Opinion: Jacinda Ardern held her own in the Pacific and brought her own style to the role

I’ve never been a fan of the Jacinda-hype that swept the country – in television you learn how easy it is to dress something up - but it’s the substance that will make or break.

Jacinda Ardern had a tough road to traverse on her first Pacific mission.

While Labour is wildly popular in New Zealand amongst Pasifika, National – mostly represented by Foreign Minister Murray McCully - has enjoyed a solid nine year relationship with Pacific Islands leaders.

The no-nonsense, business-economic focused approach of National has been an easy fit for Pacific leaders who tend to be conservative.

You can dress it up any way you like but the bottom line is all the Pacific prime ministers and presidents are older men and women are barely represented in parliament.

Jacinda Ardern will meet the Tongan Prime Minister and attend a woman's leadership breakfast. Source: Breakfast

So having to deal with a pregnant, unmarried young woman was going to be a challenge for some.

At a grass-roots level Ardern was liked enormously by the locals in all four countries she visited – Samoa, Niue, Tonga and Cook Islands.

On a political level it varied – as she said herself at today’s press conference: "Some of the relationships differ and we have very particular ones with our realm nations".

Possibly where Ardern really shined was in Samoa – her most difficult task.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi is an old warhorse, been there done that, stubborn-as and used to getting his way.

While his deputy is a woman, he’s a man’s man. 

He’s always been a great ally for New Zealand and an extremely strong leader so it would have been a difficult road to tread.

In the bilateral Tuilaepa found out Ardern was no pushover and he didn’t get everything he wanted. But that’s politics.

The PM spoke from Samoa on the $10m aid package for the country, saying she desired a more equal relationship with the “mature” Pacific democracies. Source: Breakfast

Tonga is distracted by its own political problems and Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva has ailing health but that meeting went better than expected.

The $10 million aid package towards Cyclone Gita recovery helped.

The Cooks and Niue were a triumph as part of Foreign Minister Winston Peter’s coalition deal with Labour was to allow residents to bring back full pension to the islands.

He was greeted like a hero locally and Ardern enjoyed the result.

Both are pushing a new look New Zealand in the Pacific – calling it a "reset" and in an attempt to reduce China’s influence putting more aid into what island nations themselves prioritise.

While there’s no doubt Peters has been a strong influencer, Ardern has more than held her own and brought her own style to the role.

The PM is on a whistle-stop tour of the Pacific, a trip that started in Samoa this morning. Source: 1 NEWS

While the results are yet to be seen, her first Pacific report card is a strong one. 

The delegation were met with bright colours and dancing. Source: 1 NEWS



Most read: Complaints made to Commerce Commission after Celebration Box's sweet startup gig turns sour online

This story was first published on Thursday September 13.

An image posted on Instagram by Iyia Liu, left, and a screenshot of Celebration Box products, pictured right.
An image posted on Instagram by Iyia Liu, left, and a screenshot of Celebration Box products, pictured right. Source: Iyia Liu/Instagram/Screenshots

Complaints have been made to the Commerce Commission about Auckland company Celebration Box after numerous customers said their orders were lost, late, or not as described - and that they were blocked after making complaints online.

Celebration Box, co-owned by Iyia Liu and Briar Howard, sells customised boxes of confectionery and desserts which are delivered to customers on a certain date, with prices ranging from $39.95 up to $139.95 for a box.

The company is facing an online backlash after a surge in orders over the Father's Day period left them apparently struggling to meet demand.

Screenshots of a complaint made about the quality of a Celebration Box.
Screenshots of a complaint made about the quality of a Celebration Box. Source: Supplied

Jade Schutte posted about Celebration Box on Facebook on Friday, collating complaints from people who said they had a negative experience with the company.

"So many of my friends are out of pocket, they can block as many people as they like, hide all their reviews and delete all the comments thinking that it will cover this all up but I’ll make sure the word gets out," Ms Schutte wrote.

She told 1 NEWS that many of her friends had been affected, and that after she posted about Celebration Box, others came forward to share similar stories.

"I then realised the extent of how many people had actually been ripped off and blocked and it really upset me ... like, these people paid with their hard-earned money, and most of these boxes were gifts for other people," Ms Schutte said.

"To then be blocked when complaining about their orders not showing up or receiving no refund - it just didn't sit right with me."

In complaints seen by 1 NEWS, customers said their Celebration Box arrived late and completely missed the occasion they were purchased for - especially around Father's Day.

A handful of the complaints made online about Celebration Box.
A handful of the complaints made online about Celebration Box. Source: Screenshots/Supplied

Some people said they were blocked by Celebration Box after complaining, and comments made by the company seen by 1 NEWS suggest they have blocked people for "writing rude irrelevant posts".

