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F16S x 2 – Harbour Bridge – Fireman Farewelled – St Stephens – Wanganui Mourns – IVF – Power Inquiry – Teina Pora – Mayor Disqualified – WINZ Theft – Anaethetist – Christine Fletcher – Editorial: Alliance

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F16S: The Air Force's Hobsonville base may be doomed to close, with the Government signalling a sale of prime defence real estate in the wake of yesterday's cancellation of the lease of 28 F-16 jet fighters. A question also hangs over the neighbouring base of Whenuapai, which was likewise earmarked for disposal by a 1997 consultants' report on rationalising defence property.

F16S: The Coalition Government is refusing to guarantee New Zealand's future airstrike force - and the Treasury has already carried out work on savings to be made if it is scrapped. Prime Minister Helen Clark says the option has "obvious attractions fiscally."

HARBOUR BRIDGE: "The best things in life are free," says one adage. "Virtue is its own reward," runs another. Both apply to Transit New Zealand's new plan to light up the Harbour Bridge. It is looking for sponsors so it won't have to pay for the job itself.

FIREMAN FAREWELLED: Kieran O'Hanlon dreamed for most of his 17 years of being a fireman. Tomorrow he will be honoured with a full Fire Service funeral reserved for those killed on duty.

ST STEPHENS: Boys at an Anglican Maori boarding school dogged by allegations of bullying and violence are saddened at the sudden departure of 12 friends. Weeks after a game of hide and seek turned violent at St Stephen's School in Bombay, the roll has dropped to 125 after the withdrawal of a dozen pupils by their families.

WANGANUI MOURNS: Hundreds of people gathered at Wanganui Airport yesterday for the return of the bodies of six family members killed in a South Otago road smash last week. An Air Force Hercules brought the bodies of George Raniera Tawaroa, 56, his son, David Te Wauriki Tawaroa, 25, David's partner, Jinaya Carlene Olsen, 22, their two sons, Zhyon Rawiri Terrance Tawaroa-Olsen, 3, and Jaia Te Ariki Tawaroa-Olsen, 2, and their daughter, Keani Marie Tawaroa-Olsen, five months.

IVF: An Auckland-based fertility clinic is helping dozens more women to conceive every year after making improvements to its in-vitro fertilisation programme. In the past 12 months, Fertility Associates has increased the percentage of its women patients becoming pregnant using IVF from 22 to 35 per cent.

POWER INQUIRY: The Consumers' Institute has demanded immediate regulation of electricity line companies that would force them to reduce their distribution charges by as much as 20 per cent in the first year. The call was made at the first day of the Government's inquiry into the electricity industry which, among other things, is examining the role of monopoly line businesses and their impact on electricity prices.

TEINA PORA: Teina Pora - on trial for a second time accused of the murder of Susan Burdett - allegedly told an inmate while on remand that he had killed once and was quite prepared to do it again. The hearing in the High Court at Auckland is the fourth time a jury has been asked to decide who killed the 39-year-old Papatoetoe woman in her Pah Rd unit on March 23, 1992.

MAYOR DISQUALIFIED: The Mayor of Hamilton, Russ Rimmington, has been disqualified from driving and fined $750 for a dangerous driving incident last year. Rimmington's status as a justice of the peace is in the hands of Justice Minister Phil Goff because dangerous driving can carry a term of imprisonment. In such cases, the JP is usually asked to resign.

WINZ THEFT: Police are investigating the alleged theft of up to $100,000 from the Turangi office of Work and Income New Zealand. Winz launched an internal inquiry early this year into the possibility of employee fraud and laid a complaint with the Turangi police this month.

ANAETHETIST: Alarmed Northland surgical patients are seeking reassurance as an inquiry into an anaesthetist's possible reuse of syringes gets under way. Dr Annesley Perera, who worked in three Whangarei hospitals until a month ago, was discovered to have wrongly reused syringes in two Melbourne hospitals.

CHRISTINE FLETCHER: Auckland Mayor Christine Fletcher is getting a second media minder in her office as part of a council boost in public relations spending. The city council is more than doubling its public relations and advocacy budget this year, from $500,000 to $1.3 million.

EDITORIAL – ALLIANCE: Diversity and choice of political parties are the essence of a good democracy, along with the ability of the parties to produce stable governments. New Zealand has not yet managed to reconcile stability and diversity, and there was a sign in the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey that this coalition could sooner or later face the same dilemma as the last: how does the junior partner survive? It might have gone unnoticed beside the heights of Labour support that the Alliance is in trouble. Its vote, consistently at 8 per cent in the poll for three years and near that level at the last election, was almost halved this time. The same thing happened to NZ First in the poll taken after its coalition with National. Thereafter the junior partner sank practically out of contention for almost two years until, eventually, Winston Peters took half his team out of the coalition. Needless to say, those who stayed with National came to grief at the election, faring worse than the major party.

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