nzherald.co.nz's round-up of the 10 biggest national news stories of the year:

10. Kings College student James Webster's death

The issue of binge-drinking, and of teen drinking, became a national issue after Kings College schoolboy

James Webster's

death

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James, 16, was found dead in a bed at a friend's house after he had been taken home from a birthday party, drunk, vomiting and semi-conscious on May 8.

, Charles, told an inquest into James' death that his son would never have drunk half a bottle of vodka

Auckland City Mayor

in the story when it was revealed his son, Alex, admitted encouraging an already-drunk James to drink more alcohol at the party.

"The tragedy could strike any family at any time," Mr Banks told the inquest. He pleaded with parents to be vigilant with their sons, and apologised for the actions of his own.

9. Fox Glacier plane crash

September 4, 2010 will be remembered in New Zealand history as the day of the Christchurch earthquake. But it was also the day

A plane crash, during a skydiving trip

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at Fox Glacier

, left nine dead, devastating families and friends across the globe.

The deaths of five local men and four overseas tourists made it one of New Zealand's deadliest plane crashes.

The group was on its way to go tandem skydiving when the fixed wing aircraft veered off its trajectory, mere seconds after take-off. It crashed and exploded in a paddock next to the runway.

An interim report by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission later found the plane was overweight and its centre of gravity outside the allowable limit. It was not known if this caused the crash.

8. Anzac Day RNZAF Iroquois helicopter crash

The deaths of three soldiers in an Anzac Day RNZAF Iroquois helicopter crash came almost 38 years to the day after the Air Force's only other fatal Iroquois chopper crash.

Twenty-eight-year-old Flying Officer Daniel Stephen Gregory, a pilot, 33-year-old Flight Lieutenant Hayden Peter Madsen, also a pilot, and 25-year-old Corporal Benjamin Andrew Carson, a crewman, died when their Iroquois helicopter, flying in formation from Ohakea air base to Anzac Day services in Wellington, crashed in heavy fog near near Pukerua Bay.

Sergeant Stevin Iain Creeggan

7. The murder of Scott Guy

The murder of Fielding farmer

Scott Guy

baffled police.

The 31-year-old was found dead by a neighbour in the driveway of his home about 7am on July 8. He had been expected for morning milking and police say he was shot after stepping from his farm vehicle.

Wife Kylee Guy, pregnant with Scott's second child,

, while another question remained unanswered. What had happened to Scott's pure bred chocolate labrador puppies?

The puppies, worth about $700 each, had been stolen from an outbuilding near where Mr Guy had been shot, and, for a time, they became the focus of the investigation.

The motive for the shooting and the person(s) responsible are still not known,

by a dedicated police team.

The only leads publicly revealed in the case have been the theft of the puppies and two unidentified cars seen in the area on the morning of the shooting.

Just before Christmas Ms Guy made a public plea for information to help catch her husband's killer, but to date the case remains unsolved.

6. The Paul Henry saga

TV presenter

Paul Henry

made himself the year's biggest punching bag when he asked Prime Minister John Key about the selection for New Zealand's next Governor-General.

"Are you going to choose a New Zealander who looks and sounds like a New Zealander this time?," Henry asked Mr Key on his TVNZ

Breakfast

show?

The outspoken broadcaster had gone too far.

, and TVNZ received

Labelled as racist, the issue wasn't helped by TVNZ spokesperson Andi Brotherston, who, responding to criticism, said in a statement that Henry was "prepared to say the things we quietly think but are scared to say aloud." Realising her error, she later offered to resign.

Henry

to Sir Anand Satyanand, but the damage was done.

He was suspended by TVNZ, but his comments were

With a spotlight now on Henry's controversial history, one particular comment caused more embarrassment to the national broadcaster.

On an earlier show, Henry mocked Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit's name, saying it was appropriate "because she's Indian".

When the remark resurfaced, it drew not only anger but a complaint from the Indian government. Henry's remarks were now

Less than a week after his initial comments, after a meeting with TVNZ boss Rick Ellis, Henry resigned.

