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New Zealand Herald

Floods - Expats - Mortgage Rates - Rugby Awards - Clover - Sweat Shops - Cannabis and Coromandel - Juries Edtorial

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FLOODS RAVAGE SOUTHERN TOWNS: Southland and Central Otago are reeling from some of the worst floods of the century. The central business areas of Queenstown and Wanaka were engulfed by Lakes Wakatipu and Wanaka yesterday, while lower parts of Alexandra were inundated by the Clutha River flowing at six times its normal volume. Surface flooding and slips closed roads throughout the region - more than 50 in the Southland district alone.

EXPATS: Twenty expatriates who epitomise New Zealand's brain drain are urging the Government to invest more money in education and research. The highly educated group, mostly academics in their late 20s and early 30s, went to the United States, Australia and Europe to work or continue their education. They say it will take more than homesickness to bring them back. The expatriates issued a statement yesterday saying the Government's Bright Future package of scholarships, in some cases for overseas study, was short-sighted and the money would be better spent on research.

MORTGAGE RATES: The Bank of New Zealand has confirmed National's worst fears by signalling it will lift mortgage interest rates one week before the election. BNZ chief economist Tony Alexander said a meeting would likely be held tomorrow and it was "highly probable" a rise of 0.5 per cent would be approved.

RUGBY AWARDS: Andrew Mehrtens has fended off All Black team-mates Jonah Lomu and Tana Umaga to take out New Zealand rugby's highest accolade. The 26-year-old from Canterbury was last night awarded the K.R. Tremain Memorial Trophy for the Rugby Personality of the Year, edging out other top honour nominees Lomu and Umaga. The award was made at the Rugby Union's Steinlager Rugby Awards dinner in Auckland.

CLOVER: The multibillion-dollar pastoral industry is alarmed by research showing that clover growth has slumped in Northland and could be falling in other North Island regions. Drought and parasites appear to have taken their toll on pasture growth, which is critical for farm production and generates huge export income. An AgResearch study shows clover growth in Northland has slumped by two-thirds in the past decade.

SWEAT SHOPS: The Labour Department is planning to investigate more than 20 reports from the public about possible illegal workplaces. Labour inspectorate manager Mike Feely yesterday attributed the recent spate of calls on the department's toll-free information line to New Zealand Herald reports this week about backyard clothing factories.

CANNABIS AND COROMANDEL: Protestors last night disrupted a public meeting in Thames where the Prime Minister was trying to shore up National's diminishing chances of winning Coromandel - a seat which could decide the make-up of the next government. Local woman Elizabeth Boyd lunged at Mrs Shipley as she left the Apostolic Hall after a rowdy 75 minutes during which she attacked "dangerous extremists" in the Green Party and its support for decriminalising marijuana.

EDITORIAL - JURIES: The jury system is famously imperfect. The 12 ordinary citizens summoned to judge one of their peers inevitably bring their own prejudices and failings. Nevertheless, there will be surprise, and some alarm, that work by legal researchers has found that, among other defects, judges disagreed with verdicts in half the 48 trials studied. At the heart of this discrepancy is jurors' widespread misunderstanding of aspects of the law - and therein lies the flaw that must be addressed. But, even if three of the studied cases were found to have resulted in wrong verdicts, there is certainly no need for a rushed and radical overhaul of the jury system. The collective wisdom of jurors often, of course, overcomes the misunderstanding of one of their number. Nonetheless, the researchers found a worryingly high incidence of problems in understanding evidence, the law and how to apply it. Fundamentally, this could indicate a gap in teaching. More immediately, it indicates judges are far too passive. Several jurors said they had expected more direction from the judge on the appropriate verdict and were disappointed it was not given

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