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    Letter No.75
    24 March 1998

    2 March 1998

    Auckland CBD business people caught in the electricity crisis say that businesses are running at about 10-15% of normal capacity. Council proposals to dropping penalties on late rates payments, limit free parking and rent relief for those in council-owned properties is described by business owners as too little and too late.

    Telecom is likely to contract out its answering services at a cost of 630 jobs.

    The Sheffield Consulting Group says that NZ senior executive mean salary packages of $173,000 are too low to attract top talent.

    The ANZ expects the Asian crisis to trim between $500 - $750 million off NZ exports this year, a drop of 0.5%.

    The university vice-chancellors' committee says that nearly 60% of university graduates have found full time jobs and 20% are working part-time.

    3 March 1998

    According to a letter sent from Mercury Energy to the Auckland City Council in March 1996, the cables servicing the CBD were known to be "unreliable" and had a "history of leakage."

    Judith Aitken, chief review officer for the Education Review Office, says that staff training and teachers union meetings are eroding student learning time.

    North Health issues a report on socio-economic inequalities that finds 40% of the deaths in its area were a result of conditions that could have been treated earlier.

    Housing New Zealand posts a $59.98 million profit for the period between July and December last year. This includes property sales of $28.37m.

    5 March 1998

    Mercury Energy chief executive Wayne Gilbert announces the Auckland CBD will be at least seven weeks without full electrical services, after the first attempt to repair cables was unsuccessful. The power crisis is expected to cost the country at least $600 million.

    ANZ will trim staff numbers by 600 in NZ (and 1,700 in Australia) by replacing tellers with computers, in a programme called "the branch of the future."

    The coalition government looks set to purchase a third frigate. The Whangarei region is expected to benefit by $25 - $30m on account of the decision.

    Sixty Victoria University students have retreated from their occupation of the university's finance office after vice-chancellor Les Holborow agrees to issue a statement saying student fee increases were largely a result of government under-funding.

    6 March 1998

    Jenny Shipley advises businesses in the Auckland CBD not to expect government assistance and to look instead to suing Mercury Energy. She says that blaming corporatisation for the Auckland power crisis is a "cute interpretation". Shipley: "This is a Community Trust that has got into a pickle."

    The nation's 20,000 primary school teachers have achieved pay parity with secondary teachers. Primary teachers will gain an average 11% increase.

    Labour's Trevor Mallard reads a letter to the House from Freyberg Memorial Community School to student's parents which included an invoice for class levies, curriculum support levies and school fees. The letter includes a statement that outstanding payments "will be handed over to Bay Collection."

    Statistics NZ states that residential building construction is 5.2% higher than the same quarter two years ago, while commercial construction is down 10.1%.

    The release of the Biannual Overview of Benefit Trends, prepared by Income Support, shows that the number on benefits has increased by almost 10,000 people on last year.

    There is a 5 to 1 opposition to Max Bradford's proposed changes to the statutory holidays regime, according the National Business Review Consultus poll.

    Unemployment in the United States went back to 4.6% again in February.

    7 March 1998

    200 Telecom technical staff will be laid off at the end of this month following a similar number laid off in October. Telecom's Peter Brittenden says the work has been contracted out.

    Ashburton squash grower Greg Lovett is employing 16 prisoners, paying them the going rate, to pick squash, after not being able to recruit locals to do the job.

    New tax rate cards sent to employers detail an increase of 71% in the ACC workers premium.

    Roger Sowry announces a cost of living increase for benefits of less than 1%, the same amount as measured by the consumer price index, to begin on April 1st.

    Bill Birch states that further tax cuts are not a case of "if", but of "when".

    The Code of Social Responsibility is particularly important to Maori, according to Winston Peters. Peters: "Handouts cost us dearly in taxes. They cost our people even more by trapping them in a cycle of poverty and despair so we need to encourage Maori to work hard, to get a good education, to build a future and attain a higher standard of living"

    The construction of a new plywood factory has begun at Kennington, near Invercargill by a Kiwi/Danish joint venture. 60-80 new jobs are expected to be created the first year with as many as 400 jobs created in five years time.

    Alcatel, one of Masterton's bigger manufacturing employer announces it will stop production on April 9th with the loss of 89 jobs. This brings the number of jobs lost in the Wairarapa in the past year to nearly 550.

    9 March 1998

    Tuariki Delamere foresees a time when New Zealand has just three tertiary hospitals to provide the most complex surgery.

