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Tarlton’s Theft - Bottrill Inquiry - Snake Three - Weekend Toll - Altered Evidence - Drunken Smash - Piano Controversy - Tauranga Floods - Rings Web Frenzy - Constitution Ends - TV Discovery - Homeless Services - Editorial: Health Reforms

TARLTON’S THEFT: An irreplaceable collection of maritime treasure salvaged by one of the country's most colourful divers has been stolen - and police fear it is headed overseas. Northland police have issued airport alerts for a man they want to question about the disappearance of up to $500,000 of historic gold jewellery, coins and relics from Kelly Tarlton's shipwreck museum and restaurant at Waitangi.

BOTTRILL INQUIRY: Doubts about the health and performance of Dr Michael Bottrill were circulating in Gisborne before the pathologist retired in 1996. Some doctors switched from using his laboratory to one with an external checking system.

SNAKE THREE: The quick reactions of a crane worker spelled the end yesterday for yet another unwanted Australian stowaway. The 70cm snake was caught on an Auckland wharf after the worker saw it inside the locking hole of a container he was shifting.

WEEKEND TOLL: Nine people are dead after the worst day of carnage on North Island roads this year. Four people died in yesterday's worst accident, involving a three-car pile-up at Ohaaki on State Highway 5 between Rotorua and Taupo, at 2.07 pm. Six others were injured.

ALTERED EVIDENCE: The police have reached a settlement with a man who claimed $850,000 in damages after being arrested on fabricated evidence. The High Court at Palmerston North found in 1998 that two police officers altered evidence against Dannevirke man Craig Withey, aged 29, then lied about it.

DRUNKEN SMASH: Constable Rikki Watling said a little prayer when a drunk driver smashed into his police car at high speed in Otahuhu. "I said, 'Help me, God,' as we were spinning around and He came through," said Constable Watling.

PIANO CONTROVERSY: New evidence has emerged to fuel the debate about the originality of celebrated director Jane Campion's screenplay for The Piano. The Canberra Times has released correspondence by Campion in 1985 in which she says she was "inspired" by the novel The Story of a New Zealand River by Jane Mander when she prepared an outline of a film to be called The Piano Lesson.

TAURANGA FLOODS: Torrential rain caused flooding in Tauranga and other parts of the Bay of Plenty last night. The water was so deep in some parts of Tauranga that cars floated along streets.

RINGS WEB FRENZY: A two-minute trailer for The Lord of the Rings movie has spawned a global online frenzy as J.R.R. Tolkien fans devour and dissect it frame by frame. Hundreds of Websites devoted to the film trilogy have been running hot with talk about what the fleeting images posted on the Internet represent and how accurate they are.

CONSTITUTION ENDS: A weekend conference to discuss a New Zealand constitution failed to reach any consensus and left the Government unmoved. The "Building a Constitution" gathering in Parliament's Legislative Chamber ended without any resolution, although a call for the establishment of two "constitutional commissions" won some support.

TV DISCOVERY: An Auckland-born television producer has upstaged the world's scientific community by doggedly pursuing a hunch that crocodile blood contains an infection-beating agent that might one day be a powerful antibiotic. Top BBC science producer Jill Fullerton-Smith was filming a documentary on salt water crocodiles in Australia and wondered why terrible wounds on the reptiles never became infected when the water they inhabited was so dirty.

HOMELESS SERVICES: Some of those who provide services to Auckland's homeless families have publicly thanked the Government for its commitment to abolish market rents for state housing tenants by the end of the year. Auckland's Sisters of Mercy, gathered at Mt Roskill's Monte Cecilia House at the weekend as part of their 150th jubilee celebrations, presented Housing Minister Mark Goshe with a letter praising the Government's pre-election promise to return to income-related state housing rents.

EDITORIAL: HEALTH REFORMS: Annette King's proposed constitution for elected district health boards sounds a clang of warning of their democratic limits. The Health Minister will have the right to sack not just the entire board but any individual members - virtually at will. The right of government to dismiss an elected body that spends taxpayers' funds cannot be denied. It is the Government that must collect the revenue that the newly elected health boards will be spending and the Government is ultimately accountable for the use of the money. But the right to dismiss an entire board is quite different from the power to pick off elected members piecemeal, even if the Government must cite what it considers "just cause."

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