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Drugs Billionaire - Name Suppression – Cannabis – Meningitis – Global Warming – Alan Gibbs In Accident – Young Kauri Award – Give Way Rule Changes – Waitangi – Parihaka – Lifesaving – ACT Review

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DRUGS BILLIONAIRE: Justice Minister Phil Goff has called for an investigation into sentences imposed on drug smugglers. The move follows the discharge without conviction of a billionaire facing drug importing charges, revealed in the Herald last week. Mr Goff fears the case will damage public confidence in the justice system.

DRUGS BILLIONAIRE: The visiting billionaire businessman whose drugs charges were thrown out by an Auckland court jeopardised his reputation for $650 worth of drugs. Detective Sergeant Mike Paki said the man's 56g of hashish was worth about $500 and his 47g of cannabis plant was worth about $150.

NAME SUPPRESSION: The vexed question of name suppression and the need for openness in New Zealand courts has been dealt with in a landmark finding of the Court of Appeal. In 1994, upholding an appeal by the Solicitor-General against the suppression of a sex offender's name, the court said: "What has to be stressed is that the prima facie presumption as to reporting is always in favour of openness."

CANNABIS: Decriminalising personal use of marijuana in South Australia has not increased consumption. However, it has had the unexpected result of greatly increasing the detection-rate for minor cannabis offences. The number of cannabis-related instant fines rose from 6231 in 1987-88, when the system was introduced, to a peak of 17,425 in 1993-94. It has since plateaued at 16,000 to 17,000.

MENINGITIS: Barney Koneferenisi's smiling face belies the trauma he has lived through. As a 4-month-old baby he contracted the often-fatal meningococcal disease - and while it did not quite kill him, it left him disabled for life.

MENINGITIS: Health authorities hope to test a vaccine to curb the meningitis epidemic that has killed 142 New Zealanders. In the nine years the epidemic has raged, more than 3000 cases have been reported and it shows no sign of loosening its grip.

GLOBAL WARMING: The heat is on to find a solution to global warming as new figures reveal that 1998 and 1999 were the two warmest years last century. New Zealand ended the millennium with a year noted for extreme weather variations and the second-warmest year since records began in the 1850s, according to a review of annual statistics by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.

ALAN GIBBS IN ACCIDENT: Police are investigating a Far North jetski crash involving millionaire Alan Gibbs that left an 11-year-old girl and her mother nursing back and leg injuries. A St John Ambulance spokesman said last night that the service's rescue helicopter took Nicole Czerniak and her mother, Lee, to Whangarei Hospital after their inflatable dinghy and a jetski collided near the Cavalli Islands, off the Whangaroa coast, last Wednesday.

YOUNG KAURI AWARDS: Sixty-eight children are honoured in this year's New Zealand Herald Young Kauri Awards. The awards, for spirit, courage and endeavour among young New Zealanders, are open to children in the Herald's circulation area.

GIVE WAY RULE CHANGE: The Automobile Association will oppose changes to New Zealand's unique and contentious "give-way" rule at intersections. The Land Transport Safety Authority has told the new Minister of Transport, Mark Gosche, that work will soon start on new road rules, including changing the "left turn/right turn give-way rule" at intersections.

WAITANGI: Prime Minister Helen Clark is considering whether to attend this year's celebrations at Waitangi, amid signs of a fresh confrontation over women's speaking rights. Veteran activist Titewhai Harawira has warned that she will not tolerate Helen Clark being allowed to speak at the marae on February 6, foreshadowing a confrontation similar to that in 1998 which reduced Helen Clark to tears.

PARIHAKA: The peaceful Maori protesters of Parihaka who died last century because of Government policy will be honoured by descendants and representatives of Taranaki tribes. In March, more than 300 people will place memorial stones at their graves at the pa site in the northern foothills of Mt Taranaki, and in Wellington, Hokitika and on Otago Harbour, where protesters died after being imprisoned, often without trial.

LIFESAVING: Volunteer lifeguard Michael Wilson's dramatic rescue of an eight-year-old boy in treacherous seas at Mangawhai Heads has been judged the "most gallant" in the Commonwealth. Mr Wilson, aged 30, last night became only the fourth New Zealander to receive the Royal Life Saving Society Mountbatten medal since it was instituted in 1951.

ACT REVIEW: Act has begun a "thorough review" of its performance after a disappointing election result two months ago. Proposed by the party president, Sir Roger Douglas, the review will be headed by the former National Party Finance Minister Ruth Richardson, now a strong Act supporter.

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