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New Zealand Herald

Americas Cup Cabs – Tania Furlan – Asbestos – Council Corruption? – Hawkesby - Wine Labels – Health Report – Forest Claim – Courage Under Fire – NZ First x 2 – Georgina Beyer – School Year – Student Loans And Enrolments – Ministerial Travel – Hamilton Casino – Lisa Blakie – Coke Boat

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AMERICAS CUP CABS: Long before the first race is sailed for the America's Cup, there is one sure winner out on the water - the water taxis that have been plying their trade around the Viaduct Harbour. They have proven spectacularly successful, transporting 50,000 passengers last month alone.

TANIA FURLAN: A senior Auckland police detective has begun reinvestigating aspects of the Tania Furlan murder after a review of the case raised questions about the original inquiry. Tania Furlan, a 27-year-old mother of three, was killed in her Howick home in 1996.

ASBESTOS: Betty Jeromeson describes the disease that killed her husband as "one of the cruellest deaths." "A ghastly death, there is no coming back from mesothelioma," says the 62-year-old Howick woman, who watched her husband, James, die from the asbestos-related illness six months after it was diagnosed.

COUNCIL CORRUPTION? Affidavits have been presented claiming that former MP Ross Meurant twice told Rodney District Council officers they could gain personally from issues involving the council. The claims against the former National MP and police inspector, turned Rodney councillor and financial adviser, are in affidavits presented to a ministerial inquiry into infighting within the council.

HAWKESBY: John Hawkesby stands to pocket an extra million dollars on top of his $5.2 million payout if TVNZ fails in its latest court battle with the sacked newsreader. This new figure would be over and above the controversial settlement recommended by an arbitrator, to compensate Mr Hawkesby for being unfairly fired.

WINE LABELS: A winemaker being prosecuted by health officials on mislabelling charges is fighting to keep his name suppressed. The man and one other, along with a company, face four charges under the Food Act relating to selling wine with misleading labels and selling wine that does not comply with the standards associated with the given name.

HEALTH REPORT: Health problems resulting from obesity and inactivity are fast approaching smoking as the country's biggest killer. The Director-General of Health, Dr Karen Poutasi, said last night that the associated problems of obesity, diabetes and inactivity were among the greatest health problems facing New Zealanders.

FOREST CLAIM: A groundbreaking land claim of at least $600 million lodged by five central North Island tribes is set to be the biggest in New Zealand's history. In a first for Maori land claims, Te Arawa, Tuwharetoa, Tuhoe, Waikaremoana and Mataatua tribes have joined to lodge an "urgent" Volcanic Interior Plateau (VIP) claim before the Waitangi Tribunal.

COURAGE UNDER FIRE: Australian racing officials are claiming Kiwi champion Courage Under Fire as one of their own just days before the Interdominion Grand Final. The Canterbury-trained champion is a $1.60 favourite for the $A1 million event at Moonee Valley on Saturday night. If he wins, it will break a 23-year drought for New Zealand pacers in Interdominions run in Australia.

NZ FIRST: The Prime Minister is signalling more cooperation with New Zealand First to avoid her minority Coalition having to rely too much on the Greens in Parliament. Helen Clark's willingness for closer contacts was shown in a speech on Tuesday, in which she acknowledged there would often be differences between the Greens and her Labour-Alliance Government.

NZ FIRST: Winston Peters is ready to give the Labour-led Coalition Government a fair go but is also determined to rebuild New Zealand First. The party leader says he and the party's four list MPs are likely to back the Government in its first confidence vote next week, rather than abstain.

GEORGINA BEYER: If comic timing and brave honesty were the measure of an MP, Georgina Beyer would be Prime Minister. The world's first transsexual MP gave her maiden speech to Parliament yesterday and irreverently drew everyone's attention to her claim to fame.

SCHOOL YEAR: Primary school children will start and finish classes nearly a week later next year, to avoid the height of summer and give parents more breathing space before Christmas. The Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, said the change would extend the summer holidays "when it is meant to be hotter."

STUDENT LOANS: Cheaper student loans seem to be having little effect on university enrolments, with numbers stagnant a few weeks before classes start. Most universities said yesterday that their pre-enrolment numbers were about the same as last year, levelling out a pattern of slow growth in the tertiary sector.

MINISTERIAL TRAVEL: Travel costs for ministers have blown out and officials are blaming last year's Apec conference. The Department of Internal Affairs has told Prime Minister Helen Clark that the cost of internal and external travel is higher than usual - and it may need more money.

HAMILTON CASINO: Waikato's wealthy Perry family are diversifying into the gaming industry, even though they are facing delays in the building of Hamilton's controversial $65 million casino. The father-and-son business team of Brian and Simon Perry have bought United Gaming Ltd, an Auckland-based company which buys and sells non-casino gaming machines in New Zealand.

LISA BLAKIE: Murder victim Lisa Ann Blakie worked recently in a Queenstown massage parlour and had Timaru gang connections. The body of the 20-year-old Timaru woman was found on Sunday in the Porter River, close to a layby on State Highway 73 near Castle Hill, northwest Canterbury.

COKE BOAT: The lawyer representing one of two New Zealanders arrested after Australasia's biggest cocaine seizure said yesterday that police efforts to seize the yacht on which the drugs were found could be contested. Hamish Edmond Thompson, aged 46, and Sir Thomas Graham Fry, 47, were arrested with five other men after 500kg of cocaine worth an estimated $NZ285 million was discovered on board the Ngaire Wha on the central New South Wales coast on February 1.

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