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Beehive Bulletin - 29 August 2003

Beehive Bulletin - 29 August 2003

NZ's regional economies doing well

Encouraging economic news came this week in the National Bank's June Quarter Regional Trends report, which boils down to another vote of confidence in New Zealand's future – despite adverse international economic conditions. Also, International ratings agency Fitch Ratings last week up-graded New Zealand's foreign- currency rating from AA to AA+. Regional Development Minister and Progressive leader Jim Anderton said the National Bank report showed that economic activity rose in eleven of the fourteen regions in the three months to the end of June despite the fact that business confidence weakened across the country and the New Zealand dollar strengthened against the U.S$ and Euro. Every region experienced economic growth in the year to June, and there was quarter-on-quarter growth in 11 of the 14 regions, led by Wellington, Bay of Plenty and Nelson- Marlborough.

Digital television – the way forward

The rollout of digital television in New Zealand will be the focus of a planning group that the Government wants New Zealand's TV industry to set up. Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey says digital TV can provide more programmes, greater interactivity and better picture quality than traditional analogue broadcasting. But rollout of digital TV is hampered by a lack of industry consensus – for example there is no unity on the technology that customers would use to decode the signal, so there could be any number of 'set-top boxes'. Associate Communications Minister David Cunliffe says the government has decided on broadcasting spectrum allocation and wants to work with broadcasters on developing a digital television platform. More information can be found at Steve Maharey's website www.beehive.govt.nz/maharey.

Compliance cost survey helpful, positive

Business perceptions of compliance costs were the focus of a report released this week by Small Business minister John Tamihere. It found 'minimal and declining' business concerns with tax related compliance requirements and general comfort with regulatory compliance costs – with most firms saying they "deal readily" with compliance requirements. This is a positive sign that the government's efforts in reducing compliance costs are making a difference. Government efforts to tackle compliance costs include tax simplification, the Department of Labour's Good Regulation Project and Small Business Assistance Active Pilot. More details are at www.med.govt.nz/buslt/compliance.html

Biosecurity Planning

Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton this week responded to the Biosecurity Strategy proposed by Biosecurity Council. The Government will now work to put its recommendations in place. The Strategy sets out a framework for a well- coordinated biosecurity operation for New Zealand –- vital for an isolated island nation reliant on primary production. The Government is funding staff training for the screening all sea-shipping containers, and has started work on other recommendations. In particular, a special unit will be set up at the Ministry of Agriculture and Foresetry to lead the biosecurity activities of MAF, the Department of Conservation, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Fisheries. A copy of the Strategy is available at: www.biostrategy.govt.nz

Support from investors for Government-promotion of stable tenancies

Housing Minister Steve Maharey says the government is working with the NZ Property Investors Federation to promote positive relationships between landlords and tenants. A package of initiatives for people renting private sector accommodation includes more support for creditors who've received orders in their favour through the Tenancy Tribunal but can't locate the debtor; more help for Work and Income clients who want to keep their rented home, but are being taken to the Tenancy Tribunal; better public records access help landlords and tenants making tenancy decisions; and educating landlords about best practice. For more information please see the Ministry of Housing website

The GM debate: Softly, softly but we must move ahead

In an opinion article in the New Zealand Herald, Environment Minister Marian Hobbs reminded people that the government set up the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, hearing all sides of the debate. The government is following the commission's advice to proceed with caution, preserving opportunities for future generations. Parliament's Education and Science Select Committee is considering the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill, which implements commission recommendations. It's expected to pass before the 29 October expiry of the time the moratorium on applications for general release of GM organisms. New Zealand's framework for regulating genetic modification includes the conscientious and rigorous efforts of the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) and Food Standards Australia New Zealand. An ERMA survey shows that a flood of applications for GM release or to grow GM crops is very unlikely. GM is a complex scientific process, a technology that is evolving all the time. So we should move cautiously whilst accepting that it may bring benefits to medicine, science and agriculture. More information can be found at the Beehive website.


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