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Beehive Bulletin December 11 2006

Beehive Bulletin December 11 2006

Package for Viet Nam veterans

Package for Viet Nam veterans Viet Nam veterans exposed to Agent Orange will get an apology from the Prime Minister and compensation, as part of a $30 million package unveiled this week. The package, announced by Defence Minister Phil Goff and Veterans' Affairs Minister Rick Barker, comes more than 30 years after the veterans were exposed to the defoliant. It includes ex-gratia payments of $40,000 for veterans suffering a prescribed condition, and $25,000 for spouses of veterans who died from a prescribed condition.

There will also be a welcome parade that the servicemen never got when they returned home from the Viet Nam war. The package acknowledges in concrete terms that service personnel in Viet Nam and their families have been exposed to, and continue to be affected by, a toxic environment. About 3400 Kiwis served in the Viet Nam war. The Ministers said it would take time for the healing process to work but the process can now begin. More details here.

End date for treaty claims

Parliament passed the Treaty of Waitangi Amendment Act this week signalling a major milestone for the Treaty settlement process. The Act sets a closing date of 1 September 2008 for lodging all historical Treaty of Waitangi claims with the Waitangi Tribunal and follows through on Labour's pledge before the last election. Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia said the close-off date will give claimant groups, the Waitangi Tribunal, the government, and all New Zealanders greater certainty about the number and scope of historical claims still to be settled.

By the closing date, potential claimants will have had over 20 years to submit their historical claims to the Waitangi Tribunal. Treaty Negotiations Minister Mark Burton said the Act will help bring a comprehensive, final, and durable resolution of all historical Treaty claims which the government is targeting to achieve by 2020. More details here.

Money for rural midwives

The Labour-led government is investing $2 million a year, from 2007, to support rural midwives. Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor said the money will be allocated to rural midwives through the rural ranking scale - similar to rural funding for rural GPs. Damien O'Connor says midwives are vital to the rural health workforce and the government wants to encourage new midwives and retain the existing workforce.

As well as the funding, a pilot scheme will be trialed to support the services that midwives provide in remote rural locations. Professional development and continuing education relief and short-term locum funding will also be trialed. The latest initiatives build on work already announced including, a funding increase for midwives, a new $4 million programme to support first-year graduate midwives. Since 2005, the government has introduced new measures worth around $100 million to improve health services to rural areas. More details here.

End of older driver tests

Older drivers no longer have to undergo a mandatory, age-based driving test, under a new system welcomed by Prime Minister Helen Clark this week. The age-based test required people aged 80 years plus to be tested for every two years. Abolishing that law delivers on Labour's promise and allows older New Zealanders to be independent, Helen Clark said. It also removes the stress of taking the test without unduly compromising road safety. The new system is based on medical certificates for driver licences.

The government is also allocating $550,000 to expand the popular 'Safe With Age' driver refresher course and anyone who attends this course will be eligible for a subsidised private on-road driving lesson from 2007. More details here.

Strengthened truancy service

Truancy services will get a $2 million funding boost over the next four years following a year-long review of District Truancy Service. A sharpening of the service's role will be supported by better information to schools and parents, as well as an improved process for referrals to other agencies where needed, Education Minister Steve Maharey said. Changes will also support services that are more responsive to local needs and extended funding contracts will provide more certainty for services. The new service will comprise around 75 local providers, based around territorial authorities, meaning some of the 112 existing local services need to amalgamate over time, although funding levels for existing services will not be reduced. Steve Maharey says the government is investing around $10 million a year in programmes to reduce truancy rates and ensure children stay at school. More details here.

New immigration laws

Proposed changes to modernise New Zealand's 20-year-old immigration laws were unveiled this week. Immigration Minister David Cunliffe said the proposals were designed to enhance security and help recruit skilled people including a simplified visa system, more flexible powers to enforce immigration law and the ability to collect and use biometric information. The package follows a review of the existing 1987 Act. An Immigration Bill with the changes, will be drafted ready for introduction to Parliament in April 2007. More details here.

International Volunteer Day

Volunteers across all sectors and communities have been celebrated this week. Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Luamanuvao Winnie Laban says volunteers help to shape our identity as a nation as their dedication and work bring economical, cultural and social benefits for our country. That is why the government continues to invest resources in supporting volunteering. More details here.

ENDS


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