Simon Bridges says 'we should expect more' of Kiwis on a benefit, who aren’t sanctioned enough by government

Simon Bridges says he is striving to help New Zealand beneficiaries help themselves by calling for harsher sanctions on their payments from the Government.

Speaking on TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning, the National leader took aim at a rise in beneficiaries numbers over the last financial quarter, saying there has been a 'unfair" loosening of the rules to receive payments.

"I think it's pretty simple, it's about fairness. What we've seen under this Government is beneficiary numbers have risen by a couple of thousand in the last quarter as they say," Mr Bridges said.

"And the loosening of the rules, the penalties has also happened by about 20 per cent. You put that all together and I say that's unfair. It's unfair on taxpayers who work hard and expect to see their money well spent. But it's also not fair to the beneficiaries frankly.

"We should expect more of them, because someone who is seeking a job and gets a job is better esteemed, they have better purpose, and life outcomes. So we shouldn't be giving up on them and say 'hey, no, we've got no expectations, you just sit there on the dole, all is going to be OK'."

Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni denied the Government was encouraging New Zealanders to stay on a benefit over seeking work.

"We aren't going soft on beneficiaries, it's about making sure New Zealanders are accessing what they're eligible for, according to the existing policy," Ms Sepuloni said.

"Our focus is getting people into sustainable work, where people have the chance to be financially stable, and have the chance to better their situation."

Mr Bridges defended his party's harsher stance by citing numbers that 70,000 people went from benefits into work during the Key/English National era of 2011-17.

However, according to statistics from the Ministry for Social Development, there are actually 12,000 fewer people on beneficiaries now then when the Labour-led government came into power nine months ago.  

There are also fewer Kiwis on a benefit now than in 2008, when John Key became Prime Minister.

However, Mr Bridges interpreted these numbers differently.

"Well 2008 of course was the global financial crisis, business was going to hell in a hand-basket back then," he said.

"The reality is if you compare the last year, the unemployment benefit, the job seeker support has gone up by about 4000.

Salvation Army National Practice manager Jono Bell spoke to TVNZ’s Breakfast this morning. Source: Breakfast

"Now, I just don't think that's good enough. That's a few town halls full of people who's life outcomes won't be as good if we let them sit there."

The National leader claimed NZ beneficiary numbers have risen under the Government, and it’s not fair on taxpayers. Source: Breakfast


Search continues overnight for crew member missing from Sealord vessel off Wairarapa coast

The search for a crew member missing from a Sealord vessel  off the Wairarapa coast is continuing through the night. 

The company says mid-morning this morning crew onboard the Otakou became aware a crew member did not report for duty.

A full muster was conducted to confirm this, and a search was immediately commenced and authorities notified, Sealord said.

The four vessels involved in the search will search overnight, and will review the situation after sunrise tomorrow.

The two helicopters searching were stood down at nightfall.

Weather conditions in the area are fair but are predicted to deteriorate tomorrow.

Source: NZ Topo Map

Sealord said it is making all effort to notify next of kin. 

It said the crew member was not on active duty at the time of disappearance and the reason for the disappearance is not known at this stage.

All other crew are accounted for, however, they are very concerned for the safety of their team member, the company said. 

Sealord is taking this situation very seriously and is providing support to all staff, it said.

The company is also cooperating with all search and rescue instructions, it said.

Earlier tonight Vince Cholewa of the Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination Centre said the centre was advised of the crew member overboard around 11.30am. 

At that time the person had been in the water for 50 minutes or less, he told 1 NEWS. 

Mr Cholewa said there were four vessels and two helicopters involved in the search - Otakou, two other fishing vessels, the police launch Lady Elizabeth IV, a LifeFlight helicopter and an Air Force NH90. 

The estimated location is 11km east of Glendhu Rocks.

Sealord's Otakou
Sealord's Otakou Source: Sealord



Partner at Russell McVeagh quits after investigation into ‘inappropriate’ drunken comments

Russell McVeagh has today confirmed the resignation of a partner following an independent investigation into complaints over inappropriate complaints made while intoxicated, the law firm said in a statement.

It’s now put the spotlight on the whole legal profession and other industries. Source: 1 NEWS

Russell McVeagh board chair Malcom Crotty said, "A thorough investigation substantiates the complaints and the partner concerned has apologised and tendered his resignation.

"We are deeply disappointed in the partner at the centre of the investigation."

Mr Crotty said the firm "is committed to changing the culture" of their organisation, adding that they "all recognise that change requires collective and long-term commitment".

It found a culture involving “excessive drinking” and at times “sexually inappropriate behaviour”. Source: 1 NEWS

"All partners in the firm agreed to uphold and lead the change," he said.

"The partner concerned let the firm down and we have now lost trust and confidence in him. The Board determined that his conduct has fallen below our expected standards and we have accepted his resignation.

"There is no place for inappropriate conduct at our firm. Despite the circumstances, it is encouraging that our people have spoken up."

Russell McVeagh has arranged to meet with the New Zealand Law Society following the investigation.

The man made inappropriate comments while under the influence of alcohol. Source: 1 NEWS


Thirty-one people recently treated at Christchurch Hospital after taking synthetic drugs, 12 this week

A total of 31 patients have been treated at Christchurch Hospital for the effects of taking synthetic drugs since September 20, with two people remaining in ICU. 

A spokesperson for the Canterbury and West Coast DHB said 12 more people have presented or were admitted to Christchurch Hospital just this week. 

"Three more patients have received intensive care following synthetic cannabinoid use, but are no longer in ICU. Two of the original three remain in ICU."

It comes a spate of admissions to Christchurch Hospital over the last three weeks of people who had taken synthetic drugs.

"There have been no synthetic cannabinoid-related deaths in Christchurch hospital during this time," the spokesperson said. 

They're calling for the drug to be classified as Class A – the most harmful and dangerous.
Source: 1 NEWS

Wellington's much-maligned Island Bay cycleway at least a year away from being fixed

Locals enraged by the botched cycleway in the Wellington suburb of Island Bay will likely have to wait another year for it to be fixed.

The Wellington City Council agreed in September last year to revamp the cycleway after locals fiercely opposed the design which saw the cyclists riding between the curb and cars.

However, work has not started yet as the council is hoping the Transport Agency will help cover $24m of the $32m project.

But the agency won't give funding for just the Island Bay section so the council must present a plan that covers the cycleway from Island Bay to the Basin Reserve, council documents show.

Island Bay locals aren’t convinced about the unusual design, labelling it “an accident waiting to happen”. Source: 1 NEWS

It was not clear what the cost of changing the Island Bay stretch of cycleway would be but it was likely to be more than the $6m first budgeted.

Wellington City Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons said the delay is the right course of action.

"This to me is really the only responsible approach given that we can access a significant amount more in government investment to connect the Island Bay cycleway through to the centre of Wellington."

The council would use what it had learnt from the Island Bay debacle while building the rest of the cycleway, Ms Fitzimons said.

The council would continue to do maintenance on the road over summer, including repainting markings in the middle of the road, and trying to remove old markings which were still visible.

The cycleway has been mired in controversy since its inception in 2011 with more than 100 people marching through Island Bay in December last year. They were protesting against the council's proposed solution to raise the cycleway to the same level as the footpath so cars can park up against the curb.

The Island Bay Residents Association is pushing ahead with plans to file legal action against the council.

By Laura Dooney


The community is calling for a return to the pre-cycleway design that wouldn't see carparks removed. Source: Breakfast