Government pays $107k to retract chief technology officer job offer to entrepreneur Derek Handley

Derek Handley says an offer of chief technology officer position has been retracted by the Government and he has received a three-month pay out. 

In a statement, Mr Handley wrote he had accepted the role a month ago but was informed this week "the Government will no longer follow through with their commitment and will not be making that appointment at this time".

"Given the unnecessary and sustained lack of transparency around the process and building pressure to rethink the approach, their decision to stop the process is understandable," he said.

The chief technology officer was intended to "drive a forward-looking digital agenda for New Zealand", said former Minister for Government Digital Services Clare Curran, when the role was announced last December. 

Mr Handley had returned to live in Auckland last weekend for the role, after living in New York for 10 years. 

"As the Government has now terminated my contract I have been offered a settlement payment as per the contract," he said. "The amount equates to three months pay plus reimbursement of my costs.

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"My family and I have decided not to accept the settlement money personally and instead donate the net proceeds towards a fund that supports ideas, programmes and grants that seek to tackle this societal issue in creative ways. I welcome collaboration from all communities on how we may do that."

The new Minister for Government Digital Services Megan Woods said the Government have put a “full stop” on the process of CTO.

She confirmed Mr Handley would be paid $107,500.

“As the new Minister I have asked officials to review the CTO role and provide advice on the best ways to drive a forward-looking digital agenda for New Zealand,” she said. 

It comes after MP Clare Curran was stripped of her position as Minister for Government Digital Services after not disclosing a meeting with Mr Handley previously.

Derek Handley says he’ll donate the compensation but is disappointed at the way the issue was handled. Source: 1 NEWS



Russians accused of poisoning ex-spy and his daughter say they were in UK as tourists

The two Russian men spun an unlikely tale of hapless tourists defeated by grim British weather: They traveled more than 1609 kilometres to see England's famed Salisbury Cathedral but were turned back by slush and snow, then returned the next day and spent two hours exploring the "beautiful" city.

British officials had a more sinister explanation: Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov were highly trained military intelligence agents sent by the Kremlin to Salisbury to smear a deadly nerve agent on the front door of a former Russian spy.

Petrov and Boshirov, both charged in absentia by Britain last week for trying to kill Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, with the nerve agent Novichok, went on the Kremlin-funded RT satellite channel today to proclaim their innocence, deny they were agents of the military intelligence service widely known as the GRU, and say they were merely tourists in the city southwest of London.

"Our friends had been suggesting for quite a long time that we visit this wonderful city," Petrov said in the interview.

The pair appeared on a state television channel, claiming they weren’t behind a nerve agent outrage. Source: BBC

"They have a famous cathedral there," Boshirov said, adding studiously: "It is famous for its 123-meter spire."

James Slack, spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May, derided their claims as "lies and blatant fabrications".

"More importantly, they are deeply offensive to the victims and loved ones of this horrific attack," he said.

Britain said the attack was almost certainly approved "at a senior level of the Russian state," an allegation that Moscow has vehemently denied.

Mr Skripal, a Russian military intelligence officer turned double agent for Britain, and his visiting daughter fell ill March 4 from what Britain says was a Soviet-developed nerve agent; an investigating police officer also was hospitalized for about three weeks. In June, two area residents who apparently came across a discarded vial that contained the poison fell ill, and one of them died.

Britain identified the Russian suspects last week and released security-camera photos of them in Salisbury on March 3 and 4.

The surprise TV appearance by Petrov and Boshirov came a day after President Vladimir Putin said Russian authorities know the identities of the two men but insisted that they were civilians and there is "nothing criminal" about them. He urged them to contact the media, and Petrov said he heard Putin's statement on the radio and contacted Margarita Simonyan, RT's editor-in-chief who conducted the interview.

Petrov said that on their first trip to Salisbury, they were unable to make it from the train station to the cathedral — about 800 meters — because of snow and slush. Much of Britain suffered such weather that day.

The weather was better the next day, when the two were caught on camera at the Salisbury rail station at 11.48am. Ten minutes later, another camera found them walking in the direction of Mr Skripal's house — the opposite direction from the cathedral.

They again were recorded in the centre of town an hour later and were at the station by 1.50pm, two hours after arriving.

"We walked around, enjoying those beautiful English Gothic buildings," Boshirov said. They got a flight back to Russia later that evening.

The men, who appeared to be about 40, claimed they did not know who Mr Skripal was or where he lived.

