TVNZ weather presenter Dan Corbett gives the latest update on severe storm

Rain continues to fall across the North Island tonight and is expected to continue into tomorrow morning, however TVNZ weather presenter Dan Corbett says "it will be improving."

Wild weather has lashed the North Island today, creating havoc in coastal areas with extensive flooding and causing widespread damage to roads. 

MetService has said this storm is the first significant system to affect the country since mid-September.  

Daniel Corbett says "we’ve still got this low to get through" and there will be a "bit of windy weather for some of us tonight."

"The low continues to deepen and widen and then when it loses its energy it starts to fade," Corbett explains. 

"It is now tracking across the lower North Island.

"Watches and warnings now are shifting transitions across parts of central New Zealand, Wellington, towards parts of Canterbury."

Hauraki Plains Civil Defence is on high alert amid concerns for about 500 coastal homes between Waitakaruru and Kaiau. Source: 1 NEWS

Heavy rain is expected with 20-70mm possible and severe gales gusts up to 120km/h for the central North Island and upper South Island overnight and into tomorrow.

A watch is also in place for rain and gales for rest of the North Island and parts of the South Island.

There is a risk of coastal inundation along central coasts at highly king tides this evening. 

Torrential rain and gales have lashed the North Island for much of the day. Source: 1 NEWS


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Live Stream: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern makes major announcement from Parliament

Ms Ardern is speaking from the Beehive Theatrette. Source: 1 NEWS

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Watch: 'Cantankerous old' rescue dog's escape down Bay of Islands thoroughfare prompts laughter around the world

A rescue dog named Lily from the Bay of Islands has become an overnight internet sensation after her wily escape down Kawakawa’s main street – with a giant flag in tow — put smiles on tens of thousands of Facebook users' faces.

CCTV footage of the freedom-seeking furball's runner — accompanied by Yakety Sax, the song made famous by the Benny Hill Show — has been viewed more than 320,000 times in the first 16 hours since it was posted last night.

Lucie Green, a volunteer with Bay of Islands Animal Rescue, was taking the basset hound for a walk last week when she decided to stop at a local business to buy Lily a treat.

But the dog wasn't interested in waiting to see what surprise might be in store, instead bolting despite being tied to the large Coca-Cola flag.

"It wasn't until I saw the video that I realised I had charged into oncoming traffic, which is quite alarming, but I just wanted to get hold of her before someone hit her," Ms Green told the New Zealand Herald today, describing the nine-year-old as a "cantankerous old lady".

"After taking her home I realised I still had to return the flag and pay for my sausage," she added. "I couldn't believe it."

Ms Green changed her Facebook profile picture to show Lilly late last night as the video, posted by user James Mcdonald, quickly started to take on a life of its own.

Thousands of people have since commented on the video, with many of them admiring the dog’s spirit.

"I'm laughing my guts out it's so funny," wrote Facebook user Annie Hicks.

"Crack up go doggie," added user Katie Bennett.

The basset hound, named Lily, was tied to a large flag outside a dairy. So she took the flag with her on her wild escape. Source: Facebook/James Mcdonald

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Government moves to make pay equity claims easier - 'We must continue to close gap'

The Government want to make it easier for workers to lodge pay equity claims, introducing a proposed law on the 125th anniversary women first got the vote in New Zealand. 

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees Galloway said today he was proud to take "the next step to address historic inequities in pay for women". 

He said The Equal Pay Amendment Bill was intended to make the process of making pay equity claims simplified and more accessible.

Acting Women's Minister Eugenie Sage said the bill was "one piece of the puzzle" in striving to close the gender pay gap. 

"Discrimination has led to lower pay for many female-dominated industries, despite having similar working conditions and skill requirements to comparable male-dominated occupations."

Earlier this year, National MP Denise Lee's Members' Bill on pay equity was voted down.

