John Armstrong: Greens' cull was lame

The Greens' draft candidate list released last Sunday was like the outcome of a Night of the Plastic Knives.

Source: 1 NEWS

In the light of dawn, it became rather obvious that the pre-election culling of the party's political dead-wood had not been as extensive as the party would like voters to believe.

There was no blood on the floor. But that is Vegetarian Politics for you.

At least three of the party's current MPs would have been anticipating getting a much lower ranking than they enjoy now - one which would have effectively been a one-way ticket to political oblivion.

Co-leader James Shaw said the party is looking for renewal. Source: 1 NEWS

Their provisional new ranking leaves them still high enough up the list such that they could normally have a reasonable chance of making it back to Parliament.

The key word in the previous sentence is "normally". Things seem to be far from normal in the Greens' neck of the woods.

The party won plaudits from many quarters for the rejuvenation of its line-up via the revision of its list.

The list's release was also an exercise in papering over the cracks, however.

There was little recognition of the dilemma the party refuses to confront, and one which will not be solved by by installing a few fresh-faced 20 somethings in high-ranking slots on the list.

All the opinion polls have the Greens registering voter backing of around 10 per cent.

The party's worry is that its support has hit a ceiling. That might be the case for as long as the party is willing to only work with Labour.

Being prepared to work with either one of the two major parties could well boost support for the Greens as they would have far greater negotiating leverage.

The likes of Metiria Turei will not have a bar of such a notion, however.

Whichever way you look at it, the refusal by the Greens' co-leader and others to countenance a move to the centre is a strategic blunder.

The party is risking becoming irrelevant. More particularly, such an approach effectively puts hatred of National ahead of protection of the environment.

That is barmy. But then the words "Turei" and "liability" are no strangers to one another.

The Greens are currently enduring what may one day be described as the Turei Interegnum. That so far amounts to a two-year gap between Russel Norman's departure from politics and James Shaw, his replacement as male co-leader, having the clout to terminate the current bonkers politics which threatens to destroy the party's brand.

Turei's emergence from the shadow cast by Norman has been accompanied by a drastic shift in emphasis away from the party's paramount guiding principle of "ecological sustainability" to the strand pushing for "social justice".

Turei seems consumed with making war on National for failing to tackle child poverty, help the homeless and address other manifestations of inequality.

In doing so, she has opted to fight the coming election in territory which puts the Greens in direct competition with Labour.

That is not where votes reside for the Greens. Turei would dispute all that. But she cannot dispute the result of the recent Mt Albert byelection.

The thrashing Labour inflicted on its would-be ally indicates something is going seriously wrong.

The good news is that a potential saviour is at hand.

Shaw is coming into his own at exactly the right time. He defies every stereotype and prejudice which the Greens' enemies employ to belittle the party.

Turei is the party's past. Shaw symbolises the future.

His arrival on the national stage could well see him play the role that the theatre of election campaigns demands be filled by someone.That is the role of underdog made good in the face of extreme adversity.

The news media's increasingly simplistic approach to covering elections demands winners and losers. In the cut and thrust of an election campaign, it does not take much for possible contenders for either category to be singled out and their success or failure to become self-fulfilling prophecies.

For the Greens' sake, it will have to be hoped that Shaw can get on the kind of roll which fits that script.

The party will not want to contemplate what fate awaits it if he doesn't.

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NZ strawberry grower forks out $20,000 for security measures

An Auckland strawberry grower has forked out more than $20,000 for metal detectors, after needle-ridden strawberries were found in New Zealand.

On Sunday, three needles were found in one punnet of Western Australian strawberries at an Auckland supermarket.

It was still unclear where the needles came from.

Australia's strawberry contamination crisis comes just as New Zealand growers are about to put their fruit on the market.

The Zaberri Strawberry farm is just 20 minutes north of Auckland City.

A large silver tin shed sits at the entrance, that's the pack house, and 29 fields lined with rows of strawberry plants surround it.

The farm's owner, who goes by one name, Boman, has run the place for nine years.

In two weeks 150 of his workers will start the harvest.

"We pick [the strawberries] in the early hours of the morning, so ideally we try to have all of our fields picked before... midday, one o'clock and they'll be picked here, and scanned and sent to the packhouse," he said.

Police in Australia have been investigating more than 100 reports of contaminated fruit, many of which are believed to be hoaxes and copycat incidents.

And every Australian strawberry now has to pass through a metal detector before it can be exported.

The same regulations have not been imposed on the 150 New Zealand growers - but Boman was not taking any risks.

"So, we've invested in metal detectors, which will be installed here before our season starts and everything that's been picked and packed will be examined.

"We'll be adding additional surveillance cameras to capture everything that goes in and out of our cool stores," he said.

Despite spending more than $20,000 on the new security measures, Boman is certain the strawberry sabotage crisis won't happen here.

"Some might think that it's over the top, but I think it is better to be ready to ensure our industry is not put into a chaos like what's happened in Australia," he said.

