New Zealand Rugby distances itself from former All Blacks caught up in elephant cruelty incident in Bangkok

Four former All Blacks took part in a charity elephant polo match in Bangkok where animals were beaten with bullhooks - and New Zealand Rugby says it has no official connection with the event or team.

Robin Brooke, Steve McDowall, Olo Brown and Charles Riechelmann took part in the 2018 King's Cup Elephant Polo event in Bangkok last week between Thursday and Sunday, under the name "PWC New Zealand All Blacks", and placed second.

The team, officially called the PWC New Zealand All Blacks team, has a sponsorship deal with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and has been competing in the event for several years.

The event is run as a fundraiser to raise money for animal charities, this year raising more than four million Thai Baht (NZ$175,278) for elephant-related programmes.

Footage from the event shows competitors and animals enjoying themselves, with the elephants even being brought in front of the cameras for a lavish feast of fruit.

However, behind the scenes, PETA members captured footage of elephants being viciously hit by their mahouts - or handlers - with barbed steel rods called bullhooks.

The hooks are used to train and correct elephants using corporal punishment, often during a taming process called "crushing" - the domestication of wild elephants by breaking their spirit.

Following the revelation of the abuse, organisers and main sponsors of the event Anantara Hotels said they have taken immediate steps to stop it.

"We strongly condemn the mistreatment of any elephant at any time," they wrote in a statement.

"Prior to each tournament, all mahouts, who originate from traditional mahout villages in north eastern Thailand, are required to confirm that they will comply with a strict code of conduct when they are selected to participate.

"The mahouts identified in the footage have clearly breached this agreement and have been expelled from the tournament with immediate effect.

"In light of the unacceptable behaviour seen in the video footage, Anantara Hotels and resorts has strictly re-emphasised the policies, procedures and required behaviours directly with all remaining mahouts."

New Zealand Rugby head of corporate services Nicki Nicol told 1 NEWS "the event and any teams in it have no official link to New Zealand Rugby".

FORMER ALL BLACK SAYS CHARITY IS IMPORTANT, BUT DISAPPOINTED WITH ABUSE

Mr McDowall has told the NZ Herald that the team will reconsider their involvement next year if more cases of animal abuse surfaced, but said the event provides valuable support to animal programmes in the country.

"To be honest if they didn't have that money there would probably be significantly more violence against elephants, elephants being killed more frequently and probably more abused than if the money didn't go into the system to help protect and look after these animals."

"[If the tournament organisers keep] putting a harder line on the behaviour by the mahouts then we will continue to support it. But if it ever descends then no one would want to be associated with that abuse."

PWC TO RECONSIDER INVOLVEMENT NEXT YEAR BASED ON ACTIONS TAKEN

PricewaterhouseCoopers' Thailand representatives told 1 NEWS in a statement they were "deeply troubled by this incident and are in ongoing discussions with the organisers to try, as much as possible, to eliminate this type of behaviour and indeed any behaviour that results in cruelty to the elephants".

The statement said the event provides "clear benefits" in terms of the funds generated by the event, and that they are "satisfied with the actions that were immediately taken by Anantara".

PricewaterhouseCoopers involvement in the event in future was yet to be decided.

"Our decision to sponsor the event is an annual decision," the statement said.

"Assuming there will be an 2019 event (usually held in March), we will likely be contacted by the organisers around Sept/Oct 2018 ... at that time we will discuss further with them the actions they plan to take to eliminate such incidents.

"At that point we will decide whether or not to sponsor next year's event or find some other ways of providing funding to the very important elephant projects."

WHO ARE BROOKE, MCDOWALL, RIECHELMANN AND BROWN?

Bobin Brooke, brother of Zinzan, played 62 tests as a lock between 1992 and 1999.

Olo Brown played 56 tests as a prop between 1992 and 1998.

Steve McDowall played 46 tests as a prop between 1985 and 1992.

Charles Riechelmann played six tests as a lock, all as a reserve, in 1997.


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Māori Crown portfolio looks like 'a tokenistic toothless taniwha,' writes 1 NEWS reporter Maiki Sherman

The Government’s new Crown Māori portfolio ran the risk of looking tokenistic when it was first announced, and now the released detail of its scope all but confirms this.

Kelvin Davis spent months travelling the breadth of the country on a consultation roadshow.

He labelled it the start of a “new way of working” and promised not to repeat past mistakes when it came to the Crown-Māori relationship.

