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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 July, 2004, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
NZ PM's dash for match probed
New Zealand police are investigating reports that Prime Minister Helen Clark's motorcade broke speed limits in order to get her to a rugby match.

She arrived in Wellington in time to watch New Zealand's national rugby team, the All Blacks, defeat the Australian Wallabies on Saturday.

Ms Clark said she had no control over her transport arrangements.

But an opposition spokesman said Ms Clark must have known her motorcade was "screaming through the countryside".

Ms Clark's problems began when she became stranded on New Zealand's South Island on Saturday afternoon.

She had been attending a civic birthday celebration in the town of Waimate, and was due to catch a flight from nearby Timaru to Wellington in time for the evening test match.

'Bat out of hell'

But the flight was cancelled, and her party decided to race for Christchurch Airport, 200km (120 miles) away.

The speed limit in New Zealand is 100kph (62mph) on open roads and 50kph (31mph) in towns.

Waimate Mayor David Owen said the three-car entourage left "like a bat out of hell".

A justice spokesman for the opposition Act Party, Stephen Franks, said Ms Clark should be held responsible.

"She must have know her motorcade was screaming through the country - perhaps she thinks it should be normal to scatter peasants like a South American dictator," he said.

Ms Clark denied she had ordered the race.

"That's not a judgment that I made. Police made a judgment about the mode of transport and the way it was done and they will have to deal with those issues when they do the investigations," she said.


SEE ALSO:
Profile: Helen Clark
10 Jul 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: New Zealand
08 Jul 03 |  Country profiles
Timeline: New Zealand
27 Jun 03 |  Country profiles
New Zealand premier 'faked' painting
15 Apr 02 |  Asia-Pacific
NZ premier denies royal snub
23 Feb 02 |  South Asia


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