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    Letter No.117
    8 February 2000

    20 January 2000

    Restructuring of the Tainui tribe's businesses will see all 80 management jobs reviewed and many laid off. Financial advisors warn that the tribe is facing a lost of at least $23m and have told the tribe they must stop spending and get rid of loss-making investments.

    21 January 2000

    Hunger is as much a problem now in the United States as it was four years ago, even though the US is in the midst of a booming economy with falling unemployment. Larry Brown, director of Tufts University's Centre on Hunger and Poverty, says that 30m people in the US live in households that experience hunger or food insecurity. Brown also says between 20% to 30% of American workers earn so little that they have to make choices between paying the rent, paying their medical bills or buying adequate groceries.

    Minister of Customs Phillida Bunkle announces that an industrial hemp working party is to be set up. The working party will look at the viability of hemp farming and develop regulations for cultivation licences. Federated Farmers' Neil Barton says there is already an established market for industrial hemp in NZ and farmers would welcome the opportunity to grow it.

    22 January 2000

    ACT's Muriel Newman supports the Ministry of Social Policy's recommendations to give beneficiaries grants, suspend debts, and offer free child care. The ministry briefing papers says that some families who have been long-term beneficiaries need intensive help to break out of the poverty trap.

    23 January 2000

    The government will scrap compulsory budget advice sessions for people who receive more than three special needs grants. Beneficiary advocacy groups have told Steve Maharey that most people seeking the grants have a lack of income, not a problem with budgeting. Maharey says he had always thought the idea had little to offer and promises to end the scheme within six months.

    24 January 2000

    Birthday of the late Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, founder and spiritual leader of the Ratana church. In 1936, Ratana pledged Maori support to prime minister Michael Joseph Savage's government in return for Labour's commitment to improving Maori welfare and resolving grievances.

    At Ratana Pa, PM Helen Clark says she will chair a new cabinet committee which aims to close the social and economic gap between Maori and Pacific Island people and other NZ'ers. She says the growing gap is one of the greatest challenges facing the country.

    25 January 2000

    US president Clinton introduces legislation aimed at closing the gender pay gap. American women make 75% of what males make. The bill would provide funding to train agents to identify and remedy wage discrimination cases and to work on expanding job opportunities for women in non-traditional roles.

    26 January 2000

    Immigration minister Lianne Dalziel relaxes the criteria for working visas. People who meet all other immigration criteria, can now be given a work permit before they have a job lined-up. The change is a loosening of immigration policy that previously insisted a person had a job offer before they could be given a work permit.

    27 January 2000

    Minister of Finance Michael Cullen says that pensioners will get a 6.5% pay increase from April 1st. The move will bring the rate of pensions to 67% of the average wage. The previous government's policy was to stop increasing pensions, while wages rose, until the rate of pensions was eventually lowered to 60% of the average wage.

    An international management shake-up at Coca Cola will see 6,000 people lose their jobs. While no jobs will be lost in New Zealand, the job cuts amount to 20% of the Coca Cola's international workforce.

    Minister of Corrections Matt Robson visits the Far North town of Ngawha, near to the site selected by the previous minister for a new prison. Meeting both supporters and detractors of the proposed prison, Robson says he accepts that a correctional facility is needed in the area. Robson, who favours rehabilitation programmes, says it is no use sending offenders far from home when a person's family and community are the best qualified to deal with them. He says that within a few weeks he will make a decision on what type of facility it would be and where it would be located.

    28 January 2000

    The Super 2000 Taskforce, which the National government set up last year, will be disbanded. Steve Maharey says he sees no role for the taskforce as it was set up to cut the cost of superannuation and this is not part of the present government's intention.

    29 January 2000

    State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham has released another review into the Winz Wairakei incident. It says that Winz boss Christine Rankin increased the department's legal risk by saying that a suspended manager misled her. Wintringham says that the decision to suspend the manager was made swiftly because there were strong indications that fraud had been committed. Investigations by the police and the Auditor-general concluded there was no evidence of fraud in the events surrounding the Wairakei conference. The commissioner says he is confident that procedures used to reach the settlement with the former manager were prudent and proper.

    Anne Knowles becomes the new CEO of the Employers Federation. Knowles says that these are exciting times to be taking on this leading role as business hackles are already rising over the government's decisions to roll back the ACC reforms and replace the Employment Contracts Act.

    30 January 2000

    US president Bill Clinton speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an annual meeting of the world's most influential business people and policy makers. Clinton declares that the surging US economy is the role model for the rest of the world and says the globalisation of markets is the key.

    Clinton also acknowledged the thousands of people who protested the World Trade Organisation in Seattle, and those also protesting at the Davos meeting. Clinton: "We have seen and personally felt the benefits of globalisation. But convincing our publics to go along … remains the challenge".

    The NZ brain drain is favouring the United States according to professor Ian Poole of Waikato University. He says the high cost of repaying education debts, along with the lack of opportunities here, is pushing NZ's brightest science graduates to seek careers in the US.

    31 January 2000

    The Japanese government is introducing free medical examinations for people at risk of dying from overwork or "karoshi". The free exams are intended to alert people if they have the critical health conditions people can get from overwork.

    1 February 2000

    France introduces the 35-hr working week. It is greeted with protest action by truckers who create at least 49 roadblocks on key routes around France, including border crossings. The truckers say they will not get the benefits of the shorter working week.

    2 February 2000

    Steve Maharey tells Christine Rankin to dis-establish an external Winz advisory board. He says the move will help to change the culture of Winz and that the department should be heeding advice from beneficiaries not from private sector representatives.

    3 February 2000

    An updated report co-ordinated by the NZ Poverty Measurement Project confirms that one in three NZ children continue to live in poverty. The report identifies the high cost of housing as a major contributor to poverty in NZ.

    Tertiary education minister Steve Maharey confirms that the NZ Qualifications Authority will be the only organisation responsible for the national qualifications framework. The announcement ends discussions about replacing the NZQA. The NZ Association of Private Training Providers says it supports the decision and looks forward to a new focus on results, rather than endless discussions on structure.

    4 February 2000

    The Coasts Spencer Crafts knitting yarn mill will close in Mosgiel, with the loss of 141 jobs.

    6 February 2000

    Waitangi Day.

    Governor General Sir Michael Hardie Boys tells a dawn ceremony at Waitangi that the disproportionate number of young Maori people represented in negative economic and social statistics shows that the Treaty of Waitangi has not been properly honoured. Sir Michael: "Both Maori and Pakeha will have to make some sacrifices to solve disparities … the wellbeing of young Maori is crucial to the future of all New Zealanders."

    Deputy PM Jim Anderton looks set to get his own Ministry of Economic Development.

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