Britain alleges the nerve agent used to poison the Skripals was carried in a perfume vial, which Boshirov dismissed by saying, "Don't you think it's kind of stupid for two straight men to carry perfume for ladies?"

He bristled when Ms Simonyan asked why the two men spent so much time together.

"Let's not breach anyone's privacy. We came to you for protection, but this is turning into some sort of interrogation," he said.

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They declined to give any other details about their lives, except to say they work in the nutritional supplements business.

"The whole situation is an incredible, fatal coincidence, and that's that," Petrov said. "What is our fault?"

Both men looked composed during the interview, but Boshirov said, "We fear for our lives."

Boshirov did not react to the interviewer's request to show the pictures they took on that trip, only saying that he found Salisbury Cathedral "very beautiful".

John Glen, the Parliament member for Salisbury, offered a wry comment about the pair's visit to his town, tweeting: "Delighted to see that Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov were able to see the world-class attractions that Salisbury has to offer. But very strange to come all this way for just two days while carrying Novichok in their luggage."

Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov say they travelled to England to see the Salisbury Cathedral but turned back due to bad weather. Source: Breakfast


Students at all-girls school in Southland protest absence of trades classes

Female students are calling for trades classes to be offered at their Southland all-girls school.

Currently, Southland Girls High School does not offer woodwork or metalwork programmes in their school curriculum, making it difficult for students interested in learning the trade to try their hand at the subject, Stuff reports.

Southland Girls High School principal Yvonne Browning said the school is "not adverse to (offering the classes) at all" but there are issues surrounding the school's ability to do so, including funding constraints, health and safety and staffing numbers.

Ms Browning said school isn't the only area to expose female students to the trades.

"I don't think you have to be at school to be able to do it," she said. "It's not imperative to do it at school."

However, Otago Girls' High School, which has been offering hard materials courses for over two decades, says the classes are popular among students.

"We see the skills the girls develop through hard materials technology as really enhancing their educational experience with critical thinking, creativity and communication key," said principal Linda Miller. 

Ministry of Education spokeswoman Pauline Cleaver said parents or caregivers can "provide feedback and input into their local school on the curriculum" and "should approach their school if they have concerns about their school's curriculum".

Unrecognizable manual worker using circular saw while cutting piece of wood at construction site. His colleagues are in the background.
Building site. (file image) Source: istock.com

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Historic sex abuse victim calls for sacking at prestigous St Bede's college in Christchurch

A sex abuse victim is calling for a prestigious Catholic school to sack its rector for not removing a teacher who sexually assaulted him years ago.

Peter Boock has complained to the board of trustees at St Bede's College in Christchurch, and to the Education Council, about the rector Justin Boyle.

Mr Boyle initiated an investigation of the teacher Robin Pettit in 2011, when Mr Boock first made a complaint.

Mr Pettit has admitted sexually assaulting Mr Boock in Dunedin in the late 1960s, when he was about 19 - and before Mr Pettit was a teacher - and the former a young teen.

Mr Pettit continued teaching at St Bede's after the complaint and investigation.

"I'm asking for the board of trustees to remove Justin Boyle," Mr Boock told RNZ.

"He, in 2011, carried on with a self-confessed child abuser in a senior teaching role, and enabled him to keep teaching the children. That's untenable."

St Bede's College, Christchurch. (Phil Pennington) Source: rnz.co.nz

The school board rejected that.

"St Bede's College categorically denies any claims that it failed to properly investigate a complaint about one of its teachers in 2011, which relate to events that took place between two people in the 1960s," board of trustees Chair Warren Johnstone said in a statement to RNZ

RNZ has heard the taped call in which Otago Daily Times reporter Chris Morris asked Robin Pettit for his response to Mr Boock's claim that he was abused by Mr Pettit as a young man in Otago.

The reporter asked Mr Pettit if he "attacked" Peter Boock when he was about 14 years old.

"Yep, yep, yep, yep, I did, yes, as you say, yes," Mr Pettit said on the tape. "I did.

"I did have a bad period there for a short time ... deeply regretful about that but ... I was quite glad when he actually approached me about it there back in 2011."

Mr Pettit told the Otago Daily Times' Chris Morris he had been informed by St Bede's that the reporter was looking into this. Asked if Peter Boock was "the only one", he said yes.

"As I said to Peter [Boock] and to Justin [Boyle], there's no excuse, but it was not a good period of my growing up life at all."

RNZ approached Mr Pettit this week. He said the Otago Daily Times story was "wrong" but would not say in what way, and then refused to comment further, saying the matter was with St Bede's lawyers.

