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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.127

    14 July, 2000

    Meeting with the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs at the Redesigning Resources Conference.
  • The Redesigning Resources Conference
  • What is Natural Capitalism?
  • Photos from the Hawken/Mayors meeting

  • AFTER HUNN ...
    The Government's response to the Ministerial Inquiry into the Department of Work and Income (Winz)
  • Voices — on the Government Response to Hunn

    Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton wants to guarantee that every New Zealander under 20 years of age is off the dole. In a speech last week, the Minister of Economic Development said that instead of the dole, everyone under 20 who didn't have full-time work should be offered a place free-of-charge in education or vocational training, such as an apprenticeship.

    Anderton: "New Zealanders often ask politicians to be a bit more visionary. I said one of the visions I have is of a fully employed New Zealand … I don't understand why, as a nation, we don't pay young people as much for their education or training as we currently pay them on the dole. I am not saying that people should be compelled not to go on the dole, but there should be opportunities for training, education and work so that going on the dole is not the option that you have to take."

    The Dominion reports that Anderton is presently drawing up policy proposals to guarantee that young New Zealanders do have such opportunities. The policies would include tertiary students and other under-20s in training being paid the equivalent of the dole.

    Employment Minister Steve Maharey says that the Anderton proposals are aligned with Labour Party policies. Maharey: "What Jim's saying is consistent with Labour's point of view that young people ought to have options to be involved in work training rather than be on the dole..."

  • Former Social Welfare Minister Roger Sowry, however, dismisses the proposals as "little more than wishful thinking", and would cost a "huge amount of money". Sowry: "Some things are just not affordable without another round of tax increases. I think the real point is that we've got an economy slowing, we've got unemployment in the regions starting to rise, and we've got a Minister of Economic Development looking at spending money rather than how we should create it..."
    Source — The Dominion 10 July 2000 "Dole Thinking `wishful thinking'" by Mathew Brockett.

    The nursing shortage has forced the cancellation of operations in Wellington, while Auckland hospitals are struggling to fill nearly 260 vacancies. (Auckland Healthcare needs 195 nurses, South Auckland Health needs 44, and Waitemata Health needs 20.)

    The New Zealand Herald reports that the shortage, particularly of experienced nurses, can be blamed on low pay, high student debt, lucrative job offers overseas, and high levels of stress. And the shortages are further compounded by a lack of junior doctors.

  • Health Minister Annette King blames the previous government for the nationwide nursing shortage, saying it was told of the problem three years ago but did nothing about it. But what will King do? She is setting up a workforce advisory committee, yet expects this to take another three months to be established. King: "We know that there are some overseas countries we cannot compete with, and young people want to travel overseas anyway ... but there are certainly other issues, like conditions of work and student loans, that hospitals can look at."
    Source — New Zealand Herald 12 July 2000 "Shortage of nurses reaching crisis point" by NZPA; The Daily News 12 July 2000 "National blamed for nursing shortage".

    Timber industry leaders say that a serious shortage of trained workers is threatening their industry, and they want urgent steps taken to meet an expected huge increase in labour demand. The timber harvest is expected to double in the next ten years, and will require a 50% increase in the workforce.

    Most timber companies report that they have their existing skilled workers at full capacity, and the labour shortages are in all areas, from logging teams to saw doctors. The companies fear that production could be seriously affected at a time when overseas markets have picked up and many trees are ready to be harvested — particularly in regions such as Northland, Gisborne, Wairarapa, Hawke's Bay, Marlborough, and Nelson.

  • Forestry leader P F Olsen Ltd has put together an industry consortium's training proposal to put to government, which asks for more assistance with on-the-job training. Spokesman Peter Clark: "There is unemployment out there with people leaving school and doing nothing, except going on the dole, and this is a crazy situation with work being available and more coming up..."

