'It's my way of saying thank you' - Auckland's ex-homeless pitching in at the City Mission

Kevan Gill was given a roof over his head through the Auckland City Mission after a year of rough sleeping, but says their greatest help was talking about his troubles with dignity.

To repay them, Kevan gave the one thing he says he has - his time.

He volunteered at their Hobson St base everyday that was required during the mission's Christmas drive, doing whatever his body would allow following a crippling work injury over 20 years ago.

"This is my way of saying thank you to the mission for helping me when I was out there," Kevan says.

"It's my way of giving back, I can't afford donation or anything like that, apart from donate my time, you know, help out.

Kevan is one of a handful of people so grateful for the aid the Auckland City Mission personally gave them over the years, and insisted on volunteering over Christmas.

And the sense of gratitude is strong.

"Government departments look at you, and they're just going through the pace, you know they're going through the motions, whereas the staff here, the social workers here, they listen and they know the avenues to take and to help you go down that path.

"They've seen it, we're not here to bleat and moan, and get this and that out of any government department. Just what we're entitled to and a better way of life you know.

"That's what we strive for and the mission just keeps your momentum up there, or self-esteem, keeps it up there, they don't drop you like I feel a government department does, they sort of lower your self-esteem, whereas the mission keeps you up there mate, keeps you full of spirits eh, that's the only way I can see it."

And with demand for the Auckland City Mission this past Christmas at a record high, Kevan's own story is one many fellow recipients could relate to.

He found himself homeless for the first time at the age of 53.

Following a protracted legal case in 2014, during which he was placed in remand for five months, Kevan lost the Housing NZ accommodation he had held for decades.

A fall at sea on a deep sea trawler in 1991 left him with a serious back injury, and having suffered two prolapses, he has been practically unable to work ever since.

Doctors could not sign him off to either go back to sea, or to drive a truck for which he was also qualified.

Kevan was found not guilty on all charges from his 2014 court case, but the relief was short lived, as he immediately found himself on the street with few options.

"Found not guilty and then out on the streets, because I had nowhere to go to," Kevan says.

"I've always been a loner sort of thing, I don't run to family.

"I've got a mother that's not too healthy. The lawyers tried ringing for 45 minutes for emergency housing and they couldn't get anywhere."

The next 12 months for Kevan, from October 2014, were spent rough sleeping in Auckland CBD.

The experience was not something he ever got used to.

"Oh round the courthouse, anywhere sort of out of public, I was always up before the buses came, moved on. I just didn't like to get in the public's way," Kevan says.

"It's not out of sight, out of mind sort of thing it's just 'I'm here but I don't need to advertise I'm here', you get what I mean.

"It's different, I've never, how can I put it, it's a lot different from camping, put it that way, I used to enjoy camping."

But the greatest trial was not having a place where his family could visit him.

"I could sleep under a tree of whatever mate, but the hardest thing was not having a place where your children could come, you know, 'come visit dad'," Kevan says.

"My children are a big part of my life, and I want them to come see me whenever they want to visit me. But when your on the street it's quite hard to do that."

Having moved into a one bedroom apartment in October 2015 in City Rd, central Auckland, Kevan attributes his reprieve off the street to new Housing NZ accommodation directly to the persistence of social workers at the Auckland City Mission.

"Yes, they were keeping on the phone to Housing NZ," Kevan says.

"I got rehoused, got given an apartment, but that was social workers at the mission helping me and all that, and they're brilliant, they do a lot.

"It was brilliant mate, I had a place where my daughter could come see me and my son, my door is always open to them.

Auckland City Mission team leader of fundraising Alexis Sawyers says the commitment of Kevan and the other housing recipients to the mission Christmas appeal is touching.

"They're the first ones to get here and they're the last ones to leave," Alexis says.

"There's a couple of them that get here at like 6.30am and leave at 8.00pm. The mission is their whanau, that's how it is, and that's why our homeless services run every day of the year regardless of what we're doing.

"But people who do get housed do give back how they can and I think it's just really lovely."

Despite the mission's Christmas appeal being over for another year, the need for resources and funds does not stop, and people are still free to donate at any time through their website here.