5. The drowning of Lucas Ward

When

Lucas Ward

disappeared from his grandmother's Gisborne home on Tuesday August 17, memories of Aisling Symes' disappearance in 2009 came flooding back into the national consciousness.

Lucas' mother

to check their properties for places where the four-year-old might be hiding, and to ask their kids if they knew of any secret hideaways.

As the days dragged on, police considered

, while police divers, scouring the Waimata River behind his grandmother's house, said they were

certain he wasn't in there.

But they were wrong. The discovery of his body by a surf ski kayaker 400m upstream from his grandmother's property, 10 days after he went missing, closed the case on one of 2010's saddest stories.

4. The Carmen Thomas murder

It was among the year's biggest murder mysteries. Who killed Auckland escort

Carmen Thomas?

Carmen, mother of five-year-old Jack, was last seen on July 1 but not reported missing until July 13.

Police found her Nissan Pulsar in Hamilton, were seen searching the Orakei Basin and had found blood in her Remuera home during the early part of their investigation. Later, Carmen's body was thought to be in bush southeast of Auckland.

The new woman in Carmen's ex-partner Brad Callaghan's life, Jo Reid, was

for hours, as the investigation intensified in September.

Callaghan himself

, "I hope they are successful in finding Carmen as soon as possible."

But it was Callaghan who had become the focus of the investigation.

When, on September 21, police announced

the nation was shocked. The fact Carmen's body had also been dismembered added to the horror.

Her body parts were later found in the Waitakere Ranges. Callaghan is now awaiting trial for the alleged murder.

3. The Hobbit dispute

It was a different kind of fight for Middle Earth, involving

The Hobbit

producers and NZ and Australian unions pushing for better employment conditions for workers on the films.

Warner Bros executives called it "an unstable situation", and with bigger tax breaks on offer in Europe, started searching for alternative locations to film the two

Hobbit

films, worth up to $500m.

With the two sides at loggerheads, and movie executives concerned at strike action, it was left to John Key to ride in on his white horse with some sizeable tax breaks and employment law changes ensuring the two movies remained in New Zealand.

2. The Christchurch earthquake

At 4.36am on Saturday, September 4, Cantabrians were woken by a devastating magnitude 7.1 earthquake.

Fortunately, nobody died in the quake, but power was severed,

and aftershocks rattled locals for weeks afterward. The event made headlines around the globe, and thousands of people from around the world

affected by the disaster.

The event is likely to rank as the

globally for insurers, with the total cost estimated

In the aftermath, newly-appointed Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee used emergency legislation to

to speed up recovery efforts.

More than 80 per cent of households affected by the quake

since then.

Thousands of buildings

the first repairs to the significantly damaged 'Zone C' houses are expected by August 2011.

But in the midst of those trying times, stories of heroism emerged - ordinary people, like dairy owner Suresh Patel, who threw open the doors of his shop and let people take what they needed regardless of whether or not they could pay. Patel was one of the

1. Pike River mine disaster

The deaths of 29 South Island miners, trapped after an explosion in the Pike River Coal mine on the afternoon of November 19, was New Zealand's worst loss of life since the Erebus disaster in 1979.

It was New Zealand's

Despite initial hopes for the miners' survival, gas levels in the mine prevented a rescue.

When one of the survivors

, it seemed less likely all the miners had survived.

As the days wore on, New Zealand

of many of the trapped miners, such as Joseph Dunbar,

who turned 17 the day before he went down the mine.

The offer of an army robot to search inside the mine was accepted, but when it broke down 550 metres into the mine, there

It was left to Police Superintendent Gary Knowles and Pike River CEO Peter Whittall to reveal

for the trapped miners.

The blast and ongoing fire inside the mine quickly forced the Pike River mine into receivership. More than

less than two weeks before Christmas.

A GAG machine is continuing to work at the mine in an effort to make it safe for rescue teams to go in. A report filed by the receivers suggests this could take up to four months.

- NZ HERALD STAFF