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Beehive Bulletin - Friday 14 November 2003

Beehive Bulletin - Friday 14 November 2003

Unemployment at 16 year low

The continued strength of the New Zealand economy has driven unemployment to its lowest level in 16 years. The official unemployment rate now stands at 4.4 percent, the fifth lowest in the OECD. Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey says it's particularly pleasing to see falls in unemployment amongst Maori (at 9.7 percent, below 10 percent for the first time since 1987), Pacific peoples (6.6 percent) and young people aged 20-24 years (6.0 percent). The number of people in employment has now grown by 10 percent since the Labour- led government took office, with 176,000 more New Zealanders enjoying the security of paid work.

Four weeks leave from 2007

All New Zealand workers will enjoy at least four weeks leave from 2007. Prime Minister Helen Clark told the Labour Party conference in Christchurch that by giving 3½ years advance notice of the change, employers, including the government, will have time to plan for the change. The extra week is a particular boost for working parents, who will be able to spend more time with their families. Helen Clark says those in white collar managerial positions were often already enjoying four weeks leave, while most manual workers miss out. Australia has had four weeks annual holidays for 30 years.

New dog control law passed

New Zealand will be a safer place for children with the passage this week of the Dog Control Amendment Bill, says Local Government Minister Chris Carter. Four fighting breeds – American Pit Bull Terriers, Dogo Argentinos, Brazilian Filas and Japanese Tosas – will have to be muzzled in public in future and importing more of them is prohibited. Local councils have new powers to crack down on unregistered dogs, roaming dogs, and irresponsible owners. Microchipping is to be gradually introduced for new puppies after 2006 to enhance dog identification.

Repeat sex offenders targeted

New legislation introduced in Parliament this week gives New Zealand one of the toughest regimes in the world for dealing with repeat child sex offenders, says Justice Minister Phil Goff. The Sentencing and Parole Amendment Bill allows judges to place high-risk convicted sex offenders under an extended supervision regime for up to 10 years following release from prison. If necessary, they can be placed under a curfew and electronic monitoring regime. The legislation may contravene the Bill of Rights Act because supervision can be imposed retrospectively and because of electronic monitoring. Phil Goff says he makes no apologies for insisting that protection of children takes priority.

Review of rules on overseas investment

Iconic New Zealand sites of special historical, cultural or environmental significance are to get greater protection from 'first principles' review of the Overseas Investment Act announced this week. Finance Minister Michael Cullen says while the government is committed to maintaining a liberal investment regime because New Zealand needed foreign capital, it also needs to protect our unique cultural and natural heritage. The review's focus will include approvals for sale which have caused most concern, especially South Island high country and coastal land. Work on the review began last month with legislation to take effect in 2005. The public will have an opportunity to make submissions.

Support for New Zealand screen industry

The New Zealand Film Commission is to have its baseline funding almost doubled with a $10 million increase announced as part of the government's response to the Screen Industry Taskforce report. Other measures announced by Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton include funding of $900,000 over two years to establish a Screen Council, a review of the government mechanisms for supporting the screen production sector and a further funding for Film NZ to support its marketing of the sector and its promotion of New Zealand as a film location. The screen taskforce, established as part of the government's Growth and Innovation Framework, has set a target of sustainable foreign exchange earnings of $400 million a year within five years.

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