National News Brief Thursday, February 12

NZ man arrested "trying to enter al Qaeda stronghold"; international students coming to NZ for a bargain; $100 million electricity grid upgrade; haka part of historic Treaty deal; heavy rains today; David Bain to get another court hearing next week

A New Zealand man has been arrested on the Afghan-Pakistani border, allegedly trying to enter an al Qaeda stronghold, reports the Herald. The 35-year-old, named on his passport as Mark Taylor, has been detained by Pakistani security forces. He told them he was on his way to South Waziristan to get married. The NZ Government is this morning trying to confirm the man's identity and check on his welfare.

International students affected by the global economic crisis are choosing to study in New Zealand rather than Britain or America because it is cheaper, reports the Herald. Some education providers are reporting a 36 increase in international student enrollments, says Education New Zealand. International student applications are up 20 percent at Auckland University and up 17 percent at AUT.

A $100-million upgrade of the electricity grid will be announced today, reports the Dominion Post. It is part of the Government's stimulus package to save jobs and boost the economy. Yesterday Prime Minister John Key announced that $500 million of public projects would be fast-tracked.

The inclusion of the Ka Mate haka in an historic Treaty settlement will not result in charges to ordinary Kiwis who wish to use the haka, says Prime Minister John Key. Ngati Toa's Treaty settlement will include acknowledgement that the iwi created the haka, commonly used at sports games and special New Zealand events. Yesterday Ngati Toa Rangatira, Kurahaupo Ki Te Waipounamu Trust and Tainui Taranaki ki te Tonga signed $300 million letters of agreement at Parliament, reports the Herald.

Heavy rain is expected today in the Coromandel, North Island high country, Bay of Plenty, the Wairarapa, and parts of Canterbury and Marlborough. MetService forecaster Gerard Barrow said rain falls were expected to be between 90 and 180mm with the heaviest falls on the upper slopes of Mt Taranaki and Ruapehu.

David Bain's latest attempt to avoid a retrial will go ahead at Christchurch High Court next week, reports the Press. The defence grounds for a stay of trial are expected to include the fact that new evidence had emerged since Bain won his retrial and that there was misconduct in the handling of evidence prior to his first trial. His new trial is set to begin March 2. Bain was convicted in 1995 of murdering five family members but has always maintained his innocence.