Having experienced it first hand, Kevan doesn't hold back in his concern for the state of Auckland's homeless going forward.

"It is hard times, what you see out the front, they're not just homeless, it's just hard times mate," he says.

"I think are we becoming a third world country or something, it's the only way I can think of it, I've never seen so many people in need in my life mate.

"The only way to describe it as a New Zealander is it's sad. What's going to happen five, 10 years down the track?

"Because all I've heard over the years is talk, talk, talk."

Kevan Gill was rough sleeping for 12 months before the Auckland City Mission stepped in, and to repay them he’s volunteered over Christmas. Source: 1 NEWS

Young NZ fur seal found with fishing line round neck is treated at Auckland Zoo

A young New Zealand fur seal is being treated for infection at Auckland Zoo after being found slumped on a rock ledge at Piha with discarded fishing line around its neck.

A young woman had spotted the injured seal and Department of Conservation rangers responded, DOC ranger Gabrielle Goodin told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp.

"Literally when we got out there I saw the seal and it was over this little rock ledge and I thought it was dead," Ms Goodin said.

Auckland Zoo vet Lydia Uddstrom said the fishing line has no give, so as the seal grows with it around the neck, the line cuts deeper and deeper.

"It's not a simple matter of cut the nylon off and just chuck him back out and good luck to you. It's really that follow up and making sure that we can control any infection," Ms Uddstrom said.

The vets work in silence, trying to keep the young seal as calm as possible while treating it at the zoo.

The case is a reminder of how a little piece of human waste can cause such pain to an innocent victim.

Fur seals are a conservation success story, with their numbers up.

But so is human interaction with them.

"We have a high population in Auckland, so it's managing that success. How can we make sure we still see a lot of seals, people are interacting with them properly and we can keep them from being injured from things like fishing lines," Ms Goodin said. 

Things are looking good for the young fur seal which has been showing improvement.

"We are hopeful that if we can get on top of this infection and everything else that's going on, he should be able to get out there where he belongs," Ms Uddstrom said.

Seven Sharp’s Lucas de Jong visited the mammal at the zoo. Source: Seven Sharp


John Armstrong: As Labour fast loses the plot, Sunday's moment of coalition unity was priceless

There’s no show without punch, and although Winston Peters did not say much, he said enough. Unlike the Prime Minister who was something of a disappointment.

Last Sunday’s carefully stage-managed display of unity by Jacinda Ardern and her deputy was not so much a case of fake news as one of fabricated news.

It was somehow befitting of the barmy politics emanating daily from the Government benches in Parliament that the coalition Government should half-celebrate its 12-month birthday having been in the job for just on 11 months.

A carefully-chosen audience was corralled on Auckland’s AUT campus to hear — or rather endure — Ardern taking close to half-an-hour to spell out her Government’s 12 priorities.

1 NEWS' Jessica Mutch and Benedict Collins give their opinions of the Acting Prime Minister who ran the country during Jacinda Ardern’s maternity leave.
Winston Peters. Source: 1 NEWS

Admittedly, it is difficult to inject excitement into a discussion of the virtues of intended alterations to the structure of the various Cabinet committees which meet weekly in the Beehive.

But one further priority would be finding a new speech writer for the Prime Minister before someone falls asleep and drowns in the verbiage. Or simply dies of boredom.

The said wordsmith's job is probably safe, however. The strict instruction from upon high would have been not to include the merest morsel of anything that those listening might find interesting — and which would detract from the whole purpose of the occasion, specifically the need for the Government to project an image as rock solid unified.

The political pantomime had one overriding objective — convincing an increasingly sceptical public that although Ardern and Peters might not always be on the same page, they are still capable of trading smiles on the same platform after 11 months of jostling one another.

While the Labour-New Zealand coalition has witnessed sporadic bouts of internal guerrilla warfare in recent times and principally on New Zealand First’s part, it is vastly over-dramatising things to suggest this so far occasional rebellion could become full-blown civil war.

So there was no chance of Peters going AWOL last Sunday. It would, however, have helped the coalition’s cause considerably had he uttered the immortal words "of course she's driving the car" during the earlier stages of the developing friction between the partners in Government. He was unwilling on Sunday to stretch the metaphor any further. But when it comes to back-seat driving or driving backwards, Peters is a master.

