Flood recovery spending to cost about $130 million
Prime Minister Helen Clark has announced more details of a purpose-designed package for those affected by the February floods. The government response is well beyond existing standard policies for disaster recovery because of the magnitude and economic impact of the natural disaster. The further aid package agreed this week consists of two major elements: An agricultural package of about $25 million; and a broader community package of $15 million that includes more than $11 million in rates remission for those most affected, and additional assistance for road repairs. Helen Clark says the government is already providing around $90 million support through its existing standard response policies and other help agreed over the past few weeks.
A skills army is assembling
Figures released this week show that number of workers in industry training jumped by nearly 20,000 last year to a new record high. Total numbers in industry training during 2003 reached 126,870 trainees – a 19 per cent increase on the number participating during 2002. The number of employers involved in the industry training programme also increased substantially, with 29,206 firms now on board (up from 24,576 in 2002). Prime Minister Helen Clark says the government wants 150,000 workers in on-the-job training by 2005 and invested an additional $84 million in last years' budget over the next four years.
Cost of living adjustment for beneficiaries
Benefits, superannuation and student allowances will increase from 1 April and income thresholds for the Community Services Card will rise as part of the annual cost of living adjustment. Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey says the new Community Services Card thresholds now range from $19,741 a year for a single person sharing accommodation to $51,813 a year for a family of six people. The increase of 1.55 per cent in the rates of benefits, allowances and Community Services Card thresholds equates to the increase in the cost of living for 2003, as measured by the Consumers Price Index.
Treatment injury to replace ACC medical misadventure
ACC Minister Ruth Dyson this week announced a sweeping revamp of ACC's medical misadventure provisions to make them simpler and fairer, and improve patient safety. The new category of treatment injury will remove the requirement to find fault (medical error), or prove that a medical injury is rare or severe (medical mishap), before a patient is entitled to ACC cover. Ruth Dyson says the confusing title, Medical Misadventure – the term used to cover injuries caused by medical treatment – will be replaced by a new category called Treatment Injury.
Targeting criminals' assets
The Government is to develop a civil forfeiture regime to improve the effectiveness of criminal asset recovery laws. Justice Minister Phil Goff says new initial restraining orders will ensure assets can't be dispersed or their value eroded before the conviction process is completed. Once a court is satisfied there are reasonable grounds for seizing the assets, the onus will then fall on the defendant to produce evidence that they were, in fact, lawfully acquired. As well as strengthening aspects of the Crimes Act, the proposed regime would mean civil proceedings could be initiated by government agencies to freeze assets they believe to be the result of criminal activity.
Malborough Wine Research Centre launched
The Marlborough Wine Research Centre was officially launched this week. Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton says the centre is a good example of how collaboration between industries, research centres, business, national and local government can pay off for all New Zealanders. The centre received $2 million from central government's regional partnership programme and got wide support from across the Marlborough community to build on the region's huge wine production and marketing capability. Jim Anderton says research done at the centre will help boost production, increase quality and export earnings - crucial for a region producing 50 per cent by value of New Zealand wine exports.
Water fluoridation projects can now be subsidized 100%
discretion of the Health Minister, subsidies to fluoridate
drinking water can now cover the whole cost of the capital
works of a fluoridation project. Health Minister Annette
King says this is a great opportunity for communities to
put together a proposal and tap into the $1.5 million pool
of money the government has made available annually for
fluoridation projects. Under the Sanitary Works Subsidy
Scheme, which came into effect on 1 July 2003, the subsidy
available for works needed to add fluoride to drinking
water was 50 per cent of the cost of capital works – this
has doubled. A number of studies of the benefits of
fluoridation to children' teeth have demonstrated
reductions in decay rates ranging from 20 to 80 per cent.