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    Letter No.141
    day March, 2001

    9 February 2001

    PM Helen Clark says Jim Anderton's proposal to wipe student debts for certain subjects will be discussed in this year's Budget talks. She says the proposal may not be too expensive if it targets specific groups of students.

    The UN says world leaders will not meet their promise to cut global poverty in half by 2015 because aid is being diverted from those most in need. According to a report by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, aid has switched from rural areas, where 75% of those in poverty are living, to the cities.

    Tourism teacher David Speary says travel industry employers are wary of hiring tertiary graduates with tourism qualifications, and many do not see a need for such qualifications anyway. Speary says the industry and tertiary institutions providing training are not talking to each other, and tourism employers would prefer tertiary courses to be focussed mainly on business skills, with some tourism papers included. He says the employers believe customer service, personality and life experience are more important than a qualification.

    National MP Nick Smith wants his party to come up with new policies on beneficiaries doing volunteer work and taking on short-term jobs. He says community groups have told him they miss being able to tap into the "community wage" workforce.

    The Government is giving $10.4m to high schools for a series of pilot programmes aimed at bridging the "digital divide". The programmes are being run in three study support centres and 19 under-achieving schools in areas such as the Far North, Gisborne and Waitakere. High-tech companies such as Vodafone, Microsoft. IBM, TVNZ and Telecom are contributing hardware and technical expertise to the project at discount rates.

    The Government is opening the doors to 10,000 more skilled immigrants a year, and loosening immigration rules. English language requirements for skilled migrants will be relaxed, the requirement that some jobs be advertised in NZ will be removed, and it will be easier for visitors on 3-year working visas to get permanent jobs. Also being considered is lowering immigration thresholds for investors willing to put in money outside Auckland, and for skilled workers who have job offers in the regions.

    11 February 2001

    A British survey finds that workplace stress is now so bad that thousands of workers are presenting themselves for treatment showing similar symptoms to that of psychiatric outpatients. According to the survey of 10,000 workplace stress victims, workers are suffering in the private sector from having to be more productive, or in the public sector from having to bear more responsibility with fewer resources. Survey leader Professor John McLeod says 25% of groups such as teachers, social workers and police officers are showing symptoms of stress.

    12 February 2001

    The Department of Child Youth and Family Services is accepting more help from outside agencies to deal with child abuse it does not have the staff to deal with its caseload. Nine welfare groups, including Barnardos, Plunket and the Women's Refuge may soon take over some of the department's workload.

    Pacific Island Affairs Minister Mark Gosche is to ask Cabinet for more money for social and economic programmes in Pacific communities. The Pacific Island Affairs ministry has completed eight regional "programmes of action" after consultation around NZ. Mr Gosche says the ministry has identified "practical, down-to-earth" health education, housing, employment, education and social services issues in Pacific communities, and more money is needed to deal with these issues.

    The People's Bank is discussed at a Cabinet meeting. The fate of the bank is in the hands of the Green Party or NZ First whose votes will be needed to give the Government a majority in favour of the bank.

    15 February 2001

    Steve Maharey launches Winz's new service charter. The charter outlines what clients can expect from their case manager, including prompt efficient service, giving people correct benefits and telling people what their benefit entitlements are. The charter aims to make sure Winz staff are treating clients with courtesy, respect and cultural sensitivity.

    The Green Party gives its support to the People's Bank, and the proposal now looks certain to go ahead.

    Opposition Leader Jenny Shipley, however, warns that the business case for the bank is shaky, and according to NZ Post's confidential business plan, the bank will raise transaction fees to discourage poorer customers such as beneficiaries if it is not attracting enough middle-income customers. Jim Anderton has promised the bank's fees will be significantly lower than those of its competitors.

    16 February 2001

    Helen Clark announces a project aimed at turning NZ into a "knowledge society". Called Catching The Knowledge Wave, its centrepiece will be a 4-day international conference in Auckland in August to set new directions for the country's social and economic development. The project is a joint venture between the government and Auckland University.

    20 February 2001

    Greymouth Coal's Spring Creek Mine is to close temporarily for four months, with the loss of about 50 jobs.

    25 February 2001

    Canterbury employers, the Christchurch City Council, the Canterbury Development Corporation and community organisations launch the Target 2001 jobs initiative in Christchurch. The scheme aims to create 2001 jobs by February next year through networking and on-the-job training.

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