National News Brief Wednesday, February 4

Government rolls out $1 billion economic recovery plan; changes to RMA to ease path for homeowners; Valerie Vili wins supreme Halberg Award--again; Waitaki River flush successful, for now; John Key's cast auctioned off for charity; and more

Prime Minister John Key is set to announce details of a $1 billion economic recovery plan in the next few weeks, reports the Dominion Post. He is expected to announce changes to the business tax regime today. Other initiatives include more spending on roads, housing, the electricity grid, schools and hospitals.

Renovating your home or building a new one will get much easier if proposed changes to the Resource Management Act are passed, reports the Herald. The National Party vowed during the election to make it simpler and quicker for people to get consents from their local councils. A controversial change to the Act could include removing the requirement that homeowners get council permission before cutting down trees of a certain size on their property.

Shot-putter Valerie Vili won the supreme Halberg Award last night for the second year running while her coach Kirsten Hellier won Coach of the Year. Scott Dixon was named Sportsman of the Year and Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell were Sports Team of the Year.

A controlled flood has flushed out much of the didymo in the Waitaki River but it will likely be a short-lived solution, reports the Press. Fish and Game New Zealand says the weed could be back within months. Fish and Game Central South Island chief executive Jay Graybill said the short-term result was "fantastic", with anglers reporting they could cast 10 or 12 times without having to clean their hooks.

John Key is auctioning his cast and a morning tea to raise money for a trust that works with the blind in the Solomons Islands, reports the Dominion Post. The PM broke his arm in two places at a function celebrating Chinese New Year. So far the TradeMe auction has attracted bids up to $10,099.99. "I'm getting worried that, if it gets too high, I might have charities breaking my other arm to raise money," said Mr Key.

Someone calling themselves the Phantom Expander has been targeting boy racers in Blenheim by filling random car exhausts with expanding builder's foam, reports the Press. In an anonymous letter to the Marlborough Express the Phantom wrote, "I have taken it upon myself to respond to the socially maladjusted Blenheim pinheads that have chosen to have a wide-mouthed-boy-racer exhaust installed on their car." It takes four hours for the foam to set and so far car owners have been able to remove it from their exhausts before it did too much damage.