National News Brief, Friday February 13

Auckland swelters under record temperatures; Wellington and Dunedin councillors in stadium rows; Shell Oil looks to sell out of New Zealand; government admits what Pundit told you on Wednesday; and more

Auckland has endured its hottest day since records began 137 years ago, the New Zealand Herald reports this morning, its front page dominated by a photograph of a yellow sun (the picture is not attributed and looks oddly like a bushfire shot). MetService said the temperature reached 32.4C at 3.30pm yesterday, equalling the previous hottest day in 1872.'s thermometer however claimed an unofficial 34C record. The day's high followed the highest overnight lows ever recorded, with the temperature never falling below 22.1C.

Heat too over City Council plans to build stadiums in Dunedin and Wellington. The Otago Daily Times leads with news that two Dunedin city councillors had received threatening letters following the decision earlier this week to support the city's $198 million stadium project. The councillors blame the Stop the Stadium campaign, but organiser Bev Butler says the pair are deliberately trying to smear her organisation.

The DominionPost reports that Wellington city councillors email accounts are being searched and they are being banned from speaking to the media as arguments over a proposed $46 million indoor sports centre become more intense. Councillor Andy Foster is so opposed to the Kilbirnie centre he has appealed to the Environment Court against his own council, prompting calls for his resignation.

Petrol giant Shell is considering selling much of its New Zealand operation, according to the Herald. Shell has been in the country 98 years, but is undertaking a "global review" and intends to focus on oil exploration and high-growth markets. Assets that could be sold include 215 service stations and a $300m stake in the New Zealand Refining Company.

Labour yesterday admitted it had erred in pushing through the Electoral Finance Act without wider public support and said it would vote to repeal it. The Greens, however, say they would vote against the repeal as the new law was still superior to the old law when it came to keeping big money out of elections. Parliament will pass an interim bill while the government consults with other parties on a new law.

The government was making its own admissions yesterday, with Bill English conceding in parliament yesterday that most of the announced stimulus spending had already been committed by the previous government (as revealed in Pundit on Wednesday). The Press reports Labour's claims that the 69 new state houses promised by National is actually 131 fewer than planned by the prior government.

Finally, the Herald points out that despite months of plummeting commodity prices, a block of cheese still costs around $10.50 and butter $3.60. Fonterra says that's because the cost of raw materials has risen and it was still selling inventory that was bought six to nine months ago when prices were high.