Northland health workers say they're thousands of dollars out of pocket after being caught in employment scam

Northland health workers say they are thousands of dollars out of pocket after being caught in what they are calling an employment scam.

The workers left their jobs at clinics across Northland to take up roles at a new rehabilitation clinic for prisoners on Māori land being planned by convicted fraudster Aperahama Anihana.

Mr Anihana, who has twice been jailed for fraud, was only 18 months out of prison when he started up a venture which saw him hire a team of at least eight health professionals.

Kerry Hirini, one of the complainants, left her old job to become a social worker for the centre on a $65,000 salary.

Ms Hirini applied for the job through Seek and was later interviewed at a hotel in Kerikeri.

"It was quite a formal interview and it was in a really expensive hotel so it all looked really legit," Ms Hirini said.

Another complainant, Karen Kaka, resigned from her administration job to become a support worker.

"When I saw this job, I thought, 'Yep, that's me' and I put my hand up. That's why I went for it - I believed in the kaupapa," Ms Kaka said.

"It was advertised on Jora and it was actually advertised by an HR company an employment agency and an employment agency in Australia."

Contracts obtained by 1 NEWS show employers were promised cars and high salaries.

Mr Anihana also recruited a communications manager who sent out a press release saying he was building up to 80 chalets and homes and that produce grown on the land would support local communities when building started this month.

Ms Kaka said funding was coming through "a private investor, a philanthropist".

"I think he said at the time two of them but no government funding so we were free to run the business as we saw fit."

Workers started their jobs on June 11, where they worked for two-and-a-half weeks before they were told they were not going to be paid for their services.

"On 29th of June, we had a hui and the founder of the business actually told us there was no money.

"Some people got really, really upset 'cause they'd left really good jobs."

Staff were employed by Te Aranga Mai, but the day they started working, another company owned by Mr Anihana - Māori Prison Support Services - was put into liquidation.

However, liquidator Gary Whimp says the company "was never solvent".

"There are a number of creditors coming forward from Northland, Auckland and even Australia. It looks like, at this stage, tens of thousands of dollars' worth of debt and no hope of paying it back," Mr Whimp said.

Mr Anihana claims the centre has nothing to do with the liquidated company, but staffers believe the money was spent in order to impress them.

"He's been busy. Most of it is to hire people in the Keirkeri region with conferences in Kerikeri, air travel from Auckland to Whangarei, and then Kerikeri with big four wheel drives available to him once on the ground."

Mr Anihana was not available to appear on camera this week but denied claims the centre was a scam, saying the rehabilitation centre is on hold because private investors - who he will not identify - have pulled out and the land he was promised has fallen through.

Mr Anihana apologised to those affected.

"I had to explain to my whānau, so it was quite embarrassing, you know? My father flew up from Gisborne for the powhiri," Ms Hirini said.

The health professionals are now trying to set up their own rehabilitation centre while recovering the money owed to them.

The workers left their jobs at clinics across Northland to take up roles at a new rehabilitation clinic being planned by a convicted fraudster. Source: 1 NEWS

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The West Auckland home that's a 1980s masterpiece - 'You get a buzz out of it, a bit of excitement'

It's stood staunchly on this ridge of Auckland's Waitakere Ranges for almost 40 years, and now Seven Sharp's had a sneak peek at the 1980s masterpiece surrounded by nature.

Homeowner John Hatchman says, "When you look at the house, it just grabs you. The cantilevered decks, the lovely cedar, the big windows - it just blows you away when you first see it".

"It's just unique. I've never seen a place quite like it."

Designed by architect Chris Meikle, its post-modern focus was on place-making and despite the era, Mr Hatchman says it never gets old.

"The place has retained a lot of the 80s flavour. It's very original. If you took that away, it would destroy the whole thought and concept behind it. It wouldn't be the house that it is."

For both the architect and the owner, the standout feature is something not part of it at all.

"Living up here, you're in touch with nature. All the surroundings are glass, you can see the city, the trees.

"You get a buzz out of it, a bit of excitement. You think, 'What's at the end of the driveway?' And then boof, there it is - it's brilliant."

While he's loved his 80s hideaway and being close to nature, Mr Hatchman is now putting his home on the market so he can move to Europe.

"It's brilliant – a brilliant place."

