Beehive Bulletin Friday 26 September
BEEHIVE BULLETIN – FRIDAY 26 SEPTEMBER
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Public access meetings underway
Meetings began this week seeking public feedback on proposals to clarify and enhance public walking access over private land, riverbanks, lake and coastal foreshores. The Government has organised 25 meetings and hui around New Zealand following the recent release of the report of the Land Access Ministerial Reference Group. Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton says it's an opportunity for anyone to tell the Government their views on walking access to land. Meanwhile, Ministers concluded a series of 11 hui organized to put the government's foreshore and seabed proposals to Maori and hear their views. Government MPs and Ministers are continuing to attend 45 other public meetings, where they are outlining the concepts of foreshore being in the public domain and the protection of Maori customary rights. Submissions close on October 3.
Government signals further measures against methamphetamine
Methamphetamine is an evil the Government has committed significant resources to combating, says the Chair of the Ministerial Committee on Drugs, Jim Anderton. A United Nations report suggests the use of amphetamine-type drugs in New Zealand is among the highest in the world. The Government's Methamphetamine Action Plan, released in May, has a 19-point strategy to counter P, including greater search and seizure powers for police, increased powers for Customs, improved community education and more comprehensive drug monitoring surveillance data. This year's budget saw more money for Police and Customs initiatives and methamphetamine has been reclassified as a Class A drug. Further announcements to deal with P are due in the near future, says Jim Anderton.
New power plant confirmed for Hawkes Bay
The Government is proceeding with plans to build a new 155 megawatt power plant at Whirinaki, Hawke's Bay. Investigations of possible alternative sites in the South Island did not produce an option that would allow the plant to be built before next winter. Energy Minister Pete Hodgson says there would have been advantages to siting the plant in the South Island but the higher priority is to have it ready to generate electricity next winter if it is needed. The new oil-fired plant at Whirinaki is expected to be ready to generate by the end of May next year. Contact Energy will manage the construction and operation of the plant with major foundation works due to begin in October. The plant will cost about $150 million to build. The cost will be recovered through a levy, equating to less than $5 a year for the average household.
NZDF reconstruction roles in Iraq and Afghanistan
Prime Minister Helen Clark and Defence Minister Mark Burton have farewelled 53 New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel deploying to Southeast Iraq. The group, which included 35 engineers, will undertake humanitarian and reconstruction work alongside a United Kingdom engineering unit under the auspices of UN Resolution 1483. Their work will include the repair and refurbishment of hospitals, health clinics, schools, municipal and government buildings, and restoring electricity and water pipelines. Meanwhile, a New Zealand Defence Force contingent this week took leadership of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan's Bamian Province from the United States.
Operation Ark launched to save endangered birds
Predator control programmes larger than anything previously attempted by the Department of Conservation are being developed to protect New Zealand's most threatened forest birds. Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced Operation Ark, designed to blunt the impact of sudden plagues of rats and stoats that in the past two years have devastated the populations of the orange-fronted kakariki and the mohua (yellowhead). Operation Ark will involve identifying up to 10 key sites or arks in beech forests throughout the South Island, which are home to severely threatened species. By next September, DOC plans to have prepared and obtained all the necessary resource consents, licenses and approvals for use of a full arsenal of plague responses in these areas.
Stronger than expected financial results auger well
The final outturn for the 2002-2003 financial year shows a significant shift since the budget forecasts were signed off in late April. Acting Finance Minister Trevor Mallard says the OBERAC [Operating Balance Excluding Revaluations and Accounting Changes] has come in at $5.6 billion, around $1.5 billion above the budget night forecast, reflecting higher tax revenues, delays in spending and higher State Owned Enterprise and Crown entity surpluses. Trevor Mallard says the stronger than expected results, if maintained and if other conditions permit, auger well for the government to deliver an assistance package to low to middle income families and incentives to assist people to move from welfare to work, signalled in the budget speech.
More major regional initiatives needed
The regions of New Zealand are being challenged to step up their commitment to major regional initiatives. Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton told the regional development conference in Timaru that eight regions had received up to $2 million in matching funds for major regional initiatives, such as a wood processing centre of excellence in Rotorua, a wine centre of excellence in Marlborough and an Innovation Park in Hamilton. Some regions had not completed a major regional initiative when others begin their second. Jim Anderton says New Zealand needs a series of major strategic projects around its 26 regions.