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Beehive Bulletin - Friday, 01 April 2005

Beehive Bulletin
Friday, 01 April 2005

More than half NZ families can now benefit

Thousands of families with children are now entitled to extra assistance with the next phase of Working for Families kicking in on 1 April. Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey says 260,000 families - more than half of all New Zealand families -are entitled to extra money for living costs, housing and childcare. The changes will see an average increase of $100 a week in support available to families with children in the $25-45,000 income band by 2007. Key changes include Family Support increasing by $25 a week for the first child and $15 a week for each additional child and the maximum Accommodation Supplement payment rates increasing for areas with higher housing costs. Steve Maharey says Working for Families provides targeted increases to the weekly incomes of families with children that could never be achieved through tax cuts. See www.workingforfamilies.govt.nz

Tax discount for new small businesses

Starting a small business is now less taxing with a 6.7 per cent tax discount now available. The tax discount, available from April 1, is open to many self-employed people and partnerships in their first year of business. Associate Revenue Minister David Cunliffe says when they begin paying provisional tax, often in their second year of business people can be hit hard by having to make payments of two years' income tax very close together. The government is now encouraging people starting up in self-employment and partnerships to make early payments of tax in the year before they begin to pay provisional tax. Those who choose to do so will receive a 6.7 per cent discount for each dollar of tax paid during the first year, calculated when their end-of-year tax bill is prepared. Similar measures are in the pipeline to align provisional tax and GST payments, says David Cunliffe.

Major funding boost for early childhood education

Early childhood education services will receive significant funding boosts, effective from this week, as part of the $307 million four-year package aimed at getting more children into affordable, top quality early childhood education. Education Minister Trevor Mallard says most services will receive funding boosts of between 12 and 26 percent and some could get as much as a 42 per cent increase in funding for over-two-year-olds. This is the first stage of a new funding system designed to benefit all teacher-led services, private and non-profit, all funded on an equal basis. Overall, the government is this year spending around $467 million funding early childhood education services, an increase of 50 per cent since 1999. See www.minedu.govt.nz

More police join frontline ranks

This week's addition of 66 police officers to frontline duty across the country is a further indication of the Labour-led government's commitment to making New Zealand a safer place, says Police Minister George Hawkins. Members of Wing 222 graduated from the Police College at Porirua, among 592 officers due to complete their training this financial year. George Hawkins says the government has given Police the resources they requested to tackle crime. Recent desperate attempts by some politicians to undermine public confidence in police and to question the government's commitment to law and order were totally at odds with the facts. Since 1999, Police staff numbers have risen by more than a thousand, from 8767 to 9849. Over the same period, the number of crimes has fallen through the floor: down 36,000 last year alone, says George Hawkins.

Government accepts recommendations on scholarships

The government has endorsed a series of recommendations made by an expert panel looking at the New Zealand Scholarship exams. Associate Education Minister David Benson-Pope says changes recommended by the Scholarship Reference Group will deliver the certainty the government, parents, and students require from New Zealand Scholarship. The government intervened earlier this year because the unacceptable variability in the 2004 results created an obvious unfairness that had to be addressed. David Benson-Pope says the key recommendation of the review group is that scholarship should be awarded to a set percentage of students in every subject. The recommended changes will require students to be ranked, and the government has been assured this is possible within a standards-based system.

Support and condolences for Indonesia

Prime Minister Helen Clark expressed New Zealand's condolences to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in the wake of the devastating earthquake off the island of Sumatra. President Yudhoyono has postponed a planned visit to New Zealand in the first weekend of April in the wake of the 8.7-magnitude quake. Helen Clark says the latest deadly tremor has compounded the humanitarian crisis caused by the Boxing Day tsunami. New Zealand will fund a helicopter to fly a team of doctors to Indonesia's Nias Island, off Sumatra, to treat people injured in the earthquake. Helen Clark says she's told President Yudhoyono that the government will consider further assistance once the full picture of the earthquake disaster emerges.

Report identifies true costs of transport

The true cost of the road and rail system is spelled out in a report published this week by the Ministry of Transport. Transport Minister Pete Hodgson says
the Surface Transport Costs and Charges Study looked at the total charges paid by users of New Zealand's road and rail system and the costs that arise from them in 2001/02. The main finding of the study is that the charges paid by road and rail users do not cover the costs of those networks. The report also identifies that in 2001/02, $546.7 million of fuel duty was paid into the Crown Account, while $670 million was paid from it to cover the cost of accidents not covered by ACC, and $442 million to cover the health effects of vehicle emissions. In other words, roughly half these costs are paid for by motorists, while the other half of the bill is footed by the taxpayer. Report @ www.transport.govt.nz/current/issues/


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