Kiwi personnel in Iraq mission rack up military charges

Kiwi military personnel overseas have committed serious crimes, causing reputational damage and racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines in the past five years.

According to extensive documents obtained under the Official Information Act and analysed by 1 NEWS, almost 5000 charges have been laid in the military court against about 3750 NZDF personnel since the beginning of 2013 - almost 20 charges per week, on average.

About 250 of the charges were listed as being laid against personnel serving or stationed overseas, including 24 against personnel involved in the Iraq mission.

New Zealand Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short admitted the number of charges was "high".

Air Marshal Kevin Short said NZDF the behaviour has the potential to damage our reputation. Source: 1 NEWS

But Minister of Defence Ron Mark told 1 NEWS he was not overly concerned by the number of charges laid against personnel deployed in the mission, saying when he visited "everyone spoke very, very highly of our Defence Force personnel over there".

New Zealand in 2015 committed up to 143 NZDF personnel at a time to the joint Kiwi-Australian force at Camp Taji, where their mission is to train Iraqi security forces.

The Iraq charges include a 2016 incident where an NZDF member was convicted of recklessly driving a "mission critical protective vehicle".

Charge reports obtained by 1 NEWS show the offender was fined $2000 and made to write a letter of apology for reputational damage.

Last year, another serviceman in Taji was put in military prison for two weeks after being found guilty of recklessly firing a weapon.

FINES AND COMPENSATION

Overseas and at home, the NZDF imposed fines of about $665,000 during the five-year period, on average about $2500 per week, while compensation and reparation payments of almost $75,000 were also made by personnel, averaging about $280 per week.

New Zealand military personnel also faced a variety of charges over incidents in other countries, including Antarctica, Australia, the USA, Niue, England, Canada, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga and Singapore.

Not all the charges in the documents led to convictions and many relate to military discipline matters, but they are interspersed with many hundreds of crimes which also break civil laws.

Dr Paul Buchanan says any lack of discipline should be of great concern to the NZDF top brass. Source: 1 NEWS

'NZDF REPRESENTS NEW ZEALAND'

Former US intelligence and defence policy analyst Dr Paul Buchanan said it is not a good look for our military to be committing offences overseas.

"You have to remember, the NZDF represents New Zealand, not only in front of the Iraqis - the locals - but in front of the coalition partners," Dr Buchanan said.

"You have to have the utmost confidence of your allies, as well as the partner militaries you're helping to train.”

Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Short said of the number of charges against NZDF members involved in the Iraq mission: "It's higher than I thought it would be.

"Anything where our people aren't behaving as we expect can be not only damaging to the individual, but to us in the military, and our reputation with our friends and allies, so those sorts of things we do take very seriously."

Minister Ron Mark said that in terms of the overall number of charges over the past five years, it could seem high to those outside the NZDF because "people get charged in the military for things they may not get charged for [outside] ".

He said there are considerable stresses and strains placed on soldiers and added: "I know from my personal deployments - I spent six years in the Middle East - there are times when it hurts more.”

Mr Mark said Kiwi soldiers are largely respected by overseas military officers and that we are among the most disciplined in the world.

"We have a very proud reputation to live up to, and I think you'll find that in some cases discipline is handed out very quickly because we have a high standard to live up to that was laid down by our forebears."

He said the number of charges "was not being discussed" in regards to whether New Zealand will extend its mission in Iraq.

OVERSEAS INCIDENTS

In Antarctica, an NZDF member was confined to base for more than two weeks and ordered to pay $500 in compensation after damaging the historic Observation Hill Cross in 2015.

The nine-foot wooden cross was erected in 1913 to commemorate the deaths of British explorer Robert Falcon Scott and his party the year before.

In July of 2015, nine NZDF personnel stationed at Camp Mirage in Dubai were charged after being found with alcohol at Al Minhad Airbase - they received fines of up to $2300 each.

In Australia, an NZDF member was caught with class B drugs at Cairns International Airport in 2015 and was fined about $1300 - they paid in cash.