But it seems there was one person the minister forgot to consult with, Winston Peters.

The NZ First leader forced both Kelvin Davis and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to pull back on announcing detail of the portfolio at a media event last week.

The stage was set – the 10th floor of the Beehive, no less – and included a raft of notable Māori dotted around the Cabinet table.

“We are no longer at the negotiating table,” Ms Ardern said.

“We now sit at the cabinet table.”

It was a symbolic gesture aimed at creating a picture of true partnership.

The problem?

Mr Peters has always maintained the Crown never agreed to a “partnership” with Māori when both signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.

“I've never believed that, and I said so back in 1986 when Justice Cooke made that claim,” he said.

And so, while a bunch of journalists waited at ground level of the Beehive, and the media event regarding the portfolio was delayed by around 45 minutes, Cabinet ministers on level 10 debated the scope of the role with NZ First vehemently opposed.

What unfolded a short time later was nothing more than a photo opportunity and a chance to hear “one last submission” from the group of Māori sitting around the Cabinet table – or so the rhetoric went.

It was a public blunder and an embarrassment for the Government.

The coalition can attempt to double down on the facade there’s “nothing to see here” – but they’ll be going blue in the face before they convince anyone paying attention.

When 1 NEWS asked Mr Peters if he had vetoed the announcement, he requested the question be submitted in writing.

Is there trouble in coalition paradise? The Inside Parliament reporters discuss the developments. Source: 1 NEWS

“I can’t answer that question because I don’t have any recall of that,” he claimed.

The irony was baffling.

A deputy prime minister who could not recall what took place only two days earlier in Cabinet but could state categorically his position on Crown Māori partnership - in 1986 - when Justice Cooke made “that claim”.

A day later and the NZ First leader was happy to report “we’ve fixed it” and “it’s all solved”.

The detail though – as has been the case on this portfolio – was not forthcoming. 

The end result saw the scope of the role announced a week later featuring a watered-down rebrand of units already in action now amalgamating as one.

Meanwhile, key themes to emerge from submissions were ignored completely.

One of those was a plea to reform New Zealand’s constitution.

Several submitters – including the Human Rights Commission – said constitutional reform was necessary and pointed to the need for particular emphasis on the Treaty of Waitangi.

But the idea of any such reform would never have gone down well with NZ First and it seems they made their view crystal clear.

1 NEWS asked if NZ First would support the new portfolio looking at constitutional reform, to which Mr Peters’ replied, “that is not going to be its focus”.

When stated it was one of the bullet points in a press release on the matter, he responded “yes, but not in the way that it originally was”.

This means the original intent around constitutional reform was shelved.

Mr Davis also confirmed it was part of the draft discussions but claimed it was “not a priority” at this stage.

What was signed off was a vague commitment for “constitutional arrangements” supporting partnerships between the Crown and Māori into the future.

That does not go anywhere near constitutional reform.

So much for a symbol of finally taking the relationship seriously - Maiki Sherman

Another key theme in submissions was the placement of the Crown Māori portfolio with many suggesting it be a standalone agency to reflect the importance of the partnership.

The reality though will see it sit within the Ministry of Justice with Kelvin Davis saying it was a “cheaper” option.

So much for a symbol of finally taking the relationship seriously. 

One thing’s for sure there is no new money allocated to the portfolio, with the budget coming from within current baselines.

In fact, the minister couldn’t even say how many staff the agency would have, only to say it would start off “relatively small”.

What the Government was keen to boast about though was the name had changed – proudly pointing to the fact the word ‘Māori’ would now be placed before the word ‘Crown’.

Thus, revealing the Māori Crown Relations - Te Arawhiti (The Bridge) portfolio.

While the name is all good and well – the substance within the role falls short of anything particularly meaningful.

It looks like a tokenistic toothless taniwha - as is so often the case with Māori legislative attempts heralded as the next best thing.

However, it's been gutted as a result of a strong-headed coalition partner and a minister who failed to fight for what was meant to be the dawn of a new era in the Crown Māori relationship – or make that, Māori Crown relationship.

Mr Davis has spoken of the need for a business case to be put forward to establish the office with the hope of completing that by the end of the year.

While this has the potential to create further headaches for the minister, it could also be a lifeline of redemption.

The challenge is whether he can bring in a bit more weight behind the new portfolio.

A word of advice though - don’t forget to run it past Mr Peters. 

