Watch: Jacinda Ardern says Simon Bridges is 'jealous' of Government during heated exchange over starting wage

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said National leader Simon Bridges is "jealous" of the Government, during a heated exchange over the starting wage in Parliament's Question Time today.

Mr Bridges was seeking clarification on whether the starting wage (also known as the youth rate) would be abolished in October, after he said a press statement from Iain Lees-Galloway in December stated this would be the case.

Ms Ardern didn't answer the question directly, instead giving a passionate defence of her Government's processes.

"It's clear that we have established policy between this coalition Government that is set out in the public domain, everything else goes through a Cabinet process.

"Now I know the member continues to be jealous that he is not on this side of the House in the position to make the changes that this Government has made and that we have achieved in one year more than that government achieved in nine, but we stick to a process," she said.

National's deputy leader Paula Bennett could then be heard saying that "the fairy dust has settled" before Mr Bridges continued to press the Prime Minister.

"So when Iain Lees-Galloway said in December in a ministerial press statement that we will abolish starting out wages by October 2018 was that just a personal commitment?" he asked.

Ms Ardern answered again that the coalition Government follows a process, saying Mr Bridges might find it hard to understand how three parties can work together.

"So can we no longer believe ministerial press statements unless they are signed off by Mr Peters?" Mr Bridges replied.

"No, ridiculous," was Ms Ardern's brief response.

The starting-out wage applies solely to workers aged between 16 and 19 and who are entering the workforce for the first time and is currently set at $13.20 per hour.


 



New World's reusable container promotion backfires after microwave mishaps

A promotion by the New World supermarket chain intended to attract eco-conscious New Zealanders has somewhat backfired.

The New Zealand-based company has issued an apology to customers on its website after receiving reports that some of their reusable food storage "pods" were becoming "damaged" in the microwave.

"This is a serious issue and has our full attention," the company said. "Firstly, we would like to reassure customers that there is no food safety issue and we have been working with MPI and other experts on this."

New World launched the container promotion earlier this month, giving them away free to customers who spent a certain amount on groceries. The items, which come with a vacuum pump, have been promoted as a way to make food last longer - reducing food waste.

"New Zealand homes throw away 122,547 tonnes of food per year, all of which could have been eaten," the company pointed out. "This is enough food to feed the whole of Dunedin for two years!"

But now the narrative has changed, with New World promising it is "advising customers through as many channels as possible" that the pods shouldn't go in the microwave.

"We would like to reassure members, staff and customers that there is no food safety issue," the company said on its website. "We have verified this with independent industry experts."

The pods were safety tested prior to the promotion, but it wasn't until two customers brought the microwave issue to the company's attention that it was realised something had gone wrong.

New World said it has launched an investigation into how the error occurred.

New World's reusable food container promotion was intended to target food waste. Source: New World


Hamilton McDonald’s worker ordered to stop speaking te reo with customers

A teen employee at a Hamilton McDonald’s keen to celebrate Māori Language Week with customers had her enthusiasm dashed this week when a manager told her not to speak New Zealand's official language.

Janine Eru-Taueki, 19, was told it would be considered rude to address customers in a language other than English, she told Māori Television.

Some customers who don't speak te reo might think an employee is talking about them, a company representative told the station.

"This is the first time I've been told by anyone that I can't speak Māori," Ms Eru-Taueki said.

In 1976, the first fast food burger restaurant in NZ was opened in Porirua. Source: 1 NEWS

"I don't agree because Māori is an official language of this country. Some of the customers come up and ask if they can make their order in Māori. I was really sad the other night because I couldn't speak to them in Māori myself."

But McDonald’s officials said they are learning from the situation and will explore policies that might better support Māori Language Week in the future. The restaurant didn’t receive any customer complaints about Ms Eru-Taueki’s bilingual efforts, they confirmed.

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Fluorescent whitebait unleashed near Nelson in native fish conservation effort

A school of brightly coloured whitebait are leading the way to help our native fish.

Dyed pink and orange, they've been sent swimming up a town culvert near Nelson to see if recent improvements are helping.

"They are really easy to spot in the culvert when they're bright pink or brown," said NIWA freshwater ecology technician Peter Williams.

Around 200 unmarked clear whitebait, 200 pink (Rhodamine B stained) whitebait, and 200 orange (Bismarck Brown stained) whitebait were released into the Reservoir Creek culvert in Richmond to battle upstream.

"Seventy-four per cent of New Zealand freshwater fish species are in decline and upstream barriers are stopping them from getting up to their habitat that they need to complete their life cycle," explained Mr Williams.

In April, the Tasman District Council stepped in to help, installing flexible weir baffles.

"Water goes from A to B very quickly in a natural culvert, that's what they're designed to do," said Fish and Wildlife Services' Tim Olley. "What we're looking to do is create resting pools in the culvert, low velocity areas for the fish to burst swim and rest, burst swim and rest, more or less like a stepladder."

The whitebait released have a 136-metre journey up the culvert while being monitored by NIWA, Tasman District Council and F&WS specialists over 48 hours. It's hoped the majority will make it out the other end.

NIWA and the Department of Conservation recently released national fish passage guidelines for keeping waterways swimmable. But freshwater ecologist Mike Joy says tougher rules are needed.

"A lot of these things (have) been put in and very, very little if any measurement of actually if they work or not," Mr Joy said.

"Without a doubt, the solution would be to not allow them to happen in the first place. Under the Freshwater Fisheries Act you're not allowed to impede the passage of native fish, so if you just said, 'No you couldn't do it', you wouldn't have to retrofit these things afterward."

The future of New Zealand’s native fish looks very bleak as scientists presented findings at a parliamentary select committee today. Source: 1 NEWS

Tasman District Council resource scientist Trevor James, who is also a member of the country's Fish Passage Advisory Group, agrees that "the best culvert is actually a bridge".

"So that's correct, but in the world of reality bridges are expensive - they have to be certified to take a lot of load all that sort of thing," he said.

He'd like to see all councils step up monitoring of fish passages after installation.

"Roading engineers contract out every year, every second year to monitor the culverts from an engineering point of view," he explained. "It would only be a small add-on to actually assess for fish passage."

NIWA says the guidelines have been well received by councils so far and the monitoring at the Reservoir Creek culvert will help other councils find cost-effective solutions for the future.

They’ve been seen swimming up a town culvert near Nelson to see if conservation efforts are working Source: 1 NEWS


Major report finds half of people off the benefit in 2013/14 were back on within 18 months

A new approach is required into the type of work people on benefits go into, after it was found 50 per cent of people who left the benefit in 2013/2014 ended up back on the benefit within 18 months. 

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the report had given the perception of a higher number of people who were coming off the benefit, following the 2012 welfare reforms. 

The report looked at what happened to people who left the benefit system in 2013/2014. 

"What the biggest finding is… is that actually 50 per cent of people who have gone off benefits, following those welfare reforms, ended up back on a benefit within 18 months," Ms Sepuloni said. 

She said it gave the perception that while there were a number of people coming off the benefit, they were not going into "meaningful, sustainable employment".

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For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

"It's not just about pushing people off benefits into any old job."

Geography was a factor in the findings, with certain areas more likely to see people going back on the benefit within 18 months. 

Māori men, especially those living in the geographical areas, were also a group of people found more likely to go back on the benefit. 

"We've got to do some work," Ms Sepuloni said. 

The Social Development Minister said a new approach was needed, as it wasn’t "just about pushing people off benefits into any old job". Source: 1 NEWS