Opinion: 'Survival is the only thing that matters' - Election season gains substantial momentum

It does not often rate mention, but one of the reasons for holding election campaigns is to test the capacity of those seeking office to endure heavy and sustained pressure.

If it becomes obvious that a candidate cannot stand the heat, then they should not be allowed anywhere near the kitchen.

Source: 1 NEWS

In the run-up to September's general election, the temperature is already rising — and fast.

We are still two months out from Election Day, however, the quaint ceremony which will see a creature bearing the title of Herald of Arms make the proclamation dissolving New Zealand's 51st Parliament is still more than four-weeks away.

The House is still scheduled to be sitting into next month.

However, what had been a very stop-start de facto election campaign has gained substantial momentum as parties seek to get their policies in front of voters rather than see them sink out of sight in the sea of distractions and trivialities which plague the campaign proper.

It is often said that nothing quite concentrates the mind as much as a hanging at dawn.

When it comes to your average politician, the only kind of hanging which concentrates his or her mind is the no small of hanging onto his or her seat in Parliament.

An election campaign is akin to a beauty pageant at a seaside resort, but hosted by the Grim Reaper and without the hokey-pokey ice-cream.

It is a brutal time. It is the time for the culling of the herd. Survival is the only thing that matters. The fear of being a victim of renewal sees outbreaks of what may be termed as "election fever".

The symptoms of this condition are many and varied. In extreme cases, those so afflicted become delusional, lose all perspective and start behaving in a manner which is not necessarily in their own interest.

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei spoke candidly on Q+A today. Source: Q+A

This week's bitter exchanges between the Greens and New Zealand First are a case in point.

Parliament’s supposed peaceniks broke from their supposed guiding principle that when it comes to differing viewpoints, policy-driven or otherwise, they play the ball not the man or woman carrying it.

Metiria Turei, one of the Greens co-leaders, has at times appeared to be a reluctant convert to that modus operandi.

Last weekend, she hammered Winston Peters with a crunching tackle by accusing his party of racism.

That was followed by an outburst from Barry Coates, another Green MP, who warned his party would consider forcing another election if Labour formed a coalition with New Zealand First without the Greens.

Barry who? Well, may you ask.

The former executive director of Oxfam New Zealand has been in Parliament for all of nine months having come off the party's list as a replacement for Kevin Hague who decided to leave Parliament after failing to win election as the party’s male co-leader.

Coates had no authority to make such an incendiary statement. It is hard to believe he did not realise he was right out of line. But don’t shoot the messenger.

It was the message that mattered. And the message was simple. The Greens are not going to tolerate having their stomachs tickled during post-election negotiations only to watch others running off with the baubles of office.

Seasoned observers of MMP elections downplayed the hostilities as a classic example of pre-election jostling.

Voters might have arrived at a different conclusion —that any governing arrangement which lumps the Greens together with New Zealand and Labour will be about as stable as blancmange on a table in the cafeteria of a Cook Strait ferry in a southerly.

It all added up to another headache Andrew Little could well do without. 

For his part, Labour's leader is now locked in a white-knuckle arm-wrestle with the Law of Self-fulfilling Prophesies — that the more the opinion polls indicate that Labour is in free-fall the more likely that will happen.

The Labour leader says polls are interesting but "that’s not what motivates me". Source: Breakfast

Little deserves some kind of medal, however. It takes guts to walk into a meeting knowing —to extrapolate the findings of Monday's 1 NEWS-Colmar Brunton poll —you are not the first choice as prime minister for 19 out of every 20 people in the room.

When it comes to choices for prime minister, it was not just Little who appeared to be getting the cold sweats of election fever this week.

The Race Relations Commissioner has slammed the Government for not doing enough. Source: 1 NEWS

For the the best part of 18-months, Anne Tolley, National's Social Development Minister, has employed every argument she can muster as reason not to establish a high-level inquiry into the systemic abuse suffered by state wards from the 1940s to the early 1990s.

