Beehive Bulletin Friday, 2 April 2004
02 April 2004
Unemployment now at half 1999 level
New Zealand's unemployment rate is now back to levels not seen since late 1987. Prime Minister Helen Clark says there are now fewer than 79,000 people nationally on the unemployment benefit - half the 1999 level. Government agencies, working in partnership with employers have placed record numbers of job seekers into paid work and directed many more into training and skill development. Helen Clark says the government wants to assist even more into work. This year's budget aims at making work pay and will see significant boosts to income for low and modest income families.
Contract signed for Army Land Rover replacements
A modernised, well-equipped Defence Force rolled closer with this week's signing of a contract for 188 new Pinzgauer Light Operational Vehicles. These are the first of a total fleet of 321 to replace the Army's current fleet of ageing Land Rovers. The total cost is estimated at up to $110 million, with delivery scheduled to begin in October. Defence Minister Mark Burton says along with new field communications systems, Light Armoured Vehicles, weaponry, and technology upgrades, the government has already invested close to $1 billion in the Army alone, ending the shameful level of neglect of the Defence Force throughout the 1990s.
Land transport package confirmed
Transport Minister Pete Hodgson this week confirmed an additional $2.97 billion investment in land transport over the next ten years, with a particular emphasis on Auckland. It will receive $1.62 billion, while other regions will collectively receive $1.35b in extra investment to address decades of under-funding of land transport infrastructure and services around the country. The transport package, unveiled by the government in December 2003, includes a petrol excise increase of 5 cents a litre and equivalent increase in road user charges from April 2005. This will raise approximately $207 million a year for spending on land transport, 35% allocated to Auckland and 65% to other regions, roughly on a population basis, for the next 10 years.
Laptops for teachers in area schools
Extension of the Laptops for Teachers scheme will see 400 teachers at 57 schools in mostly rural areas benefit. This is in addition to the 15,000 secondary and intermediate teachers and 2,680 principals who currently have laptops. The scheme reimburses schools for two-thirds of the cost of leasing a laptop with schools or teachers paying the remaining cost. Education Minister Trevor Mallard says the government wants to see all teachers using ICT as a professional tool, as it not only helps teachers, but also students in the classroom.
Maori TV goes live
Maori Television is live this week following Sunday's launch by Prime Minister Helen Clark. Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia is confident the Maori Television Service will more than prove its value and significance for New Zealanders and says gaining knowledge about Maori culture, art, music and issues is vital to our maturity as a nation. Maori television is available on Sky Digital's channel 33 and button six on its UHF service. Otherwise most people can tune television sets to Maori Television with a UHF aerial.
War Pensions and Allowances to rise
All War Disablement Pensions and Allowances and Veteran's Pensions and Concessions have increased. Veterans' Affairs Minister George Hawkins says the 1.55 per cent increase in net rates equates to the rise in the cost of living for the year to December 2003, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. Veterans on a 100 per cent War Disablement Pension will receive a $2.48 increase to $162.24. Veterans on a 160 percent War Disablement Pension will receive a $3.96 increase to $259.58. Those receiving a Surviving Spouse's Pension will receive an increase of $1.83 to $119.68.
Wineries can resume Easter sales
Amendments to the Sale of Liquor Act passed this week under Parliamentary urgency allow Easter Sunday winery sales. Associate Justice Minister Rick Barker says prior to 1999, wineries had been able to sell their own wine on Easter Sunday, but a legislative change mistakenly prohibited cellar door sales by wineries on this day. This week's amendment restores the legal right of wineries to resume cellar sales on Easter Sunday.