National News Brief, Monday March 16

KiwiRail could buy commuter trains; warnings in new bullying report; government to reform overseas investment rules; ACT abandons party whips; and more

The government is considering using KiwiRail to buy new electric trains for Auckland and Wellington, the New Zealand Herald reports. The paper last week revealed that National intended to drop the regional fuel levy the Auckland Regional Council planned to charge to pay for electrification of Auckland's suburban rail network. Now a leaked letter from Transport minister Stephen Joyce to ARC chair Mike Lee show the government is thinking the government could own all the trains, rather than the councils.

School bullying is back in the headlines this morning, thanks to a new report from children's commissioner, Cindy Kiro. The DominionPost says parents need to understand that the small group of bullies who may have victimised them have been replaced by potentially thousands of bullies via mobile phones and the internet. The Press leads with Kiro's claims that bullying stops some children from completing school and getting a proper education, leading to lifelong difficulties.

The DomPost also reports on another review by the new government, this time into rules surrounding overseas investment in New Zealand. Prime Minister John Key told the ACT conference over the weekend that a new regime was need to protect sensitive land and resources but lure greater investment. The paper quotes Bill English adding that the review was one of half a dozen about to begin.

The Herald was also at that ACT conference, and John Armstrong writes that its five-member caucus will abandon party whipping and allow conscience votes on every bill. ACT's free vote system could put some government legislation at risk, as just two ACT MPs could defeat National if every other party voted against a bill.

In Dunedin, the city council's economic development unit and business incubator are considering a $50,000 marketing support fund to help protect up and coming local businesses from the recession. Some of the incubator's 16 associated companies "face ruin" in the next few months without investment.

Cantabrians are chuffed about the success of the Ellerslie International Flower Show, which this year opened in its new home, Christchurch. More than 75,000 people attended, 20,000 above forecasts. Although that was fewer people than attended when the show was actually in Ellerslie, it still meant long queues and a possible profit for the council.