National News Brief Thursday, March 5

ACC entitlements to be cut; Aussie-owned NZ banks among world's safest; Black Caps tour canned; Pacific Brands closes factories; $50 million Dunedin windfarm project stalled; how to treat stings and bites

The Government wants to cut some ACC entitlements, including free physio and medical misadventure claims, reports the Herald. Yesterday ACC Minister Nick Smith said the Accident Compensation Corporation had liabilities of $21.87 billion and assets of $10 billion. The levy paid by workers would have to rise by $27 a week in the next five years to pay for the scheme's costs unless cuts were made, said Dr Smith.

Australia's four largest banks--which control 90 percent of New Zealand's banking--are among the safest banks in the world, according to a survey. National Australia Bank, owner of the BNZ, made it to number 11 on the list of the 20 safest banks, followed by Commonwealth Bank of Australia, owner of the ASB Bank, at number 12, ANZ Banking Group at 15, and Westpac, 16. The survey is based on a comparison of the long-term credit ratings from agencies Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch as well as banks' total assets, reports the Herald.

The Black Caps tour of Pakistan has been cancelled following yesterday's terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore, reports the Dominion Post. New Zealand Cricket chief executive Justin Vaughan told Radio New Zealand that it was unlikely any international team would travel to Pakistan in the foreseeable future.

Pacific Brands is closing factories in Palmerston North and Christchurch, resulting in the loss of 89 jobs, reports the Dominion Post. The underwear and sock manufacturer is also cutting 1850 jobs in Australia. Melbourne-based Pacific Brands chief executive Sue Morphet received a $1.1 million pay rise last year.

The major backers of a proposed $50 million Dunedin windfarm have pulled out, leaving the project's future in doubt. New Zealand Windfarms decided to focus on its $80 million North Island wind farm, which is nearing completion, reports the Otago Daily Times. New Zealand Windfarms wrote off the $278,000 already spent on the Dunedin project, to have been located on a ridge behind Mt Maungatua above the Taieri Plain.

A report written for GPs on how to treat venomous bites and stings dispels some common myths, reports the Herald. If you are stung by a jellyfish, do not treat the sore with vinegar or urine, says Dr Leo Schep, one of four authors of the report. Instead, use fresh or seawater followed by hot water.