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Govt builds on platform of achievement

Govt builds on platform of achievement

Prime Minister Helen Clark says that 1 July is another important milestone date for the government’s policy programme, which is about building a stronger future for New Zealand.

“A number of measures taking effect today underline the solid progress New Zealand is making under a Labour-led government,” Helen Clark said today.

“They reflect our commitment to building a nation which offers fairness and opportunity, by making investments in health, education, security for older New Zealanders and infrastructure, and by meeting new challenges in areas such as trade policy.

“The government stands for policies which will secure New Zealanders’ standards of living and security for the future in a sustainable manner.”

Helen Clark said measures taking effect today are:

Increased funding - $17.2 million in 2005/06 – for lower cost primary health care visits and lower charges on most prescription items for 18 to 24-year-olds enrolled in Primary Health Organisations.

Up until today the increased funding has been available through PHOs only to those under 18 or over 65 The Closer Economic Partnership trade agreement with Thailand comes into force.

It will mean significantly improved access for New Zealand’s exports to Thailand, with more than half our exports to that country entering duty free. The agreement will bring more opportunities for New Zealand businesses and workers The phase out of asset testing on older people in continuing care, starting at around $103 million a year and rising to $345 million by 2020.

This addresses a fundamental issue of discrimination for our older people at a pace New Zealand can afford The maximum paid parental leave payment increases from $346.63 to $357.30 a week. The new rate will apply both to new applicants and those already receiving payments.

From December this year paid parental leave will be available for up to 14 weeks The Care of Children Act 2004 comes into effect. It revamps laws for resolving disputes over arrangements for looking after children, and makes them more consistent with modern attitudes to children and parenting An increase in the fees paid to doctors and psychologists responsible for assessing invalid's benefit eligibility.

These fees have not been reviewed since 1995.

The increases will ensure that high quality assessments are carried out.

• A pay increase for staff delivering the Home Help programme. Home Help assists people coping with multiple births, family emergencies and others in need of help with household tasks.

• Funding for the Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention programme increases significantly. Funding goes up by nearly $800,000 a year from 1 July as part of a $3 million dollar initiative in Budget 2005.

• 300 more retirement village residents will get assistance with their housing costs through the Accommodation Supplement.

• New Zealand's largest farm, Molesworth Station, will be managed from today by the Department of Conservation as a protected farm park. It extends across 180,000 hectares of South Marlborough high country, an area full of threatened native species, superb tramping and mountain biking routes Thousands more first time home buyers become eligible for the Mortgage Insurance Scheme.

The income eligibility thresholds for the scheme will be increased, and Kiwibank will no longer be the only bank offering loans through MIS. Vocational services for school leavers with disabilities who have very high needs are expanded from today. New government funding of $9.9 million over four years means the number of placements will more than double from 219 to 569.

Helen Clark said the government will continue to build on its platform of achievement, so that New Zealand goes forward with confidence.

“The election will offer a choice between a party offering reckless tax cuts, knowing that would push up mortgage interest rates and cause considerable damage to spending on health, education, police, supporting older New Zealanders and infrastructure, and the government’s commitment to longer-term investments in the future of New Zealand.

“It is a straightforward choice: stick with the government which is getting results and building a stronger future for New Zealand, or lurch back to the division and unfairness of the 1990s, and the high interest rates the then Governor of the Reserve Bank was famous for,” Helen Clark said.

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