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New Zealand Herald

Nats Party Crashed – Spraydrift – Underware Robbery – CTU – Boy Burnt – Save Our Kids – PM On Treaty – Clark On Cleanliness – Rowles Launches NZ First – Worm Canned – Colin James – Editorial: Monsanto

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NATS PARTY CRASHED: National Party officials are holding a post-mortem into how environmental activists were able to disrupt yesterday's showcase campaign launch and incessantly heckle the Prime Minister. At least seven hecklers were grabbed by party members and senior MPs and ejected from the tickets-only affair at an Eden Park function room.

SPRAYDRIFT: Investigations will start today into how a weedkiller drifted over an east Auckland suburb, bringing complaints of breathing problems and forcing a garden centre to dump thousands of plants. The Auckland City Council, Auckland Regional Council and health protection officers will measure the extent of drift of a 2,4-D chemical herbicide thought to have been sprayed on Auckland City land leased to the Meadowbank Pony Club.

UNDERWARE ROBBERY: The till was turned off and the changing rooms dismantled in Strevens Lingerie in Queen St, Auckland, yesterday as the store closed after 70 years. Jane Finnegan and her brothers, John and Robert Strevens, quietly took away the manikins and clothes racks from the last shop of what was once a chain of six throughout Auckland.

CTU: Ross Wilson takes control of the Council of Trade Unions today, aiming to bring all the country's unions - including the rival Trade Union Federation - back into the fold. Mr Wilson, who will replace retiring founding president Ken Douglas at today's CTU conference in Wellington, believes the country's largest workers' group must woo back its disfranchised former member unions.

BOY BURNT: A 10-year-old boy was last night recovering in Middlemore Hospital from serious burns after he was allegedly forced to put on a shirt that had been doused in petrol, and was then set alight. The boy, who had been placed in foster care by social workers, suffered serious burns to his face, neck, stomach and chest.

SAVE OUR KIDS: The mobile phones were silenced last night and about 1000 volunteers who staffed them at the weekend went home tired but happy that they had helped child mental health. The mass cellphone appeal called Vodafone Save Our Kids raised at least $100,000.

PM ON TREATY: The Prime Minister has told Maori to get out of the courts and show renewed urgency towards settling Treaty of Waitangi claims. "We want to move it along," she told 700 or so enthusiastic party stalwarts during a rousing speech at National's campaign opening in Auckland yesterday.

CLARK ON CLEANLINESS: Labour leader Helen Clark launched her election campaign yesterday aiming to capitalise on public anger over party-hopping politicians and waste in the public sector. "Our mission is to clean up Government and to clean up Parliament, too. We want the defectors out," she told a cheering crowd in the Auckland Town Hall already in party mood after a 45-minute routine by Pacific band Te Vaka.

ROWLES LAUNCHES NZ FIRST: Kiwi singing icon John Rowles added a touch of showbiz to an otherwise full-frontal attack on National and Labour at New Zealand First's election campaign launch in Auckland yesterday. The deep voice, the gyrating hips, the sparkle of classic hits Cheryl Moana Marie, Tania, and Hush, Not a Word to Mary, had the party faithful on their feet singing and dancing and rapturous at Rowles' endorsement of NZ First leader Winston Peters.

WORM CANNED: TVNZ has officially abandoned its controversial "worm," which rated political leaders as they spoke during debates in the last election campaign. But the network still plans to use a similar device measuring audience responses when it begins screening leaders' debates tonight.

COLIN JAMES: Converts - that is what the next four weeks are about: prising out votes from "undecideds" or stealing from rivals. So far only Act of the main five is in full missionary mode, though Labour yesterday moved up a gear.

EDITORIAL – MONSANTO: Monsanto is doing the cause of gene research no good by excessive secrecy. Nobody, including those well disposed towards properly monitored genetic engineering of crops, can reach a balanced view without some primary facts. One of the most essential facts is surely the identity of an introduced gene. Suppression of that sort of detail can only breed mistrust and misinformation, preparing fertile ground for scaremongering. Monsanto ought to be particularly aware of the danger. The heat generated against the American seed company has been such that it is contemplating a significant retreat from its crop trials in Britain. Astoundingly, it seems determined to make itself the target of further disdain in New Zealand. In refusing to give details of the genes inserted into weedkiller-resistant bread wheat, which it hopes to field-test in Canterbury, Monsanto claims the information is commercially sensitive. That phrase has long ago lost what credibility it deserved, becoming the catch-all expression for companies which prefer to operate out of the public gaze.

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