The life that Nicky built: Who is the real Nicky Hager?

Some years when he's working on a book, he says, his income is more or less zero.

Looked at throughnink the prism of the harsh and uncertain economic realities of a solo father, Hager's whole project could be viewed as an ongoing series of leaps of faith, in which every time he has started a book, he's been at risk of being ended, economically speaking.

"I see it differently," he says. "I think, 'I've only got one life.' I mean, you know: Who wants to be old and regret what they did with their life?"

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A level playing field

Weatherly's sudden arrival on the women's downhill scene in January came as a surprise to some in mountain biking - until the end of last year she'd been known as Anton and raced men.

She'd quietly let a few of the other women know she was making the switch and they seemed supportive. But when she won an event in Rotorua by more than 30 seconds, it set off a firestorm of online discussion and calls for her to be excluded.

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The priest with a patch

He crosses the road and strays to the edge of the path, as he has done several times before. His heart starts thumping and he turns around before someone sees him. Walking through the door is scary, so Greg retreats to the comfort of the Mob pad. He takes an empty Waikato Draught from the crate and uses it to crack open another full one.

He takes a swig. Maybe next week, he says to himself.

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At the edge of a new land

Once stacked on the footpath, the worldly possessions of a dozen people didn’t look like much, and it didn’t take long for the pot-bellied driver with a bluetooth earpiece to load the luggage compartment of the chartered bus. Hibbah was feeling happy, if a little overwhelmed. The sign on the rear of the bus said: “We hope you will love New Zealand as much as we do”.

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On the road with Sharon

Her sister takes her shopping on Thursdays at Pak N Save on Lincoln Rd (she used to go to the one in Henderson, but the aisles were too narrow and she ended up having panic attacks), and on Sunday nights she sometimes plucks up courage to phone Lindsay Henare's popular Whanau Show on Turanga FM and request a song. She's addicted to Sudoku, and Facebook; it's not uncommon for her to be up till 3am, sometimes later.
The panic attacks, the anxiety and depression – was she coping?

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How murder went to manslaughter in brutal death

Much about the case looked odd. 

For a start, why had it taken more than three years for the case to have reached the plea stage? 

Why had the prosecution decided not to pursue the murder charge given the strong evidence against the defendant? 

And why was no-one else charged given the circumstances of the homicide? Had Samson, only 163 centimetres tall, really done it all herself? 

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The boys in the ballet

Mathews’ father left when he was one and his seamstress mother raised four children on her own, subsidising their ballet lessons by sewing costumes for dance schools. But Three Kings Primary wasn’t the kind of place where a boy bragged about his ballet prowess; Mathews learned to keep his hobby to himself, especially after a fellow male dancer was thrown in a wheelie-bin.

“I was tall for my age so the bullies left me alone. But I always hid the fact that I was a ballet dancer.” 

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The remarkable life and tragic death of Sonny Fai

Fai didn’t need to run those dunes that Sunday, he’d be doing them soon enough anyway, but for 60 minutes he did. It wasn’t to impress his coaches. He did it for no other reason than he thought it would make him a fitter player, a better player.

Leaving the dunes for the beach, Fai would have been exhausted. His legs would have felt like concrete columns and his heart rate and core temperature would have been greatly elevated. The shimmering water would have looked like salvation.

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Caring when there's no one else to help

When Mum decided that the thing she wanted above all else was quiche, it was my job to make it for her. That it was Easter Sunday, and that all the shops were closed, didn’t strike her as particularly important.

So I made pastry from scratch. I baked it blind. I fried bacon, beat eggs and, sweating from the fluster of creating something appetising, I presented the quiche to my mum with pride.

She took a bite and immediately vomited.

“I’m sorry,” she said, pushing the plate away.

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The colourful life and sad death of a fabulist

Michael Fitzgerald, said to be a hospital obstetrician, and a stepdaughter, Sophie, never existed. 

The nurse cousin visited Oates-Whitehead in London last year but realised something was up the day she tried to find Fitzgerald, without success. She told Richmal by phone, jokingly, that her fiance needed to introduce himself to colleagues so people would recognise him. 

"She got all upset, and said 'I've got to go'. 

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The Kings Arms - The raucous life and lamented death of an old-school boozer

The television news once called her the ‘rock n’ roll granny’. On her watch, The Kings Arms became a hub of the metal, punk, indie and reggae scenes. The irony was Maureen, who was 86 when she died last year, was a classically-trained singer who would often leave after the bands’ soundchecks to go to an orchestral concert. But music proved to be a way to keep alive an old-fashioned pub whose core clientele were literally dying off.

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'We don't yet know the full scale of what happened'

Eugene knows this path well - when he left state care, it wasn't long before he ended up in prison, where he remained for four years.

However, his father's death was a catalyst for change.

"Dad died in a cell at Paremoremo Prison. I was in Mount Crawford, my brother was in Mount Eden, one sister was in Arohata, another one was at Paparua.

"We'd been a family of inter-generational institutionalisation. I thought 'this is dumb, it needs to change'. I got my ta moko, and vowed it would end there."

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The robots will see you now

“To me, it seems just an iPad on wheels, so what is the difference between an iPad reminding you to take your medication and this guy?” she says. “What they found with this guy is that people actually started having a relationship with it, because it reacts. They were obeying it. They didn’t want to disappoint the little guy so they were taking their medication. But with an iPad, you don’t care.

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Alone in the Christchurch red zone: One man's final stand

A broken and flooded stretch of Avonside Dr now ends at Taylor's front door: the city's longest, most extravagant driveway. 

It took six years for one of the city's oldest neighbourhoods to disappear. Now there is Taylor, and his only neighbour, the Queen of England: She is the registered owner of property titles bought under national earthquake legislation.

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Simon Bridges: West Side Tory

He describes a good, loving upbringing as the youngest of six children. “We certainly didn’t have money but I would never try and say that it was poor.” His Maori dad was a Baptist minister. Mum was a Pakeha primary schoolteacher and stay-at-home mum. “I was the youngest. So you might say that makes me self-assured,” he says. I remember this comment later, while watching his extraordinary appearance on Campbell Live.

I also recall his answer to a question about why people get involved in politics: “Some of it is ultimately … arrogance where you have to decide, actually, I could do a better job than someone else.”

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