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Beehive Bulletin For Week Ending Friday 28 Feb

Beehive Bulletin For Week Ending Friday 28 February 2003

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Also Available On-Line http://www.labour.org.nz

Lower rents for many low income Aucklanders ===========================================

About 1700 Aucklanders have a new landlord from today, and for many, the change means there is less rent to pay, Prime Minister Helen Clark and Acting Housing Minister Steve Maharey announced this week. The government has paid about $82 million for 1542 pensioner and 124 residential units, previously owned by the Auckland City Council. An additional $75 million will be spent upgrading and redeveloping the properties over the next five years. Low-income tenants who qualify for an income related rent will pay no more than 25 per cent of their income on rent. Steve Maharey said about 95 percent of the former Auckland City Council tenants who applied for an income related rent were found to be eligible. On average they will pay up to $25 less in weekly rent. Helen Clark said she was proud that the government had acted so decisively to secure the homes, because most of the people affected were superannuitants who had endured enormous stress in the last year as the threat of a sell- off hung over them. In addition to the work planned for the former council properties, the Government plans to acquire another 650 properties in the Auckland area through building, buying or leasing this financial year.

Collaborative nursing innovations awarded

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Health Minister Annette King today announced 11 innovative primary health care nursing initiatives that will receive $7.1 million in funding over the next three years. The 11 successful initiatives come from throughout the country and ranged from a West Coast neighbourhood nursing scheme in Reefton to a concept to better utilise Plunket and public health nurses in Taranaki. Annette King said all were excellent examples of how primary health care nurses can collaborate and work more effectively to address community health needs in areas like child, youth, mental, Maori and Pacific health. The $7.1 million Primary Health Care Nursing Innovations Funding is part of $400 million of new money to begin implementing the Primary Health Care Strategy over the next three years. The concepts pull together resources to deliver early intervention and better treatment and care

Coromandel Bay saved from development
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A classic Coromandel Bay fringed with 2.5 km of white sandy beach is to be preserved for all New Zealanders thanks to a new purchase by the Department of Conservation. Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced this week that 150 ha of coastal forest in Waikawau Bay had been bought from the University of Auckland for $3.54 million. The land is to become a new reserve, alongside the 1000 ha Waikawau Bay Farm Park already owned by DoC. Chris Carter said acquisition of this new land secured perpetual public access to all of Waikawau Bay, a magnificent piece of the Coromandel's coast in a popular recreation area. It also preserved a significant block of North Island coastal forest, one of the least protected habitats in New Zealand. Waikawau Bay lies northeast of Colville on the Coromandel Peninsula and sports a white sand beach typical of the area.

Government keeps pressure on benefit fraudsters ===============================================
New strategies introduced by the Government to catch people committing benefit fraud are working, Associate Minister of Social Services and Employment Rick Barker said. In 1999, the Ministry of Social Development introduced early intervention programmes to prevent people getting caught up in a cycle of debt and fraud. The programmes ensure clients receive their full and correct entitlement and are aware of the obligation to inform Work and Income if their circumstances change. The Ministry has also run local public education campaigns to raise awareness of benefit entitlements and the consequences of committing fraud. At the same time the Ministry has got tougher on people caught committing benefit fraud and increased the number of prosecutions by 300 percent. In addition, $260 million was recovered by Work and Income in 2002 from benefit clients. Rick Barker said increased prosecutions, coupled with early intervention programmes have seen both the amount of fraud detected and average size of individual fraud overpayments decrease.

Student loan interest rate stays at 7 percent =============================================
The headline student loan interest rate will remain at 7 percent for the year beginning 1 April 2003, Revenue Minister Michael Cullen and Associate Education (Tertiary Education) Minister Steve Maharey announced this week. The interest rate is to remain the same for the coming tax year pending the government's review of student support. The review will look at ways to make student allowances available to a greater number of students, while setting out fair rules for determining the contribution students make to the cost of their study. Under the student loan scheme, all full-time, full-year students and part-time, low-income students qualify for a full interest write-off. Borrowers who are no longer students and whose income is under the repayment threshold have all their base interest written off. Other borrowers have their base interest capped at 50 percent of their compulsory repayment obligation, which means most borrowers don't actually pay the total interest rate of 7 percent.

New Zealand expertise to help draft counter-terrorism legislation =============================
New Zealand is providing a legal drafter to assist preparation of model counter-terrorism legislation for Pacific Islands Forum countries, Foreign Minister Phil Goff announced this week. A working group of Forum members and regional law enforcement agencies are meeting in Fiji to develop a framework to address terrorism and trans-national crime in the Pacific. Part of that framework will be model legislation that Forum countries can adapt to suit their national circumstances. Phil Goff said the relative geographic isolation of the South Pacific could no longer be assumed to offer any sort of protection from terrorist activities, a reality underlined by the bombing in Bali last year. Pacific Island countries have to pass counter-terrorism legislation to meet their obligations under United Nations Resolution 1373, which followed September 11. Many were having difficulty developing that legislation, so by helping to draw up model legislation, New Zealand is helping them meet their international obligations.


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