Killer chemicals

Most of the victims were Māori or Pasifika and from the margins of society - the homeless, mentally ill and unemployed - and there seems to have been a muted response to the crisis from Government and the public.

"I wonder if we had 20 kids from wealthy families dying in a very short amount of time what the response would be," says Ross Bell, executive director of the Drug Foundation.

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Teuila Blakely on sex, Oscar Kightley and that infamous video

"When I became pregnant at 16, to a boy from church, and we didn't get married . . . I literally left home on that day. I think I was in my school uniform. As harrowing as that was, all those years, what it did give me was the opportunity to have freedom in my life. One, to choose my own religion - which is none, absolutely none - and also to choose my own vocation. I've always wanted to do what I'm doing today, but I would never have been allowed to if I'd stayed in the family fold, because I was expected to study and become a lawyer and that wasn't negotiable."

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Bill Manhire: Wizard of odes

The wizard has a soft and low voice. He's round-faced, boyish somehow. He and his journalist wife Marion McLeod live in a converted warehouse in central Wellington. (The children, Vanessa and Toby, are long grown up, with their own wordy careers in publishing and journalism.) The apartment is a high, airy space wallpapered with paintings, most of them by Ralph Hotere, with whom Manhire has collaborated since the late 1960s. (''We've always had this arrangement that he can help himself to my words at any time, and I can help myself to his images at any time.'')

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Stillbirths and the conspiracy of silence

"To Doug and Mary Catherall. A son. 1 July 1970. Stillborn," it read.
"They've got my birthday wrong," I whimpered to my mother. "My birthday is July 3, not July 1. And I'm a girl, not a boy."
"There's something I need to tell you," she whispered. And it was then that she told me about my brother, who was born dead two days before my first birthday. And there was more, Mum told me quietly, stroking my fine pigtails with her soft hands. Ten months later, she gave birth to my sister, who was also born dead.

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The Tamihere case: In the Shadow of Murder

Tamihere says the testimony of the prison informants – including one who gave graphic evidence of how Tamihere allegedly told him he’d raped both the Swedes – sickened all who heard it. He told North & South he knew from that moment he would be found guilty. “With secret witnesses, there’s no defence, and that’s what screwed us. Once the jury heard that, it was over. It didn’t matter a damn what you said.”

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Out of the ashes I rise

I had no way of keeping time, and it seemed to pass incredibly slowly. The lights were always on, all night; there was no way to turn them off. I tried covering my face with the blanket to block them out. A person checking on me through the window called out that if I didn’t uncover my face, the blanket would be taken off me. I wouldn’t have slept even if I was in a more comfortable place and the lights were off. Going through withdrawal from sleeping pills has always left me unable to sleep for a few days. There are not many things more frustrating than being so tired but unable to fall asleep. I had broadly calmed down after an hour or two. I did not feel invincible anymore. The way I was treated made me feel small, powerless, and like an animal.

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My Boy!


I can hear the condescension in his voice — the “when-you-get-some-experience-in-the-real-world-you’ll-understand” tone — and, shit, it pisses me off. Sometimes I don’t think my father understands me at all. Worse, I don’t think he bothers to try.
I find myself craving his approval and simultaneously resenting him for this. His One Network News world-view infuriates me as much as my simplistic eco-socialism annoys him. So what he was about to say to me was kinda out of nowhere. As we slosh down the stream back to the car, he says, “I respect your political principles, my boy. You make me think.
“I’m proud of you.”

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Kiwi seed hunters travel the world so scientists can breed 'super-grass'

In Palmerston North, the seeds go into a dry room, which looks like a super­market’s walk-in beer chiller. There they can stay fresh for at least 20 years – and up to a century – before they need replanting. “We have some cultivars from 1940 that are still viable,” says Ghamkar.
The fridge that stores the seeds is locked, but it is not a fortress. On starting his job as director last year, Ghamkar was horrified to learn that New Zealand did not have a back-up collection in Svalbard, the doomsday vault on an island off Norway, which is built to withstand even nuclear winter. “Even North Korea has a deposit there,” he says.

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Synthetic cannabis: The killer high

Is she on synthetics?” I ask the man. He nods.
After a minute her eyes open, and she focuses on my face. She says she thinks I’m beautiful. Her teeth are covered in lipstick, she’s young - early 20s. I try to get out from under her, but my movement frightens her. She passes out, and I wriggle into a squat. Queen St is busy, but no one is helping us.
Some time passes and she opens her eyes. The man asks if she can get up, she takes his hand and stumbles onto her knees. She grabs for her bag, and turns her head to look at me.
“You’re a crazy fucking bitch,” she mumbles, as she swings it into my face.

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John Clarke reflects on life as Fred Dagg

Clarke never uses dress-ups or attempts an impression. He is always John Clarke, only speaking in a language and tone that you instantly recognise as belonging to the bullshit artist, the bully or the cheat.
It’s subtle and disarming and absolutely consistent with everything Clarke has come to believe about satire and performance: that it should engage the audience in a collaborative act of the imagination; that you write it funny and then progressively take all the jokes out, “because, like life, you should have to decide if you find it funny or not”.

