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Friday, July 23, 2004 - Beehive Bulletin

Friday, July 23, 2004 - Beehive Bulletin

Cheaper universal primary health care by 2007

All New Zealanders belonging to Primary Health Organisations will be entitled to cheaper primary health care such as doctors' visits and prescriptions by July 2007. This is up to five years earlier than first anticipated. Prime Minister Helen Clark and Health Minister Annette King say the Government will inject an extra $415.7 million over three years to provide more affordable primary health care for everyone belonging to PHOs.

This includes a standard prescription charge of not more than $3 per item, higher subsidies for 'flu injections for older people, and other benefits. The cheaper doctors' visits and prescriptions roll out for 18 to 24 year-olds in July next year, for 45 to 64-year-olds in July 2006, and for 25 to 44-year-olds, in July 2007. People can call 0800-HLTH-4-U (0800-458-448) for information.

Government responds to floods in Eastern Bay of Plenty

The government has announced a comprehensive package of measures to assist Eastern Bay of Plenty after heavy flooding. Civil Defence Minister George Hawkins has spent much of the week in the devastated region, with visits by other ministers including Prime Minister Helen Clark. The package includes: enhanced Task Force Green assistance; help with covering the costs for people forced from their homes by the floods; dollar for dollar matching of donations to the Whakatane and Opotiki Mayoral Relief Funds; a free phone Information HelpLine (0800 77 9997).

Cabinet Ministers have delegated authority to approve any welfare programme to provide income support for farmers whose income is affected by the flooding. Transfund will prioritise roading repair spending and fast track projects where necessary.

Changes to overseas investment regime

Overseas buyers wanting to buy sites of special heritage or environmental value will be subjected to a tougher screening and compliance regime under changes announced by Finance Minister Michael Cullen. Foreign direct investment into New Zealand peaked at over 60 per cent of GDP in 1998 but has declined since then to around 40 per cent. Michael Cullen says the government's aim is to give stronger recognition to New Zealand's natural and historic heritage while also recognising the tangible benefits that flow from foreign investment. The Overseas Investment Commission will be disestablished and its regulatory functions performed by a dedicated unit within Land Information New Zealand. The decisions the government has taken, and which will be incorporated into legislation later this year, reflect that balance, says Michael Cullen. See .

Good uptake for state sector retirement scheme

More than 44 per cent of eligible people in government ministries and departments have chosen to join the new government subsidised State Sector Retirement Savings Scheme. State Services Minister Trevor Mallard says it's great to see this level of sign up since the scheme started on July 1. Some 40,000 people in government departments and the state school sector are joining the scheme with, 22 departments out of 40 achieving take-up rates above 50 per cent. Trevor Mallard says the state sector is setting a good example in encouraging retirement savings, which all New Zealanders need to seriously think about. Employees joining the scheme can choose their own level of contribution, and the government will match that up to a maximum of 1.5 per cent of salary in the first year and 3 per cent from the second year. Further information is at

New Zealand wins support for resolution on whaling

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has adopted New Zealand's resolution to explore the development of more humane methods of killing whales. Conservation Minister Chris Carter, who has been attending the IWC meeting in Italy, says this is a significant victory for New Zealand and other conservation-minded countries. The resolution requires an IWC working group to improve the efficiency of whale killing methods. Although New Zealand is strongly opposed to whaling, it believes these killing methods should at the very least be humane, says Chris Carter. Another vote - on the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary - which was jointly promoted by New Zealand and Australia, got 26 votes in favour, 21 against and four abstentions. However, the sanctuary proposal needed a 75 per cent majority.

Government support for ICT skills project in Canterbury

Major new funding to close skill gaps in the Canterbury information and communication technologies (ICT) industries were announced by Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton and Information Technology Minister Paul Swain. The $1.765 million ICT in Canterbury project is a partnership between local businesses and tertiary education organisations, facilitated by the Electro-Technology Industry Training Organisation (ETITO).

It will fund industry-based research to identify skill demands and then develop a talent pipeline to meet these needs. Jim Anderton says the ICT sector is growing faster in Canterbury than anywhere else in the country, but skill shortages are a major barrier to the sector's potential growth.


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