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New Zealand Herald

Auckland Students - Maori Citizenship – Firefighters – Angela Dotchin – Jehova’s Witnesses And Rugby – Petrol Price Falls – Casino – America’s Cup – Traffic Crime – Airport Delays – Crime Decline – IRD Inquiry – Vector Split – School Zoning Editorial

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AUCKLAND STUDENTS: At least 50 students have vowed to stay holed up in a room in the University of Auckland clock tower until the university tells them what their fees will be next year. The students occupied a student information centre after a rally yesterday afternoon and barricaded themselves inside, piling furniture against the doors.

MAORI CITIZENSHIP: Promoters of a Maori citizenship scheme claiming to give Pacific Island overstayers in Auckland immunity from deportation were handing out refunds last night as police began an inquiry. The scheme is understood to have targeted hundreds of people from Tonga, Samoa and Tuvalu in the last month, offering them Maori citizenship for about $1000.

FIREFIGHTERS: The long and bitter battle to sack the country's firefighters and make them reapply for fewer jobs is finally over - and with it seems to have gone the plan to cut fire-engine crew numbers from four to three. The Court of Appeal yesterday rejected a bid by the Fire Service Commission to overturn an Employment Court decision preventing the mass dismissals.

ANGELA DOTCHIN: Angela Dotchin, best known for her role as Kirsty the receptionist on Shortland Street, will soon be starring in an American television series called Jack of all Trades. The new series from Pacific Renaissance - maker of Xena: Warrior Princess starring Lucy Lawless - will be filmed in West Auckland.

JEHOVA’S WITNESSES AND RUGBY: Jehovah's Witnesses have raced to an early lead over rugby fans in a quirky clash between their two religions. Out-of-town rugby fanatics planning to hit Hamilton for this Saturday's NPC semifinal between Waikato and Wellington have found that the meek truly inherit most of the airline seats and motel rooms.

PETROL PRICE FALLS: Petrol yesterday dropped 3c, reversing three months of oil company increases. BP led the way yesterday afternoon, citing a drop in international crude oil prices. Within hours its three major competitors, Shell, Mobil and Caltex, followed suit. The 3c fall takes 96-octane back to an average of 96.9c a litre, with 91-octane at 91.9c, although prices vary, particularly in Auckland.

CASINO: Tainui is rejecting an attack on its stake in Hamilton's casino as opponents warn of increasing poverty among Maori problem gamblers. The tribe has joined Perry Developments Ltd and Sky City Ltd as joint-venture partners in the $65 million Riverside Casino complex due to open in 2001.

AMERICA’S CUP: Young America's challenge for the America's Cup will be coming of age in more ways than one on Friday. As well as launching its campaign in a parade down Queen St with the other 10 cup challengers and Team NZ, two of the youngest members of the crew will celebrate birthdays.

TRAFFIC CRIME: While police are celebrating a drop in the crime rate, the country's road safety head is pleased that reported traffic offences have increased. Traffic offences and infringements during the past 12 months rose by 9.7 per cent to just over a million.

AIRPORT DELAYS: Eleven Samoan rugby league players and four Vietnamese travellers were detained for 27 hours and left to sleep on the floor of Auckland Airport's TV lounge during the weekend's flight disruptions. The 15 transit passengers were among 200 travellers forced to wait two days for a delayed Air New Zealand flight to Samoa. More than 1500 passengers had their travel plans disrupted after three Air New Zealand planes were grounded by technical problems.

CRIME DECLINE: Crime is on the decline throughout Auckland, but Northland has defied a national trend by recording a huge rise. Police statistics released yesterday for the past financial year show the total number of reported crimes throughout the country dropped from 465,834 to 455,552.

IRD INQUIRY: Inland Revenue is bracing for a report by a parliamentary inquiry that is expected to strongly criticise the department and its senior managers, including commissioner Graham Holland. The report by Parliament's finance and expenditure committee is expected this week and may be unveiled today. The contents are protected by parliamentary privilege until they are released.

VECTOR SPLIT: Allegations in the High Court have exposed a serious rift between members of the consumer-elected trust that owns Auckland's main power line company. Trust member Karen Sherry has been accused of leaking sensitive information about Vector - formerly part of Mercury Energy - to the Manukau City Council.

SCHOOL ZONING – EDITORIAL: Christine Fletcher, the retiring MP for Epsom, fought a long campaign for the right of her constituents to attend their nearest school. Finally, legislation was passed last year requiring schools to ensure that their criteria for selection allowed everyone "access to a reasonably convenient school." Does that mean the school must draw a zone and accept all pupils living within it? All schools in Auckland have done so except one - Auckland Grammar School. Zones, says Grammar's headmaster John Morris, are arbitrary, anachronistic and unnecessary. Every year he accepts about 400 new pupils from up to 900 applicants throughout the region. About 40 per cent of those accepted live outside what Grammar calls its "sphere of influence," or had no family ties to the school. In other words, they are selected for their abilities, interests, character or other qualities listed in the enrolment criteria. And in many cases they will be boys whose families cannot afford to live in Epsom.

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