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Metrowater - Drivers Licenses - Americas Cup Village - Televised Sport - Drug Importing Billionaire - Bad Blood - Detective Bails - Sweat Shops - Tainui - Waitangi - Free Web - Victoria Payout - CAA or CIA?

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METROWATER: Auckland Minister Judith Tizard showed her distaste for Metrowater's surprise raid on the homes of several protesters by snubbing its launch of a new water-conservation service yesterday. Her boycott of the event at Auckland Zoo came after Metrowater hired contractors on Monday to dig up and remove water pipes at the homes of 16 residents who refuse to pay their wastewater bills in protest at rising charges.

DRIVERS LICENSES: The new privatised driving licence system is a disaster, says Transport Minister Mark Gosche. He is reviewing contracts signed by the previous Government with organisations such as the Automobile Association.

AMERICAS CUP VILLAGE: For weeks, the 48.4m Georgia has been a star attraction at the Viaduct Harbour, boaties and tourists alike clamouring to get a photograph of the world's biggest single-masted yacht. But now the superyacht, owned by American property tycoon John A. Williams, is attracting attention for another reason - it needs a $200,000 repaint.

TELEVISED SPORT: Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton wants major sports events returned to free-to-air television. But the head of Cricket New Zealand, Christopher Doig, warns that professional sports will not survive if they lose their television revenue.

DRUG IMPORTING BILLIONAIRE: The lawyer for the billionaire American who escaped conviction on drugs charges has filed an appeal to prevent Herald lawyers seeing her original submissions. Marie Dyhrberg's appeal will be heard in the High Court at Auckland this morning. But lawyers for the Herald were still hopeful that the appeal would not delay the paper's bid to overturn the name suppression. That will be heard in the Otahuhu District Court tomorrow.

BAD BLOOD: Health Minister Annette King will meet hepatitis C patients infected by bad blood tomorrow to discuss possible compensation. Up to 800 New Zealanders were infected with the disease - many after receiving blood transfusions - between the mid-1970s and 1992 when blood screening for hepatitis was introduced.

DETECTIVE BAILS: A detective has been allowed to "perf" from the police while he still faces charges of theft and fraud. The Christchurch detective left the police in late December and is believed to have received a perf (Police Employment Rehabilitation Fund) payment of between $200,000 and $250,000.

SWEAT SHOPS: Labour Department investigations into backyard factories exploiting immigrant workers have uncovered six more allegedly illegal operations - and a big retailer taking advantage of the cheap work. Government officials say they were obstructed and lied to in their dealings with some of the 33 Auckland premises raided over the past month.

TAINUI: The flamboyant basketball coach and businessman who negotiated multimillion-dollar business deals for the Tainui tribe has lost his job. Special projects manager Jeff Green has failed to have his contract renewed and becomes the second high-profile executive to leave the tribe's corporate entities in two months.

ETHNIC GAP: The Government wants more ambitious goals for closing the gaps between Pacific peoples and other New Zealanders, says the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, Mark Gosche. Speaking after releasing briefing papers from his ministry, Mr Gosche said that while good progress had been made, officials needed to lift their sights.

WAITANGI: The Governor-General, Sir Michael Hardie Boys, plans to travel to Waitangi and speak on the marae, even if Prime Minister Helen Clark boycotts the event. Official Government House secretary Hugo Judd said Sir Michael's plan was to go to Waitangi on February 5. He would be received on to the lower marae and would stay in Waitangi that night.

FREE WEB: A new Internet service that will allow users to surf cyberspace free is being launched by an Auckland company, It is the first time the concept of free Internet access provided by advertising revenue has been tried in New Zealand, although similar services have been set up in Australia, Britain and the United States.

VICTORIA PAYOUT: Victoria University chancellor Russell Marshall is defending his silence over a golden handshake to departing vice-chancellor Michael Irving. The law prevented comment, he said yesterday. Mr Marshall will brief cabinet ministers next week on the payout, which has been reported to be 18 months' pay. Professor Irving's salary is $260,000 a year.

CAA OR CIA: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says it conducts unannounced checks on airline operators - a normal and expected part of its work - and has never denied doing so. The comments follow reports yesterday that the CAA had tried to cover up the fact it did covert surveillance, but then admitted the surveillance in a letter to the Aviation Industry Association.

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