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    Letter No.123
    12 May, 2000

    22 April 2000

    Earth Day. Thirtieth anniversary of the world-wide environmental action day.

    23 April 2000

    A steering group has been set up to investigate options for an overhaul of Winz. The group is made up of officials from Treasury and the PM's department, and their investigation is further to the Ministerial Review into the Department of Work and Income New Zealand being done by former State Services Commissioner Don Hunn. Social Services Minister Steve Maharey says the investigations are going on concurrently so that there will be no delay in acting on the Hunn report soon after it is presented.

    To address the shortage of information technology workers in the US, a congressional committee votes to suspend visa limits for foreign information technology workers.

    24 April 2000

    Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton says the government is working to eliminate the obstacles to exporting possum meat to China. NZ companies unsuccessfully tried to break into the Chinese market in the 1980's, and Bruce Mulligan, director of Exotic Game Meats, says that this push may succeed now because the industry has never before had the support from such a high level of government.

    National's Belinda Vernon says that the Hunn report is a waste of taxpayer money. She argues that Steve Maharey's recent comments indicate that he has already made up his mind on what he going to do with Winz.

    25 April 2000

    Forestry companies in the Far North and the East Cape are finding it difficult to recruit workers. The timber companies, who laid-off staff three years ago in the wake of the Asian financial crisis, say that despite the high levels of unemployment, skilled and dependable forestry workers are in short supply. The companies speculate that the lack of workers is related to the lucrative cannabis industry which pulls people away from doing legal work.

    Tertiary Education Minister Steve Maharey orders an investigation into the student loan processing problems. The investigation will consult with students' associations, tertiary institutions and government agencies.

    26 April 2000

    New jobs are predicted as a result of infrastructure development in East Tamaki. Manukau City Council economic forecasters say 3,900 jobs will be created over the next six years as the result of improved roading access and the setting up of an industrial park. Further industrial land development has been approved for the Waiouru Pennisula in Manukau with even larger employment gains expected.

    27 April 2000

    A Department of Labour briefing paper released under the Official Information Act indicates the government has been advised that a 12-week employer funded paid parental leave policy would cost the country about 1,000 jobs. The Alliance policy seems unlikely to become law as Labour's policy is for six weeks paid leave.

    The Ministry of Education research division finds that two-thirds of the overseas teachers who have come to NZ in the past few years want to stay on after their contracts end.

    30 April 2000

    Workplace legislation requiring large firms to have Equal Employment Opportunity policies will be introduced later this year. Currently, only government departments are required to have EEO policies. Helen Clark says the legislation would be aimed at making it easier for women to get promotions, although the new law would not try to make pay equity between occupations enforceable. Clark : "We will not get action on equal opportunity programmes in the private sector unless we legislate, we know that that's the story of the 90's".

    1 May 2000

    International Labour Day.

    The Pope expresses concern for the unemployed, the underemployed and the under-paid. Pope John Paul: "It invites us to face the economic and social imbalances that exist in the world of work and re-establish a correct hierarchy of values, where the dignity of men and women who work, their freedom, responsibility and participation assume top priority..."

    Delays in processing student loans are causing financial problems for some polytechs. Taranaki Polytechnic CEO John Billinghurst says the polytech has $440,000 in tuition fees owing to it due to student loans that have not been finalised. Waikato Polytechnic's David Rawlence estimates that student loan and allowance delays have cost his institution $2.16m as 300 students cancelled their enrollments this year.

    Laying off 443 staff has helped the Australian-based ANZ bank lift profits by 14%.

    Trevor Mallard gives Don Hunn a "short" extension for the completion of his Winz review.

    2 May 2000

    National MP Roger Sowry says that the government is pressuring Don Hunn to make recommendations about Winz that are in line with the government's thinking on the agency. Sowry says the government wants the Hunn report to recommend a split between the employment and income support functions of Winz.

    Act MP Muriel Newman asks that the government release the Hunn report, "warts and all", rather than allowing Winz management and their lawyers the opportunity to water it down.

    3 May 2000

    Steve Maharey tells the social services select committee that the benefit system is too complicated and is one reason why frontline Winz staff make mistakes. Maharey says he wants to simplify the system, and he will introduce a new abatement schedule over the next year that will encourage people to work.

    Winz staff received $4.36m in performance payments last year.

    4 May 2000

    Statistics NZ releases employment figures for the first quarter of the year. While expectations had been for a drop in unemployment, the rate rose from 6.3% to 6.4%. See our special Statistics That Matter feature in this issue.

    5 May 2000

    The Community Trust of Otago and six regional, city and district councils are looking at forming a new region-wide economic development agency. Trust chairperson Clive Matthewson says the new organisation would promote innovative ideas for development, and will be modeled on the region-wide Venture Taranaki agency.

    7 May 2000

    The US unemployment rate drops to 3.9%, the lowest in 30 years.

    Thousands of staff at British Airways face redundancy. The airline's CEO Rod Eddington would not be specific on numbers, but says that job losses would be part of his plan to turn around last year's company losses of $NZ188.4m.

    Rural people and youth in the Central North Island are not getting the economic gains that other NZ'ers are. Janet Sceats, a demographic and economic consultant, says many people in the Central North Island are worse-off than people in urban areas. Sceats says the area is fragmented and without region-wide leadership, so it does not attract the attention and resources that urban disadvantaged areas do. Drawing from census data, Sceats says rural people in the Central North Island have worse health, leave school earlier, have higher per capita ratios of children, old people and single-parent families, have more serious crime in their communities and have higher rates of unemployment.

    8 May 2000

    The marine engineering and construction arm of the Northland Port Corporation sheds 72 staff. Most of the workers are on fixed contracts which won't be renewed when they run out.

    Germany looks set to reduce its armed forces by 158,000 people with an eye to saving $NZ2.8 billion annually.

    The coalition government introduces legislation to repeal the previous government's zero tariff policies.

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