He has not taken on board any perceivable role as a back-room fixer for the coalition despite such a role having the capacity to alleviate some of the huge pressures weighing on Ardern’s shoulders.

He has instead exploited her inexperience as Labour’s leader and the fact that she spreads herself thin to bolster his party’s leverage within the coalition.

It is such game-play good that threatens the Government’s stability. It is not so much that the partners might clash over policy. As Ardern repeatedly notes, the coalition comprises three parties. There is always going to be disagreement over policy.

What matters is how such disputes are handled by the respective party leaderships - John Armstrong

What matters is how such disputes are handled by the respective party leaderships; whether, to use the parlance, they act on the basis of good faith and no surprises.

Ardern’s response to suggestions of disunity is to pretend there is none when she is so questioned. That is not credible.

She has now sought to brush off those claims made by her opponents by creating a distraction through repackaging her party’s priorities and relaunching them as a "coalition blueprint" under the title of Our Plan.

It would not have taken Labour’s spin-doctors long to dream up that title. It is the exact same one as used by National during the John Key-Bill English years in their similar quest to turn New Zealand into Utopia.

The only difference between Labour’s and National’s respective efforts was that Key was dismissive of such "vision documents". They might be useful in listing goals. They rarely provide detail of the means to be adopted to reach those goals. The day-to-day pressures of political life inevitably result in the prime minister of the day focusing heavily on short-term political management. Concentrating on the long-term can always be postponed to another day.

National’s various versions of vision have accordingly sunk without trace. That experience would have been a factor in Simon Bridges’ acidic observation that there was nothing in the long list of platitudes, banalities and truisms in Ardern’s blueprint which he would find hard to swallow. He isn’t wrong.

The producers of Ardern’s massive missive may have feared the same fate awaits their product as afflicted National’s equally turgid equivalent, creation.

That hurts. But Bridges is making the pertinent point that Ardern’s claim that her plan amounts to a "shared vision" of the three parties in her governing arrangement is utterly meaningless.

All it says is that the three-party grouping stretches so far across the political system that National can be accommodated with room to spare.

That makes it hard to keep the whole show on the road at the best of times.

With ministers falling like nine-pins, bureaucrats thinking nothing of splashing out $1.5 million on a justice policy summit and private consultants growing fat on the tidy sums to be made from servicing the plethora of working parties and task forces doing the work that career public servants are arguably better left to do, Labour is fast losing the plot.

But never mind. Ardern and her colleagues got what they wanted. That was a minute or two of coalition unity at the top of the six o’clock news. Given Labour’s growing malaise, that’s priceless.

The Prime Minister gave details of the Government plan during a speech in Auckland. Source: 1 NEWS


Man arrested after fatal stabbing in Upper Hutt

A man has been arrested following a man's death in Upper Hutt this afternoon after being stabbed.

Police have launched a homicide investigation.

Emergency services were called a scene on Golders Road in Upper Hutt shortly after 4:30pm and despite their best efforts to revive the victim, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police arrested a male nearby the scene of the assault and are currently speaking with him.

"There is not thought to be any risk to the public at this time, however the Police investigation into what happened continues," Detective Senior Sergeant Martin said.

Police car Source: 1 NEWS

The Hastings' Four Square that sold four winning first division Lotto tickets

Hastings was the lucky home to four winning first division Lotto tickets last night.

Flaxmere's Scott Drive Four Square was the winning shop and TVNZ1's Seven Sharp meet with the owner.

"We have five first division winners in Flaxmere, and we have got four of them," owner Becky Gee said.

"Usually one shop gets one but one shop got four, unbelievable."

Last night there were 40 first division winners, who each get $25,000.

Ms Gee says she doesn’t know who the winners were yet, but says hopefully she’ll find out soon.

"Hopefully it’ll go to people who need it, to pay a lot of bills."

Lotto confirmed that one person purchased four of the winning tickets, which means they take home $100,000.

It turns out Scott Drive Four Square is where to buy a winning ticket. Source: Seven Sharp