The Chris Meikle-designed home in the Waitakere Ranges has a post-modern focus and is delightfully date-stamped. Source: Seven Sharp

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Family history much more likely than diet to cause gout - research

Gout is much more likely to be brought on by genetics than a poor diet which has long been thought of as the primary cause of the joint disease, new research suggests.

Gout can can cause extreme pain and swelling but scientists at Keele University in Staffordshire, UK, say people with the condition can be reluctant to get treatment because of the social stigma associated with having a poor diet.

The study, which was carried out here in New Zealand by a research team at the University of Otago, counters "these harmful but well-established views and practices, and provides an opportunity to address these serious barriers to reducing the burden of this common and easily treatable condition".

The Press Association reports researchers used data from more than 16,000 American men and women of European ancestry to reach its conclusions.

Gout is caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood, which can form crystals that collect around joints.

Consuming beer, wine, spirits, potatoes and meat can raise the risk of getting gout while cheese, eggs, peanuts and brown bread can lower it.

However, each of these foods or drinks is responsible for less than a one per cent variation in levels of the acid, the study found.

And a comparison of healthy and unhealthy diets showed there was only a 0.3 per cent variation in levels of the acid.

But almost a quarter of the variation could be explained by genetic factors.

Gout is most common in men 40 or older.

Long-held theories gout only affected old men with poor diets could be quashed. Source: 1 NEWS

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Pregnancy warning labels on alcohol to be mandatory in New Zealand

Pregnancy warning labels on alcohol will become mandatory in New Zealand under a decision made at the Australia New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation in Adelaide.

Minister for Food Safety Damien O’Connor says mandatory labelling will strengthen the Government’s work to change drinking behaviour among pregnant women.

“Hundreds of babies a year are born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder because of exposure to alcohol in the womb. We need to take every action to reduce this harm,” Mr O’Connor said.

While the alcohol industry has been voluntarily including warnings on some products for the past six years there is no consistency in the type, colour, size and design, reducing the effectiveness of the message, he said.

There has been strong and sound support from a range of groups calling for mandatory labelling, the Minister said.

The move brings New Zealand in line with other countries that legally require pregnancy warning labels on alcohol such as the US and France.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand, the bi-national food standards setting agency, will now develop an appropriate standard to bring back to the ministerial forum for approval.

Pregnant woman drinking


Exclusive: Nearly half a million Kiwis owe social development ministry $1.5 billion for loans

The Government agency in charge of taking care of New Zealand's most vulnerable is putting hundreds of thousands of people into debt.

The Ministry of Social Development has handed out $1.5 billion in loans, interest free, to 509,571 people for things like dentistry, school supplies and housing.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said a large amount of that money is over payments, "and then it's also hardship and then it's also fraud".

This comes as the Government cracks down on loan sharks.

Social agencies argue Work and Income is no better, given benefits remain too low to cover the basics.

"They end up having to repay money every week which means they can't afford to eat or meet their weekly costs, pushing them into shark loans," said Ricardo Menendez March of Auckland Action Against Poverty.

1 NEWS spoke to an Auckland mother of three who is struggling to make ends meet. She gets $589 on the benefit.

"I'm lucky enough if I can live week to week on what I receive, especially being in emergency housing," she said.

So when her car broke down she asked Work and Income for a loan, and again when she needed to go to the dentist.

She's also been able to borrow money from the state to secure housing and furniture.

"I owe over $23,000," she said.

The woman was expected to pay back $80 a week on her loan.

National says it would consider changing the law to wipe the debt.

"That's a policy that we'll be having a look at and exploring over the next period of time," Louise Upston, National's Social Development spokesperson said. 

Ms Sepuloni says her advisory group charged with looking at the welfare system will investigate debt.

But she stands by the decision to hand out loans.

"Access to a washing machine or a fridge are things that people may need to pay back," she said.

"And I think they're really important measures to have in place through MSD because you can actually get that type of advance for those things in a way where you're not paying huge amounts of interest on top of that."

The Auckland mother of three would like a pay rise. 

"Poverty is real in New Zealand, government just doesn't see it, " she said.

She's hoping to have her debt cleared too. 

But the minister says unless there's been a mistake, like an overpayment, she and others will be expected to pay the money back.

The Ministry of Social Development has handed out $1.5 billion in loans to half a million people to pay for the likes of the dentist and a house to live. Source: 1 NEWS