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

Detector dogs in prisons sniff out nearly one synthetic cannabis sample a week

A small group of specially trained detector dogs are sniffing out synthetic drugs in New Zealand’s prisons. 

Five dogs have been in action since March, searching for ever-changing psychoactive substances smuggled into prisons. 

Since then, the dogs have retrieved 33 samples of synthetic cannabis, nearly one a week. But that's nowhere near as high as other drugs that are found. 

But the Ministry of Corrections said it's front-footing potential prison deaths from synthetics after inmate fatalities overseas.

"It is on our streets, it is affecting our communities, so as a team the dog handlers felt that they wanted to front foot this emerging threat," Manager Specialist Search Jay Mills told 1 NEWS.

"We have a duty of care to our prisoners, our staff and our prisoners ensuring we keep our site safe."

It’s something Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis supports.

"We know that psychoactive substances are out in the streets, in our communities and we would be naive to think people aren't trying to get them into our prisons," Mr Davis said. 

Corrections is working with the Ministry of Health, and Environmental Science and Research (ESR) to improve the scope of ingredients they can detect. 

"NPS (New Psychoactive Substances) is extremely difficult to keep on top of, in terms of the chemical makeup of the drug," Mr Mills said. 

It’s a tough job for both the dog, and trainers.

"We match it up to what we're searching for currently and if we see any differences or irregularities with ingredients it means we can go back to our training room and load our dogs with that odour. So we are constantly staying ahead of what's out there today," dog trainer Ricky Trevithick said. 

Training for the five dogs will be on-going, with ingredients constantly changing and new batches constantly coming onto the drug market.

1 NEWS reporter Emily Cooper has the exclusive details. Source: 1 NEWS


Accused Kiwi conman's partner arrested in Australia on multiple charges including indecent assault

The partner of a New Zealand man who was deported from Australia over two years ago after the couple arrived in Sydney on a stolen yacht has herself now been arrested in Australia on multiple charges including supplying ecstasy to a 15-year-old girl and indecently assaulting her.

Christchurch Police have told TVNZ tonight that Australian Federal Police, acting on New Zealand-endorsed extradition warrants, arrested Simone Smith, AKA Simone Wright, in New South Wales on Tuesday this week.

She was arrested on charges of supplying a girl aged 15 with the class B drug ecstasy, the indecent assault of the same girl, multiple charges of fraud and theft of a yacht, Detective Craig Farrant of Christchurch Police said. 

She has been remanded in custody to reappear in court in Australia on September 28.  

Her partner, Paul James Bennett, was arrested in Australia when the couple arrived in Sydney on a stolen yacht from New Zealand.

Bennett was deported back to New Zealand on May 13, 2016. He was taken into custody at Christchurch Airport and taken to court next day on 48 charges stretching back to 2008.  

These were 28 charges of dishonestly using documents or obtaining funds, 10 of forgery, five of theft, three of supplying a girl aged 15 with the class B drug ecstasy, and two of indecently assaulting the same girl. 

The total involved in the alleged dishonesty offending is $567,000 and Bennett's case is currently proceeding before the court.

Bennett had been on the run until being arrested aboard a yacht moored on the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney in February 2016 .

The yacht had been stolen from the Bay of Islands the previous year.

Simone Wright and Paul James Bennett..


Temporary relocation of Auckland City Mission ruffles some neighbours' feathers

Auckland City Mission is moving temporarily while the original site used since 1980 is being upgraded.

"Spider" has been homeless since the early 1980s.

"It’s virtually my second home really, I’ve been here since the early 80s and I’ve seen it all."

The temporary location is just 700m away on Union Street and will be based there for the next two years while its Hobson Street premises undergoes a makeover.

The revamped facility will have 80 secure apartments and a 30 bed detox centre.

"Spider" says, "It has been a long time coming, very much so, it is about time we had a change."

The temporary location will continue to offer a variety of services and the mission is promising better care.

"We want to give people good space to eat," says the mission's CEO Chris Farrelly.

"Kai is not just about filling the belly, it's about a place of engagement," she says.

1 NEWS spoke to some parents and neighbours who have reservations about the mission moving to Union Street, because the crossing that children use to get to and from school sits right outside the mission's front door.

"Sometimes they do you know drugs and smokes, so I’m not really comfortable," person said.

Mr Farrelly says, "First and foremost we’ve listened and we really hear those concerns so we will have more staff at certain time of the day as an example on the streets when there are children on the streets."

The City Mission will host it's final dinner at Hobson Street tonight, before creating a new community in central Auckland tomorrow.

It’s moving temporarily while the original premises get an upgrade. Source: 1 NEWS

New staff in all schools to help students with learning disabilities, Government promises

After years of teachers and parents pleading for help, more support will be given to students with learning disabilities.

Associate education minister Tracey Martin is promising more support and assessment for kids with extra needs, with a new learning support co-ordinator role to be established within schools.

IHC advocacy director Trish Grant welcomed the move, telling 1 NEWS that: "This is recognition from Government that the system is broken, and they're up for a big change."

However, while the move is being welcomed by those within the industry, doubts over cost loom over any proposed changes.

Ms Martin didn't allay fears in any way, admitting that there was no estimate as to what costs may or may not be involved.

"I need to know what the job description is," she said. "When you know what the job description is, you know what the skill level is and what the pay grade will be."

One mother spoke to 1 NEWS about the difficulties children with learning disabilities face, saying that the proposed changes are long overdue.

"I have a son who is six years old with a diagnosis of ADHD, so what you'd call atypical neurology, and we've had a real struggle trying to access any support for him through the education system.

"We've had a lot of great support through health with a paediatrician and an occupational therapist and support from child and adolescent mental health but basically zero support through education which is really frustrating and quite exhausting as a parent."

Funding will be needed from next year's budget, with any proposed changes likely to be implemented in 2020 at the earliest.

The Government’s promise comes after years of teachers, parents crying out for more help. Source: 1 NEWS