'Still too many' people threatening self harm in phone calls to Inland Revenue

Inland Revenue says there are still too many people threatening self-harm in phone calls to the department and people should engage with it early so they can be helped to avoid desperation over debt.

The number of people threatening self-harm in phone calls to IR has trended down consistently over the last three years.

Figures released today show in the calendar year 2016 there were 334 threats of self-harm in calls. This was down to 306 in 2017 and 182 to August 28 this year. Of those approximately half were reported to police.

"There are still too many, but this is an encouraging trend that we hope continues," said  Mary Craig, Inland Revenue's deputy commissioner, corporate integrity and assurance.

"Our staff have been encouraged to take a consistent approach to these difficult calls that aims to help rather than exacerbate each situation," Ms Craig said.

"But a key to avoiding these situations can be for people to engage early with IR so that we can help them avoid getting to the point of desperation with debt," she said. 

"We can and do help people resolve difficult situations all the time.

"The most important thing is that they don’t need to lose hope because there are options we can discuss with them," Ms Craig said.

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)

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

Safe to talk National Sexual Harm Helpline - 0800 044 334, www.safetotalk.nz

Victim Support National 24 Hour Helpline 0800 842 846, www.victimsupport.org.nz

• Rape Crisis National 24 Hour Helpline 0800 883300

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

IRD New Zealand currency composite image.
IRD and New Zealand currency composite image. Source: 1 NEWS



More chlorination likely with water services set to be centralised

The Government is set to strip councils of their power over water following Havelock North's 2016 gastro crisis which was a wake up call for the country.  

Speaking to Water New Zealand's conference today, the Local Government Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, gave her strongest hint yet of change. 

Havelock North's gastro outbreak prompted a review of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater nationwide.

The estimated cost of ensuring drinking water is safe is $500 million, and to fix water infrastructure, at least $2 billion. 

"The Government doesn't have a bottomless pit of money to throw at this," Ms Mahuta said.

But water won't be privatised. Instead, services are likely to be moved into a national water regulator and responsibility for water service stripped from the 67 councils and handed to a small number of entities.

Water NZ chief executive John Pfahlert said that would mean "you get better quality water and it doesn't cost as much to provide". 

But change for the water industry is unlikely to be without controversy.

Any change is likely to see authority over water taken away from local councils, and Local Government New Zealand will not be happy about that.

"We would have issues if it was compulsory because we believe bigger is not always better. New Zealand is incredibly diverse from the Far North to the Deep South," said Stuart Crosbie of Local Government NZ. 

Twenty per cent of drinking water is unsafe - so a national agency is likely to mean more chlorination.

"It's there for a good public health reason. So it'll take time for the communities like Christchurch and Geraldine and other parts of New Zealand which have traditionally not had treated water, to get their head around that," Mr Pfahlert said.

Back in Hawke's Bay, the health board is studying the long-term impacts of the campylobacter outbreak.

John Buckley's family believe he could be the fifth victim of Havelock North's gastro outbreak.

The 78-year-old died three weeks ago of a stroke, but prior to the crisis, they say he'd been healthy.

"He's spent a lot of time in hospital. He's had a lot of unexpected surgeries and bleeds and heart problems, kidney problems, all due to the campylobacter," said Kat Sheridan, Mr Buckley's daughter.

Ms Sheridan says the family wishes, "you can turn your tap on again and trustfully drink the water. Surely that's all we want".

Before any changes can happen Cabinet will need to approve the recommendations made in the review of water management. 

It comes after Havelock North's gastro crisis was a wake-up call for New Zealand. Source: 1 NEWS

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Massey University's Vice Chancellor faces reprimand from colleagues over handling of Don Brash debate debacle

Massey University’s Vice Chancellor is facing reprimand from her colleagues over her handling of the Don Brash debate debacle.

At the October meeting of the Massey University Academic Board, two motions to censure Vice Chancellor Jan Thomas will be debated, after she banned Don Brash from speaking on campus.

They relate to her decision to cancel the Don Brash event, and for the process of decision making revealed in today’s Official Information Act (OIA) release.

Massey University vice-chancellor Jan Thomas and Don Brash Source: rnz.co.nz

"I think it’s safe to say there's a proportion of staff who aren't happy with how things have proceeded," Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor, Chris Gallivan told Newstalk ZB.

If the motions are passed, they won’t have much more effect than to register staff's disapproval of the way Prof Thomas handled the affair.

"The University Council is the Vice Chancellor's boss. It will be for the University Council to deal with this as they so wish, it’s not up to the Academic Board," Prof Gallivan says.

The University Council has been approached for comment by 1 NEWS.

But the former National Party leader is calling on the university's Vice Chancellor to resign. Source: 1 NEWS

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Versions of synthetic cannabis in New Zealand up to 10 times stronger than strain that saw US 'zombie outbreak'

Experts are warning there are deadlier versions of synthetic cannabis available in New Zealand which are much more potent than the one which caused the so-called zombie outbreaks in the US.

The Government's been told two deadly types of synthetic cannabis are so potent they should be classified as class A drugs.

One of these drugs has been linked to a well-known case that rocked the United States in 2016.

"The concentrations we're seeing in New Zealand are much more potent than what we saw in the Zombie outbreak in New York," Health Minister David Clark says.

In some instances, the drugs found here were 10 times stronger.

The news comes after synthetic cannabis was linked to the deaths of at least 45 people since June 2017.

"I don't think we ever anticipated we'd get new synthetic drugs that would lead to so much harm," Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell told 1 NEWS.

Synthetic cannabis is already illegal - but the maximum punishment for dealers is two years in prison.

Making synthetic cannabis a class A drug would put it alongside methamphetamine, cocaine, magic mushrooms and lsd.

This would mean the police would have more power and the penalties would be significantly tougher for dealers and users.

The Government says it will make a decision on synthetic drugs in the coming weeks.

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


Wellington bus network changes to be reviewed after council bombarded with complaints

Wellington's new bus network will be independently reviewed after ongoing complaints of buses being late, too full to board or not showing up at all.

The regional council today voted today to have the system reviewed and the results reported back by December.

Since the system was changed in July the council has been bombarded with complaints.

Councillors have also asked officers to change a route so that it began and ended in Kilbirnie, as it previously did, and for feedback on whether some other routes can be changed.

Regional council chief executive Greg Campbell said he took full responsibility for fixing the network's problems.

He said the review needed to be done quickly.

"Any commuter that is left stranded, or a bus that is late, that is of extreme concern. We have to get a clear view of what is happening. What an independent review can really do - particularly for management and council - is give a view of what has happened and articulate that well."

At the beginning of the meeting several Wellington residents addressed the council to let it know they were still unhappy with the new bus routes.

A Wellington principal said the recent re-jig of the routes was making his students late for class and putting them in danger.

St Patrick's College, Kilbirnie's rector Neal Swindells told this morning's meeting about 100-150 boys were using the new service.

"Currently our two 753 buses from the station in the afternoon are significantly overloaded and are unsafe. On Monday this week, they were both loaded to the gunnels and there were 30-odd students who couldn't get on. So what they do is they cross the road to catch the new 24 bus, which by the time it leaves St Pat's now is also overfull."

rnz.co.nz

Commuters at a bus stop in Newtown. Source: rnz.co.nz