National News Brief, Monday March 9

Private companies to run prisons; house prices to fall further; ACC chairman to lose job; backdated knighthoods on offer; drivers would use biofuel if cheaper; and more

Cabinet is expected to approve legislation today to turn the management of prisons--established and new--over to private companies, reports the Herald. Earlier indications from National were that competitive tendering for contracts to run prisons would be considered on a "case-by-case basis". State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie is also due to present his report today assessing whether Corrections chief executive Barry Matthews is accountable for poor management of the parole system.

House values fell in the year to February and Quotable Value expects prices to continue to drop for the rest of the year, reports the Herald. The national average house sale price dropped 8.9 percent to $383,786. Areas hardest hit by price drops are Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch, Whangarei and Gisborne.

ACC chairman Ross Wilson is expected to be sacked today along with other board members, following ACC Minister Nick Smith's attack on cost blowouts last week. Dr Smith was also critical of an ACC culture that resulted in a shift away from an insurance scheme to a quasi-welfare agency, reports the Dominion Post.

More than 80 New Zealanders are being offered back-dated knighthoods after the Government announced it would return to the traditional British honours system dropped nine years ago in favour of a New Zealand system. Former prime minister Jenny Shipley, former Speaker Doug Kidd and rugby great Colin Meads are among those who were honoured between 2000 and now and can take up the traditional title of Sir or Dame if they wish, reports the Dominion Post.

A Sustainable Business Council survey has found that most New Zealanders would switch to biofuel if it would save them 10c per litre on fuel, and a third would switch for a lower savings, reports the Herald. Just 2 per cent of people said they were already using biofuels and 77 per cent ranked rising fuel prices as the most serious problem facing their family.

Catherine Peters, the 18-year-old Massey student who died in a bridge swing on Saturday, was the "pride and joy" of a prominent Christchurch family, reports the Press. Her father is Bosco Peters, chaplain of Christ's College. Catherine was two weeks into her veterinary training. She was a talented musician and won two scholarships in her final year at Christchurch Girls' High School, for biology and classics.