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Beehive Bulletin 3 June 2005

Beehive Bulletin 3 June 2005

Prime Minister welcomes conclusion of FTA spanning four countries

Prime Minister Helen Clark today welcomed the announcement of the
successful conclusion of negotiations on what will be the first trans-Pacific free trade agreement covering four countries. "The Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement brings together New Zealand, Chile, Singapore and Brunei to improve market access between the four countries and focus on strategic co-operation," Helen Clark said.

The Prime Minister said the partnership agreement was not only New Zealand's first agreement with a Latin American country but its Trans-Pacific nature was also of strategic importance linking the South Pacific with Latin America and Asia. "The agreement offers significant trade gains for our exporters with the elimination of tariffs and the opening up of markets for our exporters. From the date the agreement comes into force, 90 percent of exports will enter Chile duty free while 92 percent of our exports to Brunei will enter duty free."

Radiotherapy waiting times drop for cancer patients

Waiting times for radiotherapy for cancer are dropping, with no patients now having to travel to Australia for treatment. Health Minister Annette King says the latest radiotherapy waiting times for March 2005 show no patients waited more than 12 weeks for radiotherapy treatment in category C, while only six patients waited for more than eight weeks. (Category C mainly covers post-operative patients, those with breast cancer or prostate cancer where a short delay in commencement of radiotherapy is unlikely to adversely affect the outcome.)

"We can still reduce waiting times further, and that is our intention, but we are starting to make real progress. We have considerably boosted the numbers of Medical Radiation Technologists (MRTs) in training and new linear accelerator machines are now provided on a rolling programme." The government initiatives this year include $40 million for the first phase of the Cancer Control Strategy Action Plan.

Long term unemployment beneficiaries down a third in a year

A big drop in the number of long term unemployed is a result of a combination of targeted initiatives put in place by Work and Income and a strong economy says Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment Rick Barker. Figures released this week show the number of people on an unemployment benefit for more than two years has dropped by nearly 40 per cent since March 2000. That's a third in one year.

"There are nearly 10,000 less long-term unemployed people being supported on the unemployment benefit than in March 2000," said Rick Barker. The number of people receiving an income tested benefit has also dropped - 21 per cent overall in the last 6 years. There is now a lower proportion of working age New Zealanders on an income tested benefit than any time over the past decade.

Welfare reforms: Sites for new work-focused service announced

Trials of a new work-focused service for all beneficiaries will begin in 12 locations across the country this month. Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey says the new service, which extends employment services to all beneficiaries regardless of benefit type, would underpin the single core benefit to be introduced in 2007.

"The service will focus on work outcomes for all beneficiaries, not just the 20 percent on an unemployment benefit," he said. From September the pilot sites will also offer extra services to support people with ill health or disability to take up work as part of a $27.7 million Budget 2005 initiative. The 12 sites will be in Whangarei, Auckland, Otara, Hamilton, Tokoroa, Gisborne, Waitara, Masterton, Naenae, Nelson, Riccarton and Dunedin South. The trial is part of the government's reform of the welfare system.

$1.7 million boost to help people with disabilities

More than 500 people are set to receive hearing aids and disability equipment shortly, Associate Minister of Health Pete Hodgson announced. Additional funding of up to $1.7 million (ex GST) has been made available to ensure people receive equipment over the next few months.

The Ministry of Health spends more than $70 million on aids and equipment each year to meet the needs of people with disabilities. "What this $1.7 million injection means in real terms is that 374 people will receive hearing aids, 35 will get wheelchairs or mobility equipment and 101 will have modifications made to their homes," says Pete Hodgson. "This is in line with this government's commitment to the disability sector and our desire for a fully inclusive society."

New Zealand gifts white horse to Shinto shrine in Tokyo

New Zealand is gifting a replacement horse to Toshogu Shrine, one of the most important shrines in Japan Prime Minister Helen Clark announced this week. The replacement horse, named Kotuku - meaning rare and sacred visitor - will be shipped to Japan later this year.

A New Zealand white horse has been a feature of the Toshogu Shrine since 1964. "The original New Zealand white horse was gifted to the Japan Equestrian Association, and later transferred to the Toshogu Shrine, after the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Two further white horses were gifted in 1976 (Marutai) and 1981(Koha).

ENDS

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