National News Brief, Friday December 12

Hefty fines for parents of truants; two children die from accidents each week; Te Papa faces financial pressure; childcare rates for under-fives among highest in world; more Kiwis holidaying at home; Mangatawhiri bypass opens today

Parents will be fined $300 when their children are truant--and $3000 on subsequent offences--under new legislation being rushed through Parliament, reports the Herald. Up to 30,000 children wag school each week but under existing education law only 30 truancy prosecutions have been laid since 2006. Educators and Labour's education spokesman Chris Carter told the Herald they doubted bigger fines would make a difference.

Two children die from accidents each week, a statistic made worse by New Zealand's "she'll be right attitude", say public health experts. The Dominion Post reports that New Zealand performed badly in a World Health Organisation report that found 950,000 children and young people die each year from accidents worldwide. In New Zealand road accidents are the biggest accidental killer of children.

Te Papa is struggling to meet financial obligations, with losses of up to $17.6 million a year, reports the Dominion Post. In a government briefing yesterday, the museum revealed that its biggest cost is depreciation, which the government does not provide funds for.

New Zealand's rates of childcare for the under-fives are among the highest in the world, and it seems poor rates of paternal leave are to blame, reports the Press. A Unicef report found 92 percent of 3- to 6-year-olds were enrolled in early childhood education, compared to the OECD average of 68 percent. New Zealand's 14 weeks of paid parental leave compared poorly to the developed world's average of close to one year.

The number of people staying in commercial guest accommodation is up thanks to a rise in Kiwis choosing to holiday at home, reports the Herald. Domestic guest nights were up 16 percent in October, with Auckland benefiting most from the trend, according to Statistics New Zealand. However, there was an 11 percent fall in international guest nights, with Auckland again leading the table.

Drivers between Auckland and Thames will be using the new $46 million bypass starting today. The 7km strip replaces a dangerous strip of road through Mangatawhiri which became notorious for serious crashes and multiple deaths, reports the Herald.