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Beehive Bulletin – Friday 21 February 2003

BEEHIVE BULLETIN FOR WEEK ENDING
FRIDAY 21 February 2003
------------------------
Also Available On-Line
www.labour.org.nz


New tools for literacy and numeracy skills

Education Minister Trevor Mallard has announced the roll- out of world-leading assessment tools aimed at significantly boosting the literacy and numeracy skills of the nation's primary school students. The asTTle assessment tools have been developed by the University of Auckland for the Ministry of Education and are creating international interest. They are aimed at nine to eleven year olds, and have been trialled in schools around the country for the past two years. AsTTle is part of a $28.4 million package for assessment initiatives. The tools show teachers how students are doing in relation to the rest of their class or compared to students throughout the country. Trevor Mallard says AsTTle assessment tools are a world-leading resource and an exciting development in what is a top priority for the Government in education - lifting literacy and numeracy achievement. Use of the tools is voluntary but Trevor Mallard is confident there will be a good take-up of this free resource by teachers around the country.

Comprehensive review of Building Act

Commerce Minister Lianne Dalziel says the current review of the Building Act will be the most comprehensive review of the legislation and the industry in more than a decade. Lianne Dalziel says she is confident the review will be able to identify the shortcomings that have allowed the weathertightness issue to arise, and to develop the appropriate legislative and regulatory framework to prevent such matters arising again. Next month a discussion document will propose broadening the Building Act to include consumer protection; clarification and strengthening of the roles of the regulators; the provision of benchmarks and information on what are acceptable building products and practices; the registration of appropriately qualified building professionals; and new options for consumer redress.

Ministers make significant move on CER

A significant breakthrough in the alignment of trans- Tasman tax law and a commitment to meet each year has been agreed by Finance Minister Michael Cullen and Australian Treasurer Peter Costello. The Ministers say the tax change has been long sought and will remove an important impediment to trans-Tasman business. They were pleased to be able to announce it as part of the 20th anniversary of Closer Economic Relations [CER]. They noted that CER was one of the most successful economic agreements in the world and had delivered much to both partners. Bilateral trade in goods had doubled in real terms since the Treaty was signed in 1983, and the trade in services was also growing steadily. Mr Costello and Dr Cullen endorsed the benefits of meeting annually given the importance of issues within their respective portfolios to both economies and to the trans-Tasman relationship. Their principal focus was to encourage trans-Tasman business through the co-ordination of business, regulatory and tax law.

Contracts for new centres of excellence

Two further contracts establishing Centres of Research Excellence have been signed, with all seven of these new world-class research centres now up and running. The National Centre for Advanced Bio-Protection Technologies is based at Lincoln University and the National Research Centre for Growth and Development is at The University of Auckland. Associate Education (Tertiary Education) Minister Steve Maharey welcomes the speedy settlement of the contracts and the investment in research and development. The seven centres will see partnerships between universities, and between universities and Crown Research Institutes, creating critical masses of research excellence. Steve Maharey says the Government is committed to world-class research, as these new contracts demonstrate. Overall, the Government has allocated $123m in a mix of operating and capital funding for the two new centres and the five centres established in 2002.

Government support for high tech venture

An international joint venture research facility is receiving $500,000 from the Government to build international networks, expand its research partners and develop patents for computer technology. HIT (Human Interface Technology) Lab is a joint venture between the University of Washington (Seattle), and the University of Canterbury. Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton says HIT Lab is involved in world-leading work in virtual reality and interaction with computers. It will receive funding in four instalments tied to bringing new companies into the consortium, securing patents and signing research contracts. The funding comes from Industry New Zealand's, Strategic Investment Fund. Jim Anderton says the aim is to ensure the HIT Lab creates job opportunities and spin-off business possibilities as quickly as possible. Jim Anderton says HIT Lab NZ is an extremely important economic development initiative for the Canterbury region which is targeting the ICT and electronics industries.

Landmark decision on education

A Court of Appeal ruling in the special education case Attorney-General v Daniels and Others is a landmark decision, says Associate Minister of Education (Special Education) Lianne Dalziel. The court says the policy known as Special Education 2000 does not breach the education rights of children with special education needs. However, the court did find that the 1998 decision by the former Minister of Education to disestablish special education units did not comply with the Education Act. This issue has been referred back to the High Court to see what remedy, if any, should be made. The Court of Appeal said although the previous government disestablished all the country's 350 special education units, 230 remained open. It noted Special Education 2000 funding rose from $170m in 1995 to $329m in 2002. Lianne Dalziel says the provision of special education has moved on since the case was lodged. At the conclusion of the remedies hearing, Lianne Dalziel says she will re-open her door to direct discussions with parents of special needs children, which could not occur while the case was in progress.

ENDS

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