Each weekday The Front Page keeps you up to date with the biggest news in New Zealand. Today it's a Kiwi jihadi captured in Syria, and questions over whether he'll be sent back to New Zealand. Auckland houses fall to a ten year low, and New Zealanders turn to gruesome DIY dentistry because they can't afford the costs. Hosted by Frances Cook.

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A Kiwi who joined Islamic State has surrendered to Kurdish forces and is being held in a Syrian prison.

Mark Taylor, a former New Zealand soldier, says he was a border guard for Isis after joining the terror group in 2014.


Taylor, also known as Mohammad Daniel and Abu Abdul Rahman, burnt his New Zealand passport after going to Syria to fight for Isis.

In 2014, Taylor, declared a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the US, claimed he'd contacted the New Zealand Government to try to get a new passport.

The former Hamilton resident was infamously dubbed the "bumbling jihadi", after mistakenly revealing his location in the Middle East on social media.

Taylor says his biggest regret was not being able to afford a slave.

He says he would have liked one because he would be entitled to do what he wanted her to do as long as it was within Islamic Sharia.

Taylor says he would not force the woman to have sex with him.

"More like a boyfriend, girlfriend relationship."

But because he couldn't afford a slave, he told the ABC he had to stick with his Syrian wife.


ISIS captured several thousand Yazidi women and girls in 2015 and began trading them as sex slaves.

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There's now speculation the captured jihadist could be sent back to New Zealand.

If that happens, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Mark Taylor could face legal action here.

Ardern said she could not get into hypotheticals around if Taylor would be coming back to New Zealand.

She reiterated that New Zealanders should not travel to Syria because there is no diplomatic presence there.

"We are not equipped to help those who do," she said,

She said at this point in time, Taylor would need to make contact with a New Zealand representative in Turkey.

Ardern did not know what conditions in Taylor's jail were

The Government has "no connection" with the people who are holding him, she said.

She would not say if Taylor's family had been in contact with the Government.

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Auckland houses have hit a ten year low, with realtor Barfoot & Thompson having its quietest month in the last 10 years to February, and sales down 28 per cent from a year earlier.

It's the lowest monthly turnover since December 2008, a time when New Zealand's finance sector was in the process of collapsing and the global financial crisis was in full swing.

Despite the lack of activity, prices are holding up, with the median sale price down only 2.3 per cent at $801,000.

Barfoot managing director Peter Thompson says sellers prefer to pull listings rather than accept lower offers.

He says the market is progressively hardening into a buyers' market with a number of vendors preferring to take their property off the market when they can't get their asking price.

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On the other side of the coin, a OneRoof Property Report shows just a third of NZ homes are mortgage-free, despite the current low interest rates.

The number of homeowners who have cleared their mortgage has fallen in the last five years, raising concerns that Kiwis will still be paying them off during retirement.

OneRoof and its data insights partner Valocity found the number of homes without a mortgage has slipped from 36 per cent in 2014 to 33 per cent.

The proportion of mortgage-free homes dropped in 41 out of 67 local council districts and is now below half of homes in all except two districts – Thames-Coromandel and Wairoa.

High house prices are a factor, as buyers get into more debt than they can manage.

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A companion article to this research details some tips for paying off the mortgage in record time.

For some families, the strategy includes starting with a more modest house in a lower-priced part of town, and avoiding the temptation to keep trading up, renovating or extending the home.

Empty nesters willing to downsize to something more modest as their children leave, rather than upgrade again, will also work off their mortgage faster.

Significant alterations on the home can mean burning through money on tradespeople as renovations often end up costing way more than expected.

The top four tips from BNZ mobile mortgage manager Shirlane Shirkey are:

1. Increase your repayments by rounding up, even to the next ten dollars. You can save tens of thousands that way.

2. Make weekly repayments. It reduces the amount of interest charged, which adds up over the life of the mortgage.

3. Split your loan into different types, such as table and tailored, so that you can pay it off faster.

4. Offset your payments. Use the money in your everyday accounts to offset the mortgage so that you're paying less interest overall.

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Desperate Kiwis are queuing at hospital pain clinics because they can't afford the dentist - and health bosses are now backing free dental care.

The Waitematā District Health Board CEO has confirmed to the Herald that they want a "comprehensive dental service for all New Zealanders".

The position comes amidst growing concern among health workers about people who can't afford hefty dentists' bills and live in chronic pain as a result, with some resorting to gruesome "DIY dentistry".

The issue has been outlined in recently-published minutes from Auckland and Waitematā DHBs' community and public health advisory committee.

There are long queues at hospital pain clinics for temporary fillings or teeth extractions, the meeting noted, and people are turning up at emergency departments because of dental pain.

Any move to provide more subsidised or free dental care would carry a huge cost. Currently, about $198 million a year is spent on oral health services, with most covering universal services for children and teenagers.

