Watch: At least two Kiwi civilians have been fighting ISIS in Syria

In June, most Kiwis start daydreaming about a holiday in the tropics but last year Ashlee, a young Kiwi woman from a farming background, went to Syria to fight the Islamic State.

The 24-year-old had no military training and no real connection with the all-female Kurdish militia with whom she'd gone to fight – the YPJ.

Ashlee had simply wanted to "fight against the evil that is ISIS" and within the space of a few emails, she'd paid for a ticket to fly to the Middle East and joined the so-called Rojava revolution.

Five months later, we waited in the arrivals hall at Auckland Airport for hours to meet Ashlee when she came home.

Kiwi fighting ISIS in Syria.
Kiwi fighting ISIS in Syria. Source: 1 NEWS

We'd expected Ashlee to be detained, we just had no idea how long it would take – this was new for us. However, when customs officers see the word Syria on an arrivals card, they tend to want to ask a few questions.

Going to fight in a foreign war is not your typical O.E. But Ashlee doesn't see the fight against ISIS in Syria as a foreign war.

She told us: "If anyone has a problem with the London bombings, Manchester, Paris, Germany, and think that the fight should be taken to ISIS, well the YPJ are the people who did take the fight to ISIS."

Macer Gifford.
Macer Gifford. Source: 1 NEWS

She's not wrong. The female soldiers of the YPJ and their male counterparts in the YPG, backed by American air support, have had more success against ISIS than anyone else.

When Raqqa fell late last year the Islamic State lost its capital, and it was YPG and YPJ fighters who watched what was left of the ISIS forces leave on buses. Former London banker Macer Gifford was there, on the roof of a bombed out apartment building, filming the whole thing on his phone.

He's seen just how hard the Kurds are willing to fight for a new Syria – he fought alongside them on the battlefield and continues to fight for them politically.

He describes himself as "a microphone for a lot of Syrian people that didn't ask for this war and have been caught in the middle as world and regional powers fight amongst themselves. This is about solidarity, that's what the international volunteers stand for."

Soresh. Source: 1 NEWS

It might be an act of solidarity but, let's be clear, it's also incredibly dangerous. Dozens of international volunteers have died fighting for the YPG – Australians, Britons, Canadians and Americans among them.

It's a reality that Soresh, a 24-year-old from Christchurch who is currently in Syria with the YPG, tries not to dwell on.

"It's part of the risk that I took coming here. I mean you try not to think about it really, I guess it's kind of superstitious, but I feel if I think about it too much it's kind of willing it to happen," he said.

This is the first time that kiwis that've fought in Syria have ever gone on camera. These are not mercenaries; they're not getting paid to fight.

They are ordinary people who've volunteered for the most extraordinary tours of duty.

We're thrilled to bring you their incredible stories, and unbelievable footage, exclusively to Sunday, 7.30pm TVNZ1.

The man and woman in their twenties snuck through the Syrian border to be foreign fighters. Source: 1 NEWS


Tracking down New Plymouth youth MP candidates after Andrew Little's 'hip' appeal

Labour MP Andrew Little released a tongue in cheek video encouraging young people from New Plymouth to get involved in politics today.

The video inspired TVNZ1's Seven Sharp to travel to Mr Little's old school to find the perfect candidate for its new youth MP.

Judge for yourself if New Plymouth Boys' High students Thomas Foy and Jarrod Wilson have what it takes in the video above.

Tamati Rimene-Sproat is on the case after the Labour MP's piece of political theatre. Source: Seven Sharp


Watch: Take a tour inside Kate Sheppard’s former house where suffragists worked to get women the right to vote

Suffragist Kate Sheppard's old house in Christchurch goes up for auction next month - so Seven Sharp host Hilary Barry took a tour.

Ms Sheppard was instrumental in gaining New Zealand women the right to vote in 1893. She carried out important work for the suffrage movement in the house during the late 19th Century.

Today saw celebrations around the country marking 125 years since women gained the right to vote in New Zealand.

Jacinda Ardern has indicated the Government is interested in buying the house for the nation. It's expected to fetch in excess of $3 million when it goes under the hammer on October 17.

Hilary Barry met with the home's current owner Julia Burbury who showed her around the dwelling set on one acre of gardens.

The house has a category one heritage listing.

The piece of New Zealand history in Christchurch, worth more than $3 million, is up for auction. Source: Seven Sharp


Mum distraught as son turned away from Hutt Valley High School because he didn't have permanent address

Being homeless has become an obstacle for one mother wanting to give her child an education.

Helen Taitapanui and her son were turned away from Hutt Valley High School last week because they don't have a permanent residential address.

Ms Taitapanui, is currently battling cancer and lives in a motel with her teenage son while they wait for a permanent home.

"We've got to be glad that we've got that when we know that a lot of our families are out there living in cars," Ms Taitapanui told 1 NEWS.

However, this was a problem when she tried to enrol her son at a local school.

"The response was it's against their policy to register children living out of a motel. you had to have a residential address," Ms Taitapanui said.

She complained to the Ministry of Education and shortly after Hutt Valley High School reversed its decision.

Ms Taitapanui says her son's excited about going back to school.

"I know once he steps back into the realm of education he'll be well and truly away."

She hopes by speaking out, another unnecessary obstacle will be removed for the homeless.

Being homeless threw up an unexpected obstacle for a mum wanting to educate her child. 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