Farmer cuts internet cable

More than 4600 broadband customers in the Far North were unable to access the internet after a farmer excavating on his Puketotara Rd property, near Kerikeri, ruptured a Spark-owned fibre-optic cable about 8.10am yesterday. It also knocked out Spark cellphone sites in Kerikeri and Kaeo though some calls got through thanks to overlap from neighbouring cellphone towers. Spark technicians were expected to finish repairing the cable about 5pm yesterday. Vodafone services were not affected.

Officer denies sexual violation

A senior Northland police officer accused of sexual violation and indecent assault can now be named after he denied the allegations. Detective Inspector Kevin Burke appeared briefly before a registrar in the Auckland District Court yesterday and entered not guilty pleas to two counts of indecent assault and one of sexual violation and has elected a jury trial.


Burke, 60, did not seek continued name suppression yesterday, but the particulars of the allegations remain suppressed. He was remanded on bail to reappear in April. Burke was stood down last April when the criminal investigation started and was charged in December. A parallel employment investigation is also under way, as well as a separate inquiry by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

Decision due on axed courses

NorthTec are yet to release details on what courses are being cut as a result of major restructuring. Last October the tertiary education provider announced it was reviewing its structure and also some of its programmes.

A spokesman said NorthTec has been making final decisions on what programmes will be offered this year have been based primarily on student demand. However, the programmes strategic importance to NorthTec and Northland, and the previous educational outcomes of students have also been considered.

Enrolments closed on February 5 and decisions were due to be made last week. In some cases, final decisions have been deferred while recently received applications are processed. Any prospective students who have applied for programmes which will not go ahead are being contacted individually and, where possible, offered an alternative option.
All staff affected by changes to programmes are being contacted by managers.

Brigades busy in deluge

The weekend's heavy rain sparked a number of weather-related callouts for emergency services. Kohukohu firefighters were occupied for more than four hours, much of which was spent waiting for contractors, after a large tree fell across Rakautapu Rd about 6pm on Saturday.

The Kerikeri brigade was called to a flooding incident in Jacaranda Place about 7.10pm on Saturday but left it in the hands of the property owner and a plumber; while at 10.50pm on Sunday the Omapere Brigade was called out to cut up a tree which had fallen across State Highway 12 at Opononi. The rain also brought down a slip which partly blocked the northbound lane of State Highway 11 at Lemon's Hill, near Kawakawa. The road was cleared by contractors yesterday.

Friendship gathering

Whangarei members are hosting the International Friendship Force's 33rd annual conference this week, with 150 people attending from New Zealand and overseas.
IFF members pledge to make a global, peaceful difference through exchange hospitality and cultural experiences, and being worthy ambassadors of their countries.

Events will include a marae visit and scenic tours. Whangarei member Gwendolyn Needham is the conference's chairwoman. The Whangarei friendship group has 80 members and is the largest in New Zealand. The conference is at Barge Park from tomorrow until Friday.

Help for tourists after crash

A pair of not-so-lucky tourists in a Lucky Rentals vehicle slid off Mataraua Rd, south of Kaikohe, about 4.30pm on Sunday and slammed in a bridge, extensively damaging the vehicle. Luck was, however, on their side when a hospitable local gave the travellers a place to sleep for the night while they arranged alternative transport.