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Beehive Bulletin Friday, July 09, 2004

Beehive Bulletin

09 July 2004

Mass immunisation following vaccine's approval

New Zealand's largest mass immunisation programme of 1.15 million young people is expected to start in August following approval this week to use the MeNZB(tm) vaccine. Health Minister Annette King says it is a tremendous achievement for the $200 million project, launched in January 2002 to fund development of a specific vaccine to combat New Zealand's strain of meningococcal group B bacterium. The epidemic has killed 220 New Zealanders and affected thousands of other young people since it started in 1991. The Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme will begin within weeks in south Auckland and some high-risk suburbs of eastern Auckland. It will then be rolled out across the country over the next year. Students attending school will be immunised in a school-based campaign run by public health nurses.

Power companies must have low tariff

A low fixed charge tariff will be made compulsory. Energy Minister Pete Hodgson, who has been concerned about the impact of rising power prices on low income groups for some time, says some power companies had been playing games around offering such an option. The new regulation will compel all electricity retailers to offer a tariff, the fixed charges portion of which cannot exceed 30 cents per day excluding GST. This tariff is designed to make those consumers who use less than the average 8000 kwh of power a year better off. In particular, it is designed to help older New Zealanders on fixed incomes who are typically frugal users of power, says Pete Hogdson. The regulation will come into force in October.

Labour-led government's record on crime

National always talks tough but does nothing, says Corrections Minister Paul Swain. It took a Labour-led government to introduce longer sentences, tougher bail and parole laws, victims' rights legislation, record police numbers, and tough new DNA laws. As a result, the prison population is rising and the crime rate is falling. Under the parole laws introduced in 2002, public safety is the overriding factor, and offenders considered a risk must be denied parole. Re-offending rates on parole are also much lower than re-offending rates of people who are just turned out on the streets when they complete their sentences. Paul Swain says New Zealanders should also be worried that Dr Brash is now indicating he will slash government social services to find the billions he will need to pay for, and run, more new prisons.

New under-secretary and new responsibilities

Prime Minister Helen Clark has appointed Mahara Okeroa MP for Te Tai Tonga as Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Ministers of Maori Affairs, Education, and Conservation.

Mita Ririnui will become Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Health, in addition to his existing responsibilities to the Ministers of Corrections and Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations. Other new responsibilities include John Tamihere, who as Associate Minister of Commerce, will pick up the responsibility for building and housing regulatory functions, which are being transferred to the new Department of Building and Housing.

Dover Samuels is being appointed Associate Minister of Housing to assist the Minister of Housing in the area of Maori housing. Harry Duynhoven will become Minister for Transport Safety, in addition to his current role as Associate Minister of Energy. Helen Clark said the creation of this new portfolio reflects the importance the government places on transport safety.

Report released on Whenuapai

A consultative report on the future use and disposal process for Whenuapai airbase has been released by Defence Minister Mark Burton. The report was undertaken by Defence to gauge local views on four broad options for Whenuapai: residential usage, an industrial/development site, a commercial airport, or other public works.

Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton says much of the debate that surrounds Whenuapai's future involves whether it should be retained as an airport. Before a decision can be made, an investigation was necessary into the need for a second commercial airport in the Auckland region, the national and strategic considerations, and the likely local impacts. Cabinet has directed the Ministry of Economic Development, in consultation with other agencies, to produce a thorough and robust whole-of-government report.

Packaging Accord to reduce and recycle

The government has approved a new Packaging Accord that will reduce waste and increase the amount of packaging that can be recycled. The voluntary accord has been developed by the Ministry for the Environment and the Packaging Council of New Zealand, with support from Local Government New Zealand and the Recycling Operators of New Zealand .

Key sectors involved are paper, plastic, glass, steel and aluminium; and brand owners and retailers. Environment Minister Marian Hobbs says packaging waste is a concern for New Zealanders and this was an excellent example of government and industry working together to address the issue. Sector action plans have been developed, including national targets for recovering used packaging materials and annual reporting


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