Kimberlee Downs at the border between North and South Korea: 'It was eerie and tense'

"These are tank drops, they're rigged with C-4 (explosive)".

That was the first sign we were getting close to the Korean border.

We'd driven under a structure you could mistake for a bridge, pillars on either side of the road.

"In the event North Korea were to invade and head south, we can blow these tank drops, the two concrete pillars will fall onto the road and block the paths of any oncoming tanks."

Add that to the barbed wire fences, the regular guard houses (every third one or so is manned), the multiple checkpoints.

My cameraman Richard and I had started the day in Seoul. 

It was quiet.

The lunar New Year meant the hustle and bustle was at a minimum. But otherwise it was still exactly as you imagine a big city to be. 

People drinking, eating, socialising, shopping. Taxi drivers keen to point out the City Hall, the ancient Gyeongbokgung Palace. 

A common guard house on the southern side of the border. Source: 1 NEWS

No hint that just a hour and a half drive's north is the world's most dangerous border.

We were going up with some New Zealand Defence Force personnel, to do a story on their roles at the DMZ. Those roles vary - communications, monitoring the border crossing, training soldiers and operations management - all aimed at ensuring the 65-year-old armistice isn't breached.

It was eventful.

There were the aforementioned tank drops. At one point a lieutenant pointed out where a land mine had claimed the legs of two South Korea soldiers in 2015 (North Korea is suspected of planting it, but it hasn't been confirmed).

At another Richard had to jump out of the car to sort out a camera issue.

"Don't go off the road" he was warned. There are millions of land mines in this area. Leaving the tarseal is a risk you don't want to take.

Richard Postles and correspondent Kimberlee Downs in an office in the Joint Security Area in the heart of the DMZ. You can see North Korea out the window. Source: 1 NEWS

When we arrived in the DMZ filing limitations were put on us. They don't want the North Koreans to be able to get a look at certain South Korean defences, or the locations of their bases.

We were shown where representatives can meet and negotiate, and came within 10 metres of the exceptionally ordinary plain white stakes that marked the demarcation line between the countries.

We were shown how those stationed at the UN Command post - including a New Zealander - contacted the North.

It's an eyebrow-raising system of calling, getting no answer, going to the demarcation line and shouting the message, getting no answer, calling again, getting no answer. 

Eventually the north sends down a cameraman to the border, and films the message as its read out.

Here you have to be careful - you don't want to end up able to be used on a North Korean propaganda video.

View from 'The Shack' in the Joint Security Area. Around 10m from the window you can see some white stakes. They mark the official demarcation line between North and South Korea. Source: 1 NEWS

It was eerie. And tense. It's always tense.

Because it was a public holiday, there weren't as many guards present as normal, no tourists (it's a huge attraction, the Southern side of the DMZ gets around 125,000 tourists per year), and propaganda wasn't blaring from the North's speakers like it often is.

Just a group of Kiwis and the odd American, chatting about Kim Jong Un, political tensions, home… 10 metres away from a reclusive country run by a tyrannical regime, which is responsible for heightening nuclear tensions around the world.

We talked about the North Korean soldier who'd defected not far from where we were standing. He was shot multiple times as he made his escape, within metres of a hut labelled the 'Peace House'.

The defector survived.

He now has to be integrated into a society vastly different from the one he risked death to get away from.

Cameraman Richard by a sign for The World’s Most Dangerous Golf Hole at the UN’s Camp Bonifas. You can’t retrieve balls due to the land mines. Source: 1 NEWS

One that can seem so far removed, even when it's scarily close.

North and South Korea might be united at the Winter Olympics but the tense border is still tightly controlled. Source: 1 NEWS



Man, 25, charged with murder over death of eight-month-old girl in 2016

A man has been charged with the murder of an eight-month-old girl in Whanganui in 2016.

Police say the 25-year-old man appeared in Masterton District Court today and has been remanded in custody.

Bella Richardson died at a property in Whanganui on 7 November 2016.

Police say the accused was known but not related to her.

Justice Source: 1 NEWS

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Watch: Can you help? Black car takes off from West Auckland suburb after driver tries to grab woman

Police have released footage in the hopes it will help them find a man who grab a woman in West Auckland while she was walking down a street at night last week.

Detective Elizabeth Willis says the victim was walking towards Riversdale Road in Avondale on September 11 when she was followed by a man driving a black sedan between 8pm and 9:30pm.

