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Morning Briefing Dec 2: Govt eyes further drug testing changes

Festivalgoers will be able to get their drugs checked legally this summer with the Government rushing through new laws this week.

Festivalgoers - stock image. Source: istock.com

Health Minister Andrew Little says the law change will protect pill testing services “against prosecution for short-term possession of illegal drugs while they test them”.

The Drug Foundation is “thrilled” with the move and hopes future solutions will look beyond testing at festivals. The Government has already indicated it will consult on more significant, longer-term changes to regulations next year. 

Little says the law change isn’t about condoning drug use and is instead about “prioritising young New Zealanders’ safety this summer”.

The Greens’ Chlöe Swarbrick has applauded the move, saying it’s “a win for sensible drug reform”. The ACT Party is also in support of the change.

However, National opposes the new law, saying it will encourage illegal drug use.

But the party’s youth wing doesn’t share that view. The Young Nats say they want to take a harm-reduction approach to pills.

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Report reveals extent of child poverty

There are calls for bold action to fight child poverty as a new report shows one in five Kiwi kids is now living in ‘material hardship’.

The latest Child Poverty Monitor report also found 13 per cent of all children are going without essential things like fresh fruit or warm clothing – and it warns the situation could get worse in the aftermath of Covid-19.

Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft is calling on the Government to act as more parents and caregivers lose their jobs due to the pandemic.

He says Government measures should include raising benefits, increasing social and state housing, and expanding programmes like Food in Schools. 

Police dog stable after shooting

A wanted man and a police dog are both in a stable condition after being shot yesterday.

The police dog was shot after police confronted the armed man in Tangowahine, a small town near Dargaville. The man who shot the dog was then shot three times by officers.

The man and dog were both taken to Dargaville Hospital in a critical condition before being flown to Auckland in separate helicopters.

New Zealand Police Association president Chris Cahill says police dogs are “a highly valued part of our police whanau” and treated much like another officer.

He told 1 NEWS that the dog’s handler will likely be “really upset” following the incident. He says that while police dogs are not pets, “it doesn’t mean you’re not incredibly close to them”.

PM promises clearer vaccine timeline

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the timeline for a Covid-19 vaccine will be clearer before Christmas, after being pressed about the issue by ACT leader David Seymour in Parliament yesterday.

Ardern says one of the companies New Zealand has agreed to buy a vaccine from is looking at a March delivery date.

She adds that some countries rolling out vaccines earlier are willing to accept higher risk due to large outbreaks within their own borders.

And as plans for distributing a vaccine continue, the Ministry of Health is urging caution around the workplace Christmas party this year.

They’re asking businesses to make sure staff are well before they attend festive functions and to check in at events using the Covid Tracer app. 

Meanwhile, England is preparing to spend Christmas under tiered restrictions after health secretary Matt Hancock labelled their second national lockdown a success.

Research suggests Covid infections fell by a third during the lockdown. 

Peters farewelled at Parliament

Winston Peters was last night farewelled from Parliament at an event honouring his many decades of service - but true to form, he dodged media on his way in.

Diplomats and MPs packed into a room to celebrate Peters’ long political career, with Jacinda Ardern paying personal tribute to the former Deputy Prime Minister.

The NZ Herald reports Peters dabbed at his eye several times as Ardern recounted the day he travelled with her to Christchurch following the March 15 terror attack. 

Peters made no mention of his or NZ First’s plans at the event. 

Other news of note this morning:

- Labour Minister Phil Twyford is on leave from Parliament for the foreseeable future after his wife was diagnosed with cancer.

- Stuff reports “crucial" evidence has been recovered from the Pike River mine drift.

- New Zealand’s economy amid the pandemic is holding up better than many developed countries thanks to its speedy exit from lockdown and people’s large spending, according to ASB.

- There are fresh concerns the pay gap for Māori and Pacific academics is widening in a damning new report about earnings and promotions at New Zealand universities.

- Jacinda Ardern has weighed in on the growing diplomatic row between China and Australia.

- Scientists fear charging GNS Science over the Whakaari/White Island eruption could have a silencing effect on their ability to give free and frank advice.

- F1 champion Lewis Hamilton will miss this weekend's Sakhir Grand Prix after testing positive for Covid-19.

- And NZ’s native and endangered species are getting a new tool in their battle for survival – the ‘mega trap’.

And finally...

Source: Seven Sharp

It’s December and you know what that means – an onslaught of mandatory fun in the form of the workplace Secret Santa.

But if this feels like another stress during an already stressful time, fear not. Seven Sharp’s Laura Daniel has put together this helpful guide to Secret Santa gifts (which may or may not end in a trip to HR).