'Yes I have' - Andrew Little admits trying cannabis, wants answers to health concerns before liberalisation

Labour leader Andrew Little said on TVNZ 1's Breakfast this morning that he had tried cannabis on "two or three occasions", but wants a "credible answer" to possible health issues for young people if New Zealand was to go through drug reform or liberalisation. 

"We do need to have a close look at what's happening here and around the world," he said. 

"What underlies the drug use is usually problems with addiction. We have a massive shortage of supply of, for example, addiction counselling."

He also said the effect drug use had on the brain of younger people was an influencing factor in liberalisation. 

"Even reasonably modest cannabis use can have long-term negative effects on the human brain," he said. 

"The big thing for me is, if you liberalise or decriminalise what does that mean for access for younger people?"

During a discussion about New Zealand's drug laws, the PM gave a blunt answer to Jack's direct question. Source: Breakfast

"We've got to make sure we're not creating other health problems by greater liberalisaton."

Yesterday, Prime Minister Bill English said he had not smoked cannabis. 

Bill English says measures need to be within legal parameters, however. Source: Breakfast

Andrew Little wants a 'closer look' at the prospect of drug reform, but is worried about health issues for younger users. Source: Breakfast



Dairy owners could be hit by restrictions on tobacco sales

Some Auckland dairy owners are optimistic that limiting where tobacco is sold could reduce the number of robberies.

Early findings from a Regional Public Health survey of Auckland dairy owners suggest they may be on board with legislation that will only permit the sale of tobacco from specialist stores.

While the idea has received support from some, others said it would drastically reduce sales and force some shops to shut down.

On Thursday night, there was a steady stream of customers filing through a West Auckland dairy.

The owner, who asked not to be named out of fear her store would be targeted for stocking tobacco, supported the idea of specialist, tobacco-only stores.

She said it could be the solution to reducing the number of dairy robberies.

"It may reduce it in the fact that being a specialised store, if the security and everything is correct, it might reduce it," she said.

It would likely affect her sales but she was confident her store would stay open.

"I suppose, there is something else a person would buy so I wouldn't really worry about it too much."

Just under 20 Auckland dairy owners were surveyed - and most of those businesses were family-owned.

Dean Adam, from Regional Public Health, said despite some owners being in the business for 35 years an increase in dairy robberies had caused anxiety for owners and many were happy to ditch the products.

"For them, they were quite happy not to sell this [tobacco] but their fear is that the dairy across the road is still selling it they're not going to be competitors, they'll lose business and for some of them, the margins are really small."

Auckland's Crime Prevention Group president Sunny Kaushal was surprised by the initial findings.

Many dairy owners relied on tobacco to boost sales, he said.

"Customers who are coming to buy the cigarettes are also buying a lot of other stuff from the shops so stopping these kinds of cigarettes would in fact damage their business."

The legislation could force many dairies to shut shop, he said.

"So many people are now self-employed, currently running their dairies and shops they would become un-employed."

Better solutions that reflected the "ground reality" for shop owners were needed, he said.

The preliminary results of the study are discussed in the latest issue of the New Zealand Medical Journal.

Katie Scotcher

rnz.co.nz 

Auckland's Crime Prevention Group president Sunny Kaushal says many dairy owners rely on tobacco to boost sales. Source: rnz.co.nz

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Eight children taken to hospital after plane emits unknown substance over Carterton school


Eight primary school children in Carterton have been taken to Masterton Hospital with vomiting after a plane flew over the school and one student saw "stuff" coming out of the aircraft.

The incident happened at approximately 1pm at South End School in the Wairarapa town.

Carterton mayor John Booth says initially it was thought 30 children were sick but that’s been revised down.

Carterton Fire senior station officer Wayne Robinson says eight children have been taken to Masterton Hospital for further observation. 

Mr Robinson says about 120 children are being decontaminated in showers as a precaution and those who show more symptoms will go to Masterton Hospital. 

He also says local people are presenting to the local medical centre and the police are still trying to find out the exact cause.

Parents have been seen arriving at the school with a change of clothes and children are slowly coming out one by one in towels. 

Mr Booth says parents are very worried. 

A 1 NEWS reporter at the scene says there are numerous appliances there and roads are blocked in several directions. 

NZ First MP Ron Mark who lives in Carterton has told 1 NEWS it seems a plane has accidentally sprayed the school with pesticide.

Police say they are investigating and are going door to door in the area checking on residents' welfare and trying to locate the source of the smell. 

They are also searching the school's grounds.

A statement on the school's Facebook page read: "A plane flew in a southward direction and one student had seen 'stuff' coming out of the plane - so we assume it was a fertiliser of some sort - several students have experienced feeling quezzy and ucky."

The statement continues:  "I have made them wash their face and drink plenty of water."

In a more recent statement the school said no students are allowed out of the school grounds and no one is allowed into the grounds.

"ALL students are fine and being looked after," the statement read.

Parents waiting outside South End School.
Parents waiting outside South End School. Source: 1 NEWS

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HNZ promises 'genuine' approach to compensation for tenants turfed out after meth testing fiasco

Housing New Zealand is promising to take a considered approach to compensating those who were turfed out of their homes unecessarily.

