National's Gerry Brownlee accused of 'phone bullying' after conversation with junior staff member at law firm
Allegations of phone bullying are being levelled at National MP Gerry Brownlee after a conversation he had with a junior staff member about a steel mesh class action.
However, the MP for Ilam in Christchurch strongly denies what he calls "outrageous accusations".
Mr Brownlee says he was just doing his job raising questions about the class action with a law firm, prompted by a letter placed in the mailboxes of his constituents.
Adina Thorn says a junior staff member at her firm was left so upset by Mr Brownlee’s 17 minute phone call that she had to go home.
"My office received a telephone call from a gentleman who didn't provide a name but then proceeded to ask a copious number of questions was aggressive, bordering on irrational and showed no respect for the steel mesh victims in the debacle," Ms Thorn said.
Ms Thorn said at the end of the call the man identified himself as National MP Gerry Brownlee.
Mr Brownlee’s version of events is in stark contrast to the account.
"I wasn't angry, and I wasn't aggressive. I represent a constituency where there's been a lot of new houses built in the period that they're talking about and I was actually worried about people receiving a letter that could create quite a bit of alarm for them," Mr Brownlee told 1 NEWS.
His call was prompted by a letter encouraging owners of new Christchurch builds to allow the law firm to investigate if they have non-compliant steel in their homes, after three mesh companies were found guilty of selling the product.
The law firm used a public relations company to complain to National leader Simon Bridges' office about the call and are awaiting a response.
Man with Down syndrome appeals to MPs, wants early access to KiwiSaver to visit brother and best friend overseas
"I want to do more", Tim Fairhall, a 39-year-old man who has Down syndrome, told MPs as he appealed for access to his KiwiSaver funds before age 65.
He spoke to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee about his goal to visit his brother and friend overseas while he was still in good health.
"I won't live as long as most people," Mr Fairhall said. "It doesn't matter how long you live, as long as you make the most of your life."
Tim Fairhall had been working at Countdown for 14 years, and recently starred in a video made by the Retirement Commissioner's office to champion his case for early access to his KiwiSaver funds.
The money Mr Fairhall needs to travel with his mother is locked up in KiwiSaver until he turns 65, but Down syndrome means he is ageing faster than most.
He said his goal was to see his brother in Italy and his best friend in Canada.
"I have saved my money to do that.
"I have done lots of cool things in my life so far, and I want to do more."
His mother, Joan Fairhall, said her son and other people with Down syndrome had their savings "trapped" if it was invested with KiwiSaver.
"I want you do consider whether the current legislation is unfair and indeed discriminatory, whether it kidnaps and holds on to, and uses the savings of people in this category, but there is just no mechanism for them to get it out and use it fairly for themselves."
She said previously, "If Tim survives till he's 65, and it's quite likely he will, he'll be a really old man then - the equivalent of about 90".
For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6.
Te reo not main priority for Māori trying to survive in regions - educator
Learning Te Reo Māori isn't the main priority for many Māori in Northland because they're too busy trying to survive, a Ngāpuhi educator says.
Evelyn Tobin is a strong advocate of Ngā Puhi reo and dialect but has seen the strength of Te Reo Māori in Northland diminish in recent years.
There are now fourth generation urban Māori who had lost connection to their homelands and marae, Ms Tobin said.
Ms Tobin believes there has been a passionate response by urban Māori to learn te reo.
But for many Māori in Northland, economic hardship may be preventing them taking up learning their own language, she said.
Ms Tobin highlights lack of employment, over-representation in social services and the building of a brand new prison in Ngāwha.
"My particular passion and commitment is in te reo - for many families there's a higher priority and it may be in fact as simple as to put bread and butter on their children's table at night."
Te Panekeritanga Māori school of Māori language excellence founder Sir Tīmoti Karetu said middle class educated Māori were another key group driving Te Reo Māori revitalisation.
"Part of ourselves is becoming a very middle class person of language - because it's the educators who are pushing out the boat.
"They also have the luxury of time and the economic luxury to indulge - the urban areas I think are much much stronger in their fight for the language than rural areas."
Mr Karetu said he never thought there would be a day where speaking te reo would be such a struggle.
"Because when I was younger you never heard English very much in the whole of the Tūhoe area."
- By John Boynton, Te Manu Korihi reporter
High number of Kiwis deported from Australia 'corrosive' to relationship
Australia's deportation of Kiwis has been "corrosive" to the trans-Tasman relationship, New Zealand's top diplomat in Australia has told a parliamentary committee in Canberra.
Appearing at the Australian government's Joint Standing Committee on Migration today, New Zealand High Commissioner Chris Seed criticised the legal processes around deporting long-term residents on character grounds and without convictions as "less than robust".
"We don't have an issue with deportation," he said.
"What we have a problem with is where they're deporting people who have effectively lived here for long periods of time ... who came here when they were two, who are essentially products of the Australian community or whose family are here."
He said tighter rules introduced in 2014 - combined with laws stripping New Zealanders of automatic residence status from 2001 - had seen the rate of Kiwis being deported increase seven-fold in three years, to the point they were being "disproportionately" penalised compared to other nationalities.
"Many of those consequences don't look like good public policy outcomes to us and they're having a corrosive impact on the otherwise strong relationship," he said.
New Zealand Foreign Affairs Ministers Winston Peters backed Mr Seed.
"We can't gild the lily here. It's a fact. Since 2001-2002, when our special relationship changed ... Things haven't been what they ought to be. But we're working positively on trying to improve that," he said.
New Zealand's coalition government has been vocal in its criticism of the deportations, with its justice minister, Andrew Little, and Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton trading barbs over the matter earlier in the year.
Mr Dutton said Australia did a lot of heavy lifting for New Zealand in terms of regional security and stopping boats, and has defended the sovereign right to deport people.