It intended to "eliminate and prevent discrimination on the basis of sex" in employment pay, and to also "promote enduring settlement of claims relating to sex discrimination on pay equity grounds". 

Labour MP Megan Woods saying there were "some very simple mechanistic reasons contained within this legislation why that would not occur", and fellow MP Jan Tinetti saying "this bill does put things backwards for pay equity". Labour, National and NZ First voted against it. 

Shot of New Zealand twenty dollars.
New Zealand $20 notes (file picture). Source: istock.com


Rural relief teacher shortage forced one school to send students home

Rural schools have struggled to find enough relief teachers during the winter flu season with at least one sending students home because of a lack of staff.

Official figures showed there were fewer cases of flu than usual in the past few months, but principals told RNZ the teacher shortage was making it harder to find back-up when teachers were unwell or needed time away from the classroom.

Murupara Area School principal Angela Sharples said she recently had to take drastic action when the flu left the school without half of its teachers and not enough relievers.

"We actually had to roster home our senior students, our Years 9 to 13, on one day. I had planned on having our senior leadership team teaching and then we had another two staff call in sick that morning and I just didn't feel that I could safely open that part of the school."

Ms Sharples said she had never had to close part of her school before because of teacher absence.

"The relief teacher shortage has been getting worse in my opinion since I have been principal here at Murupara. But that combination of a poor teacher supply, poor relief teacher supply and then illness - I just couldn't come up with an appropriate solution."

It used to be a matter of filling out a form - now it's a $4,000, 12-week course. Source: 1 NEWS

She said it had become harder to find relievers since the introduction of a requirement that teachers who had not maintained their teaching registration complete a training course every six years.

She said the school provided a van to drive teachers and relievers from Rotorua which was 50 minutes away.

Ms Sharples said children in remote areas deserved education of as high a standard as those in urban areas.

The principal of Tuakau College near Pukekohe and Pokeno, Chris Betty, said the 48 teachers at his school had logged 330 sick days so far this year, which was a lot.

He said recently the school of 600 students could not find any relief teachers at all.

"We had five relievers that we wanted and we couldn't find them," he said.

Mr Betty said the school was forced to combine some classes and leave senior classes unsupervised.

He said being unable to find any relievers at all was unusual, but the school regularly had to leave classes unsupervised because of a lack of teachers.

"Sometimes we don't put relievers into senior classes, Year 13 classes, because they're 17, 18-year-olds, they're pretty responsible themselves. We might have someone visiting that class to check on them. There'd be a class each week I would think through the whole year on average. In the flu season it might be two or three classes," Mr Betty said.

Area Schools Association president Grant Burns said relievers were not just harder to find in rural areas than in urban areas, they were also more expensive because of their travel costs.

"We've certainly noticed that costs have crept up, actually more than crept up, have leapt up over the last five years at this school. It was around $25,000 a year we were spending on relief, now it's about $100,000 a year. The school has grown in that time, but not to that extent."

Mr Burns said one reason for the rising cost at his school was a growing reluctance to ask staff to cover for their colleagues during time they were supposed to use to prepare lessons.

He said finding relief teachers was time-consuming and it would be ideal if the government set up a central office to do the work.

"What I'd like to see is a middle layer of administration across a district that takes the daily scramble for relievers out of the hands of principals or their delegated staff members," he said.

"It would be nice if we could just simply make a call to the local ministry office or whatever it's called and say 'yep we need three relievers today please' and be able hang up the phone knowing those relievers were going to come.

Some teachers are having to rethink their careers because of a new course they have to take. Source: Breakfast

But at the moment we've got schools competing, all scrambling for a limited pool of relievers."

Mr Burns said jury duty was difficult for schools because it was never clear how long a teacher would be absent.

He said travel times also made it difficult to find relievers to cover short periods such as one or two hours in a day.

By John Gerritsen
Rnz.co.nz

Principals teaching, students being divvied up and teachers losing release time are all increasing practices at some schools. Source: 1 NEWS