A Kerikeri resident is likely to get a visit from a newly hired Fire and Emergency NZ compliance officer after lighting a rubbish fire which spread into surrounding kikuyu. The Kerikeri Fire Brigade was called out at 6.40pm on Thursday after reports of smoke at the corner of State Highway 10 and Waimate North Rd, and found a passer-by trying to put out a grass fire. A tenant at the property said he had only lit a small pile of rubbish. It was, however, surrounded by a large pile of rubbish as well as kikuyu. He claimed he had no idea a total fire ban was in place. Earlier this week a compliance officer started visiting the site of every illegal fire lit since restrictions started in December.

Resident hospitalised after collapse

An elderly Kerikeri resident has been taken to hospital after collapsing on Cobham Rd yesterday. The incident occurred outside Keri Central Backpackers about 6.45am. The man was originally unresponsive but recovered enough in the ambulance to be able to talk to medics. St John Ambulance and the Kerikeri Fire Brigade attended.

Blood Pressure van coming

A van that could save thousands of people's lives by offering a free blood pressure test will be in Northland next week. The Big Blood Pressure Van is a major tool in the Stroke Foundation's fight against the number one cause of strokes. High blood pressure is sometimes called "the silent killer'' as it shows no symptoms. The launch of the van celebrates the Stroke Foundation's 10th annual Big Blood Pressure Check. The van will be outside Countdown in Whangārei, Monday March 18 and Pak'nSave Tuesday 19; Countdown Kaikohe, Wednesday 20; Kaitaia A & P Show, Saturday 23; The Warehouse Dargaville, Tuesday 26; Countdown Dargaville, Wednesday 27 and the Northland Field Days in Dargaville, Thursday 28.

Road sealing pleases residents

Preparations are under way for the final strip of Pipiwai Rd in Whangarei to be sealed after years of lobbying from local residents. From the end of next week, residents along that road who have endured dust clouds can breathe easily as the whole of Wright Rd would have been fully sealed. The remaining 1km of unsealed road is being stabilised by Whangarei District Council contractors this week and sealing is expected to start sometime next week. The council budgeted $1 million in its Long Term Plan (LTP) for the sealing of Wright Rd while the NZ Transport Agency contributed a further $1m.

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Union, Education Ministry to talk

Education union NZEI Te Riu Roa and the Ministry of Education have agreed to return to negotiations for the primary teachers' and principals' collective agreements next week. Negotiations for both teachers and principals will be held together and be conducted with a mediator. They are expected to start next Tuesday. Teachers around the country - including in Northland - took strike action twice last year and rejected three offers from the Ministry of Education as they failed to address teachers' key issues, particularly around time to teach and time to lead. After a request from the Secretary of Education to return to negotiations, NZEI's National Executive agreed to return to the bargaining table. The parties have agreed not to comment about the negotiations while they are taking place.

Grooming sentencing adjourned

Sentencing for a 74-year-old Northlander who pleaded guilty to charges relating to sexually grooming two pre-teen girls has been adjourned. John Alfred Atherton of Kaiwaka appeared for sentencing in the Whangarei District Court yesterday on two charges of meeting a young person following sexual grooming, two of exposure of a young person to indecent material, and one of indecent assault of a female under 12. He was remanded on bail until sentencing on March 20.

Legalising cannabis talk

A public meeting in Whangārei will address the implications of legalising cannabis. Bob McCoskrie will deal with some of the issues around the legalisation of marijuana being proposed, including what are the known health harms of marijuana, why is the referendum much more than just being able to "smoke a joint", the problems with statements like "the war on drugs has failed" and "it's a health issue, not a legal issue" and what effect legislation have on the workplace, on road safety, and will it get rid of the black market. The meeting will be at the Ratana Church on Kamo Rd at 5.30pm on Wednesday. Koha gold coin donation for venue.