Each weekday The Front Page keeps you up to date with the biggest news in New Zealand. Today it's a plea to reform dental services, New Zealand's demand for hard drugs is laid bare in a new report, the Cook Islands debate a name change, and our top authors are celebrated. Hosted by Frances Cook.

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The New Zealand Medical Association is the latest to join the chorus of voices pleading for more affordable dental care.

The association represents doctors including GPs and specialists.


On Monday the Herald revealed Waitematā DHB wants a "comprehensive dental service for all New Zealanders", after concern about desperate Kiwis queuing at hospital pain clinics, showing up at ED, or even performing gruesome "DIY dentistry".

Medical Association chairwoman Dr Kate Baddock says dental decay is "the most prevalent chronic, yet irreversible, disease in New Zealand".

"While children have access to free dental care this is an issue for all age groups including older New Zealanders and cost is a major barrier.

"Māori and Pasifika have worse oral health outcomes as well as those living in areas of higher socioeconomic deprivation."

Baddock says bold action is needed to prevent dental problems, including fluoridation of drinking water, and cutting down on sugar in food and drink.

Any move to provide more subsidised or free dental care would carry a huge cost. Currently, about $198 million a year is spent on oral health services, with most covering universal services for children and teenagers.

Adults must pay the full cost, and bills can run into the thousands of dollars.

Kiwis without enough money live in chronic pain that affects work, quality of life, and mental and wider health. Gum disease increases the risk of heart disease, and poor oral health increases the chances of bacterial infection in the bloodstream.


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New Zealand's demand for hard drugs has been laid bare in a new report from the United Nations.

The UN agency tasked with upholding international anti-drug treaties has documented big increases in seizures of cocaine, heroin and ecstasy, while also noting high availability of methamphetamine.

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) noted changes in New Zealand between 2016 and 2017.

It found cocaine seizures tripled, but there were fewer busts, indicating traffickers were trying to move bigger amounts at a time.

The amount of meth, or P, seized dropped sharply, but the price also fell which indicates it's highly available.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell says the figures show the "market is very resilient to law enforcement efforts".

"If we push in one part of the market then it responds in some other ways. Fundamentally, there will always be a supply of drugs as long as there is a demand.

"If New Zealand wants to get serious about its drug problem it needs to put more resources into trying to reduce that demand."

Bell says meth use is particularly bad, and becoming concentrated in provincial New Zealand.

"Creating a regulated market could be one of those ways that we start trying to treat drugs as a health issue and start focusing on the demand side of the equation."

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The Cook Islands is considering a name change to remove any association with Captain Cook.

The group of small islands, about 3,000 kms northeast of New Zealand, was spotted by Captain Cook in the 1770s and became a British protectorate in the late 1800s. Since 1965, it has been autonomous but electively deemed to be in free association with New Zealand.

The Cook Islands government initially set up a committee to find an indigenous name that would sit alongside its existing title of the Cook Islands.

But the committee members instead favour abandoning the Captain Cook reference, and adopting a standalone name in the local Māori language.

Mark Brown, the deputy prime minister, supports the change but says it would need to involve the nation's 12,000 residents.

It has been tried before. In 1994, the Cook Islands held a referendum to change the name to Avaiki Nui but the proposal was resoundingly defeated.

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The Government's looking to tighten laws on foreign fighters - and the Opposition says it would back the move.

It comes as 'Kiwi jihadi' Mark Taylor has been discovered in a Syrian prison - and with Isis on the retreat there's a possibility he'll be released.

The Government has made it clear they won't be sending anyone to help him, but he won't lose New Zealand citizenship.

If he comes back to New Zealand, he's likely to face legal action.

Police Minister Stuart Nash says they also want to update the laws against our terrorist exports.

"I'm not going to tell you what goes on in certain Cabinet committees, but we are preparing ourselves for this.

"We're looking at the legislation, we understand at the moment it's probably not fit for purpose."

National's justice spokesman Mark Mitchell says they would back legislation that would put Mark Taylor in preventive detention.

Meanwhil the Kiwi jihadi himself has more to say .. including that he's interested in setting up a medicinal cannabis company, and feels the New Zealand Government has stabbed him in the back.

