Grim tidings in end of year news

By Michael Dickison

Treasury concerns over asset sales among late announcements.

Fears about mining in Waihi affecting homes have come true with Newmont Waihi Gold offering to buy houses on sinking land. Photo / Alan Gibson
Fears about mining in Waihi affecting homes have come true with Newmont Waihi Gold offering to buy houses on sinking land. Photo / Alan Gibson

A sinking mine site and Treasury's caution on asset sales are at the top of this year's "Christmas dump" of public announcements, snuck in just ahead of the holidays.

On Christmas Eve, the Hauraki District Council sent out an information update on what it calls "ground settlement" near Waihi's Newmont gold mine.

Five properties have been damaged in six weeks as the land under them sunk.

The council said it had yet to find the cause, but residents could "rest assured" the houses would not be lost in a sinkhole.

The mine company, Newmont Waihi Gold, has offered to buy the affected properties and pay to relocate residents.

The council said this was "an immediate precautionary measure and a goodwill gesture", and thanked the company.

Treasury, meanwhile, released two major information packages on Thursday and Friday.

The first was the department's advice on charter schools: "We remain sceptical around the student achievement benefits."

The second cautioned the Government against selling shares in three power companies - Mighty River, Meridian and Genesis - next year. Two sales would meet the market's capacity, it said.

Treasury spokesman Aidan Meerman said it was Christmas and he would not be able to find out till the new year why the two reports were released just before the holidays. But he was sure there had been no motivation to underplay any potential controversy.

"There's just a regular programme of information that gets released on an ongoing basis," Mr Meerman said.

A judicial decision - which found the Government's smoking ban in prisons to be unlawful - was also released to lawyers on Thursday afternoon, but not publicly and only later to the Herald after queries.

On Friday, the Ministry of Health issued a reminder that prescription charges would be increasing for the first time in 20 years, following Budget announcements in May.

Auckland advertising agency Publicis Mojo was put into liquidation by its major international shareholder Publicis Groupe.

Industry commentator StopPress said the company's closure "this close to Christmas presumably won't inspire too much joy or optimism, especially as we've heard they've been locked out of the office".

At the start of this week, the Immigration Advisers Authority announced it had stripped the licence of an Auckland adviser who demanded fees from a departing client who wanted his passport back.

Also on Christmas Eve, the Motutapu Restoration Trust said it had found a sponsor (Bayer) to contribute $25,000 for forest restoration, while the Commerce Commission announced it had reached a settlement with Bluestone Mortgages, which was alleged to have charged unreasonable fees, to repay $200,000 to 295 customers.

In the dump

*Treasury report questioning the effectiveness of charter schools.
*Treasury advice to sell at most two power companies a year.
*Hauraki District Council's update on sinking houses near a gold mine.
*"Serious challenge" to prison smoking ban.
*Reminder that prescription drug charges will rise - the first time in 20 years.
*Immigration officer found to have demanded fees from a departing migrant wanting his passport back.

- NZ Herald

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