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Beehive Bulletin For Week Ending Friday 14 Feb

Beehive Bulletin

For Week Ending Friday 14 February 2003

Also Available On-Line

Prime Minister's speech to Parliament
The government begins the year very positive about the prospects for New Zealand and for its own policy programme, Prime Minister Helen Clark told the opening of Parliament. The economy's performance has been strong and unemployment was internationally low. Helen Clark says the government's aim is to build solid levels of economic growth and to fund good public services ? health, education and infrastructure in particular, at sustainable levels. The year's legislative agenda includes enabling TVNZ to implement its charter for quality public television; to control the growth of gambling; to simplify the governance of the racing industry; to improve the Resource Management Act; to update holidays legislation; to make the rules fairer for veteran pensioners; to set up a new Supreme Court; to implement major land transport changes; and to amend the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act ahead of the moratorium on applications for genetic modification expiring in October. Helen Clark says the New Zealand Government, does not support unilateral action against Iraq. If the Security Council were to sanction the use of force, New Zealand as a United Nations member would be obliged to uphold the resolution, and would consider what contribution it could make, most likely in the form of humanitarian, medical, or logistic support.

Launch of Tertiary Education Commission
It is time for New Zealanders to connect with their future, via the Government's Tertiary Education Strategy, says Associate Minister of Education, Steve Maharey. He was speaking at the launch this week of the Tertiary Education Commission, charged with overseeing the implementation of the strategy. Steve Maharey says New Zealanders are participating in tertiary education in record numbers, across more diverse learning pathways than ever before. This is encouraging but there was room for a far more strategic approach. Numbers alone will not deliver the Knowledge Society New Zealand needs to compete successfully in the 21st century. The tertiary strategy focuses on six key goals: building a more strategic and more capable tertiary education system, aligned to national goals; ensuring it contributes decisively to Maori development aspirations; ensuring all New Zealanders have the foundation skills needed to participate in our new knowledge society; stronger emphasis on higher level creative, specialist and technical skills; do more to ensure success for Pasifika learners and communities; boost research and knowledge creation to ensure that research and innovation are key drivers of our economy. Steve Maharey says at stake is a future where all New Zealanders have the skills to participate in a vibrant and distinctively Kiwi knowledge society.

Changes to GM legislation
The government has announced changes it wants to the main legislation covering genetic modification (GM) in the latest step towards implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification. The proposed changes are to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996 and related Acts. They are designed to underpin the government's overall policy of proceeding with caution with GM while preserving opportunities. Environment Minister Marian Hobbs says the decisions will give New Zealand an extended regulatory framework to allow it to better take advantage of the social and economic benefits of genetically-modified and other new organisms, which we may choose to use, while ensuring potential risks are managed effectively. The changes being proposed include a new category of approval for new organisms, including genetically-modified organisms, called 'conditional release'. Marian Hobbs says this new category would ensure a regulatory framework is maintained for new organisms by allowing the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) to attach controls on a case-by-case basis to any approvals to release new organisms.

Unemployment rate drops below 5 percent
New Zealand's official unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent, as recorded by Statistics New Zealand's Household Labour Force Survey for the December 2002 quarter. This was down from 5.4 percent for the September 2002 quarter. Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey says there are now 123,000 more New Zealanders employed than there were when the Labour-led government took office in December 1999. Continued employment growth, now into its tenth consecutive quarter, has seen the official unemployment rate fall to levels not experienced since March 1988. New Zealand now has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the OECD, where the average is 7.1 percent and now ranks ninth amongst the 27 nations with standardised unemployment rates. Steve Maharey says particularly welcome trends revealed by the survey include a decline in unemployment for all ethnic groups over the quarter and the year, growth in full time employment more than offsetting a decrease in the number of people in part-time employment; significant falls in unemployment in both Auckland and Canterbury and an increase in the number of people employed in most regions.

Increasing guest nights welcomed
Minister of Tourism Mark Burton has welcomed the results of Statistics New Zealand's latest accommodation survey. Total guest nights for the year ended December 2002 were up 7 percent on the year ended December 2001, and up 13 percent on the year ended December 2000. The number of actual guest nights increased 3 percent in December 2002, when compared with December 2001. But while pleased the underlying trend in guest nights has been rising since May 1998, Mark Burton stresses that a sustainable tourism sector depends on more than just numbers. It was essential both the industry and Government focus on protecting, preserving and enhancing those things that travellers want to see and share?our core environmental values and assets. Mark Burton says the challenge is to encourage people to visit at different times of the year, to try a greater number of products, to stay longer, to explore a wider range of locations, and to spend more. In 2001, international guests injected nearly $6 billion into the New Zealand economy and New Zealanders enjoying domestic trips spent nearly $7 billion. Taken together, these tourism figures account for 10 percent of New Zealand's GDP, says Mark Burton.

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