UN request to Govt over alleged Afghanistan war crimes based on 'inaccuracies' - Gerry Brownlee

A United Nations request to our Government to respond to allegations of war crimes is based on factual inaccuracies, according to Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee.

The authors of the book Hit & Run, Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, allege New Zealand SAS forces were involved in raids in Afghanistan in 2010, resulting in the death or injury of 21 civilians.

The Government ruled out any investigation two months ago, saying a coalition forces report had cleared New Zealand military personnel of any wrongdoing.

Mr Brownlee said today that contrary to an Amnesty International press release and subsequent media reports, the New Zealand Government has not been ordered to investigate the allegations made in the book Hit & Run.

The Government has received a list of issues from the United Nations Committee Against Torture as part of a routine reporting process and has two years to respond, he said. 

"Unfortunately, the issue raised by the Committee is based on factual inaccuracies. The allegations made by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson were disproven and the Chief of Defence Force held a press conference detailing the New Zealand Defence Force raid in Afghanistan in 2010," Mr Brownlee said.

"I would also like to point out that the findings of the International Security Assistance Force investigation undertaken in 2010 after Operation Burnham were available to the United Nations Assistance Mission - Afghanistan at the time," he added.

"We will be responding to the committee's request for information but I want to be clear that this is not a criticism of New Zealand, or its Defence Force."

Mr Brownlee said the committee will make its conclusion about the 33 issues raised after the Government has responded, as required, by 2019. 

Details of the incident, which left 21 civilians dead or wounded, were reported in the book Hit and Run. Source: 1 NEWS

Hundreds of government staff stop work for waiata to mark Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori

Hundreds of government staff stopped work yesterday, not for a strike but a song.

For a few minutes, everyone at the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment's Wellington HQ was singing from the same song sheet.

It was a high point of the Ministry's Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori events, which included online teaching modules and helping people learn their mihi.

Staff lined the balconies to sing the waiata Tūtira Mai Ngā Iwi - a song about coming together.

Hinemaua Rikirangi from the Ministry's Māori economic development team said, "the key thing is actually about encouraging people to make the effort".

"Those are some of the key steps that we hope to nurture and grow," she said.

“Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori was about celebrating the reo's taonga, or treasure, which is unique to Aotearoa.”

The enthusiasm rubbed off on some staff.

Deirdre Millar who came to Aotearoa from Ireland 12 years ago said, "it made me proud to see people embracing the indigenous language".

"Too many things get lost when a language is lost: your identity, your culture, everything," she said.

The ministry's longer term goal is to build awareness of the Māori culture and language to ensure the minority isn't forgotten in policy.

Raniera Albert, who led the waiata, said he hoped that in 10 years' time "Māori are at the forefront of policy decisions".

"Where we are not the afterthought of the afterthought, where New Zealand's policies work for, but for Pasifika as well."

Everyone at the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment's Wellington HQ was singing from the same song sheet as part of the ministry's Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori events. Source: 1 NEWS

From remand home to rap – young Dunedin men using rap to turn their lives around

Two young Dunedin men are using rap music to turn their lives around.

Cleveland and Hoepo had a troubled start to life and recently spent time in a remand home.

However, with the help of social worker Nan, the pair changed their mindset and are determined to rap themselves to a better future.

Seven Sharp has their inspiring story in the video above.

After a troubled start to life, Cleveland and Hoepo have changed their mindset around and are determined to rap themselves to a better future. Source: Seven Sharp


University of Otago announces new $150 million building in Christchurch

The University of Otago has announced plans to build a new building at its current Christchurch campus.

The six-storey building is estimated to cost $150 million, and will be the biggest ever construction project the university has undertaken.

The university aims to complete the new building on Oxford Terrace by 2022, in time for the 50th anniversary of the campus.

The building will enable the growth of the campus’ world-class health science research and education programmes, said Vice Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne.

When the new building is completed, the existing ‘Riccarton’ building will be utilised primarily for teaching activities and clinical research projects involving Christchurch Hospital staff and patients.

Artist’s impression of the planned new University of Otago building on Christchurch campus. Source: University of Otago

Watch: Too early? Visit the Christchurch store that's been selling Christmas decorations since August

Every year we hear the same old story about "Christmas Creep" - shops selling Christmas decorations earlier and earlier each year.

Seven Sharp may have stumbled across a new record this year, as a Spotlight in Christchurch has already been selling Christmas stuff since the end of August.

Is August too late? Should we be diving into Christmas even earlier? Julian Lee reports in the video above.

A Spotlight store really has taken ‘Christmas Creep’ to a whole new level. Source: Seven Sharp