Armed man demands cash and cigarettes from service station near Whangarei

Police are seeking assistance from the public after an armed robbery at a service station in Ruakaka, south of Whangarei last night.

The heavily disguised male was armed with a firearm and carried a black back pack which he used to store the cash and cigarettes that he stole.

He was seen running to a vehicle that was parked at the northern end of the service station and driving off towards Whangarei.

Anyone with information should contact Detective Sergeant Aaron Crawford at Whangarei Police on 09 430 4500.

Information can also be provided anonymously to the organisation Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111.

Cops are searching for a man after an aggravated robbery at a bar in the Hawke’s Bay town today.
Source: 1 NEWS

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Limo service operator linked to crash which killed 20 people leaves court after posting $232,000 bond

A limousine service operator was charged today with criminally negligent homicide in a crash that killed 20 people, while police continued investigating what caused the wreck and whether anyone else will face charges.

Nauman Hussain, 28, showed little emotion as he was arraigned today in an Albany-area court, and he ignored shouted questions from reporters as he left after posting $231,900 bond.

A judge had entered a not guilty plea for him.

Earlier, his lawyer said that Hussain wasn't guilty and that police were rushing to judgment in investigating Sunday's stretch limo wreck.

But State Police Superintendent George Beach said Hussain hired a driver who shouldn't have been behind the wheel of such a car, and the vehicle shouldn't have been driven after state inspectors deemed it "unserviceable" last month.

Hussain's car was packed with luggage when he was stopped Thursday on a highway near Albany, Schoharie County District Attorney Susan Mallery said.

Hussain's lawyer, Lee Kindlon, said his client felt unsafe at home because he'd gotten threats.

The company, Prestige Limousine, has come under intense scrutiny since a 19-seater limo ran a stop sign and plowed into a parked SUV at the bottom of a long hill on Sunday.

The impact killed two pedestrians and 18 people in the limo, which was taking a group to a birthday bash.

Kindlon said his client handled only marketing duties and phone calls, while his father ran the company, though police called Hussain its operator.

Under New York law, criminally negligent homicide involves not perceiving a substantial, unjustifiable risk that leads to someone's death.

It's punishable by up to four years in prison.

Nauman Hussain, 28, entered a not guilty plea following Sunday’s stretch limo tragedy. Source: Associated Press

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Māori cultural centre for Whangārei hopes for $5 million council grant

The long-held dream of a Māori cultural centre for Whangārei is hanging on hopes of a $5 million council grant.

Work has just begun on the first stage of the project - a big carving workshop and waka shelter, east of the Town Basin in the Hihiaua Peninsula.

But stage two, a theatre, will be competing for council funding with hotel developers across the river.

Master Carver Te Warihi Hetaraka can visualise exactly what the Hihiaua Cultural Centre will look like.

The trust he's a part of has been planning it for ten years, but it's been the dream of his elders for much longer.

"The vision of it started back in the 1980s when the kaumātua realised that kids were losing their culture fast - real fast. They saw a cultural centre as a place where they could retain a lot of the knowledge that used to be handed down and is no longer with us."

Some of those arts and skills - carving, weaving and waka building - would finally have a home in Whangārei by next April.

A former boat-building shed on the Waiarohia Stream is being converted into an art workshop space, with a waka shelter and launching gantry.

Half the $2 million cost has been covered with a grant from the Provincial Growth Fund, and the rest from the Whangarei District Council, Foundation North and Te Puni Kokiri.

But it's the next stage that will be the big one: A 700 seat theatre for the performing arts, a facility Whangārei has needed for years.

It will cost between $10m and $15m according to Hihiaua Trust secretary Janet Hetaraka.

The theatre would be versatile enough to handle many community events, Mrs Hetaraka said.

But the priority for the Trust was kapa haka.

"We have many kapa haka events throughout the year and there is no adequate venue.

"They have to use stadiums or gyms and there's never enough space for the audience. What we've designed is an indoor/outdoor stage, so we can have thousands of people seated outside on the grass with the stage open to the outdoors."

The Hihiaua Trust will apply for resource consent for the theatre in the next fortnight. It hopes to persuade the council to back the project with a $5m grant.

If it succeeds, it would be able to apply to other charities for the rest of the funds, Mrs Hetaraka said.

The Whangārei District Council has long had $10 million budgeted in its long term plan for a theatre but developers planning to build a hotel across the river are also pitching for council funding for a conference centre.

Another Hihiaua Trust member, lawyer Ryan Welsh, said the Hihiaua theatre was more in line with what the city needed.

"Not to say that a hotel wouldn't provide jobs but we are looking to showcase Māori culture and also be inclusive of the whole community in terms of its use."

Both developments are intended to work in with the Hundertwasser Art Centre now under construction at the other end of town.

The Hihiaua Trust said the cultural centre would complement the Hundertwasser, which included a Māori fine arts' gallery.

Hihiaua trustees held off applying for council and charitable funding for several years, to let the $28m Hundertwasser take precedent.

But the trust and the hotel developers could yet be in for a wait.

Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai said the council was in the process of developing a new events and venues strategy and would not be handing out any money until it was decided where the venue gaps were in the city.

- By Radio New Zealand's Lois Williams

Boats moored at Whangarei Marina in the town basin. Northland, New Zealand, NZ.
Whangārei's Town Basin. (file picture). Source: istock.com


Investigation underway after truckie films himself abusing cyclist on Dunedin road

A Dunedin company is investigating the actions of one of its employees after he filmed himself abusing a cyclist and posted it online.

The man shot a video of himself riding in the passenger seat of a truck, and can be heard urging the driver to hit the cyclist.

"Run him over Greg mate ... do it," the man says.

"Out of the way you f****** cabbage!"

The man then posted the video onto a local social media page, the Otago Daily Times reports, and another member of the page provided it to the newspaper.

A spokesperson for the trucking company, Clearwater Civil, said he is appalled.

"The video is extremely embarrassing," he told the Times.

"The allegation is viewed very seriously and there is an employment investigation under way.''

The spokesperson said he was happy to see that the driver appeared to have actually ignored his the man's words and given the cyclist plenty of room.