'There's a sanctity of life argument' - Simon Bridges still doesn't support euthanasia bill, despite pleas from Tauranga constituents

National Party leader Simon Bridges says he still does not support a bill which would grant people the right to request euthanasia, saying "there is a sanctity of life argument".

The End of Life Choice Bill passed a conscience vote in Parliament 74 to 44, and its stated intent is to give people "with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting assisted dying".

It has reached the select committee stage, with public submissions due to close tomorrow and a report due on September 27.

Mr Bridges, who is the son of a Baptist minister and deeply religious himself, this morning told TVNZ 1's Breakfast programme that he had voted against the bill.

He admitted that he was "a minority on that" but said he holds concerns around the safeguards which would be put in place for those requesting euthanasia, and also said he believes "a lot of doctors are worried about playing God".

Mr Bridges said people from his Tauranga electorate had "come to me who have suffered and do want the right to die", but said "there's a sanctity of life argument" for him.

He also voted against the gay marriage legalisation bill, but has since said he would probably change his vote on that if it were done today.

Mr Bridges said he did not support the bill from David Seymour - and admitted he was in the minority. Source: Breakfast




Media personality accused of assaulting woman appears in court

A media personality has elected a trial by jury on assault charges they are facing. 

Source: istock.com

He appeared in the North Shore District Court this morning.

He's facing one charge of assaulting a woman with intent to injure and another assault charge.

He had previously pleaded not guilty to the charges back in July.

He has been granted ongoing name suppression through until his trial.

He will next appear in court in November.

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Legalising recreational cannabis could stem NZ’s epidemic of ‘zombie drug’ deaths, Peter Dunne says

Synthetic cannabis has killed more than 40 people in New Zealand since June last year, a massive jump from the previous five years, the coroner recently reported.

One way to serve a blow to the market for the so called zombie-drug in New Zealand would be to legalise recreational cannabis, former MP and Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said today on TVNZ1's Breakfast.

But the suggestion came with a caveat.

"It would certainly remove some of the incentive for people to try some of these substances," he said. "But...some of these (synthetic drugs) are so potent and so powerful that people may well feel they'll get a better high from these rather than the real product.

"While on the face of it the answer would be yes (to marijuana legalisation), I don't think it's necessarily that simple."

Cannabis and synthetic cannabis are alike in name only. The synthetic variety, often consisting of dried herbs sprayed with chemical compounds derived from old medical studies, encompasses hundreds of different strains, Mr Dunne pointed out.

Two of the most potent versions, described as up to 10 times stronger that the ones that caused a "zombie" outbreak in the US due to the way users reacted to them, have been targeted by the Government for reclassification as Class A drugs.

That would mean penalties for dealing the drugs would increase substantially, from a couple years in prison to up to 14 years.

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

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

Mr Dunne agreed that the classification for those two strains should change, but he was sceptical that it would do anything to stem the overdose epidemic.

"They're already illegal, so this doesn't make them any more illegal," he said. "We shouldn't get carried away and assume that's going to resolve the problem...We need at the same time to be beefing up our treatment facilities to deal with the people who are suffering adverse consequences because they will continue to do so."

He also suggested putting in place "a coherent international warning system" and regulating the market for the less potent strains of synthetic cannabis - rather than continuing to outlaw all of them, pushing the market underground.

But even with those solutions, eradicating the drug altogether would be difficult because it's so easy to smuggle, he said.

Police are still trying to identify the men as they want to check on their welfare. Source: 1 NEWS

"The problem is there are hundreds of these, and there are rumours of several hundred more yet to hit the market, so this problem's not going to go away anytime soon," he said.

"If you're seeking to bring this stuff into the country, you bring it all in different bits and bobs so it doesn't look like a finished product. Who knows what's put together to give it its added bite."

But there’s a caveat to the idea, the former MP and associate health minister told Breakfast. Source: Breakfast


How Finland solved its homeless crisis while numbers increase across Europe

In 2008 Finland made a significant change to their homeless policy, making it the only country in Europe where the number of homeless people has declined.

They achieved this by shutting down emergency shelters and temporary housing and instead began renovating these dwellings into apartments.

This was on top of permanent social housing they were building throughout the country under their Housing First programme.

It wasn’t an overnight success, it was a model Finland had been working on since the 1980s with charities, NGOs and volunteers.

It was the launch of a fully funded national programme a decade ago which saw the tide turn on homelessness.

“For us it means it’s always permanent housing that’s supposed to be proved for homeless persons – always permanent instead of temporary solutions,” Finland’s Housing First CEO Juha Kaakinen told 1 NEWS.

Mr Kaakinen says emergency shelters and hostels were failing to keep up with demand and were becoming an “obstacle” to solving homelessness.

“Well it’s obvious that when you are on the street or you are living in temporary accommodation to take care of things like employment issues, health and social issues it’s almost impossible,” he says.

“But a permanent home gives you a safe place where you don’t have to be afraid about what’s going to happen tomorrow, and you know if you can take care of the rent.”

In 2008, Helsinki alone had 500 bed places in emergency shelters, now 10 years later there is only one shelter with 52 beds.

Finland’s Housing First social housing stock for those who are on low incomes or in need of urgent housing makes up 13 per cent of their total housing stock.

Under their housing policy, every new housing area must be 20 per cent social housing.

“It’s quite a simple thing in a way, it makes common sense that you have to have a home like everyone else.”

The Ministry of Social Development says right now we can’t build permanent housing quick enough. Source: 1 NEWS

Not only is permanent housing supplied to those who can’t afford a roof over their head but wrap around support such as financial and debt counselling.

The number of homeless in Finland has dropped from 18,000 to 6500 people with 80 per cent living with friends and relatives while they wait for a home.

This means there is practically no street or rough sleepers in Finland, which has a total population of 5.4 million people.

The Housing First programme in New Zealand is funded by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) across many regions including Auckland.

However, this programme is just one of a myriad of programmes that include charities and community groups.

MSD’s Deputy Chief Executive for Housing Scott Gallacher acknowledges that more housing needs to be built to address the current crisis here.

“Our optimal outcome is to have far more supply of public housing, so people can have long-term stability. The stark reality is the context in which we find ourselves in that we just cannot bring on the degree of supply of long-term housing in the time required.

“The scale of what we’ve got of transitional housing at the moment will probably reduce over time and once we have a far stronger supply of long-term homes for people that is really the optimal outcome that we’re all trying to achieve,” says Mr Gallacher told 1 NEWS.

MSD also acknowledges it needs to provide greater support for those who are homeless to end chronic homelessness.

“It’s not just about the bricks and mortar, it’s not just about the house, it’s about what sort of support are we providing families and individuals to stabilise their lives and actually be able to sustain long-term homes.”

Mr Kaakinen says there is no other way around ending homelessness but to have government involvement.

Read more from Ryan Boswell's Homeless in New Zealand series here: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Finland is the only European country that has seen a decline in homelessness. Source: 1 NEWS