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Beehive Bulletin 15 December 2006

Beehive Bulletin 15 December 2006

Landmark broadband bill passed

The government's drive to transform New Zealand's economy to a high wage, knowledge based economy took a leap forward this week with the passing of legislation to bring New Zealanders faster, better broadband. The legislation promotes competition and equal access to wholesale services and brings New Zealand into line with international best practice by unbundling the local telephone loop, removing restrictions on existing services and empowering the Telecommunications Commissioner ensure regulatory compliance.

New Tertiary Strategy launched

The new Tertiary Education Strategy further underlines the government's determination to equip New Zealanders with the skills needed to drive economic transformation in the 21st Century. The Strategy makes significant progress towards a new tertiary funding system that better links the worlds of learning and work, and sets the government's expectations and priorities for the tertiary education system over the next five years. The Strategy will guide the Tertiary Education Commission's investment decision process in order to maximise tertiary education's contribution to our national goals and priorities.

Pandemic legislation passes unanimously

New Zealand's internationally praised preparation for a possible flu pandemic took another step forward this week with a new Law giving government the powers to respond to a major outbreak of an infectious disease. New Zealanders have an expectation that government can and will respond effectively to major health emergencies, and the Epidemic Preparedness Bill will reassure the public that their confidence is not misplaced. As part of our work to prepare for a flu pandemic, the government identified a number of gaps in previous legislation, including the Health Act 1956. Outbreaks of infectious diseases pose different challenges today than they did 50 years ago, and the bill reflects the need for need legal powers that better acknowledge modern realities.

Energy strategy points to sustainable path

A sustainable and affordable energy system which minimises greenhouse gas emissions and will give New Zealand an enduring competitive advantage are key aims of the government's draft energy strategy released this week. The strategy proposes a series of long-term programmes that will work with current measures to make a significant difference to energy security and greenhouse gas emissions. These proposals could put us on a path to carbon neutrality, and are crucial to transforming our economy, and to New Zealand's identity as a clean, green nation. The closing date for submissions on the draft strategy is 30 March 2007.

Full sugar fizzy drinks out of schools by 2009

Full sugar fizzy and energy drinks will be removed from secondary schools by 2009 under a world-leading agreement between the government and two of New Zealand's biggest beverage companies. The agreement with Coca Cola Amatil and Frucor will see the removal of 1.1 million litres of full sugar beverages from schools over the next three years. This agreement forms only a small part of what will be necessary to address the growing challenge of raising healthier New Zealanders, but shows that the government and the food industry are serious about playing our part.

The agreement follows the launch of the government's Mission-On package of initiatives to improve the quality of food served in schools, reduce children's exposure to advertising of unhealthy food and promote physical activity.

Further help for saving as KiwiSaver tax exemption extended

The tax exemption for employer contributions to KiwiSaver will be extended to other registered superannuation schemes, helping New Zealanders save more for their future. Employer contributions to registered schemes will be exempt from tax for amounts of up to 4 per cent of an employee's gross salary. By making employer contributions tax free, we are making it even more attractive for workers to save as their balances will grow much quicker with an employer subsidy whether they opt for KiwiSaver or stay in an existing scheme. The tax exemption will be available only for contributions to schemes that have lock-in rules similar to those of KiwiSaver, and will apply from 1 July 2007, when KiwiSaver begins.

"Spaghetti junction" opening gets Auckland moving

The official opening of the $200 million Central Motorway Junction will help get Auckland moving by reducing congestion, making travel times more predictable, providing missing cross-city connections and improve access to public transport. While the reduction in travel times and new city connections will be a relief for motorists, this project also signals major advances in the government's commitment to economic transformation and ensuring that Auckland can grow into a world-class international city. The government is committed to investing in transport infrastructure and this financial year a record $2.3 billion has been allocated for transport spending.

ENDS

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