    International Working Women's Day commemorates an 1857 street demonstration by women in New York demanding equal pay, child care, better working conditions and the right to form a union.

    Angela Foulkes of the CTU, citing the Code of Responsibility's bid for better parenting, calls on all MPs to support a bill guaranteeing women 12 weeks paid leave when their children are born.

    Peter Troughton, the British privatisation expert who 10 years ago was the first managing director of Telecom NZ, has returned to chair the establishment board of Trans Power, direct the Crown Health Enterprise Development Unit and work on the state-owned enterprise steering committee.

    A lobby group of small businesses committed to getting compensated from Mercury Energy opens its campaign headquarters and employs a full-time staff.

    10 March 1998

    Maurice Williamson says he will embark on series of meetings, if the public is interested and invites him, to discuss the proposed roading changes which include the recommendation that between four and six roading companies be established to run NZ's roads on a commercial basis.

    Internal Affairs announces NZ'ers put $1.7 billion through the slots of gaming machines in pubs in 1997, not including those in casinos. This is nearly $566 for every man, woman and child. The government received $70m in tax from this.

    Winston Peters launches a legal challenge of Sir Ronald Davison's winebox findings.

    The first National Certificates of Educational Achievement, the national framework qualification designed to eventually replace 6th form certificate and bursary, are awarded to thirteen students at Opunake High School.

    The Indonesia rupiah drops another 17% today as the IMF refuses to disperse its next bailout installment, citing the hesitation of the Indonesian government to implement economic reforms.

    China's parliament votes to cut 15 ministries and millions of jobs. Until now, 33 million people have been working for the Chinese government.

    11 March 1998

    Two seafarers who lost their jobs in the collapse of South Pacific Shipping last month are removed and banned from parliament for two years after throwing hundreds of leaflets into the House from the visitor's gallery.

    Bill Birch tells fiscal planners in Wellington that the only real threat to growth in the NZ economy is pessimism.

    World oil prices have reached their lowest point in four years.

    Thailand's banking crisis has been eased by the introduction of US$1.7 billion in international bank loans.

    12 March 1998

    The government is receiving proposals to introduce elements of competition into ACC.

    Urban Maori authorities say they are going to court to gain a 10% share of the Maori fishing assets settlement.

    13 March 1998

    Students from Victoria University opposed to the privatisation of education march on the Ministry of Education and then to parliament.

    The Educational Review Office releases a report saying the trend of mothers re-entering the paid work force is threatening the future of parent managed and staffed play-centres.

    Hospital chiefs have greeted with disbelief a document produced by health officials which calls for the elimination of elective surgery at any hospital which services less than 75,000 people.

    The British government has sold one billion pounds of student debt to NatWest Bank.

    15 March 1998

    Volunteer Week begins today. Volunteers are being asked to record their hours of work during this week and put a dollar value to them and send an invoice to the Prime Minister.

    16 March 1998

    The Alliance announces it will join an international parliamentary campaign against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment.

    At Act's annual conference, Richard Prebble says he wants to slash "billions of dollars" from the social welfare budget _ cutting the numbers of beneficiaries from 365,000, excluding superannuitants, to fewer than 150,000 people.

    17 March 1998

    Former PM Jim Bolger gives a warning to his party at the announcement of the National candidate for the upcoming Taranaki/King Country bi-election: "We must not engage in a contest as to who can be the meanest party, the meanest personality we mustn't do that. The concern for the few that may abuse systems should not blind us to those who need our help. A mean-spirited New Zealand will not solve any problems"

    The government appears to be giving up its proposal that workers be allowed to "sell" one week of their annual holidays. The government may still push for workers to be able to "sell" their eleven statutory holidays.

    18 March 1998

    The Reserve Bank eases monetary conditions in order to help the economy absorb the impact of the Asian financial crisis.

    Secondary teachers union negotiating team plan a national strike for April 2nd in protest about their industrial negotiations with the ministry.

    19 March 1998

    The government announces the minimum wage rate will remain at $7/hr. for adults and $4.20/hr for youths. Max Bradford cites the Asian economic downturn as reason not to go ahead with the coalition government agreement to raise the hourly rate to $7.50.

    British Finance Chancellor Gordon Brown unveils a "New Deal" budget designed to get people off welfare and into work. In a proposal similar to NZ's Independent Family Tax Credit, the Labour government will now guarantee a family where someone is working an income of £180 a week, and no income tax will be paid on earnings less than £220 a week. Brown: "Because in future work will pay, those with an offer of work can have no excuse for staying home on benefits"

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