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Hon Steve Maharey: Maharey Notes

Maharey Notes

UNIVERSITY OF OTAGO 'LEADING THINKERS' SUPPORTED
COMMUNITY RENEWAL IN EASTERN PORIRUA
COMMENT: ALL KINDS OF FAMILIES CAN DELIVER FOR KIDS
EMPLOYERS RESPONSE CRITICAL TO MEETING SKILLS NEEDS
MORTGAGE INSURANCE SCHEME
CADET SCHEME ANNOUNCED
VERY LONG-TERM JOB SEEKERS GET NEW HELP
SCREEN COUNCIL APPOINTED
UNIVERSITY OF OTAGO 'LEADING THINKERS' SUPPORTED

The government is to invest $25 million in the University of Otago's 'Leading Thinkers' advancement programme. The Leading Thinkers programme will see the University recruiting internationally renowned academics to head up 25 new 'knowledge leader' projects. The projects will primarily build from disciplines in which the University already has acknowledged strength: health sciences; science and biotechnology; industry, business and management, and sustainability.

The funding comes from the new Partnerships for Excellence public-private sector tertiary education investment facility that enables tertiary institutions to seek matching funding from government for large-scale investment projects. The University is to seek matching funding from private sector donors.

Associate Education (Tertiary Education) Minister Steve Maharey said the Leading Thinkers advancement programme is closely aligned to the government's Tertiary Education Strategy, which aims to foster excellence, relevance and access across the tertiary education system.

The government is focusing on innovation and education as springboards for growth and development. The 'Leading Thinkers' programme has demonstrated that it will enable the University of Otago to significantly increase the contribution it is making to knowledge creation in disciplines that are vitally important for New Zealand's future social and economic development.

Meanwhile a further 11 Partnerships for Excellence project applications from eight tertiary education providers have also been received totalling $110 million. The Tertiary Education Commission will assess the proposals and decisions will be announced during the second quarter of 2004.

COMMUNITY RENEWAL IN EASTERN PORIRUA

A $3.6 million project to improve state housing in Eastern Porirua has begun. The project will see 14 three-bedroom units demolished to make way for new housing and the redesign and refurbishment of a further 10 three-bedroom units. Eastern Porirua joins four other suburbs around the country that have a high density of state housing in which Housing New Zealand Corporation is working to improve the look of the communities, as well as updating existing, and building new, homes to better meet the needs of tenants. The other communities are Aranui (Christchurch), Fordlands (Rotorua), Clendon (South Auckland) and Talbot Park (Glen Innes).

COMMENT: ALL KINDS OF FAMILIES CAN DELIVER FOR KIDS

"Debate over the past week seeking to privilege one type of family over alternative family forms risks is counter productive will do nothing to advance the well-being of children. The debate was sparked by comments I made at a conference of Strengthening Families Management Groups, where I pointed out that the most important role of families is to provide consistent love and nurturing, support and appropriate discipline to the children raised within their confines. Preferring one kind of family over others is unnecessary and at worst risks lazy stereotyping of some families which distorts the facts, blocks debate and stigmatizes those least able to defend themselves.

"The New Zealand family is changing fast. Families are now smaller and people are marrying later. Childbearing is being deferred (more couples are opting not to have children) and the divorce rate has risen steadily. There are whanau, extended families, reconstituted families, blended families, grandparents looking after grandchildren and families that reflect the many new cultures that have made New Zealand home. Concern about change and diversity has led to arguments in favour of the "traditional nuclear family" against all other family forms.

"I have no doubt that children benefit from spending their childhood with their own natural parents who live together in reasonable harmony, just as they suffer from parental conflict and the separation which often results. But I do have a problem when this argument extends to condemnation of other family forms." Steve Maharey.

EMPLOYERS RESPONSE CRITICAL TO MEETING SKILLS NEEDS

New Zealand's buoyant economy has reduced unemployment to a 16-year low of 4.4 per cent. However, a natural consequence of the rapid growth in employment and fall in unemployment is the emergence of skill shortages that are currently causing some businesses difficulty when looking for new staff. While employer surveys show that skilled or specialist positions are hardest to fill, unskilled and semi-skilled jobs are increasingly difficult to fill. Building and services and occupations common in these industries such as trades and professionals are where staff shortages are being felt the most.

With skill shortages forecast to remain high for the year ahead, decisive strategies are needed which is why this government is co-ordinating a response strategy for skill shortages across several fronts of the labour market. These co-ordinated efforts to respond to our skills shortages include raising participation in the labour force, wage and productivity growth, skilled migration, education and training and government policy.

Business and employers have their part to play too. Employment practices which attract and retain workers ? paying competitive wages and salaries - and non-wage benefits such as good working conditions and good employer practices - flexible working hours and family friendly polices - can help. Firms can also increase the productivity of their existing workforce by investing in additional capital and training.

On the web:

read the Department of Labour's Skills in the Labour Market November 2003 report at http://www.dol.govt.nz/lmr-Skills.asp appendices to the report are available at http://www.dol.govt.nz/sap-reports.asp

MORTGAGE INSURANCE SCHEME

Housing Minister Steve Maharey last Friday visited Feilding residents Brendan O'Hagan and Lisa Mandy, who are among the first to buy a home using the Kiwibank and Housing New Zealand Corporation mortgage insurance scheme. The couple have bought the home they have rented for the last 10 years, which their landlord had put up for sale. They had previously been unable to save a deposit. The two-year pilot programme has proved extremely popular with over 9,000 loan application packs issued, leading to 1,300 applications and 210 approved loans to date. Approximately 1,800 loans are expected to be approved during the trial.

CADET SCHEME ANNOUNCED

A public sector cadetship programme for school leavers was announced this week, reinstating a career path disestablished after the state sector reforms of the 1980s. One hundred cadets are to be taken on by the Ministry of Social Development's Work and Income service to be trained as case managers. Associate Social Development and Employment Minister Rick Barker said the scheme provide young people with a career path in the public sector and quality training linked to Modern Apprenticeships.

cadets will be employed throughout the country and young people interested in applying to become cadets with Work and Income should call 0508 CADETS (0508 223 387).

VERY LONG-TERM JOB SEEKERS GET NEW HELP

An agreement signed this week between Dunedin health practitioners Activ8 and Work and Income will vocationally assess city residents who have been in receipt of an unemployment benefit for more than 8 years. The programme is part of the Jobs Jolt package of initiatives. A pilot programme undertaken by Ranworth Healthcare earlier this year showed that vocational assessments followed by intensive Work and Income case management brings excellent results ? 62% of the clients moved into employment or training.

The number of registered as unemployed for eight years plus has reduced in Dunedin from 101 in November 1999 to 53 in October 2003. This compares with a nation wide reduction from 3060 to 1753 for the same period.

SCREEN COUNCIL APPOINTED

Television industry figures feature amongst the membership of the newly established Screen Council. The Council will provide a leadership voice for the sector, oversee the implementation of the Screen Production Taskforce report's recommendations and provide ongoing independent advice to the government on the sector's development. The inaugural Council are: Brent Harman (Chair, Prime Television), Michael Stedman (Natural History New Zealand), Ian Fraser (Television New Zealand), John Barnett (South Pacific Pictures), Nicole Hoey (Cinco Cine Productions and SPADA President), Julie Christie (Touchdown Television), Bill Birnie (New Zealand Film Commission), Ian Taylor (Taylor-Made Media and Animation Research), Wendy Palmer (Film Production Fund trustee), Barrie Osborne (Lord of the Rings executive producer), and Geoff Dixon (Silverscreen/Oktober).

ENDS


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