New Zealand opposition leader Judith Collins has been criticised for calling obesity a “personal choice”, creating a headache for her National party which is struggling in the polls ahead of Saturday’s election.

Collins told radio station Newstalk ZB that “people need to start taking some personal responsibility for their weight” before joking that weight gain was not an epidemic and “wasn’t catching”.

New Zealand is listed by the OECD as the third fattest country in the world, with 31% of Kiwis regarded as obese. Aotearoa sits behind only Mexico (32%) and the United States (38%). Two in three Pasifika (66%) and half of Māori (48%) are obese.

Collins attacked suggestions her views oversimplified a complex issue or were heartless. “Do you know what is heartless? Thinking that someone else can cure these issues. We can all take personal responsibility,” she said.

She criticised parents on the AM Show, saying: “It doesn’t take actually much to get frozen vegetables out of the freezer and pull them out and do something with them. It’s not that hard.”

Mark Mitchell, a former defence minister and expected party leadership contender to Collins should she lose the election, said obesity was “a lot more complex”. “Some obesity is related to medical conditions, even psychological conditions that need treating, so it’s a more complex issue,” he told Newstalk ZB.

Dr Lisa Te Morenga, senior lecturer in Māori health and nutrition at Victoria University, called Collins’ remarks “outrageous and disappointing”.

“Making healthy food choices is really difficult for people when they are constrained by income, lack of access to healthy foods and the environment is full of junk food options,” she said. “And Maori and Pasifika families earn less money, are more likely to live in poverty and in areas not well served by shops.”

Te Morenga

(Reuters) – New Zealand holds a general election on Oct. 17, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s centre-left Labour Party holding a wide lead over the centre-right main opposition National Party.

Below are the main issues in the election.

Ardern has called this a “COVID election” and focussed her campaign on her government’s “go hard, go early” response to the outbreak, which has helped boost her popularity and make her an international celebrity.

New Zealand has reported 25 deaths from COVID-19 and around 1,500 infections after Ardern’s swift response, far less than in other developed countries. That’s about 0.05 death per 10,000 people, compared to the United States at 6.49 or India at 0.78, according to Reuters calculations.

New Zealand placed the most significant restrictions on public movements in modern history in the initial phase of the coronavirus outbreak by closing its borders, imposing self-isolation and shutting down most of its economy to contain the spread of the virus.

Labour says it would continue tight controls and quarantines and would strengthen the contact-tracing system.

National says it would establish a border protection agency within 100 days of forming a government to prevent future outbreaks. It blames Labour’s border rules for allowing a recent flare-up in the country’s largest city, Auckland.

Ardern has said climate change is “my generation’s nuclear-free moment”. Labour vows to phase out single-use plastics and replace coal-fired boilers with electric alternatives, and says it would end the use of carbon by public buses by 2035.

It aims to create 11,000 jobs in regional New Zealand to restore the environment, including cleaning up waterways to allow safe swimming.

Ardern says she would accelerate New Zealand’s target of 100% renewable electricity generation by five years to 2030, responding to criticism from opposition leader Judith “Crusher” Collins.

Collins, leader of the

Neuron Mobility, a Singapore-based e-scooter rental startup, announced today that it has added $12 million to its Series A. Led by Square Peg, an Australian venture capital firm and GSR Ventures, this increases the round’s new total to $30.5 million. The company, which operates in Australia and New Zealand in addition to Southeast Asian markets, first announced its Series A in December 2019.

Part of Neuron Mobility’s growth plans hinges on the increased adoption of electric scooters and bikes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are using their cars less frequently because they are working remotely or there are movement restrictions where they live. When they do go out, electric bikes and scooters offer an alternative to public transportation and ride-hailing services for short trips.

Neuron Mobility’s chief executive Zachary Wang said the company raised a Series A+ instead of moving onto a Series B because more cities are “opening up to the possibility of micromobility, particularly rental e-scooters as they present an individual transport option that takes pressure off public transport and allows people to continue social distancing.”

“We’ve been experiencing tremendous growth in ANZ and the pandemic has made us fast track our plans,” he added.

Though Neuron Mobility currently does not operate in other Southeast Asian countries besides Singapore, Wang said it is “constantly evaluating opportunities across APAC.”

The new funding will be used to speed up Neuron Mobility’s expansion plans in Australia and New Zealand, where it claims to be the leading electric scooter rental operator. The company is currently present in nine locations, including Auckland, New Zealand, and Australian cities Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Canberra and Townsville. Neuron Mobility plans to expand into five new cities over the next two months and part of that involves hiring 400 more people in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.