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ACC price hikes unstoppable


 ACC price hikes unstoppable


Pain at the pumps is set to continue, with ACC levies increasing by 2.1 cents per litre.  Your car registration costs are also going up to cover increased ACC costs.  Things are set to become even harder for families already struggling in today’s tough conditions.

National has opposed these increases since they were first proposed, and we made submissions against them during ACC’s consultation process.  Our submission went unacknowledged.  The Labour Government sneakily announced these changes  right before Christmas and they went largely unnoticed in the festive season. 

Our opposition to the increases was because ACC gave little information as to why they were so big.  It smacks of arrogance that we are still waiting to know why we have to pay so much more. 

The Department of Labour (DoL), which oversees ACC, raised serious concerns about the corporation in a recent review, saying it is  worried about the lack of a strategic planning focus on the legal requirement that ACC is to fully fund its future claims liability by 2014.

With the release of the recent Budget, select committees had the chance to grill Ministers on departmental planned spending for the forthcoming year, and  I took the opportunity to ask ACC Minister Maryan Street what ACC was doing to address the concerns around lack of strategy.  Not surprisingly, I am still waiting for an answer.

Currently, ACC’s unfunded liability is around $4 billion.  In its review, DoL says there is a limited amount of detailed data on claimant analysis to help plan for future claims liability.  The review also reveals there is an emerging trend that cost and claim management, particularly for serious injuries, is not

This has not put the Minister off introducing further costs to ACC despite the major holes revealed by DoL.  Last night, a bill was passed which introduces new cover for mental injury arising from traumatic events in the workplace.  During the debate on this bill, the Minister admitted that neither she nor ACC had any idea as to how much the new provisions will cost, and was more focused on her assertion that New Zealand was leading the way in providing this type of cover. 

The estimated costs of covering this sort of mental injury range between $7.6 million and $72.2 million a year and even then that that’s taking a wild guess.  While Ms Street is unable to give a better estimate to taxpayers, she seems sure there won’t be too many claims.  The Employers and Manufacturers Union (Northern) has pointed out that under the new law, the son of the late Joanne Wang, who saw his mother run over in a hit-and-run, would not be covered, but witnesses working in nearby businesses would be. The Labour Government has excluded ‘non-earners’ because it would be too expensive to cover them – yet they expect employers to cover workers.

The bill also includes provisions to cover self-inflicted injuries and suicide.  The Labour Government is effectively sending a message that this sort of behaviour is okay.  While they are more than happy to get rid of tuck shops, ban unhealthy food, and stamp out smoking, they think it’s okay for people to harm themselves.  This seems bizarre given that one of ACC’s objectives is to reduce injuries, not encourage them.

While the bill for taxpayers grows larger, the corporation is being led by a Minister who doesn’t care and is more than happy to pass into law ill-conceived policies.  Where does the buck stop?

Pansy Wong  



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