Human Rights Commission ‘deeply concerned’ over state of New Zealand’s prisons

Vacant positions mean that some prisoners spend 23 hours a day locked in their cells while others face months-long delays to parole hearings

Confined to cells for 23 hours a day; unable to see family face-to-face; problems accessing lawyers – New Zealand’s prisoners are becoming “excessively disconnected and isolated” because prison staffing shortages have hit crisis point, says the Human Rights Commission, lawyers and those working with prisoners.

As of January, the department of Corrections is down by more than 850 frontline staff across its prisons – 498 of those are vacant positions, with another 354 unable to work due to sickness, injury, leave or “some other reason”, the department says.

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New Zealand bans battery cages for hens – but replacement ‘just as bad’

Colony cages are larger but animal welfare campaigners say the birds are still not able to behave naturally

Battery cages for layer hens will become illegal in New Zealand from 2023 but animal welfare campaigners are urging the government to scrap the replacement colony cages, which they say are just as bad.

The plan to ban battery cages has been 10 years in the making – in 2012, the previous National party government committed to phasing them out by 1 January 2023.

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New Zealand’s emergency housing system breaches human rights, inquiry finds

Motels used to temporarily house homeless people were found to often be unclean and unsafe

New Zealand’s emergency housing system that temporarily places homeless people in motel units is breaching human rights, with residents reporting filthy and unsafe environments, an inquiry has found.

The report released on Wednesday by the Human Rights Commission included what it called, “distressing” testimonies from those living in emergency housing. It said that while the intent to house people was good, the system was in some cases exacerbating problems and trauma.

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Jacinda Ardern caught on hot mic calling minor opposition party leader an ‘arrogant prick’

New Zealand PM apologised for comment made live on parliament television during question time

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has become the latest leader to fall victim to a hot microphone, after her comment that the leader of a minor opposition party was an “arrogant prick” was picked up and broadcast on parliament television.

During question time in the house on Tuesday, the leader of the libertarian Act party, David Seymour, asked Ardern if she could “give an example of her making a mistake, apologising for it properly, and fixing it”.

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‘Life is tough’: New Zealand charities brace for Christmas surge as cost of living pressures mount

City missions are reporting a 400% increase in demand since before the pandemic, amid soaring food and housing costs

It is a weekday afternoon and a bus loaded with donated goods has pulled up to the Wellington City Mission. Volunteers form a chain to ferry food, nappies and toys, box by box, down the line into the back of the garage that has been lit up with Christmas lights. The long trestle tables fill up quickly.

“This is the biggest haul yet,” one volunteer announces.

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Parents who refused ‘vaccinated blood’ transfusion speak out after court places Baby W in care

New Zealand parents say they will focus on supporting their son, now in the guardianship of his doctors, through life-saving operation

The family of a baby who has been placed in his doctors’ care because his parents refused to consent to a transfusion of “vaccinated blood” in a life-saving operation have said they will prioritise time with their son before the surgery.

The parents’ lawyer, Sue Grey, said in a Facebook post on Thursday morning that the family would be prioritising “a peaceful time with their baby until the operation, and to support him through the operation”.

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Support for Jacinda Ardern and NZ Labour sinks to lowest since 2017, poll shows

Labour and Ardern were immensely popular during the pandemic but inflation and deepening social inequality has changed their fortunes

Support for New Zealand’s Labour party has dropped to its lowest level since it came into power in 2017, new polling shows, amid growing frustrations over high cost of living, rising interest rates and concerns about crime.

A Kantar One News Poll released on Tuesday night found Labour, down 1% to 33%, would not be able to form a government alongside likely coalition partners the Green party, which remained steady on 9%, and the Māori party, steady on 2%.

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New Zealand announces inquiry into Covid-19 response

While strict Covid-19 response was broadly considered one of the most successful in the world, PM says inquiry will help prepare for next pandemic

New Zealand will launch an official inquiry into its Covid-19 response so that future governments are better prepared to deal with pandemics, prime minister Jacinda Ardern has announced.

