National News Brief, Friday September 12

It's not a recession, folks; CPI up 10.6 percent; interest rates down; more trouble in South Auckland; Winston Peters holds on--for now; and more...

Although New Zealand has not officially entered a recession (defined as two quarters of economic growth decline), Finance Minister Michael Cullen says "the worst is over". The Herald reports that a recession is expected to be announced when the June quarter statistics are revealed later this month. Of course, National says it's unclear whether we had seen the worst of the economic downturn. Finance spokesperson Bill English: "if we can get the Government changed and get a focus on growth-enhancing policies, then we'll be able to get through the recession and back on to a reasonable growth path."

In related news, the Herald reports that the consumer price index rose 10.6 percent in the year to August, the sharpest rise since 1990. Winter floods drove vegetable prices up and hikes in the cost of wheat and petrol impacted bread prices. However, economists say food prices should start to level out in early 2009. And The Press reports that after yesterday's official interest rate cut, from 8 percent to 7.5 percent, banks soon followed suit. Households could save about $7.30 a week on a $200,000 two-year, fixed-term mortgage over 20 years if interest rates drop 25 basis points.

The Dominion Post reports that the killing of a police officer during an undercover drug operation in South Auckland early yesterday morning brings the number of alleged murders in the region to seven in 15 weeks. Police association president Greg O'Connor described South Auckland as "lawless", with not enough officers to deal with the burglaries and assaults that escalated into more serious incidents. The dead officer was 46-year-old Sergeant Don Wilkinson of West Auckland. He was the 28th New Zealand police officer killed in the line of duty.

Winston Peters' political future is still in doubt, reports the Dominion Post, after Prime Minister Helen Clark said yesterday that his job depended on his lawyer Brian Henry's evidence before the privileges committee. Ms Clark also said Mr Peters' behaviour had made the process of discovering the truth more difficult. "I've done my best throughout this to be fair. I've made it clear Mr Peters is one of the hardest people in the country to be offering that due process to, but he has a right to it like any other citizen."

The Otago Daily Times reports that the price of farm land has leapt 209 percent in the past six years, according to Westpac Bank. Dairying played a significant role in the rise.

And finally, Christchurch schoolgirl Sophie Pascoe, 15, has won two gold medals for swimming at the Beijing paralympics, reports The Press. The New Zealand team's youngest competitor, who lost part of a leg in a lawn mower accident as a toddler, won the 100 metres breaststroke and the 200 metres individual medley.