Other complaints revolved around the quality of the product itself, with some saying the food was in poor condition or that their box was not as described when it arrived.

A Commerce Commission spokesperson confirmed an undisclosed number of complaints have been received about the company and declined to make further comment.

CO-OWNER PLEADS FOR EMPATHY - WHILE SUNBATHING IN BALI

In an Instagram post made on Tuesday from Bali's exclusive OMNIA beach bar, Ms Liu responded to some of the criticism, saying "people don't realise the complexities of a rapidly scaling start up business.

A post made by Iyia Liu on her Instagram page responding to complaints about her Celebration Box business.
A post made by Iyia Liu on her Instagram page responding to complaints about her Celebration Box business. Source: Screenshot/1 NEWS composite

"In the past six weeks we have had to scramble to find staff, we've run out of space to operate meaning we had to find a warehouse, we kept running out of supplies of EVERYTHING and we would call around Auckland or NZ trying to find them but often we had bought all the stock they had, meaning we had to substitute," she wrote.

"On our busy days we had to shift our entire team to dispatch, meaning other parts of the business weren't able to operate ... our entire team being new also meant everyone is still training and learning processes.

"It's been so easy for so many people to criticise without being able to stand in our shoes or have empathy."

Ms Liu has been behind a string of brands in recent years, selling products marketed heavily through social media, including Waist Trainer, Luxe Fitness and Bambi Boutique.

Iyia Liu has sold two businesses for millions, but says she learnt the most from a business that failed. Source: Seven Sharp

In 2016, she paid Kylie Jenner almost NZ$300,000 to post a picture of herself wearing a Waist Trainer, leading to a surge of revenue and profit, and she has since sold Luxe Fitness and Waist Trainer for millions, she told Seven Sharp earlier this year.

She is in the process of having a house built near Auckland, and recently purchased a V8 2012 Mercedes-Benz G-class SUV.

"We've only had the best intentions, we have tried to right every wrong and are still trying to," Ms Liu wrote on Instagram.

"Give our little team who is still learning some time to fix every problem, because we're all still learning and all trying to do our best.

"Of course we wanted it to be perfect but the business grew so quickly, which is the point of this post," Ms Liu wrote.

"It's not an excuse, it's an explanation and reason, we have refunded anyone who has emailed in who is unhappy."

'WE ARE SINCERELY SORRY'

Co-owner Briar Howard told 1 NEWS that they "acknowledge that not all our customers have had the experience they were expecting", and said they are looking at ways to limit the number of orders they receive to manageable levels.

Ms Howard said orders over the Father's Day period were 35 per cent higher than in a typical week, and admitted that "some orders were not to our standard which is something we regrettably consider could have been avoided.

"Father's Day was a big learning experience for us ... we had an unprecedented amount of orders, but we worked extremely hard and quickly hired staff to ensure we could meet the demand."

Ms Howard confirmed Celebration Box had hidden or deleted negative comments made on their social media accounts.

"In the initial stages of the negative feedback, a couple of comments were deleted from the page as we had spoken directly to the people involved and it had reached spam levels on our pages ... we acknowledge this was done in error, and we no longer delete or hide any comments," Ms Howard said.

Only users who were deemed to be abusive were blocked, she said, as "a number of the comments we were receiving were personal attacks directed towards us and our staff members – including a number of death threats which were reported to the police".

Ms Howard said they had made the decision to disable the review feature on their Facebook page due to negative feedback.

"We do think customers should be able to share their positive ratings with us on Facebook, however, it was our preference to deactivate this as there is no control within Facebook over illegitimate reviews.

"We do believe only customers should be able to review their experience with us, however, we will keep this decision open for regular review by our team," Ms Howard said.

"We have remedied the issues of those who have contacted us directly following our standard process ... refunds or replacements are our means of fixing issues and we have taken extra consideration for customers during the Father’s Day period as we acknowledge we made mistakes.

"We have apologised on our Instagram stories – upon reflection, this possibly wasn't the best platform as it isn't permanent.

"We are sincerely sorry to all customers who haven't had the experience they expected with us, and we accept full responsibility for this.

"The only other thing we'd like to say is, we have had a huge number of happy customers however we want to make sure all our customers are happy customers."


Raw video: Dog attacks New Zealand fur seal on Canterbury beach as owner tries desperately to intervene

Warning: Some people may find the vision in the video upsetting

DOC says "the dog in this video is clearly not under effective control". Source: Supplied

The owner of a dog that attacked a New Zealand fur seal on a Canterbury beach this week has come forward to the Department of Conservation after footage of the incident emerged.

