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New Zealand Herald

Business Confidence Down - Shipley Apologises - Booze Theft - Police Rape Charge - St Stepen’s Violence - Airways Corp - Mother’s Day Rape - Date Palm Threat - Tribal Backlash - Antibiotic Message - Petrol Companies - Helen Clark In Backbencher - Sports Centres - Papakura Council - Takapuna Head Row

BUSINESS CONFIDENCE DOWN: Confidence in the economy is falling as businesses tighten their belts in fear of an uncertain future. The warm glow that followed the election of a new Government and the America's Cup victory has worn off, replaced by doubts over Labour's economic policy. The property and hospitality sectors are among the hardest hit.

SHIPLEY APOLOGISES: Jenny Shipley was forced to apologise yesterday for saying Pacific Islanders climbed through people's windows at night. In a concerted attack, Labour accused the Opposition leader of casting a racial slur.

BOOZE THEFT: Thief Andrew Graham had enough brains to swindle dock workers into giving him nearly $1 million worth of booze - but not to drive the getaway truck. Workers toiling on the Auckland waterfront at midnight last May 17 were amazed when a badly overloaded Isuzu truck bunny-hopped out of their yard and lurched to a stop on a nearby motorway ramp.

POLICE RAPE CHARGE: ROTORUA - Mangakino Constable Colin Andrew McLean allegedly punched a woman in the head before ripping her underpants off and raping her. At a depositions hearing in the Rotorua District Court yesterday, Judge Chris McGuire ordered McLean, aged 36, to stand trial on two counts of rape, three counts of assault on a female and one count of assault with intent to commit a rape.

ST STEPEN’S VIOLENCE: The future of St Stephen's School is under threat after a violent attack on a 14-year-old pupil by a senior student sparked Government calls for its closure. Maori Affairs Minister Dover Samuels said the assault could have been fatal and the Bombay Maori boys' boarding school should be closed because of its violent reputation.

AIRWAYS CORP: Besieged Airways Corporation chief executive Craig Sinclair yesterday accused a French technology company of recruiting New Zealand politicians to attack the corporation. Mr Sinclair told corporation staff that New Zealand First leader Winston Peters had been recruited by Airsys ATM to "overturn our decision."

MOTHER’S DAY RAPE: A woman brutally raped in a car park on Mother's Day is fleeing her South Auckland home of seven years after her attacker threatened to hunt her down. The 30-year-old mother of three fears for her safety after the chilling threat and is convinced her rapist lives in the Manurewa area.

DATE PALM THREAT: Phoenix date palm trees may look elegant but they have been put on the hit list of some doctors, plant sellers and councils because of the injuries they inflict on barefoot children. Doctors say spikes from the palms were responsible for 8 per cent of foreign-body injuries treated at the Starship children's hospital in Auckland between 1992 and 1997.

TRIBAL BACKLASH: A tribal backlash threatens to shatter the fragile accord over the carve-up of $700 million in Maori fisheries assets. Iwi are divided over the Waitangi Fisheries Commission's controversial allocation model. Its surprise rejection by Tainui has sparked a chain reaction among other North Island tribes.

ANTIBIOTIC MESSAGE: The message on the wise use of antibiotics is getting through, with an 11 per cent drop in the number of prescriptions for them since 1997. New Zealanders received 3.3 million antibiotic prescriptions through pharmacies last year, down from 3.7 million, nearly one each on average, in 1997.

PETROL COMPANIES: WELLINGTON - Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton intends talking to petrol companies about their pricing policies. Mr Anderton told Parliament yesterday that he was concerned that this week's 5c increase had come so soon after the May 4 increase of 4c.

HELEN CLARK IN BACKBENCHER: A sword in the hand is better than a knife in the back. So observed Helen Clark last night as she marked her triumphant transition from a haunted-looking Opposition leader to Joan of Arc.

SPORTS CENTRES: The Government is making a $16 million one-off payment to finance three high-performance sports centres for the next four years - a move it hopes will boost New Zealand's medal tally at Olympic Games. The centres, in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin, will be based in existing establishments.

PAPAKURA COUNCIL: The Papakura District Council stripped a councillor of his committee responsibilities in a special meeting last night. The council voted to remove Ross Vickery after he breached the confidentiality of a meeting held in committee last week by speaking to reporters.

TAKAPUNA HEAD ROW: A historic piece of prime real estate is back in the hands of the people of Auckland after a court battle and a long fight by North Shore residents. Takapuna Head, also known as HMNZS Tamaki, will be opened to the public next month by its new owners, the Department of Conservation.

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