Each weekday The Front Page keeps you up to date with the biggest news in New Zealand. Today it's potentially illegal spying tactics from Government agencies ... recreational cannabis use set to go to a vote ... 200 jobs on the line as a business goes into receivership ... and the biggest winners from the year in music. Hosted by Frances Cook.
A damning report confirms Government agencies used private investigators for spying on New Zealand citizens.
It's being called an affront to democracy, and could lead to police action.
The report comes from State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes, who details a list of breaches of the State Service Code of Conduct, including potentially illegal recordings of insurance claimants, public sector employees accessing the New Zealand Transport Agency database for private investigation firm Thompson and Clark, paying for informants, and spying on the Green Party and iwi.
The report found TCIL:
• Used an unlicensed private investigator.
• Covertly attended meetings without disclosing their purpose or the identity of their client.
• Produced electronic recordings of meetings, some of which were closed, without the knowledge or consent of attendees.
• Approached public servants, who had access to sensitive information, for secondary employment with TCIL.
• Accessed the Motor Vehicle Register for potentially improper purposes.
• Advised a client not to disclose the source of information obtained inappropriately to the police.
• Likely provided information provided by surveillance for private sector clients to government agencies without disclosing the source and the nature of the information supplied.
Hughes says he takes responsibility for what occurred, as head of State Services.
He's apologised unreservedly to the individuals whose privacy was intruded on by state servants or their contractors.
Hughes was also scathing in his criticism of government agencies' actions against New Zealanders exercising their democratic rights.
Some groups were treated as a security threat and their activities reported.
Those groups include Greenpeace, the Green Party, the Mana Movement and some Northland East Coast and Taranaki iwi groups.
He says that's an affront to democracy, and Government agencies should never have allowed it to happen.
Hughes has issued new model standards, to ensure agencies don't undertake surveillance without careful consideration and a consistent process.
Voters are going to be asked to pick a side on recreational cannabis use at the 2020 election, in a binding referendum.
Justice Minister Andrew Little says they're still working on the detail of how to word the question, but they've warned the electoral commission it's going ahead.
A referendum on recreational cannabis use on or before the 2020 election is part of the Labour and Greens confidence and supply agreement.
Little says they will probably also include a question on euthanasia
The estranged wife of Karel Sroubek has released audio of an angry phone call between them in which Sroubek appears to become desperate and talks about sending "somebody to talk" to her.
The release follows a letter that Sroubek wrote to the Herald in which he said that his marital dispute was at the centre of his immigration saga, and said it had become "viciously politicised".
He said he had never threatened his wife.
Now his estranged wife has released snippets of a phone recording, through National's justice spokesman Mark Mitchell, in response to Sroubek's letter.
In it, Sroubek appears to become angry his estranged wife had sent a letter of support for his immigration case to his lawyer without showing it to him.
He accuses her of changing her mind about letting him see the letter - linking it to a person she was dating.
Sroubek made the phone call from prison. It was recorded by Corrections and released to the estranged wife under the Official Information Act.
The Government has revealed a proposed set of immigration reforms it says will simplify the system and make it easier for businesses and regions to get skilled workers.
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the changes would help sectors experiencing labour shortages to get the support they need.
Lees-Galloway says the framework will be employer-led, rather than migrant-led.
He slammed the previous Government's "one-size-fits-all approach" to immigration, saying the current visa system doesn't cater to the unique labour demands of each region.
Each region will be able to create a list of skills they are short of, so they can get the migrants they need.
The proposed changes are now up for consultation until March 18, 2019, with announcements on final decisions to be made by mid-2019.
Auckland company Precision Foundry in receivership, with 200 jobs on the line.
The iron casting company, formerly Masport Foundries, was taken over in October 2014 by private equity firm Challenge Partners.
Receivers Grant Graham and Pravin Bhana of KordaMentha were appointed this morning.
The company is the country's leading manufacturer of cast ductile and alloy iron, from its Mt Wellington plant.
Challenge Partners director Paul Ayers says the company was challenged by the high New Zealand dollar, and a plant failure that reduced production for 10 months.
He says tight margins meant the company was unable to reinvest in the ageing plant.
A petition signed by 143,000 people has been delivered to Parliament, asking for an appeal of the sentence for the woman who killed 15-year-old air force cadet Nathan Kraatskow in a hit-and-run in May.
Rouxle Le Roux had drunk wine and smoked cannabis earlier in the day before her Mercedes crashed into Kraatskow when he crossed an intersection riding a small bike.
The 15-year-old died at the scene. Le Roux and her two passengers failed to stop.
She's currently sentenced to 11 months' home detention and 250 hours of community work for dangerous driving causing death.
Nathan's father, Orion, says Le Roux has made a mockery of the justice system and their cheeky, loving boy has been robbed of his dream of being in the Air Force.
The petition will now be tabled in Parliament.
Victoria University's name will remain unchanged after an intervention from the Education Minister.
The university's council formally made an application to change the institution's name to the University of Wellington in September.
But Education Minister Chris Hipkins has vetoed the plan.
The council's consultation showed staff were divided on the name change - and there was significant opposition from alumni and students.
Underwater robots are helping New Zealand prepare for the next marine disaster
The 2011 Rena disaster showed how difficult it was to track and therefore contain the spill of 350 tonnes of heavy fuel oil.
Such an event happening out in New Zealand's vast marine estate – the eighth-largest on the planet – would be an even bigger nightmare.
Niwa scientist Dr Helen Macdonald says little data is collected on our continental shelves below depths of 200m.
But without being able to do this, modelling open-ocean disasters in detail would be difficult.
Macdonald and fellow scientists are now using a combination of Niwa computer models and state-of-the-art ocean gliders, to develop a sophisticated forecasting tool.
She says ocean gliders provide a higher resolution view of relatively small parts of the ocean, but because they move, can provide high-resolution data where and when they need it.
A NZ-wide ban on all single-use plastic bags will kick in from the first of July next year.
Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage today confirmed it today, after Cabinet agreed to the proposed regulations for a mandatory nationwide phase out of the bags.
The ban will apply to all new plastic shopping bags with handles that are made of plastic up to 70 microns in thickness.
This includes light-weight supermarket bags, heavier boutique-style shopping bags and the "emergency" bags currently offered by some supermarkets as an alternative to a free single-use bag.
It will also include bags fitting this description made of degradable plastic regardless of whether the plastic material is sourced from fossil-fuel, synthetic compounds or from biological sources such as plants.
Sage says plastic shopping bags are a hazard for nature, particularly marine wildlife, and can also introduce harmful microplastics into the food chain.
A partial victory for the National Party against rapper Eminem.
The party has won an appeal over its fine for a copyright breach in 2014 - when its election ad used the track Eminem Esque, music considered too similar to Eminem song Lose Yourself.
It was originally ordered to pay $600,000 dollars in damages, but that's now been reduced to $225,000.
For more on this story, click here
Six60 are continuing their domination of New Zealand music for another year.
The band has secured the top spot on the New Zealand Albums Chart for 2018.
They also took the top three spots on the New Zealand Singles Countdown, with Vibes, Don't Give Up and Closer.
Ed Sheeran's Divide was the biggest album of the year for a second year in a row.
Drake took out top single, with nine weeks in number one for God's Plan.
That's the Front Page for today, Tuesday December 18, 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.