'I'm not going to get into a theological debate' - Jack Tame grills PM on changing views on gay marriage

The new Prime Minister happily attended yesterday's Big Gay Out, but previously voted against same-sex marriage. Source: Breakfast

Good news! No new whale strandings reported on Farewell Spit, Project Jonah scaling back operation

There appears to have been no more whale strandings at Farewell Spit, at the top of the South Island.

Hundreds of pilot whales died after the strandings in Golden Bay over the weekend, while a smaller number were refloated with the help of officials and volunteers.

The Department of Conservation has given the all clear, saying they were not able to spot any whales remaining in the bay.

DOC biodiversity ranger Amanda Harvey said Farewell Spit and nearby beaches had been checked and there was no whales to be seen.

It appears that the pods of whales who over the last three days have continuously stranded have finally managed to leave the bay and head out to the safety of deep water in Cook Strait.

Project Jonah says it's winding down its operation. 

The dead whales will be left to decompose.

A pod of 17 whales refloated at Farewell Spit this morning now appear headed towards the safety of Cook Strait. Source: 1 NEWS

Rotorua's Timoti Bramley performed a karakia, saying it was important to him because of the spiritual and ancestral connection he has to the whales. Source: 1 NEWS

Volunteers are in a race with time to make sure whales don't re-strand at Farewell Spit as low tide approaches. Source: 1 NEWS

After days of misery in Golden Bay, it appears the worst of the mass stranding may be over. Source: Breakfast


Huntly Muslim abuse incident highlights our law's ineffectiveness in dealing with racist attacks - law expert

A leading constitutional law expert says New Zealand's laws need to be overhauled in the wake an ugly incident of racial abuse filmed in Waikato that was directed at a Muslim-New Zealand woman.

Video of the Huntly incident, published on social media on Saturday, shows a woman verbally abusing Mehpara Khan and her two friends. They were all wearing hijabs.

As soon as the group of friends reached Auckland they went to the Manukau Police Station to report the incident. 

The Prime Minister says most Kiwis have a fair and tolerant attitude, and the incident isn't typical of NZ. Source: Breakfast

"We have to acknowledge that these things go on particularly for people who are visually diverse," law expert Mai Chen told TVNZ's Breakfast today.

Ms Chen says prosecutions for racial discrimination in New Zealand "hardly ever happen".

"If you could argue this is racial discrimination … then you can get people for racial harassment and incitement," she says.

"But the trouble is you need to get the Attorney General to approve such prosecutions and that's rare. It's hardly ever happened."

Ms Chen says the Bill of Rights talks about freedom of expression but also talks of "the right to be free of discrimination, the right of minorities, the right to be able to manifest your religion.

Bill English condemns incident

Prime Minister condemned the incident on Breakfast today saying: " It's awful, it shouldn't happen, people should feel safe here from that kind of harrassment".

But Mr English says he believes New Zealand is a fair and tolerant society.

"We need to make sure we don't generalise from other tension and conflict we see around the world to assume it happens here all the time."

"Generally New Zealanders have a fair and tolerant attitude.

"We are one of the more diverse countries in the world … we've learned a bit from our own history."

Reaction to ugly incident 'very positive'

Thousands of people have viewed the video and there have been hundreds of comments in support of Ms Khan, which Ms Chen says is "very positive".

"I think what happened was hugely important and very positive," she says.

"The reality is that very serious racism happens a lot.

"The question is that when it happened this time the police said 'this is absolutely not on we are going to prosecute', the Prime Minister said 'no this is not on'".

"I think this is very positive that there has been an outpouring that says that this frankly is not acceptable."

Ms Chen's advice for people who experience racial abuse: "You should do something about it, you shouldn't just stay quiet".

Mai Chen says prosecutions for racial abuse needs be approved by the Attorney General and such cases are rare. Source: Breakfast