Mr Pettit retired from St Bede's in 2015. In December 2016 he accompanied students to the New Zealand Secondary School National Athletics Champs.

The rector Justin Boyle refused come out of his office to talk to an RNZ reporter who visited St Bede's.

Mr Boock said over a course of nine months, in 1967-68, Mr Pettit assaulted him repeatedly, trying to masturbate him.

"I'm afraid there's no letting anyone off for sexual abuse ... it's never been anything else but a shocking crime against children," Mr Boock told RNZ.

"The fact that it's years later, and whether he's repeated or not repeated, is not the case for me. He ruined my young youth as I grew up and that's lived with me for 44 years. That's very hard to say it's OK, cos I won't and it's not."

Mr Boock, 64, is a trained social worker whose brother Stephen Boock played cricket for New Zealand.

He said Mr Boyle told him in 2011 that Mr Pettit had admitted the assaults when confronted with an affidavit from Mr Boock in 2011.

He had approached the rector after learning out of the blue that Mr Pettit was a teacher, working at St Bede's. At the time he was not well, and did not want the stress of the police and courts, he said.

Mr Boock admitted that in 2011 he had thanked the school for its investigation and for covering all the bases. But this could in no way be taken as a sign the school had investigated properly, he said, as he was traumatised back then, and took some years to recover, including from alcoholism.

Mr Pettit should never have been a teacher, and at the least should have resigned in 2011 when the school did not move to dismiss him, Mr Boock said.

His only aim in going public was to protect children by pushing for better laws for mandatory reporting of abuse and independent investigations of complaints, he said.

His complaint will be considered by the board on Monday next week.

The college was "deeply concerned about lack of due process in regards to the claims being made via the media", the board chair Warren Johnstone said.

"The College has and will always ensure that any complaint of misconduct is properly investigated and addressed, while respecting people's right to privacy and proper process."

The Network of Survivors of Abuse in Faith-based Institutions backed the call for Justin Boyle to step down.

Mr Boock said he would not have had to go public in this way if he felt confident the upcoming Royal Commission into historical abuse would have allowed him to raise the case, and have the school's response investigated.

By Phil Pennington

rnz.co.nz

Peter Boock has complained to the board of trustees at St Bede's College and the Education Council. (Phil Pennington) Source: rnz.co.nz


Ban 1080 activist denies killing native birds scattered across Parliament's steps by children - 'an act of theatre'

A Ban 1080 activist has denied killing any of the native birds that were scattered across Parliament's steps by children in a protest over the use of the pesticide.

Parliament's Speaker Trevor Mallard yesterday revealed five native birds were among those placed on the precinct - including two kererū which appear to have been bludgeoned to death.

He's laid a complaint with the police and the Department of Conservation (DOC). It is illegal to kill or possess native wildlife.

Department of Conservation staff say in the past month they've had their car tyres slashed and wheel nuts loosened. Source: 1 NEWS

One of the protest's leaders Alan Gurden told RNZ none of the creatures had been harmed by the protesters.

"They were dead creatures.... we're not the sort of people to go round killing birds to make a point."

The quail and weka were roadkill, but the other birds and mice had been collected from a 1080 drop-zone, he said.

"These animals were all killed from various methods but it certainly was not at the hand of us.... It was an act of theatre designed to show New Zealand what we put up with on the frontline."

He said the carcasses had been given to one of his friends to store after they were collected from drop-zones or from the roadside.

"I'm not going to divulge my source, but someone else brought those to the scene. They were laid on the steps by the children," Mr Gurden said.

"So technically I have never owned, or had in my possession, any native birds."

Mr Gurden refused to name his friend who stored the birds, but said there was "no way" he would have killed them.

"I've known him for quite a while. He's on the same cause as me and he has the same kaupapa as me," he said.

"There's no way he'd go out and kill birds to prove a point."

Mr Gurden said he had not been contacted by the police or DOC. In a statement, police said inquiries were ongoing.

Anti-1080 activists wielding placards and loudspeakers marched to Parliament over the weekend demanding an end to the use of the poison.

A vast array of conservation and farming organisations support the use of 1080, describing it is an effective pest control tool.

They include DOC, the Environmental Protection Agency, the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, and lobby groups like Federated Farmers and Forest and Bird.

- By Craig McCulloch

rnz.co.nz

Marama Davidson said New Zealand needs "community-led conversations" about the use of 1080. Source: 1 NEWS