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New Zealand's year in news.

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 25/12/2016

KEY PULLS PLUG

Prime Minister John Key surprised all when he announced at a press conference on December 5 he had "left nothing in the tank" and was quitting. The decision came out of the blue and less than a week later the country had to get used to calling his former deputy Bill English the PM.

"A good leader knows when it's time to go and now's the time to go," Mr Key said. "I do not believe that if I was asked to commit to serving out a full fourth term I could look the public in the eye and say yes."

Mr Key's biggest regret was not being able to change the country's flag. In March, 56.6 per cent voted to keep the current ensign rather than the alternative, which followed a contentious $26-million referendum process.

KAIKOURA EARTHQUAKE

Just a few minutes into Monday, November 14 a magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck inland from Kaikoura. It was one of the biggest on record and two people died in the immediate aftermath.

It brought down massive slips across State Highway 1, cutting the tourist town off by road and rail from the rest of the country. Hundreds were evacuated by helicopter and navy ship. The quake damaged buildings as far away as Wellington and a handful are now being pulled down.

HAVELOCK NORTH WATER STRIKES DOWN THOUSANDS

New Zealand prides itself on its clean drinking water but in August people started getting sick in the Hawke's Bay town of Havelock North.

About 5000 people, more than a third of the population, contracted campylobacter from the town's water supply. Two elderly women died. They had contracted campylobacter but also had other health problems.

A government inquiry was started before the end of the year into how the water was contaminated - which may have important repercussions for future town and city water supplies.

KAIPARA FISHING DISASTER KILLS EIGHT

On Saturday, November 26 eight men, mainly Pacific Islanders, died when the 12-metre fishing charter boat Francie capsized during bad conditions as it crossed the Kaipara Harbour bar, north of Auckland. The death toll equalled Foveaux Strait's 2012 Easy Rider disaster.

RUGBY'S ALL BLACK AND BLUE YEAR

The All Blacks may have won the 2015 World Cup but 2016 was more about off-field problems. The Chiefs got the ball rolling when players were accused of licking, touching and short-changing a stripper known as Scarlette at their "Mad Monday" post-season celebrations.

It then emerged promising Wellington youngster Losi Filipo was discharged without conviction for a street assault. He lost his contract, the case was revisited and he was sentenced to supervision - likely ending his career.

In September, All Black halfback Aaron Smith was dobbed in by a member of the public for having sex with a woman in toilets at Christchurch Airport. He was dropped from the side.

Later, in Chicago, the All Blacks lost to Ireland for the first time in 111 years, but it is generally considered to be a good thing.

CZECH TRAMPER SURVIVES

In August, Czech tourist Pavlina Pizova was discovered at a DOC warden's hut on the Routeburn Track in Fiordland, where she had spent nearly a month alone after her partner died following a fall on the snow-covered track.

The 33-year-old was saved by the hut's food, gas and wood and it wasn't until concern from home sparked a helicopter search that she was found.

"I made a few attempts to walk out from the hut, but my feet, the weather conditions and the deep snow discouraged me from doing so," she said.

Ms Pizova admitted the pair had made mistakes - not telling anyone where they were going, not carrying a locator beacon and underestimating New Zealand's winter conditions.

PREDATOR-FREE IN 34 YEARS?

In July, the government announced the ambitious goal of making the country predator-free by 2050. That doesn't mean all predators, but getting rid of the likes of rats, possums and stoats.

The government is chipping in $28m for the first four years but it also requires others to invest and needs some technology breakthroughs along the way.

MOKO'S DEATH SPARKS MORE CALLS TO PROTECT YOUNG

In June, the country's continuing record of child abuse again hit the headlines with the sentencing of the killers of Taupo three-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri. Tania Shailer and David Haerewa's murder charge was downgraded and marches and petitions were organised protesting the move and also child abuse.

SKIN IN THE GAME

In March, it was revealed New Zealand had overtaken Australia for the highest rate of the skin cancer melanoma. Australia's rate has been falling since 2005 but the rate here has been getting worse. The study's authors said there were proven ways to stop Kiwis getting melanoma but governments weren't willing to pay for it.

MY HOME, MY MORTGAGE

The last few years have been all about rising house prices, but in November, the average house sale price in Auckland fell for the first time.

"November and December are traditionally when prices peak for the year," said Barfoot's boss Peter Thompson. "November's sales data confirms that for the time being at least, Auckland prices have stopped rising."

Barfoot said the average Auckland house prices dropped from an eye-watering $943,80 in October to an eye-wincing $933,130 in November.

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