National News Brief, Thursday November 20

Air New Zealand to lay off 200 staff; Key and co to get pay rise; Rickards got $300,000 payout from police; $700 million development shelved; Kiwis 15th happiest in world; and more

Air New Zealand is laying off 200 workers, a blotch on John Key's first days as Tourism Minister. Mr Key was sworn in as Prime Minister yesterday and met with senior Air New Zealand staff, who briefed him on the job losses. Chief executive Rob Fyfe said lower passenger demand had prompted the airline to drop capacity by 8 percent, according to the Dominion Post.

John Key and his new cabinet ministers get an instant pay rise with the annual review of salaries by the Remuneration Authority. Key's prime ministerial salary could rise to $400,000 from the $375,000 Helen Clark earned each year. While MPs do not have input into the pay rises, they are likely to get some flack given current economic conditions. Mr Key, a multimillionaire, is expected to continue giving most of his salary to charity, reports the Herald.

Clint Rickards received a $300,000 payout when he resigned from his post as police assistant commissioner last year. Former Inspector Roger Honan, who investigated complaints against Mr Rickards which were the subject of an internal police disciplinary action, told the Dominion Post he did not know Mr Rickards would receive a payout and feels deceived by police management. In 2004 Rickards was accused and acquitted of raping Louise Nicholas. He is now a qualified lawyer.

A $700 million development plan at Waiwera, north of Auckland, has been shelved. The Herald reports that the McEwan Group planned to develop 12 hectares of land, building a hotel and apartments over five to eight years. It would have swelled the Waiwera population from 250 to 2000. Some of the land is now for sale.

When the West Indian cricket team arrives in Dunedin next month to play the Black Caps, it will be met with the catch cry "It's all white here." The Dunedin City Council and Otago Cricket Association are encouraging Dunedinites to turn out in whites to celebrate the game and to use the slogan, reports the Press. While some have questioned the unintended consequences of the "white out", Dunedin mayor Peter Chin has defended it, saying, "Well, you've got a Chinese mayor, so what's wrong with that?"

New Zealanders rank 15th among the world's happiest people, according to the World Values Survey, the only global measure of attitudes and values. New Zealanders are happier than Americans, Australians and Britons, but not as happy as Mexicans, Scandinavians or Nigerians, reports the Dominion Post. Survey co-ordinator Professor Ron Inglehart of the University of Michigan said democracy, freedom and the ability to make choices were all crucial components of national happiness.