Thursday's papers: Footpath contracts worth almost $20 million on hold over a gift of a Christmas ham; Banking Ombudsman puts complainants on a waiting list; community group wants to takeover hospital at Wakatipu.
The New Zealand Herald reports councils will not be able to stop people cutting down native bush and coastal pohutukawa under planned changes to environment laws.
If the change goes ahead, landowners will be free to cut down any tree on their land unless it is listed in their council's district plan.
The Reserve Bank is expected to cut the Official Cash Rate by between half and a full percentage point on Thursday.
Auckland City Council has put a hold on the awarding of two footpath contracts with a combined value of almost $20 million because a member of the evaluation panel accepted a ham at a Christmas party hosted by the successful tenderer.
A 'rape case blunder' is reported by The Dominion Post in which an Upper Hutt man accused of attacking a girl, 15, has been bailed to a flat 300 metres from her home.
A decline in organ donors because of fewer fatal car accidents has led doctors to use "creative thinking" and create a new protocol for those they will remove organs from.
Wellington is vying to host the All Blacks' match against France during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
The Press says a number of complaints about banks, including fees charged for breaking fixed-term loans, has forced the Banking Ombudsman to form a waiting list.
First-day turnout was a record for the Ellerslie International Flower Show's Christchurch debut, despite in miserable weather.
The Otago Daily Times reports 'Fraud on a grand scale' was how Justice Lyn Stevens described the actions of former Otago District Health Board chief information officer Michael Swann and his accomplice, Kerry Harford.
Swann was jailed for nine years for his role in a $17 million fraud against the health board, with Harford getting four.
Queenstown Lakes mayor Clive Geddes is supporting moves by a Wakatipu community group to pursue ownership and management of the hospital there.