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New Zealand Herald

Cullen Vs Brash - Car On Runway - Pilot's Eyesight - Drugs Billionaire - Auckland Warriors - Reserve Bank - Cannabis Growers - Whaling - TV Sport - Amateur Judges - Screwdriver Gang - Genetics x 2

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CULLEN VS BRASH: Finance Minister Michael Cullen has attacked the Reserve Bank over its surprise decision to raise interest rates. In an unprecedented move, he sent a public "please explain" note to the bank and the Treasury and questioned the timing of the rates rise. He then came under fire for publicly criticising the bank.

CAR ON RUNWAY: A driver motoring down Auckland Airport's runway forced a flight carrying 218 passengers to abort its landing 50 seconds from touchdown. The captain of the Qantas Boeing 767 flight from Sydney pulled up after spotting a set of headlights on the tarmac. The airport has started an investigation into the security breach, which happened on Tuesday at 11.20 pm.

PILOT'S EYESIGHT: An elderly pilot who died with his two passengers - a mother and daughter - when his plane crashed near Taumarunui last year had enough quinine in his system to cause temporary blindness. A Civil Aviation Authority investigation report released yesterday recommends that the adequacy of aviation mental and physical standards be investigated.

DRUGS BILLIONAIRE: The judge who discharged the billionaire American drugs smuggler and suppressed his name will make a public statement about the case today. TV3 will film the statement by Judge David Harvey at the Otahuhu District Court at 2.15 pm. The billionaire appeared in Judge Harvey's court on January 6 and 7 on three charges of importing more than 100g of cannabis resin and plant.

AUCKLAND WARRIORS: The Tainui tribe's controversial investment in the Auckland Warriors may soon be over. Amid claims of a cashflow crisis, the Waikato-based tribe is considering selling parts of one of its major corporate entities, MDC Investment Holdings Ltd. The most high-profile of the MDC investments, a two-thirds share of the Vodafone Warriors rugby league franchise, is apparently not part of the deal at this stage.

RESERVE BANK: Economists say Reserve Bank Governor Don Brash is looking trigger-happy after raising interest rates yesterday just two hours before the release of surprisingly low inflation figures. Inflation in the past three months of 1999 was 0.2 per cent. Without the rise in petrol prices it would have been zero.

CANNABIS GROWER: Simon Anthony Verhaaren's mates in Australia told him he would be "nuts" to return to Auckland, where he was wanted by police for turning his rented home into an elaborate cannabis-growing factory. The 34-year-old carpenter knew he could easily stay in Perth and avoid the long arm of the law. But he decided he would do the right thing.

WHALING: Prime Minister Helen Clark has backed a Greenpeace petition for a global whale sanctuary, accusing Japan of "deplorable" behaviour in its approach to whaling. Helen Clark, who attended the petition launch in Auckland yesterday, vowed that the Government would continue New Zealand's opposition to whaling and work strongly to promote whale sanctuaries.

TV SPORT: The Rugby Union can afford to pay the country's top 150 players because of the money it makes from its contract to screen top games on Sky TV, says the union's chief executive, David Rutherford. He was reacting to a call from Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton, who wants major sports events returned to free-to-air television.

AMATEUR JUDGES: The Labour-Alliance Coalition is divided over the appointment of more community magistrates to help overworked district court judges and cut a big backlog of cases. The Minister for Courts, Matt Robson, wants to expand the scheme which gives laypeople - dubbed amateur judges by the Law Commission - powers to sentence and decide minor cases.

SCREWDRIVER GANG: Police have arrested a man suspected of being part of a gang of screwdriver-wielding bank robbers, but fear that the "desperate and dangerous" group is poised to strike again. A detective was injured when the suspect tried to escape in a car as police visited his Papatoetoe house on Monday night, but he was later caught after officers ran him off the road in Bader Drive, Mangere.

GENETICS: The Government hopes to start its commission of inquiry into genetic engineering by the end of March. That is the date the Minister for the Environment and Biosecurity, Marian Hobbs, is aiming at. The Labour MP says she needs to take advice on how to react to calls for a halt to genetic modification field trials during the inquiry.

GENETICS: Briefing papers to the new Government and a discussion paper by the Independent Biotechnology Advisory Council illustrate the problems involved in developing a policy on genetic engineering. Overseas trade agreements, the wishes of the public, safety considerations, farming practices and the nation's eco-friendly image are all factors which must be considered before New Zealand decides its stance.

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