Beehive Bulletin – 13 May 2005
Beehive Bulletin – 13 May
Strong growth in full-time employment welcomed
New Zealand has recorded its highest ever level of employment, with 2,055,000 now in work, according to the March Household Labour Force Survey. Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey welcomed the result as further evidence of New Zealand's economic strength. The minister says that although the unemployment rate has risen slightly to 3.9 per cent, the labour market remains historically strong with the third lowest unemployment rate recorded by the survey, the highest level of employment ever and full-time employment continuing on a very strong growth path. A drop in the number of people in part-time employment has driven the increase in the unemployment rate, but the unemployment rate in all regions remains below 5 per cent.
Restoring confidence in communication centres
The government has responded swiftly to a police request for additional resources to address problems identified by an independent review into communication centres. The report, published this week, found a number of failings with the 111 emergency service.
The report identified understaffing, slow responses to emergency calls, instances of police cars not logging on for jobs, and a high number of calls being "bounced" between centres before being answered. Police Minister George Hawkins announced that the government is committing new money totalling $45.5 million over four years to provide 100 extra staff, enhance training systems, provide extra radio channels and improve management systems.
Health research gets biggest boost in a decade
Research, Science and Technology Minister Steve Maharey announced this week that an extra $70 million, over the next four years, will be invested in priority health research, and to strengthen the health research workforce. The funding boost - the biggest in more than a decade - brings total investment in health research to double the level when the Labour-led government took office in 1999.
The Health Research Council will receive $61 million extra, over the next four years, for research to address the specific health needs of New Zealanders, with around a third of the funding dedicated to research in the highest priority areas such as cancer control, disability and diabetes.
Courthouses to be replaced and improved
Courts Minister Rick Barker announced this week that a substantial budget capital allocation of $39 million for five more courthouse replacements or expansions will build on last year's courthouse replacements and recent capital works. This new budget money is part of a 10-year capital works programme to bring our courts up to standards the public need. A quarter of New Zealand's courthouses are 100 years old and 50 per cent are over 50 years old, the minister said
Opportunities for Sickness and Invalid's beneficiaries
$27.7 million will be invested, over the next four years, into helping Sickness and Invalid's beneficiaries move into work. The funding will allow for a major expansion of the new service for Sickness and Invalid's Benefit recipients that has already helped thousands of people move into work.
It will allow for improved work assessments to prepare people for a long-term return to work, more support for disabled job seekers and their employers, a 76 per cent increase in payments to designated doctors and psychologists and a 62 per cent increase for specialists, and the nationwide roll-out of a programme to help doctors better assess Sickness Benefit eligibility. This money is on top of funds announced in January, bringing the total investment in the new service to $127.8 million over four years.
More scholarships for early childhood teacher training
An extra 200 TeachNZ scholarships for prospective early childhood education teachers are now available for July 2005 enrolments in teacher education. This is on top of the 700 scholarships already going to early childhood education student teachers who are beginning their study this year. The scholarships cover fees and could be worth up to $20,000 over the full duration of study.
The extra scholarships will be funded out of Budget 2005 through an extra $4.1 million over four years (of which $3.4 million is new spending). It brings our total commitment to these scholarships over the next four years to $43.7 million.
New strategy for the housing sector
A 10-year plan for the housing sector has been launched. The New Zealand Housing Strategy identifies seven priorities over the next decade and will build on the government's programme of work in state housing, home ownership and the growth of housing provided by the third sector.
The government has invested more than $2 billion, over the last six years, to reinvigorate the housing sector through state housing, home ownership assistance and by building the capacity of the third sector to deliver community-based housing. The strategy is available online at www.hnzc.co.nz or by calling Housing New Zealand on 0800 801 601.