She needn't have bothered. As is his prerogative as prime minister, Bill English suddenly softened his stance last week and indicated he was open to considering "additional steps" to help the victims of abuse.

The final diagnosis in English's case, however, was not election fever, just good politics.

He is unlikely to smile so kindly on the delusions of grandeur being exhibited by the Maori Party. National's tried and trusted support partner had a rush of blood to the head.

It wants taxpayers to fork out the thick end of $350 million on a regional rail network carrying high-speed trains.

As a means of pouring money down the drain, you would have to go back to the 1970s and National’s Think Big energy projects to find a comparable white elephant of that scale.

The first step would see the reopening of the moth-balled Napier-Gisborne line. There is a reason why the line was closed. The only thing it seemed to be good for was transporting empty carriages and empty freight wagons.

Shane Jones, New Zealand First's five-star recruit of all of two weeks poured great dollops of ridicule on the Maori Party's "unrealistic and farcical" plan to resurrect regional rail.

He rather unkindly suggested the party "stick to kapahaka" and leave serious politicians to do the work.

This was a bit rich. New Zealand First has long made the reopening of the Napier-Gisborne a priority. Jones struggled to explain why his new party’s policy would work financially and the Maori Party’s version would not.

What Jones' mouthings did confirm was that he would be totally unsuitable as New Zealand First's future leader when Peters finally moves on.

The truth is Jones is far too smart, sensible, thoughtful, far-sighted, rational and liberal-minded to make a success of that job.


NZ strawberry grower forks out $20,000 for security measures

An Auckland strawberry grower has forked out more than $20,000 for metal detectors, after needle-ridden strawberries were found in New Zealand.

On Sunday, three needles were found in one punnet of Western Australian strawberries at an Auckland supermarket.

It was still unclear where the needles came from.

Australia's strawberry contamination crisis comes just as New Zealand growers are about to put their fruit on the market.

The Zaberri Strawberry farm is just 20 minutes north of Auckland City.

A large silver tin shed sits at the entrance, that's the pack house, and 29 fields lined with rows of strawberry plants surround it.

The farm's owner, who goes by one name, Boman, has run the place for nine years.

In two weeks 150 of his workers will start the harvest.

"We pick [the strawberries] in the early hours of the morning, so ideally we try to have all of our fields picked before... midday, one o'clock and they'll be picked here, and scanned and sent to the packhouse," he said.

Police in Australia have been investigating more than 100 reports of contaminated fruit, many of which are believed to be hoaxes and copycat incidents.

And every Australian strawberry now has to pass through a metal detector before it can be exported.

The same regulations have not been imposed on the 150 New Zealand growers - but Boman was not taking any risks.

"So, we've invested in metal detectors, which will be installed here before our season starts and everything that's been picked and packed will be examined.

"We'll be adding additional surveillance cameras to capture everything that goes in and out of our cool stores," he said.

Despite spending more than $20,000 on the new security measures, Boman is certain the strawberry sabotage crisis won't happen here.

"Some might think that it's over the top, but I think it is better to be ready to ensure our industry is not put into a chaos like what's happened in Australia," he said.

It's a crucial time for strawberry growers - the harvest season has already started for some and it's about to start for others.

The Australian industry, worth about $AU130 million annually, was hit at the start of its season.

The scare prompted product recalls and forced growers to destroy their crops.

If the situation here reaches the same level, the $35m New Zealand industry will be hit hard, Boman said.

"It'll have a significant impact on our financial ability going forward, and not just for us, I think right across, from the growers mainly, retailers will be affected and there will be many employees.

"We've got people here whose whole family relies on them."

The maximum penalty for contaminating food in New Zealand is ten years' imprisonment.

By Katie Scotcher


Strawberry grower Boman
Strawberry grower Boman. Source: rnz.co.nz


All Blacks legend Richie McCaw shares his top tips for success with young leaders

There's no question that plenty of kids look up to Richie McCaw and dream of the kind of success he's had.

So, you can imagine how stoked 800 odd secondary students were today when the man himself shared his own leadership lessons at the Kids with Character Empower Me Leadership seminar in Auckland.

