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Beehive Bulletin - Friday, 21 January 2005

Beehive Bulletin - Friday, 21 January 2005

Boxing Day tsunami brings largest-ever New Zealand response

New Zealand's official response to Asian/Indian Ocean tsunami relief and reconstruction will reach $68 million. Prime Minister Helen Clark says Cabinet had agreed to New Zealand's largest-ever response to an international relief and reconstruction programme. This includes $20 million for United Nations tsunami relief efforts, $20m to support work in Aceh/Sumatra, and $19m for dollar-for-dollar matching of public donations. Helen Clark says the Cabinet believed as a good neighbour, New Zealand should step forward in times of crisis affecting countries in our region. New Zealand was on the ground early with a very substantial relief effort, including 113 Defence Force personnel, two RNZAF C-130 aircraft and 25 police and civilian staff working in a victim identification operation in Phuket, Thailand. Cabinet also agreed to have specialists review existing information about the risk of tsunamis to New Zealand and to report on issues that need to be addressed.

Prime Minister's Message on Memorial Day, Sunday 16 January

Memorial Day services held across New Zealand remembered and honoured all those who died and all those so terribly affected by the tsunami, says Prime Minister Helen Clark. "Our thoughts are with all the New Zealanders killed, missing, or injured, and with their families; and with those who have returned home deeply distressed by what they have witnessed. Our thoughts are with the countless numbers of people who have been killed or who are missing, injured, or made homeless by this catastrophe. Our thoughts are with the communities in New Zealand which originate from the devastated region - and which have seen their home countries so damaged and so many lives lost. And our thoughts are with those New Zealanders who are serving on our behalf in the relief efforts in Asia - the New Zealand police officers working in the morgues, the defence personnel in the hospitals and supporting the relief flights, the foreign affairs staff and other government personnel, and all our non-governmental workers and volunteer

Rescue helicopters safe

All New Zealand communities have been assured they will keep their locally-based rescue helicopter services. ACC Minister Ruth Dyson says some communities were concerned a draft national air ambulance strategy released by ACC would threaten their local rescue helicopters. She requested ACC withdraw the strategy. ACC will continue to fund local rescue helicopters and no services are at risk. Ruth Dyson says ACC's draft strategy canvassed such issues as national coordination of services, standards for pilots and paramedics, equipment and response times. She wants ACC to work in partnership with stakeholders, communities and the government to provide the best possible air ambulance service.

Lower numbers of teacher vacancies

More teachers and Government action to retain teachers in the profession mean schools head into 2005 with the lowest number of teacher vacancies in recent years. Associate Education Minister David Benson-Pope says the number of actual vacancies in secondary schools was currently 216, 18% fewer than the same time last year and 45% fewer than for the same time in 2003. David Benson-Pope says in a workforce of 21,600 teachers the vacancy rate is just 1%, an extremely pleasing result, especially when considering that the government has established 1800 extra secondary teaching positions since the start of 2003. Secondary teacher loss rates are also lower than the past four years. David Benson-Pope says this reduction can be attributed to the package of teacher supply initiatives put in place by the government in recent years and the increases in teachers' salaries.

New initiatives to get more beneficiaries into work

Initiatives costing $27 million will get more long-term unemployed into work and help more sickness and invalid's beneficiaries get jobs. Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey says with unemployment at 3.8% and employers calling out for workers, the government is stepping up its efforts to get as many beneficiaries as possible back into the workforce. Initiatives include enhanced wage subsidies for employers taking on people who have been unemployed longer than three years, home visits and increased availability of training. The New Service for Sickness and Invalid's Benefit Recipients, piloted last year, is now being rolled out across the country. The New Service includes initiatives to have beneficiaries medical needs addressed so they can return to work. Steve Maharey says in one pilot area a 17% increase in beneficiaries moving into full-time work was achieved in just six months.

Reforms send use of preventive detention soaring

Reform of preventive detention under the Sentencing Act 2002 has resulted in a dramatic increase in its use. Justice Minister Phil Goff says in the two and a half years since the Sentencing Act 2002 came into force, 56 offenders were sentenced to preventive detention, compared with 58 in the previous five years. Preventive detention is an indeterminate, life-long sentence, imposed on highest-risk offenders, which means they need never be released from jail if still considered a risk to the community. The Sentencing Act 2002 significantly broadened the ability of judges to impose preventive detention. Had the sentence been more widely available in the 1990s, New Zealanders would have been spared a great deal of anguish over a number of habitual paedophiles who under law had to be put back into the community at the end of their sentence, says Phil Goff.


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