    The latest industry figures show that there are 9,000 people employed inside forests, and 5,500 of these are doing on-the-job-training. A skilled person can make $500 net a week working on a forestry harvesting crew.

    Source — The Dominion 30 June 2000 "Worker shortage threatens output" by Gil Norman

    The Apparel and Textile Federation are also warning of skills shortages ... in the same "rag trade" that has shed thousands of workers since 1987, when tariffs started to be removed. Last week, the Association organised a conference about the need to "redesign" the domestic industry to survive the challenges brought about by cheap off-shore manufacturing, as well as a lack of young workers coming into the industry.

    Thirteen years ago, there were 18,000 workers in the industry, and today, after a rash of closures and the emigration of manufacturing plants such as Bendon's, just 8,400 workers remain. After these losses, the industry is now facing a serious training and education shortfall for the next generation of workers. Participants at the conference report that when they advertise for workers, the people they get are usually in their 40s.

  • Industry specialists told the conference that, despite the recent emphasis on New Zealand's high-profile designers, we may have to accept that they are not going to create plenty of jobs for other New Zealanders. Federation head Paul Blomfield says that, while the government is keen to get people working and exporting, the problems of finding skilled machinists and technical and retail expertise will hamper the development of the industry — unless the situation is urgently addressed.
    Sources — New Zealand Herald 10 July 2000 "Rag trade seeking a snappy new cut" by Dita De Boni; The Daily News 11 July 2000 "Apparel industry fears future worker shortage" by NZPA

    A Taranaki couple have developed a totally new organic method of tanning possum skin, and have met with Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton to gain his support in developing the industry for their region. Environmental Products Ltd is run by Brett Power and Katherine White, who have spent five years on research and development and their business is now ready to expand to meet the growing world-wide demand for their products.

    The couple say they cannot cope with the demand for their products ... and they point to the development potential of having a very large possum population in Taranaki, an abundance of empty industrial buildings to process the skins, and a ready supply of labour (Taranaki now has the highest unemployment rate in NZ).

    Environmental Products Ltd is looking for investment or possibly a joint venture with the government. Anderton, who is keen on developing a NZ possum fur and skin industry, has instructed a senior official with the Ministry of Economic Development to investigate the "bankability" of the couple's proposal.

    Source — The Daily News 10 July 2000 "Organic possum tanning catches Anderton eye". by Rob Maetzig

  • Meanwhile, the demand for possum fur has increased to the extent that some commercial buyers are willing to pay $70-$100 a kilogram for it. Last year the top price was $45/kg.

    Fabric manufacturers are now blending the fur with merino wool to create lightweight but strong and soft fabrics. The process of weaving the short-fibre possum fur with wool was developed several years ago, but it has only been taken into serious production in the last couple of years.

    John Woodward of Mohair Fibres says that the demand for fabric incorporating possum fur is now consumer-driven. He says the new prices will increase returns to trappers and shooters to between $3.50 and $6 an animal, depending on the grade of fur sold. It takes about 10-15 possums to make 1kg of fur.

    Source — New Zealand Herald 26 June 2000 "Demand sends possum fur prices sky high"

    Community Work (from the Time Use Survey conducted in 1999 by Statistics NZ). New Zealanders aged 12 and over spend an average of 14 minutes per person a day on unpaid work for community organisations. Maori most commonly work unpaid for leisure and recreation organisations and Maori-based organisations.

    Eating and Sleeping. The Time Use Survey also reveals that teenage and adult New Zealanders spend an average of 8.6 hours per day sleeping and 2.2 hours eating and drinking. Those who spend less time asleep are 35-54 year olds who average 8.2 hours a day, while over-65 year olds spend more time both sleeping and eating. On average, New Zealanders spend the same amount of time asleep as Australians.

    In addition, New Zealanders spend an average 22 minutes a day on sport and exercise, and if smokers, 1.6 hours per day are engaged in smoking.

    Source — Time Use Survey: Welfare and Health, from statistics NZ

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