National News Brief, Wednesday October 15

Charges laid over canyoning tragedy; first TV leaders debate a fiesty contest; Sharemarket has best day in 20 years; Maori Party reveals economic plans; New Zealanders arrested in anti-spam crackdown; Southland councillor in shipwreck rescue; and more

  • The North Island papers lead today with news that the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre will be prosecuted over the Mangatepopo Gorge canyoning tragedy that killed six school pupils, a teacher and instructor Jodie Sullivan. The Department of Labour is laying the charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act. They relate mostly to the centre's failure to ensure the safety of Sullivan, its employee. The New Zealand Herald reports that Murray Burton, principal of the Elim school which the pupils attended, stills supports the centre and says the school will return once the case is over. The Dominion Post quotes the father of one of the pupils saying "it doesn't make anything better for me".
  • The first televised leaders debate last night has been rated by most as a narrow victory for National's John Key. Colin Espiner in the Press said "John Key got National's election campaign back on track last night, surprising Labour leader Helen Clark with a confident performance in a fiery television debate". Tracy Watkins in the Dom post said Key gave a "steady performance". In the Otago Daily Times, the NZPA wrote that both were "well prepared, self-assured and determined". The Herald's Audrey Young reckons Key "wiped the floor on the debate", but Fran O'Sullivan said "Clark scored best on the issue du jour–the international credit crisis". As for the substance, the debate focused on KiwiSaver and tax, climate change and the world financial crisis.
  • The Maori Party launched its economic policy in Flaxmere, near Hastings, yesterday, promising to remove GST from food and have no tax on earnings up to $25,000. "It's the poor people who don't [weather recessions], and that's where our focus is".
  • Three New Zealanders have been charged in an anti-spam crackdown, the first time the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act has been invoked. The men could be fined $200,000 each for their alleged part in the sending out email promoting herbal pharmaceutical products, but the ODT says "the global operation earned sales commissions of more than $3.3 million".
  • Finally, Southland councillor Ali Timms has one heck of a holiday story after being shipwrecked off a Fijian island and clinging to a dinghy in shark-infested waters.