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Beehive Bulletin - June 30 2006

Beehive Bulletin - June 30 2006

July 1 initiatives improve families living standards

Prime Minister Helen Clark has announced that families and mid-life and older New Zealanders will benefit from a series of new initiatives which come into effect on 1 July.

Primary health subsidies are being extended to the 45 to 64 age group, meaning cheaper doctor visits and prescription charges are now available to all New Zealanders aged 45 plus and under 25 who are enrolled with a Primary Health Organisation.

The government is increasing the maximum annual rates rebate from $200 to $500 and widening the eligibility for assistance to more households on low and modest incomes. For example, a single superannuitant on an income of $16,645, with rates of $1,000 or more will be eligible for the full rebate of $500.

All superannuitants with a spouse or partner in long-term residential care will be eligible to be paid the single, living alone rate of New Zealand Super. This is an increase of up to $59 a week - or over $3000 a year - for those superannuitants living alone whose partners are not in unsubsidised care, and who have been paid at a lower rate.

The next stage in the phase out of income and asset testing for people in aged residential care comes into effect on 1 July. Single people and couples with both partners in care will be able to keep up to $160,000 - up from $150,000 currently - in assets before they are used to contribute to the cost of their care. The exemption thresholds will increase by $10,000 each year, progressively removing asset testing.

The removal of the 'sharing expenses rule' takes effect. In the past, this rule has prevented some single superannuitants from receiving the Living Alone payment if their families are helping with household expenses, such as rates. The government is also extending the period of time during which a person can continue to receive superannuation while they are working voluntarily for an aid agency overseas, from one to three years.

Self-employed parents will be eligible for 14 weeks paid parental leave from 1 July this year, bringing greater flexibility and equity to the workplace and additional support for working parents. Paid parental leave for employees has been available since 2002, and will now be extended to a range of self-employed people, including farming families. The rate will also increase from a maximum of $357.30 (before tax) to $372.12 per week.

Early childhood education centres will get a big boost to their funding rates from 1 July to enable them to employ more qualified teachers. The government is investing $30 million over the next four years as part of a drive to lift quality in early childhood teaching

"The measures taking effect from July 1 will give greater security to families, young and old," said Helen Clark.

"These are all measures which come into force because our Labour-led government believes in investing in opportunity and security for New Zealand families.

"Over the past six-and-a-half years, we have been prepared to invest back into services and support for families, young and old, as the economy has grown. We believe that the rising tide should lift every boat. Our 1 July initiatives are a practical demonstration of our philosophy in action," Helen Clark said.

Transport spend set to top $24 billion

Transport spending over the next ten years is set to top $24 billion following Land Transport New Zealand's publication of the latest National Land Transport Programme (NLTP). Transport Minister Annette King says the increased spending means that projects previously facing deferral have now been given the green light. "It wasn't acceptable to this Government to defer NLTP projects.

The $1.3 billion funding package announced as part of Budget 2006 eliminated the shortfall and ensured the necessary revenue to deliver the Programme. The Government is committed to New Zealand's economic transformation and progress, and there is no better illustration of that than the latest NLTP," said Ms King.

The Budget also provided further certainty for delivery of state highway construction with a five-year funding guarantee, and also guarantees revenue for other land transport activity, including local road construction activity, public transport services and maintenance of the roading network. "A sustainable and effective

$66 million for new public hospitals

The Labour-led government will continue its historic hospital building programme with a $66 million capital investment that will allow for redevelopments of both Wanganui and Wairau hospitals, Health Minister Pete Hodgson has announced. "All New Zealand communities deserve world class public hospital facilities," Pete Hodgson said. "When Labour came into office six and a half years ago, our heath infrastructure was in tatters after nearly a decade of under-investment.

"Climbing back from that has required a massive capital investment of well over a billion dollars and the largest public hospital building programme in New Zealand's history. We've built new public hospitals from Kaitaia to Invercargill. I'm pleased that we can now add Wanganui and Wairau to that list." The Wairau redevelopment at Blenheim is a $36.7 million project with government contributing an additional $12.5 million on top of $24 million of public funding from the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board. In Wanganui, the government has

Consumers and architects to benefit from new rules

Building Issues Minister Clayton has announced that new rules governing the registration, ongoing training and discipline of architects come into force from 1 July, bringing significant benefits both to the profession and consumers. A new public register of architects has been established under the Registered Architects Act 2005.

The Act aims to maintain high standards in the profession, improve consumer protection, and raise the status of registered architects by differentiating them from other design professionals, such as architectural designers. "Good buildings start with good design. These changes ensure architects are competent at their job, and undergo regular training to keep up to date with the latest innovative design solutions and any industry changes," Mr Cosgrove said. The register will be held by the NZRAB, and be publicly available online from early July 2006. The Act also offers greater consumer protection with an improved disciplinary process to deal with incompetence, negligence and uneth

Multi-party group for action on violence within families

Parliament is committed to ending family violence in New Zealand homes, with the first multi-party meeting on family violence, Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia announced this week.

Members from across the political spectrum were briefed on government actions including the Te Rito New Zealand Family Violence Prevention Strategy (initiated in 2002), and the interagency Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families, which was established in 2005 to build on Te Rito and strengthen the response to family violence. This Taskforce will be reporting back in mid July. MPs will reconvene then to discuss the recommendations.

Goff Announces New Army Capability

The New Zealand Army has increased its inventory of world-class equipment with the delivery of 24 Javelin medium range anti-armoured weapons, Defence Minister Phil Goff announced this week. The new weapon systems are part of the Army's $26 million dollar modernisation project approved by the Government in 2001.

"The Javelin is a state of the art and technologically advanced anti-armoured weapon, effective in destroying any armoured vehicle out to a range of 2500m," said Mr Goff. "The introduction of the Javelin enhances the protection of the Army's soldiers, vehicles and equipment. The Javelin's optics and thermal imaging capabilities enable it to locate and accurately engage targets by day and night. The Javelin missile is effective against bunkers, buildings, boats and helicopters, as well as armoured vehicles."

More industry training eases skill shortages

The number of people achieving qualifications in the 14 trades monitored has almost doubled from 1600 in 2001 to 3000 in 2005, and the number of people in training doubled from 8000 in 2001 to 16000 in 2005, according to reports released by the Department of Labour this week.

"This impressive growth in qualification achievement is likely to continue over the next few years as the number of people enrolling in courses continues to increase," Social Development and Employment Minister David Benson-Pope said this week. "The Labour-led government introduced Modern Apprenticeships and remains committed to building a skilled and productive workforce that can contribute to the social and economic development of New Zealand," said Mr Benson-Pope. The reports can be viewed on the Department of Labour's website: http://dol.govt.nz/jvm/

ENDS

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