As many as 800 current and former state house tenants will be eligible for some form of assistance, following a report released by the agency yesterday acknowledging it was wrong to evict them on the basis of methamphetamine contamination.

That could range from an apology from Housing New Zealand, to cancellation of meth-related debt and repayment, to a grant for household items and moving costs.

The Housing Minister Phil Twyford expects that to be in the $2-$3,000 range.

"But it's going to be done on a case-by-case basis, so it could end up in certain circumstances being more than that. So several thousand dollars, likely," he said.

The agency is undergoing a range of changes. On Friday Mr Twyford announced the Government would enshrine in law the objectives of Housing New Zealand, which he said overall are "to provide decent housing and be a fair and compassionate landlord."

Part of the change is scrapping the requirement for the agency to return a surplus to the Government.

Mr Twyford said this will give Housing New Zealand financial flexibility, so it can build more state houses and invest in more support for tenants.

But an Associate Professor at Massey University Chris Wilkins, who heads the drug research team at SHORE & Whariki Research Centre, is questioning the decision not to provide blanket compensation to state housing tenants - saying it could save the agency money.

He predicts issues in finding evidence of tenants using methamphetamine and being responsible for it, given it is now accepted that the standard for safety is much higher.

Mr Twyford said the standard for receiving a pay out is based on the former chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman's report [ https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/358454/meth-house-contamination-debunked-by-pm-s-science-advisor], which said levels 10 times higher than the ones people were evicted for were still unlikely to have adverse effects on health.

Mr Wilkins said court action could be likely, if Housing New Zealand refuses compensation for some tenants.

"I think that's a real possibility. Given that they're not paying out too much, and there's a lot of fault here from both the scientific view and the policy development view and the agencies that carried out the policy...

"If I was Housing New Zealand, I'd look for a way to basically resolve this as quickly as possible and try and make good on some of those issues."

Housing New Zealand is encouraging all those who may be eligible for an assistance pay out to contact a dedicated Meth Line on 0800 006 077 or email meth.enquiries@hnzc.co.nz.

It said this will be a "genuine process" and that the team will take a "comprehensive, considered approach to how the right form of assistance is assessed for our tenants."

Gia Garrick

rnz.co.nz

Housing New Zealand houses. Source: rnz.co.nz


Education Ministry encourages parents to complain to Hamilton school if unhappy with principal's truant rape speech

The Ministry of Education is encouraging parents to complain to a Hamilton high school if they're concerned by it's principal's remarks to students that truants are highly likely to be rape or suicide victims.

Fraser High School principal Virginia Crawford's speech to a full school assembly yesterday already has some parents vowing to pull their children from the school.

In her speech which was secretly recorded by a student and uploaded to YouTube, Ms Crawford said in part: "Every student who walks out of the gate to truant is already a statistic of the worst kind - highly likely to go to prison, either commit domestic violence or be a victim of domestic violence, be illiterate, be a rape victim, be a suicide victim."

The Ministry of Education has told Newshub it has been in contact with the school following Ms Crawford's speech.

"We are aware that some of the comments made by the principal have been upsetting to some people," the ministry's deputy secretary sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said in a statement.

"The school has a complaints process in place and we would encourage any parents who are concerned about the content of the speech to contact the school directly."

In her speech, Ms Crawford said: "When I drive out of school during class time for meetings, and I see groups of students sitting outside the dairy, fish and chip shop, bus stop, some of the things I am thinking is that is another group of students without a future."

She urged students to work hard in school to make better lives for themselves.

Ms Casey said it's really important that children go to school every day, saying international surveys have shown that attendance is one of the strongest drivers of student achievement.

It appears, however that Ms Crawford's speech has backfired with angry students now said to be planning a "mass wag".

A staff member told Newshub students had mentioned they're planning on wagging next week, probably for one period.

A parent commenting on the YouTube video, said they would pull their daughter out of the school, describing the principal's speech as disturbing, revolting and tormenting.

"This revolting tormenting speech has only proven that YOU madam principal are the FAILURE in this matter. Disgusting inappropriate accusations. I'm pulling my daughter out until you are replaced," the parent wrote.

Another commenter said his stepson would no longer attend Fraser High School after hearing the speech.

“After seeing this speech I was literally shaking, this kind of offensive culture should not be permitted in New Zealand,” he wrote.

Fraser High School Board of Trustees chair Jeff Green has told Stuff the school has received a "great deal of positive feedback on the speech". 

"We consider that even if just one student reconsiders the path they are taking and takes steps in a more positive direction after this speech then that could have huge impact on their future lives and those of their family and friends and the wider community, Mr Green said in a statement. 

Meanwhile a Year 12 student, Cody Barron, told Newshub one girl started crying in the assembly. 

"When you go to a school, you don't expect to hear your principal be talking trash about suburbs 90 percent of the students come from - which seemed to be racial - and how she's so much better than us," Cody said.

A Hamilton high school principal has come under fire for a speech in which she said truants were highly likely to end up in prison, be illiterate, be a rape victim or commit suicide. Source: Dick Tater