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Beehive Bulletin Fri, 25 Feb 2005

Beehive Bulletin Fri, 25 Feb 2005

Benefit changes aimed at filling jobs

Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey this week announced plans for a simpler, fairer benefit system that is about moving people from dependency to work.

There are two strands to the new approach: rolling the existing seven core benefits into a single benefit, with a series of add-ons; and service delivery changes with a greater emphasis on getting people into work. The minister called it a system designed to meets the needs of the 21st century. From May the new service delivery model will be piloted in 11 centres around the country. Legislation for a single core benefit will be drafted and introduced this year.

New Zealand's record-low unemployment rate, at 3.6 per cent, and mounting labour shortages are fuelling the impetus for change. Steve Maharey said the proposed changes will help meet the challenge of filling the jobs created by a growing economy.

Transtasman leaders have annual talks

Helen Clark and her Australian counterpart, John Howard, met last weekend for the annual bilateral meeting between the New Zealand and Australian Prime Ministers. They discussed a wide range of issues, including the regional implications of the tsunami disaster, developments in counter terrorism, ongoing joint efforts to develop good governance and stability in the Pacific, and economic developments in their respective countries. They also agreed that the Anzac Day commemorative event at Gallipoli's Anzac Cove - which both leaders are attending - would be dignified and appropriate. After talks in Auckland on Sunday, Helen Clark and John Howard lunched at a West Auckland winery and enjoyed a bush walk in the Waitakeres. Sunday's programme also included a reception at which they joined Auckland MPs, past and present, and local community and business leaders. On Monday John Howard met with the New Zealand Cabinet, attended a formal lunch at Parliament, and placed a wreath at the National War Memorial.

Govt supports top researchers

Education Minister Trevor Mallard announced this week that Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarships worth nearly $4.4 million have been awarded. The 44 students awarded the scholarships by the Tertiary Education Commission will receive just under $550,000 this financial year, and nearly $4.4 million over three years. The minister says the government is committed to developing world-class research. The scholarships are designed to support research at PhD level in all disciplines and increase the supply of highly trained researchers and skilled graduates. The majority of the awards went to University of Auckland students (17 successful applicants), Canterbury University (seven), and Otago and Waikato Universities (six each).

Govt issues walking and cycling strategy

Transport Minister Pete Hodgson this week issued New Zealand's first walking and cycling strategy. Called Getting there - on foot, by cycle, it sets out to make walking and cycling more accessible, safe and popular. The minister also announced that the government would provide an extra $1.15 million for national walking and cycling initiatives in addition to that provided through the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF).

The new money will cover the promotion of walking and cycling. The money will be administered by the Health Sponsorship Council and will be split across an expansion of the existing Bike Wise programme, and a new set of walking initiatives in the 2005/06 financial year. Copies of the strategy and associated material are available from walkcyclestrategy@transport.govt.nz.

NZ helps cyclone-damaged Cooks

Aid Minister Marian Hobbs says New Zealand will be contributing up to $750,000 in aid to help clean up in the Cook Islands, which have been hit by three cyclones in the past two weeks. Power, water and telecommunication services have been badly affected. Chainsaws and other lighter equipment needed for the clean-up have been flown to Rarotonga on commercial flights, and heavier equipment, like cherry-pickers and trucks, are being airlifted to Rarotonga on a RNZAF C-130 Hercules.

Marian Hobbs said the Cook Islands Government requested 20 personnel to assist with the clean up. The Cooks' High Commission in New Zealand has assembled 20 New Zealanders of Cook Island descent, who traveled to Rarotonga this week.

Govt hands Marsden B decision to councils

Environment Minister Marian Hobbs announced this week that she was declining to use her special powers in the plans for a coal-fired power station in Northland. Mighty River Power, the state-owned electricity generator and retailer, has applied for consents to re-commission the Marsden B power station near Whangarei. Since then, a number of Whangarei community groups and Greenpeace New Zealand have written to the minister requesting that she 'call in' the consents.

The minister can use special "call in" powers to take the plan out of local councils' hands when a project is deemed to be of national significance. Marian Hobbs said that was not necessary in this case. She said all environmental effects from a coal-fired Marsden B power station would be fully considered in resource consent application hearings conducted by Northland councils. Northland Regional Council and Whangarei District Council had the expertise and experience to deal with the applications, the minister said.

Motuihe - Auckland's "downtown" sanctuary

Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced this week that Motuihe Island in the Hauraki Gulf is to be replanted and restored over the next 10 years as a sanctuary for native wildlife on the doorstep of downtown Auckland. Located just 15km from Auckland, Motuihe is one of the region's most popular, accessible and picturesque islands. The minister says the island will be restored as a sanctuary for kiwi and other species and as a place where New Zealanders can relax and experience their unique heritage.

Motuihe's restoration is to be a community venture headed by the Motuihe Trust, which was specifically set up for the task in 2000. The trust will work in partnership with the Department of Conservation under a restoration plan signed by the parties on the island this week.

ENDS

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