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Your Monday News of Zealand: It's Time to Decriminalise Weed, Suggests New Poll

Another gold medal at the Rio Olympics, vigil for murderer Scott Watson inflames tensions and Hawke's Bay gets a gut ache from contaminated water supply.

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Most New Zealanders Want Weed Use Decriminalised or Made Legal

Public opinion on cannabis is changing with a new poll suggesting nearly two thirds of New Zealanders now back relaxing laws against it. In a nationwide study of 1029 participants, 64 percent thought possessing a small amount of cannabis should be either legal (33 percent) or decriminalised (31 percent). There was even stronger support for pain relief use: only 16 per cent said it should be illegal.

Ross Bell, executive director of the NZ Drug Foundation, which commissioned the poll, said the support for change was much higher than he anticipated and showed that public wanted it, even if lawmakers did not. The poll doesn't appear to have swayed Prime Minister John Key's stance against decriminalisation. Key told NewstalkZB it would send the wrong message to young people.


Hawke's Bay Regional Council Says Sorry for Contaminated Water Supply

Hawke's Bay Regional Council issue an apology in the Hawke's Bay Today on Monday, after a gastro bug contaminated the town's water supply."Councillors and staff are devastated that hundreds of families in our community have been struck by this debilitating illness," it read.

Two people are critically ill in hospital and hundreds more have been violently sick after the outbreak. The death of an elderly woman at a rest home is still being investigated, to determine whether it's linked. Schools are closed and residents of Havelock North are being told to boil any water they plan on consuming to kill off the bug.

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International Migration Pushes Population to Highest Level Ever

New Zealand's population has clocked 4.7 million people and is growing at a faster rate than ever before. In the year to June 30, it increased by 97,000, driven mostly by new arrivals from overseas (69,100). The biggest population increases were among those aged 15-39 and those over 65.

Nominations Close for Local Body Elections

NZ's local government elections had a messy start, as nominations closed around the country on Friday. There was the candidate who once stole the identities of dead babies to obtain fraudulent passports and a couple others who couldn't manage to fill in the correct forms. Don't forget the "administrative oversight" that left 25 names off the official list.

Savea Peseta Al Harrington Lavea withdrew his name from the Future Auckland ticket after media reports that he was convicted of stealing the identities of seven dead children in 2008. Another Future Auckland hopeful, Viliami Tiseli, accidentally nominated himself to stand against the group's only sitting councillor Denise Crum. Tai'ivao Cruickshank also filled out the wrong form, and his nomination for a local board was rejected.


Auckland will have a new mayor with 18 candidates vying for the mayoral chains. The incumbent Len Brown had already announced he would not stand. Hamilton's two-term mayor Julie Hardaker is also standing down. Elsewhere around the country things are a little more clear cut. The mayors of Napier, Masterton, Huruhui and Clutha will stand unopposed. In one of the more colourful contests, veteran activist John Minto is challenging sitting mayor Lianne Dalziel in Christchurch. Voting papers will be sent out in five weeks and voters will have until October 8 to post them back in.

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Transgender Student Wants Girls' School Uniform to Include Gender Neutral Pants Option

A transgender student at New Plymouth Girls' High School has started an online petition calling for pants to be included as an option for the official uniform includes the gender neutral option of pants. Year 13 student Theo Cook has special permission to wear pants but says getting approval was a painful experience.

"I just want to make it easier for other people so they don't feel quite as down as I did at times," he told Radio New Zealand. So far 973 people have signed the petition.

Anger at Vigils for Murderer Scott Watson

Protesters holding a vigil for convicted double-murderer Scott Watson on Saturday were yelled at by a friend of the two people he killed. About 40 supporters gathered in Christchurch, waving placards proclaiming Watson's innocence.

"I happened to be driving around and saw the signs saying 'Free Scott Watson' and I saw red," Phil Harris told Stuff. "It's bloody disgusting."


Harris said he was "good mates" with Ben Smart and Olivia Hope, who disappeared without a trace on New Year's Day 1998. Watson was sentenced to life imprisonment for their murders in 1999 and has always maintained his innocence. Watson's niece Lisa Gridley said the vigil was to "raise awareness" for the case. It remains one of the most controversial in New Zealand's history.

Gold medalist Mahé Drysdale. Image via.

More Gold at Rio Olympics

New Zealand moved up to sixth place on the only medal table that really matters—the one calculated on golds per population—when single sculler Mahé Drysdale squeaked by Croatia's Damir Martin by just three centimetres. Expectations were high that Valerie Adams would bump NZ up the table even further, but the champion shotputter had to settle for a silver after American Michelle Carter threw a massive personal best with her final throw.

Other gold medal hopes, defending Olympic champions Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie , are struggling in the women's 470 sailing after being disqualified twice. But Peter Burling and Blair Tuke , strong favourites in the 49ers pair, are sailing strong, leading the regatta at the halfway point.