Govt says Nats using wife as pawn
Police Minister says the safe house story false but MP backs claims
The estranged wife of Czech man Karel Sroubek has become a political football, as the Government accuses the National Party of over-stating threats to her safety and using her for cheap political points.
But National is standing by its claim that she has real safety concerns, and that those fears have been exacerbated by the Government.
This week during Question Time, National’s justice spokesman Mark Mitchell has demanded to know why Immigration NZ officials turned up to the “police safe house” where the estranged wife was staying to “pressure her” into taking part in Immigration NZ’s review of the Sroubek case.
Mitchell, who has a letter from the estranged wife giving him permission to speak for her, said the visit amounted to “bullying behaviour from the state”, and that police should never have told Immigration NZ where she lived because she was in a police safe house.
Police Minister Stuart Nash even said that police should not divulge that information to anyone in order to protect her safety.
But Nash then sought assurances from police about their behaviour, and yesterday said that police had not divulged any information to Immigration NZ about the address of Sroubek’s estranged wife.
Immigration NZ confirmed that they already knew where she was and police did not provide the information.
“Further, I was advised the address where she lives is not a police safe house, but that police have contacted her several times to verify what assistance she needs or what complaints she wishes to make,” Nash said.
“The story being put about by Mark Mitchell is not correct.”
During Question Time yesterday and speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said that police had offered protection to her on three occasions — but she had declined.
He said the National Party was chiefly responsible for compromising her safety by referencing her in 23 oral questions and 56 public statements.
“In short, you’ve got someone who — for political purposes, venal political purposes at that — is being used as a trump by Opposition members. If protection and secrecy and privacy are called to this issue, then the National Party has been a major offender.”
Following Question Time, Mitchell told the Herald that Peters and Nash were wrong.
“There was definitely a police protection plan put in place for her. We organised that through Minister Stuart Nash. She had gone to a house where she thought she would be safe, and that was part of the plan.”
He said regardless of whether Immigration NZ already knew her address, it was wrong to show up unannounced.
“This is not a woman under investigation from Immigration.
“She’s a Kiwi. Why are they turning up on her doorstep in a house that is part of a police plan?
“If that is their standard practice, then it seriously needs to be reviewed because all it can be seen as is bullying from the state.”
Mitchell said her fears were based on Sroubek’s criminal history and gang assoc iations.
He has also alleged in the House that Sroubek has made threatening phone calls to her.
He rejected Peters’ claim that the National Party had increased those fears.
“The Opposition has a job to do, and if people come to them for help, we will do that.
“The reason the information has come out is because the Deputy PM stood up in the House and tried to attack her character, and called her a National Party informant. That’s why she asked us to speak up for her.”
Police said it would not comment on individual cases. If you’ve ever heard a raucous racket cut through the otherwise dulcet birdsong of a New Zealand backyard, there’s a good chance the offender was a myna.
This noisy character, typically found hanging around North Island roadsides, is considered a pest because it feeds on fruit and causes damage to crops.
Annual surveys have shown how their populations are on the rise — to the point they today outnumber even our friendly fantail in urban gardens.
Now a new study shows New Zealand mynas aren’t even playing us the greatest hits their Asian native ranges enjoy, but a dull setlist of harsh screeches and shrieks.
The findings come from Dr Sam Hill, a former Massey University ecologist whose previous focus has been on tu¯¯ı, which, conversely, boast a florid repertoire of more than 300 tunes.
His latest project stemmed from something that struck him while visiting a Nepalese village four years ago.
“I recorded a myna that sang a hugely complex song, which got me wondering why . . . the mynas we have here in New Zealand have such ludicrously simple and noisy ones.”
He now puts this down to a phenomenon called the founder effect — where genetic variation is lost when a new population starts from a small number of individuals.
“Our understanding [from research in] other species was that birds introduced to new areas from their native ranges generally have these founder effects — which lead to genetic bottlenecking, isolation and sometimes inbreeding, and in terms of vocal behaviour, more simple songs.”
For his study, just published in Ibis — International Journal of Avian Science, Hill and his colleagues sourced songs from multiple mynas across their native range, which ran from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan across to India, Nepal and China. They also gathered field recordings from mynas in countries they’d been introduced to — New Zealand, Australia, Oman, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.
Next, they assessed 75 individual birds across all ranges to compare the complexity of their songs.
“Our results suggested, as predicted, song complexity was higher in the native areas in a ‘statistically significant’ sense,” Hill said.
“This could be a reflection of their reduced genetic diversity — but this needs more investigation.”
politics Mark Mitchell