached out on Twitter to try and enlist the help of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for one of the singer's charitable causes.

Rihanna started out by congratulating the PM before asking for help. 

"Kia ora @jacindaardern! It's been a big year for you & NZ - congrats!

"I hope you & @MFATgovtNZ agree that educating every child can change the world!" the singer wrote before linking to the Clara Lionel Foundation which she started in 2012.

The tweet also contained a link to a piece Rihanna wrote for The Guardian yesterday, calling for more support for young students in developing countries. 

Rihanna and Jacinda Ardern. Source: Associated Press