The dog, which DOC describes as small and white with ginger markings, was filmed by a member of the public attacking a seal on The Pines Beach in Waimakariri.

DOC has released footage of the attack on the seal which lasted around five minutes before the owner was able to control his dog.

"We realise this footage is distressing but we want people to understand how easily a dog attack on a seal can happen. The consequences are almost always bad for the seal and dogs can be bitten as well," Ms Spencer says.

DOC says that last year three seals were killed by dogs on Christchurch beaches.

"The dog in this video is clearly not under effective control and we’re disappointed this is yet another dog attack on a seal," says Ms Spencer.

Following today’s media attention the dog owner has contacted DOC who will be talking to them about the incident as part of their investigation.

DOC recommends keeping dogs on a leash in areas where there are seals present and keeping a safe distance of at least 20 metres away.

People are asked to call the Christchurch Mahaanui DOC office +64 3 341 9100 or the 24-hour DOC hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) if they have any information about the attack, the dog or its owner.


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Watch: Winston Peters accuses Paula Bennett of asking 'mindless questions' and diving into 'moronic abyss' during Question Time

Winston Peters accused Paula Bennett of asking "mindless questions" and diving into a "moronic abyss" during Question Time today.

His comments came as National's deputy leader was quizzing Mr Peters, who was answering on behalf of the Prime Minister, on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill in the House today.

"Can she confirm that the Labour-led Government unanimously voted for the bill at select committee and the bill has now been prepared for a second reading, and do they know how they will vote for it?" Ms Bennett asked the deputy prime minister.

"On behalf of the prime minister, if that member will not conform to the proper language of an MMP environment we do not intend to answer her mindless questions.

"She knows full well the construction, we can handle it and that's why were here and that's why they're over there, because they just don't grasp what the new environment looks like," Mr Peters answered.

Ms Bennett was then given a warning by Speaker Trevor Mallard for prefacing her follow up by implying that Mr Peters led the Government instead of Ms Ardern.

She went on to try and get more answers about the bill, asking: "Does the govt support the employment relations amendment bill as it is currently written?"

Mr Peters again went on the attack in his answer.

"Look we're not going to have a dive to the moronic abyss that the member wants to go to.

"We are talking about a process of the full committee of the House and then onto the third reading, that's whats being targeted that's what we'll do."
 


'It’s an opportunity for us to take New Zealand to the rest of the world': Steve Hansen reiterates call for Government cash

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has repeated his views that the Government ought to sponsor the rugby national team, saying it’s a world-renowned brand.

Hansen revealed after last month’s Bledisloe Cup-clinching win that he had asked Grant Robertson for funding while the sports minister and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern were in the Eden Park changing rooms.

“If you think about the All Blacks and the brand, it’s important that we represent New Zealand really well, and she leads our country.” Source: 1 NEWS

Hansen reiterated those views today in Wellington, saying the brand was world renowned and that’s why he felt the Government should do more for the team and rugby in general.

"It’s not about going cap in hand to the Government, the whole point of making that comment and it’s interesting everybody has jumped on it," Hansen told media in Wellington.

"This is my opinion and people can boo hoo it if they like, I believe the All Blacks over a long time have been a great brand for New Zealand.”

READ MORE: 'Who would put that on a Prime Minister!?' Jacinda asked to choose between cash for grass roots - or keeping Beauden Barrett

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was on the hot seat today, responding to questions about Government money for the All Blacks. Source: Breakfast

"You can go anywhere in the world and people may not know New Zealand, but they’ve heard of the All Blacks, I think it’s an opportunity for us to take New Zealand to the rest of the world by using that brand, be it in tourism, business and that’s why I mentioned they should be one of our sponsors."

Hansen said in his mind, rugby continued to be an important part of New Zealand’s national identity and he felt the country’s top players were missing out on rewards.

"Rugby in this country is an important part of who we are and what we are and not all the money that we make goes to the players, it goes to grassroots and funding development and women’s rugby. I don’t know if you’ve seen the budget but we’re spending more than we’ve got and that’s not a great way to run your budget."

"If the money goes to grassroots and developing women’s rugby and developing young talent to come through and be All Blacks then maybe some of the money we get from Adidas and AIG and our other sponsors can be used to keep players here."

Hansen added that he felt that complacency did not only need to be fought within the team, but by the fans and wider country as well.

"The word complacency has been bandied around about us as a team, we’re fighting it all the time and we need to within our fans and within our country cause I’m sure there’d be a different attitude if this team wasn’t performing."

The All Blacks coach has repeated his views that the government ought to sponsor the world-renowned national team. Source: 1 NEWS