PRESS DIGEST-New Zealand newspapers - Feb. 19

WELLINGTON Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:58pm EST

WELLINGTON Feb 19 (Reuters) - Following are some of the lead stories from New Zealand metropolitan newspapers on Wednesday.

Stories may be taken from either the paper or Internet editions of the papers.

Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.

DOMINION POST (www.stuff.co.nz)

Key most liked, trusted: Politicians may rate lower than used car salesmen in most polls, but it seems they are not all created equal. A Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll reveals that Prime Minister John Key is by far our most liked and trusted politician, with 59.3 per cent of people liking him, and 58.7 per cent also trusting him.

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Taurima inquiry expands: Television New Zealand has launched an inquiry into editorial independence at its Maori and Pacific programming division after links to Labour within the unit came to light.

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Countdown staff unhappy over Jones' claims: Commerce Minister Craig Foss has challenged Labour MP Shane Jones to take allegations about Countdown to police, as the supermarket chain hit back at what it called "unspecific" claims.

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Fonterra response 'won't damage NZ': Fonterra's response to a major food safety scare was "quite acceptable" and should not damage New Zealand's reputation in China, a senior Chinese government figure says.

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Contact in position to lift payouts - analysts: Listed power company Contact Energy has posted a 4 per cent lift in operating earnings for the December half year, and is keeping its dividend payout steady, but analysts hope to see the payout lift next financial year.

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NEW ZEALAND HERALD (www.nzherald.co.nz)

F&P's healthy forecast: Any weakening in the New Zealand dollar would provide the "cream on top" for medical device exporter Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, which is already delivering outstanding financial results despite the currency's continuing strength, an analyst says.

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Reorganised Auckland port back on track: Ports of Auckland chief executive Tony Gibson says the company is starting to reap the benefits of a reorganisation plan started in 2011. The company, which that year suffered a series of setbacks that included industrial action, the withdrawal of shipping giant Maersk, and Fonterra's decision to make the Port of Tauranga its main upper North Island port, reported a first half net profit of NZ$26.4 million ($21.93 million), up 70 per cent compared with the same period a year earlier.

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TVNZ gave Taurima ultimatum: TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick says the state broadcaster gave Shane Taurima a journalism or politics ultimatum when he was reinstated at TVNZ after his venture into politics last year and revelations of the extent of his involvement with Labour since then were "very disappointing".

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Legal experts doubt Craig can win: Defamation experts say Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has little chance of winning a case against Greens co-leader Russel Norman, despite his track record of getting retractions or apologies in previous cases.

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Dotcom firm's debt: creditors seeing red: Kim Dotcom is facing calls to pay NZ$500,000 in debts by creditors who have watched him appear to embrace again an opulent lifestyle. The internet tycoon has pledged to pay the money owed by his company Megastuff for the operation of his mansion.

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($1 = 1.2041 New Zealand dollars)

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