National News Brief Wednesday, March 11

Ports of Auckland could be privatised; Government ditches green schemes; police investigation of Bain murders under scrutiny; agricultural "super-university" proposed; Auckland and Wellington now cheaper to live in; national cycleway gets the tick

It has been suggested that the country's largest port be sold into private ownership, reports the Herald. In the latest half-year results Ports of Auckland suffered a 26 percent drop in profit to $9.3 million, and the board deferred payment of an interim dividend to Auckland Regional Holdings. Executive salaries have been frozen, and managing director Jens Madsen hinted at possible job losses among the company's 600 staff.

Green schemes are among the latest casualties in the Government's cost-cutting drive. The Environment Ministry said it was ditching the Labour government's goal of a "carbon neutral" public service and other green projects, including one to help householders save energy, reports the Dominion Post. Twenty jobs will be lost and $13 million saved.

The police investigation into the murder of the Bain family in 1994 has come under intense scrutiny in the early days of David Bain's retrial, reports the Press. It emerged yesterday that the police had heard as early as the second day of the original inquiry from two sources that David Bain's 18-year-old sister Laniet had been accusing her father Robin Bain of incest. James Doyle, the officer effectively in charge of the case in 1994, said he could see no motive for Robin Bain to have killed his family.

AgResearch and Lincoln University are considering merging to form an agricultural "super-university" to rival the world's top five. The new university would have combined assets of about $485 million and annual revenue of $230m and could come into being as early as July, reports the Press. AgResearch and Lincoln say it would have the potential to add $1 billion to New Zealand's economy every year.

Some good news at last--the global recession has made Auckland and Wellington more affordable places to live. The Economist Magazine Worldwide Cost of Living Survey shows Auckland dropped 29 places in the past five months, making it the 78th most expensive city, reports the Herald. Wellington now shares the 80th spot (down from 55th) with the Chinese city of Qingdao.

A 3000km cycleway, one of the ideas pitched at last month's Jobs Summit, has been picked up by John Key. The Prime Minister described the idea as "a serious initiative" and said it would be paved with concrete and stretch from Kaitaia to Bluff, reports the Herald.