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Most New Zealanders are already waiting till their thirties before breeding, and scientific breakthroughs are pushing the age out further, writes Suzanne McFadden in this week’s cover story.

Here’s a short excerpt:

Thanks to increasingly sophisticated IVF techniques, more and more people are indeed discovering that it is better to be a parent late than never. In the past year alone, several women over 50 have given birth in New Zealand.

“A third of all the people we see now are more than 40. It started off at about 10% and has slowly crept up,” says Dr Richard Fisher, co-founder of Fertility Associates, New Zealand’s largest provider of infertility services.

Fisher believes the “innate saneness” of Kiwi women has helped prevent the kind of controversy here that has accompanied some of the more extreme cases of older parents sparking debate overseas.

In 2008, despite already having two children and five grandchildren, Indian woman Omkari Panwar used IVF to conceive twins at the age of 70, because she and her 77-year-old husband wanted a male heir.

And in 2009, London Mayor Boris Johnson felt compelled to write a long article in the Daily Telegraph defending Britain’s oldest first-time mother, 66-year-old businesswoman Elizabeth Adeney, who went to the Ukraine for IVF treatment.

“To criticise her is not only ageist. It is also blatantly sexist,” he argued.

Although older parents are sometimes mistaken for their children’s grandparents, there are, of course, many New Zealand children who are being raised by their grandparents anyway – often because their real parents have decided that’s for the best. Nevertheless, debate over “how old is too old” is likely to intensify as more people turn to IVF to help them conceive.

In China, the changing of the guard is about to begin. As they stage-manage a rare leadership change at the 18th Party Congress, there are threats to the Communist Party’s hold, writes Rebecca Macfie, leading a package of coverage.

And in another meeting of two of the country’s top interviewers, Diana Wichtel asks the questions of John Campbell, TV3′s tirelessly enthusiastic, somewhat eccentric and occasionally bulldoggish broadcaster.

In arts, John Sinclair explains to John McCrystal the background to this month’s Listener Book Club choice, The Phoenix Song, his debut novel, set in revolutionary China.

Reviews include books by authors James Meek and Nell Freudenberger, and Chris Brickell’s book on the photography of Robert Gant.

Plus plenty more reviews in arts, the columnists, the TV previews, the puzzles and the cartoons. Oh, and Cathy “Cactus” Odgers pens the diary, while Greg Murphy faces two minutes of questions.

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