The influence of Winston Peters is also believed to be putting the Prime Minister under pressure from rival MPs. Source: 1 NEWS

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St Bede's to review handling of child sex complaint

Christchurch's St Bede's College will appoint an independent reviewer to look into its handling of a child sex abuse complaint in 2011.

St Bede's College, Christchurch. (Phil Pennington) Source: rnz.co.nz

This follows Christchurch man Peter Boock demanding the school's rector Justin Boyle be sacked.

Mr Boyle allowed a teacher, Robin Pettit, to continue teaching until he retired, even after he admitted to abusing Mr Boock several decades ago.

The school's board said its inquiry would run alongside one the Education Council was running into the matter.

It would not make any more comment, adding that media coverage had been unhelpful because of a lack of due process and respect for privacy.

Earlier, Mr Boyle wrote to the school's parents, defending the investigation in 2011.

"Mr Pettit has had a long and distinguished teaching career and there have been no complaints about his conduct during his time at St Bede's College, or at other schools he has worked," he wrote.

"I want to assure you that our priority is always to provide a safe environment for our students and staff.

"As we have in the past, we will always ensure that any complaint of misconduct is thoroughly and promptly investigated and appropriately addressed, while respecting people's right to privacy and proper process."

But the rector's letter was "appalling", the Network of Survivors of Abuse in Faith-based Institutions and Their Supporters said in a statement.

"Nowhere in this message does the school condemn Mr Pettit or his actions," the network's Murray Heasley said.

"On the contrary it praises him and, in failing to acknowledge the lifelong trauma and damage he has caused, encourages parents to think of him as the victim."

- Reporting by RNZ's Phil Pennington

www.rnz.co.nz


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Clarke Gayford reveals Melania Trump invited him to New York get together, speaks about Obama's 'lovely, soft nose'

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's partner has told an audience about former US President Barack Obama's "lovely, soft nose" and an invitation he's received from Melania Trump.

Ms Ardern is this week leaving for New York to speak at the United Nations General Assembly, with her schedule including high-profile appearances on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the Today Show and a lengthy interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

The trip will also be the first overseas outing for daughter Neve, who was born in June.

Partner Clarke Gayford - who has taken on a full-time fathering role - will also attend.

Speaking at an event on Thursday night, Mr Gayford, a television and radio presenter, reportedly told an Auckland audience he had received an invite to a reception for leaders' partners from President Donald Trump's wife, describing it as "tea and scones with Melania".

"It's pretty funny. I sent it to a few friends and said, 'You will not believe this invite I just got'," the 40-year-old said, pulling out his phone to read the message, according to Stuff.co.nz.

During a question-and-answer session, Mr Gayford also recounted meeting Mr Obama, including a hongi - a traditional Maori greeting which involves the touching of noses.

"I was one of the first ones up and I was pretty nervous - and he'd only done one before either. Lovely, soft nose," Mr Gayford said.

He was also reported to have described as former Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull as "actually, really quite personable".

While Ms Ardern is expected to receive an enthusiastic welcome in the US, her trip ends a rough month in domestic politics for her Labour Party, following the firing of one government minister this week and the resignation of another just weeks ago, both amid scandals.

Jacinda Ardern, Clarke Gayford and baby Neve. Source: 1 NEWS


Police chastise Canterbury students who didn't intervene in bullying incident

Police today chastised students who opted not to intervene or call for help this week as a bullying incident was filmed at a Canterbury school.

Two students at Darfield High School are expected to appear before the school board today after school officials reviewed the video, which emerged yesterday on social media. In it, a boy lay on the ground as two others kicked and pummelled him.

"Police are particularly concerned that other students who saw what was happening, didn't intervene or get help from a teacher," Senior Sergeant Kelly Larsen said in a statement released to 1 NEWS. "Instead, they watched and took videos."

Darfield principal James Morris has described the incident as assault.

Police said they were alerted about the incident Tuesday afternoon, shortly after it happened.

"Bullying behaviour is not OK and has serious consequences," police said. "Rather than being a bystander, Police encourage anyone who witnesses an assault, or knows about other bullying behaviour to become someone who stands up against bullying, and does something about it.

"Bullying is wrong. We all have a responsibility to do something to stop it."

An outcome of the school board hearing is expected on Monday.

Darfield High School’s principal says police were notified shortly after the incident happened. Source: Supplied