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Record Exodus Across Tasman - WTO - Drug Bust - Drowning - Poor Knights Oil Spill - Americas Cup - Coalition Talks - Alliance Victory - Dangerous Boy - Radio Marriage - Editorial: Defence

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RECORD EXODUS ACROSS TASMAN: The wave of New Zealanders turning their backs on their country and choosing a new life across the Tasman has reached record levels. A total of 35,495 Kiwis - more than the population of Gisborne - packed up and left for Australia either permanently or for a stay of more than 12 months in the year to the end of June.

WTO: World Trade Organisation Director-General Mike Moore has been left holding the baby after trade ministers meeting in Seattle failed to agree on an agenda for a new round of global trade talks. "Much work was done," Mr Moore said, "and that work will not be lost." But he admitted: "We do have a deep institutional problem."

DRUG BUST: Five notorious criminals have been convicted after a drugs operation that saw bitter gang rivals cooperating to boost profits. The five were convicted for their part in a methamphetamine syndicate run by Peter Francis Atkinson, a career criminal with convictions for heroin importation.

DROWNING: A 6-year-old girl died after her family's boat sank in the Hauraki Gulf during their first outing in it at the weekend, just a day after they bought it. Eshna Ragamma Nayyar, of Papatoetoe, died after slipping out of a lifejacket and struggling to stay afloat.

POOR KNIGHTS OIL SPILL: Wind saved the Poor Knights Islands marine reserve from the worst consequences of Thursday's oil spill. "The impact could have been a lot worse if calm weather conditions had come earlier," said the Northland Regional Council's monitoring manager, Tony Phipps, yesterday.

AMERICAS CUP: Dennis Conner's dentist was catapulted through the air as the back of America's Cup boat Stars & Stripes crumpled like a tin can on the Hauraki Gulf yesterday. The man who maintains Conner's trademark grin, 62-year-old Dr Merritt Barber, was sitting on the stern of the yacht as 17th man in the crew when the deck separated from the hull.

COALITION TALKS: Labour and the Alliance have rubber-stamped their one-and-a-half-page coalition deal, clearing the way for its formal signing today. The document outlines how the Government will operate and make decisions and will include a commitment to rewrite the Cabinet Office Manual to allow coalition parties to "agree to disagree."

ALLIANCE VICTORY: Critics of the Alliance will have to change tack after its responsible approach to forming the new Government, says Deputy Prime Minister-designate Jim Anderton. "Everything everyone said about the Alliance - lunatic fringe, nutcases and all the rest of it - they will never be able to say again," he told 200 delegates at the party's "victory conference" in Wellington.

DANGEROUS BOY: The Department of Child, Youth and Family placed a disturbed youth with a history of violence and inappropriate sexual behaviour with a Canterbury couple who have young daughters. The boy, aged 16, had been in Kingslea Residential Centre since September last year, after he bashed his last foster parents and was given 20 hours' community service at a Youth Court hearing.

RADIO MARRIAGE: First the wedding, then the romance, and now it is the acid test. Wedded strangers Zane Nicholl, aged 32, and Paula Stockwell-Nicholl, 28, moved in together over the weekend, despite earlier saying they would wait until the New Year.

EDITORIAL - DEFENCE: East Timor provided a salutary lesson for those who would skimp and save on defence spending. Crises can erupt in the most unpredictable manner and the most unforeseen of places. New Zealand must be able to react quickly and with effective muscle. If the training or equipment of the armed forces is not up to standard, lives are placed in even greater peril. The lesson must not be lost on the incoming Government. The Prime Minister-designate signals an unfortunate level of comprehension when she says the deal to lease United States F-16 strike fighters will be reviewed. However, at least Helen Clark's words stop short of the earlier impression that the Labour Party would definitely scuttle the deal. Now, cancellation appears to hinge on the cost of termination. That cost will not be restricted to $7 million in lease payments but include upfront bills for taking the 28 aircraft out of mothballs, plus assorted support and training costs.

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