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The Kiwi Bushman

At the mussel beds, empty beach stretches in both directions, a gentle curve snaking back and forward along the coastline. The high-tide line marks the entrance to a driftwood forest—bleached trees the only witnesses to the endless roar of the Tasman Sea. Against the melancholy isolation, the family looks like a band of survivors, the last people on Earth, a warm nucleus of home.

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The right-to-die debate as viewed from a rest home

In 2009 I was working as a laundress in the rest home that housed the room my grandad was slowly dying in. This was my first ever proper job. I was 30. I took great self-punishing heart in the term laundress. I listened to the Nutters Club while I waited for the tea towels to dry and wondered if Mike King would be as fun now he was off the waste. After I got home I read a novel a night so I could leave my body and keep up with Kim Hill.

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Sid Sahrawat has a hunger for perfection

After their 10am briefing, the chefs had set to work, almost shoulder to shoulder in that Lilliputian landscape, and for 10 minutes there had been no sound. Nobody talked about cooking or romantic partners, nobody streamed classic rock from their phones, nobody discussed the latest Nigella or yelled, "Where's my f***ing lamb?" - nothing.
"It helps everyone focus," Sahrawat said, eventually, of the silence. His chefs didn't look up.

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On the night streets

Jessica is 24, all baby-faced and boobs in a girly pink top. She struggles to remember the first time a man paid her to have sex but she remembers one time a man tried to suffocate her. She doesn't get nervous standing on Manchester St too often these days, unless it's a client that looks like that man. She doesn't take drugs and hardly drinks so the money goes towards the daughter she adopted out last year. Dyslexia and dyspraxia mean she's never held down an office job, she wants to spoil her daughter with toys and Manchester St is the only "office" she's never been fired from.

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These are the days of our lives

At the bottom of the drive his wife and my dog conducted a brief but passionate affair, while Paul and I shook hands, made vague promises of future contact, and said goodbye, most probably for ever. And I went back up to the house thinking thoughts. Trite ones for the most part, truisms you hear when young and never quite believe. Like how fast time passes. And more particularly how it accelerates to a blur, so that you can no longer remember who you met last week but you can still spell an impossible surname from 40 years ago. And also how we summarise a life with just two facts – how you made a living and whether you reproduced. The rest, the love and misery, the fear and laughter, is fiddle-de dee.

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Northland man denies burning down house but insurer refuses to pay out

The case of Chris Robinson, the insurer IAG, and the burnt-out Kerikeri mansion is much stranger than a standard tussle between disgruntled policyholder and suspicious insurer.
Aside from the printer-ignition theory there's blackmail and bankruptcy, and allegations of conspiracy. There's a side-plot involving poisoned land. The IRA and a fake Irish priest make cameo appearances. It's a story whose various interpretations differ so drastically that someone, somewhere, must have told some lies.

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The Sound of the Sea

It’s another level of remoteness from what Joy knew growing up, but she’s had it easier than her mother-in-law Heather, who arrived as a 20-year-old bride from Auckland to a house without electricity or telephone. Yet even with satellite internet, twice-weekly visits from the mailboat and a fast boat, living this far out still requires a healthy sense of self-reliance. Like her own mother, Joy has had to school her kids, years of correspondence lessons at this very kitchen table.

“That’s been the hardest thing about living here,” she says of educating the girls, both of whom are now in their 20s and have left home. “It was such a big responsibility, and you never knew whether you were doing it well enough.”

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Behind the press bench: A recovering court reporter confesses all

Whatever the story, each case touched a nerve. I can give a crime tour of Auckland, pointing out the locations of death and suffering. My doors are always locked. My favourite game to pass the time while waiting for someone's appearance is to remember the names of all the lawyers in the courtroom, and then name the clients they've represented. Occasionally I search for victims of crime online, hoping they're doing OK.

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The floating tribe: Life as a Waiheke commuter

An unreliable, flickering inner mental video reveals changes to the gang of strangers since I joined them nine years ago. Bellies have swollen and receded, or just swollen, beards have grown, school kids have grown up, dogs have died. Although numbers have doubled, many have vanished. Some may have shrugged off the monthly-pass fare and relocated to Titirangi. Some may have simply lost their jobs. And I have, sometimes, seen the full-page obituary you get in the Gulf News when you die young.

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What becomes of the broken-hearted

"Young people here grow up real fast and nothing is happening,” said 20-year-old Kaitaia local Mariah Herbert who lost her sister to suicide in 2008, her friend in 2016 and has attempted to take her own life twice. “They see people getting really far in life and look at themselves and say, ‘I can’t do that’. You need money or to look a certain way to get somewhere.
“It’s about feeling useless or not wanted or feeling silent and like nobody sees or hears you. Suicide is the easy way out - or sometimes it feels like it’s the only way out.”

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