Veterans' get forum to air grievances . . .
Prime Minister Helen Clark led the
government's representation at the Returned Services
Association's annual national conference in Wellington this
week. She announced the appointment of former state services
commissioner Michael Wintringham as the independent chair of
a traveling commission that will consult with Vietnam
veterans, and hear grievances about exposure to the Agent
Orange chemical. Helen Clark said there was still a great
deal of hurt and resentment among Vietnam veterans about how
their service had been regarded, both immediately after, and
in the years since, the Vietnam War. That sense of
grievance was heightened by successive governments' failure
to acknowledge that veterans were exposed to a toxic
environment. The working group process will aim to settle
these issues, she said. Helen Clark said that following the
consultation process; it would be appropriate for her as
Prime Minister, to offer a formal apology. The forum and
venue for that would be determined i
n consultation with the w
. . . and a year of recognition
Veterans' Affairs Minister George Hawkins in his address to the conference announced that next year will officially be recognised as the "Year of the Veteran'. This follows a recommendation from the RSA. The dedicated year will offer opportunities to look back at the sacrifice of those who served, and to look forward at building a society where such tragic sacrifices are not needed, Mr Hawkins told the conference. RSA President, John Campbell had first mooted the idea and Mr Hawkins said he looked forward to working together with him and other veterans on planning next year.
New Zealand attracting skilled migrants
Immigration Minister Paul Swain said this week
that New Zealand is continuing to attract the skilled
migrants we need. In announcing that the government met its
immigration programme objectives for the 2004/05 financial
year, Mr Swain said 48,815 people were granted residency.
Almost 30,000 of those were approved under the
Skilled/Business migration categories. New Zealand's
immigration programme aims to grant residency to 45,000
people, with an allowance for another 5,000 if necessary.
The Skilled Migrant Category specifically attracted quality
migrants including teachers, nurses, tradespeople and IT
professionals, Mr Swain said. Some 87 per cent of people
under this category already had a skilled job or job offer
when they were granted residence. And around 60 per cent of
those jobs were in areas other than Auckland, meaning other
parts of New Zealand shared the benefits of immigration.
While the government is continuing to invest heavily in
skills training for New Zealanders
, immigration remains one
New initiative to support victims of family violence
A new initiative launched by Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey this week, will see Work and Income case managers specifically resourced to provide income support plans for victims of family violence. Every year, 12 women and 10 children die in New Zealand as a direct result of family violence and it cannot be tolerated in our society, Steve Maharey said. The $18.9 million programme will train managers to better identify and support families affected by violence. They will develop income support plans for victims of family violence and referral processes will ensure people can more easily access community-based violence prevention services. Work and Income will not record any information or make referrals without the consent of their clients. The programme will reach Auckland, Canterbury and the East Coast this year and every other region by 2007.
More state houses under Labour government
In his capacity as Housing Minister Steve Maharey announced this week that the government achieved its goal of providing 1,000 more state homes in the last year. Housing New Zealand Corporation figures show state rental properties totalled 66,172 at the end of June - an increase of 1061 homes on a year ago. Steve Maharey said while 190,000 New Zealanders already call a state house home, the government wants to add another 1000 state houses in this financial year, and more than 3,000 by 2008. Steve Maharey said the government had turned around a major shortage in state homes after the National government sold 13,000 state houses during the 1990s. The Labour-led government had prioritised the restoration of affordable state housing and the commitment to this investment, including $134 million boost in this year's budget, would continue, he said.
Government ministers Steve Maharey and Taito Phillip Field this week celebrated the success of a strategy that aimed to halve unemployment among Pacific people. The Pacific Wave strategy was launched in 2003 when more than 5000 unemployed people in the Auckland region were on the dole. Its aim to halve that figure was achieved in April, two months ahead of schedule. By the end of June there were 2622 Pacific people on the unemployment benefit - a drop of 52.6 per cent over two years. Taito Field said working with the Pacific community had been a key to the plan's success.