The government announced the royal commission of inquiry – to be chaired by Australian-based epidemiologist Prof Tony Blakely, former cabinet minister Hekia Parata and former treasury secretary John Whitehead – on Monday afternoon.

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New Zealand woman takes Chinese media site to human rights tribunal over ban

Auckland woman says she was banned from popular Chinese-language media forum SkyKiwi for posting political content

A woman is taking New Zealand’s biggest Chinese-language media site to a human rights review tribunal after she claims she was banned from its online message board for posting political content.

May Moncur migrated from China 20 years ago and is a permanent resident of New Zealand. The Auckland employment advocate has used the New Zealand-based media company SkyKiwi for more than 15 years, regularly posting links about migrant exploitation or offering employment advice on its most popular message board, “FML”.

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‘The original art galleries’: protecting New Zealand’s hidden Māori rock art

Few know of the drawings scattered across Aotearoa, some of them dating from first arrival of humans, but iwi and scientists are working to change that

There are two tricks to seeing Māori rock art. The first is to let your eyes slowly adjust to the black and red markings on the limestone and allow the images to float out of the rock like a mirage: the coiled tails of taniwha (revered water spirits), the outspread wings of the now-extinct giant eagle, figures holding weapons and tools, plants, sea creatures and waka (canoes).

The second trick is knowing the art exists in the first place.

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Parents refuse use of vaccinated blood in life-saving surgery on baby

New Zealand’s health services go to court over guardianship of four-month-old boy whose parents have not let heart operation go ahead

New Zealand’s health service has made a court application over the guardianship of a four-month-old baby whose parents are refusing to allow his life-saving heart surgery to go ahead unless non-vaccinated blood is used.

The parents of the baby discussed their son’s health situation and their medical preferences in an interview with an anti-vaccination campaigner.

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Jacinda Ardern and Sanna Marin dismiss suggestion their age and gender was reason for meeting

Finland’s PM says she met Ardern in New Zealand because they are both ‘prime ministers’ after journalist asks whether it was due to similar age and gender

The prime ministers of Finland and New Zealand have taken a swipe at suggestions their first face-to-face meeting in New Zealand happened because they are both young female leaders.

“We’re meeting because we are prime ministers,” Finland’s Sanna Marin said at a joint press conference at Auckland’s Government House on Wednesday morning, after a journalist suggested some people may have thought they were meeting because they share a similar demographic.

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New Zealand the ‘kiwi in the coalmine’ as house prices slump and repayments rise

World is watching as experts warn some borrowers could soon owe more than their house is worth

Sharply rising interest rates could put huge financial pressure on New Zealand homeowners who bought at the peak of the country’s overheated housing market, economists have warned.

Experts say New Zealand has become the “kiwi in the coalmine” for the world’s property markets, as rising interest rates and falling house prices put some borrowers at risk of negative equity, where they owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth.

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NZ court rejects appeal against 9-month home detention sentence for five serious sexual assaults

Jayden Meyer’s sentence was labelled ‘manifestly inadequate’ after he was found guilty of five serious sexual assaults committed when he was 16

A New Zealand high court has rejected the Crown’s appeal against a community sentence for a convicted teenage rapist – despite calling the sentence “manifestly inadequate” – sparking fresh concerns for victims of sexual violence.

Jayden Meyer, 18, was found guilty in the youth court of four counts of rape and one of sexual assault committed when he was 16, against five victims, all aged 15. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and maintained that the activity had been consensual.

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Threat to sue New Zealand bird of the year competition if it doesn’t include extinct species

A bird lover wants Forest & Bird to include the huia, a songbird that was sacred to Māori that hasn’t been seen since 1907

A passionate New Zealand bird lover has threatened the country’s popular bird of the year competition with legal action if it fails to include a bird that has been extinct for more than 100 years.

In a phone call and follow-up email to Forest & Bird, which runs the competition, now in its 17th year, a man said he was calling upon the group to “urgently include” the extinct huia as a 2022 candidate.

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