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Changes to help migrants settle in NZ

Changes to the rules governing General Skills and Business categories for migrants have been announced. Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel said the changes were designed to improve employability and settlement prospects. She said migrants are able to settle far more successfully in New Zealand if they can communicate well in English. The level of English required for General Skills applicants has risen from 5 to an average score of 6.5 under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The level for Business applicants will increase from 4 to 5. The level for secondary applicants will be standardised at 5, and for the first time an English language test will apply to Long Term Business Visa applicants, also at IELTS level 5. The increase in language requirements aligns immigration standards more closely to those of tertiary institutions, professional registration bodies, and employers looking for skilled migrants, said Lianne Dalziel. New Zealand wanted migrants able to make a positive contribution to New Zealand both economically and socially, and to be welcomed by their local communities. Those aims are hard to achieve when language problems create barriers, said Lianne Dalziel.

Cabinet approves Defence transport fleet upgrade

New Zealand's Defence Force fixed wing transport fleet is to undergo a major transformation. Defence Minister Mark Burton has outlined Cabinet's decision to undertake a major upgrade of New Zealand's five C-130 Hercules, as well as the replacement of both of the NZDF's 727s with 757-200 jet aircraft. Mark Burton said New Zealand needs a strong air transport fleet to perform a wide variety of necessary strategic and tactical airlift tasks, either for the NZDF or in conjunction with other agencies. Such tasks include peace support operations, emergency medical evacuations, disaster and humanitarian relief, military exercises, VIP transport, Antarctic supply flights, and search and rescue. A recently concluded study on whether to replace or upgrade the C-130s favoured a 15-year structure life extension, said Mark Burton. Work will also commence on upgrading the C-130s' communications and navigation systems. The need for a sustainable strategic transport capacity for stores, equipment, and personnel will see the purchase of two cargo-capable jets to replace the 727s.

Government welcomes Telecom announcement

Communications Minister Paul Swain, Industry and Regional Development Minister Jim Anderton and Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton have welcomed Telecom's new connection price structure. The government has always recognised that Telecom should be able to charge for new connections and re-connections to its network. But the Ministers' said proposed new charges by Telecom could have seen some people in low-population density areas not able to afford to get a phone connected. They were pleased that after two very constructive meetings Telecom
had recognised these concerns. Telecom is capping standard connections at a maximum of $500 and extending its Budget Link programme, so no low-income customer pays more than $95 per connection wherever they live. The Ministers' said the new charges are significantly fairer for people living in low population density areas than Telecom's original proposal and will go a long way towards addressing the concerns of rural people.

More than one in five dollars now spent on health

Health Minister Annette King has commended District Health Board chairs for many aspects of DHB performance in their first year of operation. But in doing so, she told them it was imperative to ensure that unprecedented high levels of funding work effectively for the health sector. Annette King signalled a new phase in the work of DHBs was behavioural change. More than one out of every five tax dollars is now spent on health. Compared to other sectors health was a well-resourced sector. This made it imperative for DHBs to continue to be innovative about effectively managing funding. She announced a series of changes from next year.
These include a national prioritising of capital expenditure and early payments to good performance DHBs for certain periods of the year. Annette King said she expects these changes to result in boards working within their allocations, and getting maximum value from their spending. She said she would work with DHBs with large deficits on a strategy that moves them along a clear track back to zero.

ICT Taskforce report released

Minister of Communications and Information Technology Paul Swain welcomed the release of the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) Taskforce's report .The ICT Taskforce is one of three taskforces - the others are biotechnology and creative industries - announced by Prime Minister Helen Clark in February, as part of the Government's Innovation Framework. Mr Swain convened the ICT Taskforce in May to identify ways in which the ICT sector can boost its already substantial contribution to the New Zealand economy. Its 'Breaking Through the Barriers' report sets the goal of New Zealand producing 100 additional ICT companies each doing over $100 million in sales per year by 2012. Paul Swain said this would require a quantum change. The Government's and the education sector's commitment to the growth target, and high-level and broad-based support from within the ICT industry, are needed to see the journey through.

Reappointments to Waitangi Fisheries Commission

Appointments to the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission will be deferred to allow the current Commissioners time to complete their work on fisheries asset allocation proposals. The current Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commissioner's warrants expired on 22 August 2002, at which point further appointments were deferred for a period of three months to 22 November 2002. Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia said the government continues to have confidence in the Commission and its work. Significant progress has been made in advancing fisheries allocation issues. He said he had deferred addressing the ppointments issue for a further six months to allow existing Commissioners to stay in their role until 22 May 2003. It is anticipated that this will provide the time needed for the Commission to report the fisheries asset allocation model to government. Parekura Horomia said negotiations are closer than ever before to a resolution of this long-standing.

Board for new Industry and Trade agency appointed

The Government has approved the framework for the new integrated agency, which will replace Trade New Zealand and Industry New Zealand. The establishment board for the new organisation will be headed by Phil Lough. One of the board's first tasks will be the appointment of a chief executive designate.

Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton said the formation of the new organisation, expected to be up and running by the middle of next year, was a response to calls from business and other stakeholders for a single economic and trade development agency. Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said New Zealand businesses and our economy would benefit from an organisation that provided seamless, flexible and responsive service delivery to businesses throughout their life cycle, from start-up to global player.

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