National News Brief, Tuesday February 17

Government could bailout struggling Fisher & Paykel; boot camps for "worst" teens; more wind farm "bribery" deals revealed; German tourist tells of being trapped in a "horror house"; and more

The Prime Minister has reserved the right to bail-out "iconic" whiteware manufacturer Fisher & Paykel after its share price plunged from $1 to 65 cents after it issued a profit warning yesterday. The DominionPost leads with the news that John Key spoke to F&P chief executive John Bongard yesterday, after the company announced it might struggle to break even this year. Key said the company had not asked for help and none had been offered, but he would not rule out stepping in to save the company and its 1600 jobs.

The New Zealand Herald's front page is dominated by two stories in praise of the government's new "tough justice" policies on youth offending. The government intends to pass a law before the end of the year that commits $35 million to "the worst" 1000 youth offenders; 40 will go through army-run boot camps each year, 25 will be monitored by electronic ankle-bracelets, and the Youth Court's jurisdiction has been expanded to include 12 and 13 year-olds.

Opponents of a central Otago wind farm have accused Meridian Energy of bribery, following yesterday's revelations that the state-owned power company had agreed to pay the Department of Conservation $175,000 if it would end its opposition to the 176-turbine Project Hayes power scheme. The Press reports that Meridian had also made payments to the Historic Places Trust ($179,000) and Ngai Tahu ($220,000) after they agreed to drop their objections in return for "mitigation measures". The Otago Daily Times says that Transpower did a similar deal with Doc over it Mahinerangi wind farm, paying a "six figure sum" over ten years to maintain a track and kiosk.

The ODT also carries the story of a German tourist, known only as Maja, who was rescued from a Dunedin "horror house" by the Armed Offenders' Squad last weekend. The 36 year-old woman struck up a romance with a local man over the internet, but when she arrived at Dunedin airport she was met by a 54 year-old unemployed man, not the 33 year-old PhD student he had said he was. She let him take her home because he had "a creepy aura" and she was "in shock". She said his home was full of dust, chickens and cartons and she was afraid when he wouldn't let her leave the house without her passport, but as a part-time social worker she was also fascinated. She was rescued after calling a man she had met in the plane to Dunedin.

John Key has pledged to keep New Zealand troops in East Timor until the country is stable. The PM met with Jose Ramos-Horta yesterday, the DomPost reports. The Timorese president said he did not expect a reduction in troop numbers would be possible before 2010 and expressed "heartfelt" gratitude for New Zealand's decade-long commitment to East Timor.

Auckland's bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games has been undermined by government cost-cutting, the Herald says. Labour had promised $500,000 to begin a scoping study on the condition all Auckland cities chipped in, but North Shore and Manukau had not yet agreed to contribute.