National News Brief, Friday February 6

Police defend security at Waitangi; Antonie Dixon spoke of killing himself in final weeks; health system headed for bankruptcy; employers prefer cutting worker hours to losing staff; students angry at loan repayment plan; more men training as teachers

Police have defended security arrangements at Te Tii Marae after Prime Minister John Key was grabbed by protesters yesterday, reports the Herald. As the PM leaned in to hongi Maori Party co-leader Dr Pita Sharples two men jostled Mr Key and said he would not be going into the marae. Both men were removed from the marae. The protest was unexpected given talk of peaceful Waitangi Day celebrations this year.

Convicted murder Antonie Dixon, found dead in his prison cell on Wednesday night, spoke of killing himself in the last weeks of his life, reports the Herald. Friend Alexandra Cameron said Mr Dixon felt he was being pushed into a corner. "He said 'they are trying to make me kill myself by taking away my medication and putting me on 23-hour curfew'." Mr Dixon had been in segregation since pulling a "makeshift weapon" on defence lawyer Barry Hart three weeks ago.

The national health system is headed for bankruptcy, reports the Dominion Post. A briefing paper for the incoming health minister predicts the health system will be $1.6 billion in the red by the end of the 2010-11 financial year if inflation continues at its current level. The Crown Health Financing Agency said the financial crisis could not be curbed without taking some power away from the 21 District Health Boards as "parochial interests, poor information and `sovereignty' often frustrate the process".

Unemployment is climbing but the latest job figures show employers are preferring to cut hours rather than lose workers, reports the Herald. The average number of hours worked has dropped from 35 to 33 in the past two years. Part-time employment is also up, according to figures from Statistics New Zealand.

Students and graduates are fuming at a new proposal which would require them to repay their loans faster, reports the Press. Currently those earning more than $18,000 a year must contribute 10 per cent of their earnings to repaying their loan. Treasury officials recommend new thresholds be set at 12 per cent for people earning more than $40,000 a year and 15 per cent for those earning more than $60,000.

Twice as many men are training as secondary school teachers at Massey's College of Education, reports the Dominion Post. Programme co-ordinator Peter Rawlins said the increase reflected a number of factors, including the international economic downturn and rising unemployment in New Zealand.