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Government to tighten building industry regulations

The government will legislate next year to tighten regulation of the building industry and extend the current review of the Building Act. Commerce Minister Lianne Dalziel says the moves are necessary to restore confidence in the building industry and in the quality of New Zealand homes. Extending the review of the Building Act will allow the findings of the current Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry into weathertightness of New Zealand homes to be taken into account. Internal Affairs Minister George Hawkins said a number of measures would be incorporated into the review, with legislation likely before Parliament by mid-2003. These included amendment of the Building Act to ensure greater homeowner protection. George Hawkins said the lack of overarching regulation of professionals and trades within the building industry were of concern. The government has directed the review to examine the Architects Act 1963, the licensing of draughts people and engineers, and the regulation of builders and related trades. The review would also consider compulsory homeowner protection insurance.

Kyoto Protocol ratified

Prime Minister Helen Clark this week signed the document that effects New Zealand's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Helen Clark said the Kyoto Protocol was the international community's response to the global problem of climate change and New Zealand was playing its part. New Zealand had made a significant contribution to the Protocol over many years of international negotiations. It was issue of particular importance for this country's economic security and the future of our South Pacific neighbours. After extensive consultation, the government had decided and announced the policies necessary to meet New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions target under the Protocol. Helen Clark said the policies had been tailored to ensure the continuing international competitiveness of our industries. Agriculture, the engine of our economy, has been exempted from charges on its emissions. In ratifying the Protocol New Zealand joins almost all developed nations in accepting responsibility for tackling a critical global problem. In total, 97 countries have now ratified.

Major defence announcements

Defence Minister Mark Burton this week announced the results of the Ohakea/ Whenuapai Basing Study. He said the Government agreed with the RNZAF's conclusion that its needs are best served by maintaining one operational base (Ohakea) and one support base (Woodbourne). Consolidation at Ohakea will facilitate better coordination between Joint Force Headquarters, key air transport/support capabilities and land-based forces. It will also create substantial efficiency gains for the NZDF. Mark Burton said now the Government has identified Whenuapai as surplus to Defence operational requirements, officials will prepare a full costing analysis and options for the disposal of Whenuapai. There will be considerable consultation with a number of agencies and authorities as to the future of Whenuapai. Mark Burton also announced Cabinet approval for a number of projects outlined in the Defence Long Term Development Plan (LTDP). Early next year, tenders will be called to upgrade the mission, communications and navigation systems in the P-3 Orion fleet. Cabinet had also approved the purchase of the Automatic Grenade Launcher and the Javelin terminally guided anti-armour weapon

Changes to Local Government Bill

Government Minister Chris Carter has welcomed changes to the Local Government Bill recommended by Parliament's local government and environment select committee. After considering almost 400 submissions over the past year, the committee has streamlined and improved the effectiveness of the Bill's enhanced consultation requirements, said Chris Carter. It was an example of government consulting and taking on board good ideas that result in better legislation. Among the changes, bach owners or anyone who lived outside an area in which they paid rates, could vote in that area's council elections. There is now a five-year review of the impact of the Bill. Chris Carter said this would enable the Government to iron out any wrinkles in the implementation of the legislation. He is confident the Bill will empower local people and business, and remove some of the frustrations councils currently face in operating under a contradictory and outdated law. The new Bill should be passed by Christmas.

New code of rights for ACC claimants

Rights of ACC claimants have been enshrined in a new code, approved by the government after extensive consultation. ACC Minister Ruth Dyson said the Code of ACC Claimants' Rights spelt out ACC's commitment to high standards of service and fairness in eight claimants' rights. These include the right to be treated fairly, with dignity and respect, to have their views considered, and to be fully informed. Ruth Dyson said the code was designed to restore confidence in ACC, which had been weakened during the 1990s when the National Government slashed levies, removed lump sum payments and limited rehabilitation. She said the spirit of the code was as important as the specific obligations. The code recognises that a positive relationship between claimants and ACC staff, built on mutual respect, is essential if ACC is to achieve its primary focus of helping injured people to make the best possible recovery and receive fair compensation. The code comes into effect in February 2003.

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