NZ 'in a very difficult place' if war breaks out with North Korea - expert

An expert in international relations says New Zealand will be put in a very difficult position if conflict breaks out with North Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claimed in his new year message that his nuclear weapons ambitions are now realised, with the entire US in range and a launch button on his desk.

North Korea made rapid progress on its missile programme in 2017, and a former US admiral has warned that nuclear war with North Korea is now closer than it's ever been.

International relations expert at Victoria University, Yan Jackson, says if a conflict breaks out, New Zealand is going to be put in a very difficult place.

Under an agreement with the United Nations after the Korean War, New Zealand must maintain a presence on the peninsula.

New Zealand currently has eight troops in the south, the second highest number after America.

"If conflict happens, your choice may be to either renege on an agreement with the United Nations, or put troops in harm's way," Mr Jackson told 1 NEWS.

Winston Peters is one of only a few Western leaders who has been to North Korea. He visited in 2007 in a bid to persuade the country to dismantle its nuclear arms. 

While he has no plans to return, the Foreign Minister told 1 NEWS he wouldn't turn down an invitation.

"Well I don't want this to be misinterpreted as a suggestion by me. But we would do the best we could as a country," Mr Peters said.

Asked if that's "a yes", he said: "Well, the answer is yes." 

And he won't say whether the Government would send more troops if a conflict did break out.

"Oh look, this is purely hypothetical. If what we are trying to do is ensure that the question you're asking, never needs an affirmative answer." 

Any conflict would have an impact on New Zealand's trade in the region at the cost of trillions of dollars.

Mr Jackson said that cost would be felt everywhere, and New Zealand is no exception.

"That's separate from the fact that New Zealand is now in missile range of North Korea," he said.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet said in a statement New Zealand's location makes the country less likely to be the target for any attack, but New Zealand has an all hazards approach to preparedness.

Recent reports that the rogue state plans to test anthrax-tipped ballistic missiles are ramping up tensions as a new year begins. 

A former US admiral has warned that nuclear war with North Korea is now closer than it's ever been. Source: 1 NEWS


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Kiwi businesses providing help for staff to cope mentally

Some New Zealand businesses are now providing support to their staff to help them cope mentally.

The Warehouse is one of 100 businesses who have brought in the Mental Health Foundation to help staff cope since the law changed last year, putting the responsibility on the boss to ensure mental health is considered when creating a safe workplace.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said employers must now ask "are workloads reasonable, and are people having to work under such pressure and such stress that it starts to damage their mental health and wellbeing?"

Campaigns are being used to help change the conversation surrounding mental health and get people talking about it.

Firefighter Des Hosie knows how tough it can be.

"Absolutely, I have my own story and I can think of a number of times over my 35 years as a firefighter that have been challenging for me."

Mr Hosie said he suffered a breakdown 10 years ago and sought help. Today he is helping his workmates.

The stigma and discrimination around mental health is still a big issue - Mental Health Foundation CEO Shaun Robinson

"The organisation realises that we're exposed to critical incidents, but also personal stress comes into our work life. And we are looking at ways to improve our support to our people to help them cope," he said.

In just a decade, the number of people with depression has jumped from 10 per cent to almost 17 per cent and there is fear the number could be higher.

Mr Robinson said there's definitely more work to do.

"The stigma and discrimination around mental health is still a big issue, we've had 20 years of working on that."

Now the Mental Health Foundation are in workplaces, it's hoped staff will be happier and healthier as they go back to the shop floor after the Christmas-New Year break.

Some companies are trying to ensure staff won't find the return after the Christmas-New Year break too difficult. Source: 1 NEWS

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NZ shipments of plastic waste to China stopped by ban on 'toxic international waste'

Every year, New Zealand has shipped more than 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste to China, but not anymore. 

China has changed its rules on importing waste to be recycled, meaning New Zealand will no longer be able to send some grades of waste plastics there anymore.

China has been recycling for decades and some residents have made their living from breaking up the plastics, the BBC reports.

However, with China accepting all of the plastic waste, the country has become much dirtier by homemade pollution.

The Chinese Government has said some international waste is toxic.

The ban presents a problem for China though, because it still needs the cardboard, the paper and the high-end polystyrene.

Some polystyrene gets recycled and eventually turned into skirting boards and picture frames, and is sold back to the countries that some of the polystyrene originally came from.

China's ban means small business who sell these items could be in trouble.

"Just to keep the factory running, we need about 50,000 tonnes of recycled plastics," said one small business owner.

"When you only recycle China, it's not enough."