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New Zealand Herald

Leaders Debate –Rodney Rift – GE Wheat – Smoking Kids – Florist – Ngati Awa – Tame and Tuariki – Prison Escaper – Breast Feeding – Skyhawks – Immigration – Growing Up – Software Jobs – Robberies – Editorial: Piha

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LEADERS DEBATE: The two women vying to be Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark, failed to score a political king-hit in the first of the televised leaders' debates last night. In a nervy but good-humoured contest on TV3, the three male leaders - Jim Anderton, Richard Prebble and Winston Peters - hogged the limelight, prompting presenter John Campbell to accuse Mr Peters of acting like a fourth former.

RODNEY RIFT: The rift in the Rodney District Council widened yesterday when six councillors walked out of a meeting in disgust at what they say was typical constitutional abuse. One councillor who left, Jill Jeffs, said: "It's time to stand against the bullies. They can't be allowed to make their own rules."

GE WHEAT: Genetic changes to a wheat crop that an international company wants to grow in New Zealand are being kept secret with the blessing of a Government watchdog. Monsanto refuses to give details of the genes inserted into weedkiller-resistant bread wheat it hopes to field-test in Canterbury, claiming the information is commercially sensitive.

SMOKING KIDS: Some 11 and 12-year-old pupils at a Northland intermediate school are so addicted to cigarettes they can't get through the school day without a smoke. Kaitaia Intermediate principal Mike Reid says many of them are allowed to smoke at home, and cannot control the habit when they are at school.

FLORIST: Two-year-old Jimi took his mother's car for a quick spin and ended up on display at a downtown Rotorua florist's shop. Owner Maria Gower heard an almighty crash on Wednesday afternoon and found a car had burst through the shop window. Behind the wheel was Jimi and, in the back seat, a large dog.

NGATI AWA: The Crown confiscated land from the Bay of Plenty tribe Ngati Awa in 1866 on account of war and rebellion but, says the Waitangi Tribunal, it is doubtful either actually occurred. Tribunal manager Ian Shearer yesterday presented its Ngati Awa Raupatu report into the confiscation to hapu representatives at Taiwhakaea Marae in Whakatane.

TAME AND TUARIKI: Leaders of the country's newest Maori political movement admit they have differences in style. But cabinet minister Tuariki Delamere and Tuhoe artist Tame Iti say they have put aside personal agendas to provide a platform for an independent Maori voice in Parliament.

PRISON ESCAPER: Rapist Dion Ihaka Matthews wrapped himself in Gladwrap to foil police heat-seeking devices and used pepper to put dogs off his scent when he escaped from Auckland Prison at Paremoremo. The tactics used by the 28-year-old to flee the prison in June were revealed in an internal report obtained yesterday by the New Zealand Herald under the Official Information Act.

BREAST FEEDING: The number of women breast-feeding babies has dropped dramatically in the past five years. An Auckland University study of 400 mothers, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, shows 63 per cent are breast-feeding infants after six weeks, compared with 75 per cent in 1994.

SKYHAWKS: Indonesia's political uncertainty forced New Zealand Air Force jets to skirt the republic's extensive airspace when returning from exercises in Malaysia. Eight Skyhawks and support aircraft spent four days trundling back to Ohakea through the Philippines, Guam and Papua New Guinea instead of flying a direct route over Indonesia, the Defence Force said yesterday.

IMMIGRATION: An Auckland immigration consultancy at the centre of investigations into allegedly phoney marriages has folded. Wilsons Consultancy in Queen St, one of nine Auckland premises raided by police and immigration officials a week ago, has been placed in liquidation.

GROWING UP: Growing up poses the same challenges for teenagers regardless of their ethnic group, a Victoria University study has found. A survey of Wellington teenagers of Indian, Maori Greek and other European descent found they faced common pressures from the educational system and workplace.

SOFTWARE JOBS: Canadian software company Geac will invest $50 million over five years in its locally developed StreamLine software. Chief executive Doug Bergeron said the company would hire 100 more developers within two years in addition to the 75 already at its Auckland office.

ROBBERIES: Police are looking at whether a string of Armourguard robberies are the work of Mongrel Mob associates carrying out revenge attacks for the jailing of their bosses in June. Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Bush, of Takapuna, said the robbers were believed to be responsible for five armed holdups of Armourguard staff in Auckland and one in Tauranga.

EDITORIAL: - PIHA: The tragedy at Piha last weekend has prompted surf lifesaving organisations to begin another summer's campaign to be recognised as an essential service deserving more substantial and secure public finance. The loss of three people, recent immigrants who may not have been aware of Piha's perils, is an indictment of the lack of signs warning of the hazards that can develop quite suddenly at West Coast beaches, particularly Piha. But the Labour Weekend incident might not be a good basis for proper consideration of a claim on public funds. The victims, as lifeguards themselves note, were swimming far from the patrolled area of the beach and late in the afternoon when patrols had largely finished for the day. It is difficult to see that greater public financing of the surf club could have avoided the catastrophe.

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