- Additional reporting by Simon Plumb, Katie Bradford and Andrew Macfarlane

The Chief of the Defence Force admits the number of charges is "high". Source: 1 NEWS



'My god she can run' - woman at centre of hilarious Kawakawa dog escape video says Lily is enjoying her 15 minutes of fame

A Bay of Islands woman told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp she is "never going to live this down" after footage of her rescue dog Lily dragging a bakery's flag down the main street of Kawakawa went viral around the globe.

CCTV footage of the freedom-seeking furball's runner — accompanied by Yakety Sax, the song made famous by the Benny Hill Show — has been viewed more than 500,000 times since it was posted to Facebook last night.

Lucie Green, a volunteer with Bay of Islands Animal Rescue, was taking the basset hound for a walk last week when she decided to stop at a local business to buy Lily a treat.

But the Basset Hound received a fright and bolted despite being tied to a large Coca-Cola flag forcing Lucie to give chase.

"For an animal with just little legs, my god she can run," Lucie told Seven Sharp.

Lily, Lucie and the rogue flag brought Kawakawa's State Highway 1 strip to a standstill, the whole escapade captured on CCTV.

"My partner owns a local CCTV company I got to the office and I told him what had happened.

"He didn't tell me he'd done it, but he edited footage and put the music on and uploaded it to Facebook and tagged me in it.

"I knew it was trouble when basically by the time we'd gone to bed last night it had hit 100,000 views," Lucie said.

Thousands of people have since commented on the video, with many of them admiring the dog’s spirit.

"I'm laughing my guts out it's so funny," wrote Facebook user Annie Hicks.

Lucie does see the funny side of events however.

"They say every dog has their day, so I guess Lily is enjoying her 15 mins of fame." 

Lily made a run for it when owner Lucie Green stopped at a shop in the Northland town. Source: Seven Sharp

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Tracking down New Plymouth youth MP candidates after Andrew Little's 'hip' appeal

Labour MP Andrew Little released a tongue in cheek video encouraging young people from New Plymouth to get involved in politics today.

The video inspired TVNZ1's Seven Sharp to travel to Mr Little's old school to find the perfect candidate for its new youth MP.

Judge for yourself if New Plymouth Boys' High students Thomas Foy and Jarrod Wilson have what it takes in the video above.

Tamati Rimene-Sproat is on the case after the Labour MP's piece of political theatre. Source: Seven Sharp

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Watch: Take a tour inside Kate Sheppard’s former house where suffragists worked to get women the right to vote

Suffragist Kate Sheppard's old house in Christchurch goes up for auction next month - so Seven Sharp host Hilary Barry took a tour.

Ms Sheppard was instrumental in gaining New Zealand women the right to vote in 1893. She carried out important work for the suffrage movement in the house during the late 19th Century.

Today saw celebrations around the country marking 125 years since women gained the right to vote in New Zealand.

Jacinda Ardern has indicated the Government is interested in buying the house for the nation. It's expected to fetch in excess of $3 million when it goes under the hammer on October 17.

Hilary Barry met with the home's current owner Julia Burbury who showed her around the dwelling set on one acre of gardens.

The house has a category one heritage listing.

The piece of New Zealand history in Christchurch, worth more than $3 million, is up for auction. Source: Seven Sharp


Mum distraught as son turned away from Hutt Valley High School because he didn't have permanent address

Being homeless has become an obstacle for one mother wanting to give her child an education.

Helen Taitapanui and her son were turned away from Hutt Valley High School last week because they don't have a permanent residential address.

Ms Taitapanui, is currently battling cancer and lives in a motel with her teenage son while they wait for a permanent home.

"We've got to be glad that we've got that when we know that a lot of our families are out there living in cars," Ms Taitapanui told 1 NEWS.

However, this was a problem when she tried to enrol her son at a local school.

"The response was it's against their policy to register children living out of a motel. you had to have a residential address," Ms Taitapanui said.

She complained to the Ministry of Education and shortly after Hutt Valley High School reversed its decision.

Ms Taitapanui says her son's excited about going back to school.

"I know once he steps back into the realm of education he'll be well and truly away."

She hopes by speaking out, another unnecessary obstacle will be removed for the homeless.

Being homeless threw up an unexpected obstacle for a mum wanting to educate her child. Source: 1 NEWS