TVNZ1's Seven Sharp asked him what his top tips were for kids.

Tip 1:

"The first one that I really live by is that you can't go past hard work, if you think it's going to be easy, if you achieve it when it's easy you're probably not going to get the satisfaction of what it's all about."

Tip 2:

"Attention to detail, understanding of what it takes as not everyone knows, asking for advice or asking for help from people around you who can see things from a different way."

Tip 3:

"You got to have that drive. It's not someone telling you that you've got to work hard, you've got to really want to do it yourself and I think the people who have that are the most successful."

All advice that will help McCaw in perhaps his biggest challenge of all, becoming a dad.

McCaw spoke at the Character Empower Me Leadership seminar in Auckland. Source: Seven Sharp



More than 200 people report adverse reactions to recently-funded antidepressant

Concern is mounting over a recently funded antidepressant, with a growing number of patients reporting life-threatening side-effects. 

Pharmac's switch to funding Enlafax a year ago saves the drug buying agency $5.4 million a year. 

It expected around 1 per cent of the 45,000 patients taking it could experience adverse reactions because of the brand switch. That's about 450 people. 

While complaints now stand at over 240 and climbing, support groups say the number of people suffering is far higher. 

In a small Bay of Plenty town, one highly experienced GP, Dr Christine Williams, is grappling with the problem.  

"I've seen people that had gambling addictions return to gambling and lose their jobs. I've seen marriages break down," Dr Williams told 1 NEWS. 

She says this patent behaviour is all linked to the generic antidepressant Enlafax.

"With this particular group of patients I don't have any that are responding to it, not one." 

The symptoms of 12 patients are similar to those experienced hundreds of kilometres away by Amy in Marlborough.

"Within two weeks of starting Enlafax I was having nightmares and feeling depressed, thoughts of self harm and suicide," Amy said. 

Medsafe is standing by its decision to approve the drug which saw Effexor-XR replaced with the cheaper generic brand Enlafax.

It says the brand switch complies with international best practice and that tests show Enlafax has the same benefits and risks as Effexor-XR. 

"They don't switch to a generic without adequate research and investigation," Dr Jan White of the NZMA GP Council said. 

Dr White says she has seen no problems from Enlafax at her busy city practice. 

But complaints about Enlafax are piling up. The agency monitoring adverse reactions to drugs has now received more than 240 complaints, many identifying side-effects like severe depression and suicidal thoughts.  

And a Facebook page set up by patients with adverse reactions claims to have logged 450 negative responses to Enlafax. 

They're experiences like those of Amy who says her GP wanted to increase her dose when she became unwell.

The mother of two only learnt about negative side-effects in a 1 NEWS report three weeks ago. 

"I'm not sure if I would be here right now if I had waited and stayed on it," Amy said.

Dr Williams said: "I'm sure it's the tip of the iceberg."

And with the prospect of more vulnerable lives unravelling, Dr Williams says it's vital the previous brand Effexor-XR remains available. 

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.
Lifeline: 0800 543 354
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)
Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz
What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)
Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)
Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254
Healthline: 0800 611 116
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

Pharmac’s switch to Enlafax one year ago saves the drug buying agency $5.4million per year. Source: 1 NEWS

Mackenzie District pleading for financial help to cope with influx of tourists

One of the country's most picturesque tourist destinations is pleading for financial help to cope with a massive influx of visitors.

The Mackenzie District Council has applied for a grant from the provincial growth fund to pay for a feasibility study in Tekapo.

The stunning views see 4000 people visit Tekapo every day.

Its popularity has led to rapid expansion, with five hotels seeking consent to build and new subdivisions filling up fast.

"With the problems that Queenstown has had, we think we've got a lot to learn," Mackenzie District Mayor Graham Smith told 1 NEWS.

The council's applied for $800,000 from the Provincial Growth Fund to help with future planning.

It’s applied for a grant from the Provincial Growth Fund. Source: 1 NEWS