It's a crucial time for strawberry growers - the harvest season has already started for some and it's about to start for others.

The Australian industry, worth about $AU130 million annually, was hit at the start of its season.

The scare prompted product recalls and forced growers to destroy their crops.

If the situation here reaches the same level, the $35m New Zealand industry will be hit hard, Boman said.

"It'll have a significant impact on our financial ability going forward, and not just for us, I think right across, from the growers mainly, retailers will be affected and there will be many employees.

"We've got people here whose whole family relies on them."

The maximum penalty for contaminating food in New Zealand is ten years' imprisonment.

By Katie Scotcher

rnz.co.nz

Strawberry grower Boman
Strawberry grower Boman. Source: rnz.co.nz

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All Blacks legend Richie McCaw shares his top tips for success with young leaders

There's no question that plenty of kids look up to Richie McCaw and dream of the kind of success he's had.

So, you can imagine how stoked 800 odd secondary students were today when the man himself shared his own leadership lessons at the Kids with Character Empower Me Leadership seminar in Auckland.

TVNZ1's Seven Sharp asked him what his top tips were for kids.

Tip 1:

"The first one that I really live by is that you can't go past hard work, if you think it's going to be easy, if you achieve it when it's easy you're probably not going to get the satisfaction of what it's all about."

Tip 2:

"Attention to detail, understanding of what it takes as not everyone knows, asking for advice or asking for help from people around you who can see things from a different way."

Tip 3:

"You got to have that drive. It's not someone telling you that you've got to work hard, you've got to really want to do it yourself and I think the people who have that are the most successful."

All advice that will help McCaw in perhaps his biggest challenge of all, becoming a dad.

McCaw spoke at the Character Empower Me Leadership seminar in Auckland. Source: Seven Sharp


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More than 200 people report adverse reactions to recently-funded antidepressant

Concern is mounting over a recently funded antidepressant, with a growing number of patients reporting life-threatening side-effects. 

Pharmac's switch to funding Enlafax a year ago saves the drug buying agency $5.4 million a year. 

It expected around 1 per cent of the 45,000 patients taking it could experience adverse reactions because of the brand switch. That's about 450 people. 

While complaints now stand at over 240 and climbing, support groups say the number of people suffering is far higher. 

In a small Bay of Plenty town, one highly experienced GP, Dr Christine Williams, is grappling with the problem.  

"I've seen people that had gambling addictions return to gambling and lose their jobs. I've seen marriages break down," Dr Williams told 1 NEWS. 

She says this patent behaviour is all linked to the generic antidepressant Enlafax.

"With this particular group of patients I don't have any that are responding to it, not one." 

The symptoms of 12 patients are similar to those experienced hundreds of kilometres away by Amy in Marlborough.

"Within two weeks of starting Enlafax I was having nightmares and feeling depressed, thoughts of self harm and suicide," Amy said. 

Medsafe is standing by its decision to approve the drug which saw Effexor-XR replaced with the cheaper generic brand Enlafax.

It says the brand switch complies with international best practice and that tests show Enlafax has the same benefits and risks as Effexor-XR. 

"They don't switch to a generic without adequate research and investigation," Dr Jan White of the NZMA GP Council said. 

Dr White says she has seen no problems from Enlafax at her busy city practice. 

But complaints about Enlafax are piling up. The agency monitoring adverse reactions to drugs has now received more than 240 complaints, many identifying side-effects like severe depression and suicidal thoughts.  

And a Facebook page set up by patients with adverse reactions claims to have logged 450 negative responses to Enlafax. 

They're experiences like those of Amy who says her GP wanted to increase her dose when she became unwell.

The mother of two only learnt about negative side-effects in a 1 NEWS report three weeks ago. 

"I'm not sure if I would be here right now if I had waited and stayed on it," Amy said.

Dr Williams said: "I'm sure it's the tip of the iceberg."

And with the prospect of more vulnerable lives unravelling, Dr Williams says it's vital the previous brand Effexor-XR remains available. 

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.
Lifeline: 0800 543 354
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)
Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz
What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)
Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)
Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254
Healthline: 0800 611 116
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

Pharmac’s switch to Enlafax one year ago saves the drug buying agency $5.4million per year. Source: 1 NEWS


Mackenzie District pleading for financial help to cope with influx of tourists

One of the country's most picturesque tourist destinations is pleading for financial help to cope with a massive influx of visitors.

The Mackenzie District Council has applied for a grant from the provincial growth fund to pay for a feasibility study in Tekapo.

The stunning views see 4000 people visit Tekapo every day.

Its popularity has led to rapid expansion, with five hotels seeking consent to build and new subdivisions filling up fast.

"With the problems that Queenstown has had, we think we've got a lot to learn," Mackenzie District Mayor Graham Smith told 1 NEWS.

The council's applied for $800,000 from the Provincial Growth Fund to help with future planning.

It’s applied for a grant from the Provincial Growth Fund. Source: 1 NEWS