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An iconic Wellington ice cream brand has stopped offering Paywave after being hit with $20,000 in fees in just over a year.

Kaffee Eis put up notices at its cafes and ice cream parlours informing customers Paywave would no longer be available for those wanting the convenience of paying with a single tap of their card.

Managing director Karl Tiefenbacher says they realised recently the merchant fees they were paying were "getting a lot more than what we were used to".

They began offering paywave 16 months ago, and in that time the Paywave fees had exceeded $20,000 he said.

They had expected fees up to $5000 across their stores.

Tiefenbacher says the costs outweighed any benefit of having Paywave.

He said customers had seen their signs explaining the situation, and feedback had been "really positive".

Retail NZ's general manager of public affairs Greg Hartford says credit cards and Eftpos were essential tools for any retail business these days.

"Many retailers have chosen not to accept contactless payments because there is a cost for them in doing so, while there is no cost if that debit card is inserted into a machine and treated like an Eftpos transaction."

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An Auckland mother was stabbed to death while holding her two-year-old son in her arms.

Xi Wang's ex-husband Ephraim Beazley, has today pleaded guilty to murdering her in her Flat Bush home in December.

Beazley, a Rotorua farmer, separated from Wang before their son was born.

Court documents show he knocked on her door at 10pm one night, ducking his head in an attempt to hide his identity.

When she answered the door she was holding their 2-year-old son in her arms. But he still attacked her with a hunting knife, stabbing her numerous times.

After stabbing her repeatedly he ran from the scene, leaving his son still in Wang's arms.

He drove to the nearby Botany Town Centre, where he called police and told them what he had done and where he was.

Meanwhile a woman who lived with Wang tried to save her life by administering first aid.

An ambulance was called and Wang was rushed to hospital in a critical condition.

She underwent emergency surgery but her injuries were too severe.

Beazley offered an explanation to police for his violent attack.

"[He] stated that he had enough of life in general and particularly the state of his relationship with the victim," the summary said.

Beazley will be sentenced next month.

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Disgraced popstar Michael Jackson will no longer be played on New Zealand radio stations.

NZME, which owns ZM, The Hits, Flava and more - including the New Zealand Herald - will no longer play Jackson's songs on air.

Dean Buchanan, group director of entertainment at NZME says: "station playlists change from week to week and right now Michael Jackson does not feature on them".

Mediaworks's stations, which include The Breeze and More FM, will also not be playing the artist's songs.

This comes after the shocking documentary Leaving Neverland aired in the US, in which Wade Robson and James Safechuck outline the abuse allegedly inflicted upon them by Jackson when they were children.

The revelations in the documentary series are said to be so upsetting, mental health professionals had to be on hand when the film premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January.

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The Government says it's prepared to listen to criticism of its target for 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2035.

In December, Interim Climate Change Committee chair David Prentice said that while the target was technically achievable, it would be expensive and made little sense given the industry only accounted for about 5 per cent of the country's emissions.

He said the country was better to focus on electrification of industry and transport.

Today in Auckland, Minister James Shaw told delegates at the Downstream energy conference that the electricity sector has a "great opportunity" to meet a potential doubling of electricity demand projected out to 2050 and to meet that without using fossil fuels.

But after the presentation he insisted the government isn't fixed on the 100 per cent renewables target and will consider any advice the committee delivers.

He says they set up an independent committee for a reason, and will be strongly guided by what they say.

Many in the energy industry have argued that New Zealand should target a lower percentage, such as 90 per cent renewables, up from about 85 per cent now

They say a declining amount of gas and coal-fired electricity generation would then remain available for winter and dry-year back up.

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The finalists for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards have been announced.

The awards are split into four categories: fiction, poetry, general non-fiction and illustrated non-fiction, with four finalists in each.

Some big New Zealand writers are among the shortlisted, including Lloyd Jones, Dame Fiona Kidman and Vincent O'Sullivan.

The winners will be announced on May the 14th.

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That's the Front Page for today, Wednesday, March 6, making sure you're across the biggest news of the day. For more on these stories, check out The New Zealand Herald, or tune in to Newstalk ZB.

You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple podcasts here, iHeartRadio here, and Stitcher here.

If you like to stay up to date on social media, you can find host Frances Cook on Facebook here, Instagram here and Twitter here.