The man, described as being possibly Māori or Pacific Island descent, in his 30s and around 175cm tall, yelled out to the victim before proceeding to park his car on Riversdale Road.

As the woman walked past, the suspect got out of his vehicle and grabbed her from behind but the victim managed to escape and hide until the man left the scene.

"This was a particularly frightening experience for the victim and we are very keen to hear from anyone who may have witnessed the incident or seen other suspicious behaviour in the area," Detective Willis said.

"If you have seen a vehicle or person matching this description behaving suspiciously, please call us immediately, even the smallest piece of information may prove valuable to help ensure this man is held to account for his actions."

People with information can contact Detective Willis from Avondale Police on (09) 820 5776 or anonymously provide information to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Police are hunting the man who was driving the car in Avondale, followed the woman and grabbed her from behind. Source: facebook.com/AucklandDistrictPolice

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Fence post through car's windshield comes extremely close to hitting driver's head in Waikato crash

A driver in the Waikato walked away "extremely lucky" as their newly purchased turbo-charged car went through a farm fence and over a cattle tunnel, according to police.

The owner felt a wooden fence post brush passed their face after it pierced the car's windscreen in the crash yesterday.

Constable John Keoghan from Waikato Police said the driver of the car only walked away with a sprained ankle.

Mr Keoghan said the driver and owner had only bought the car last Friday. They had saved up for a while to purchase the vehicle and it was their dream car.

They had never owned or operated a turbo, high performance vehicle before.

As they left Te Aroha the gears were changed at high revs on a slightly wet road. The back wheels spun out and control was lost.

Mr Keoghan wanted to share this story in the hope that it makes someone think twice and potentially save someones life "we can only try" he says in a Facebook post.


Fence post through car in Waikato.
Fence post through car in Waikato. Source: NZ Police


Watch: Phil Twyford slams Judith Collins' attitude to compo for Housing NZ tenants evicted under bogus meth testing

Housing Minister Phil Twyford has hit back at hardline questions from National MP Judith Collins about today's decision by Housing New Zealand to compensate hundreds of tenants it evicted from state homes on the basis of bogus methamphetamine testing.

A report to the Minister found about 800 tenants suffered as a result of Housing New Zealand's policy of evicting tenants for using P or allowing its use in their homes.

Affected tenants are expected to receive between $2500 and $3000 in compensation. 

In Parliament Ms Collins asked where meth testing showed residues exceeding standards, could this meth have gotten into the Housing New Zealand house any way other than smoking or baking the drug.

"No," Mr Twyford replied. "But there was no consistent baseline testing done in any Housing New Zealand houses over those years," he added. 

"There is no way of knowing whether the hundreds of people who were made homeless under this policy had any personal responsibility for the contamination of those houses. And frankly I'm shocked that the member, who used to be a lawyer, would think that that is ok. Is this the modern compassionate face of the National Party?"

Ms Collins then asked will people who smoked meth in Housing New Zealand houses now be given two to three thousand dollars compensation.

"The point of the compensation is to compensate people who wrongly had their tenancies terminated and their possessions destroyed and in some cases made homeless. Those are the people who will receive payment under the assistance programme," Mr Twyford replied.

Ms Collins asked will people who sold meth in Housing New Zealand houses now be given the compensation.

"No," Mr Twyford replied, to shouts from National MPs of "How would you know? How would you know?"

Earlier in the exchange, Ms Collins asked was the Minister saying it's wrong to end a tenancy when someone is using the house to break the law.

"We're saying that it's wrong to make innocent people homeless on the basis of bogus science and no decent evidence of responsibility or culpability," Mr Twyford responded. 

"Hundreds of people were made homeless under this policy, people that in some cases were vulnerable, people with addictions who were made homeless. The worse possible thing that you could do to someone who has an addiction is to make them homeless," he said.

Asked by Ms Collins is it acceptable for Housing New Zealand tenants to smoke methamphetamine in state houses, Mr Twyford said the Government does not condone the smoking of methamphetamine anywhere, but it is not acceptable for any government to throw tenants onto the street and make them homeless. 

"We recognise that making people homeless does not solve a tenant's problems or help someone overcome addiction. It just moves the problem to somewhere else and makes it worse for the person involved, for their family, their children, the community and the taxpayer," he said.

The Housing Minister defended the compensation decision against the National MP's hardline questions. Source: 1 NEWS