Adults must pay the full cost, and bills can run into the thousands of dollars.

But Kiwis without enough money for the dentist live in chronic pain that affects work, quality of life, and mental and wider health. Gum disease increases the risk of heart disease, and poor oral health increases the chances of bacterial infection in the bloodstream.

The last comprehensive oral health survey in 2009 found about one in three New Zealanders have untreated tooth decay. Almost half of adults avoided routine dental treatment in the previous year, because of cost.

The Government's response seems to be: not yet.

Health Minister David Clark says there is "huge unmet need in dental care" - but there won't be significant reform this side of the 2020 general election.

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A former Macleans College student is locked in a scrap with his old school over plans to sell second-hand uniforms online.

Jayson Fong, who graduated from the Bucklands Bay school in 2017, says the uniforms sold by the official supplier were too expensive and he wanted to under-cut them to provide students with a better deal.

But the school is fighting back - and is reviewing how Fong was able to get hold of a large number of students' emails that he used to promote his business.

The stoush has threatened to get ugly, with Fong claiming he was threatened with deportation by a school staff member.

Fong claimed he made no profit from the sales, and did it solely to provide competition for the uniform shop, after struggling while he was a student there.

Last month, to get the message out to students at Macleans, he said he used the school email address of a friend who graduated in 2018 to send a message to all students.

The school then deleted the email from all student email inboxes that received it.

The day after the final email was sent, principal Steve Hargreaves called Fong to discuss the issues, a call that Fong secretly recorded.

The heated conversation highlighted Hargreaves' concern about what he believed to be Fong's underhanded approach to spread the message through a school email.

However, Macleans College board of trustees chairman Richard Wilkie says any student could sell second-hand uniforms through social media or other avenues, and were not limited to buying from the uniform shop.

He says Fong's allegation that someone had threatened to deport him was serious and he would investigate it.

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The wife of former All Black superstar Julian Savea claims to have received death threats and says she fears for her family's safety in the aftermath of the public scolding her husband has received over the past weeks.

Fatima Savea, who is set to rejoin Julian at Toulon in the south of France after time in New Zealand, posted on Twitter: "Who would have thought that I'd feel like my life and my daughter's life might be at risk going back to Toulon with the amount of threats and hateful messages I have received from angry fans."

The post was shared by a Toulon fan page.

Julian Savea has been the target of a series of verbal and social media attacks by Mourad Boudjellal, the millionaire comic book tycoon and the outspoken owner of the club.

Current and former players have come to Savea's defence after Fatima revealed the vile social media attacks her family were being subjected to.

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Scientists are worried we're 'normalising' climate change when we should be fighting it.

New Zealand has again experienced one of its warmest summers on record, according to meteorologists.

It will sit within our top five hottest summers in more than a century of records and more unusually warm weather is predicted for the months ahead.

But it's not alone, as four of the past six years have been our warmest on the books.

Globally, the past five years have been the hottest of the post-industrial age.

It raises a troubling question that researchers have just explored in a new study: are we at risk of normalising extreme weather at a time we should be most worried about it?

That research, just published by US scientists, indicates that people have short memories when it comes to what they consider "normal" weather.

They found if the same unusual weather persisted year after year, it generated less comment online, indicating that people began to view it as normal in a relatively short amount of time.

Victoria University psychology professor Marc Wilson says although the study focused on tweets out of the US, he assumed the picture wouldn't be much different here.

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Accounting software company Xero is launching a pilot programme to offer free counselling and support to small business owners.

From March, as part of its Employment Assistance Programme, 5000 small businesses subscribed to the company's software will have access to face-to-face, phone and online counselling through global provider Benestar.

Xero will assess the popularity of the service with owners, staff and their families in the next six months, with the intention to roll out access to all 324,000 subscribers.

Mental health is a major concern for employers. The World Health Organisation predicts mental illness will be the main cause of disability and absence in the workplace by 2030 if it is not addressed.

An estimated 25 per cent of the New Zealand workforce has been diagnosed with a mental health condition, and last year the Government's Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry found one-in-five New Zealanders experienced mental illness or significant mental distress in their lifetime, costing the economy $12 billion a year.

Small business owners are hit particularly hard, by not having stable income, no colleagues to bounce thoughts off and little support.

Xero New Zealand and Pacific Islands country manager Craig Hudson said Xero wanted to support to business owners and teams who didn't have access to support programmes and funded counselling that many corporate firms offer.

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That's the Front Page for today, Monday, March 4, making sure you're across the biggest news of the day. For more on these stories, check out The New Zealand Herald, or tune in to Newstalk ZB.

You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple podcasts here, iHeartRadio here, and Stitcher here.

If you like to stay up to date on social media, you can find host Frances Cook on Facebook here, Instagram here and Twitter here.