Releases -

By Newsroom America Feeds at 12 Feb 2018


/////////////////////////////////////////// Emergency relief supplies to depart for Tonga

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 04:46 PM PST

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has announced a RNZAF C130 Hercules aircraft carrying emergency relief supplies will depart for Tonga this afternoon. “The full extent of damage caused by Cyclone Gita is still being assessed but there is an immediate need for assistance on the ground,” Mr Peters says. “Initial assessments indicate there has been extensive damage to homes in Nuku’alofa and some damage to commercial buildings,” he says. “About 5,700 people sought shelter in evacuation centres overnight, and it is expected these numbers will increase substantially tonight.” The C130 Hercules is carrying family hygiene kits, shelter kits, jerry cans, and tarpaulins. The plane will also carry a New Zealand government team to support the New Zealand High Commission assess emergency needs and respond to requests from the Government of Tonga. At this stage Fuaʻamotu International Airport runway in Tongatapu is open to emergency supply aircraft only. A visual inspection of the international airport has shown the runway to be intact with minimal damage. New Zealand is coordinating the international relief response alongside other countries including Australia. Contact: Stephen Parker, Chief Press Secretary, 021 195 3528

/////////////////////////////////////////// Minister outlines priorities for Customs

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 03:33 PM PST

Customs will have new legislation this year to reinforce its fight against the flow of illegal drugs into New Zealand, says Customs Minister Hon Meka Whaitiri. Speaking to a meeting of industry and business leaders in Auckland today, the Minister said the Customs and Excise Bill, currently before Parliament will modernise the whole business of Customs. The new Act will be the first major overhaul in more than 20 years of the legislation governing Customs, and is expected to take effect later this year. “I am also looking in the future at legislation that will improve the ability of Customs to make seizures at our borders. “Open and honest dialogue between Customs, traders and travellers is the key to keeping the country’s borders secure without interfering unnecessarily with travel and trade. “By making it easier and more efficient to move goods and people across the border, Customs makes an important contribution to the economic well-being of the country as a whole. But it has to do so without compromising its key role of keeping out illicit substances and materials that harm our communities and people. “As an organisation, Customs is constantly striving to make improvements; to provide greater transparency, guidance and certainty for all the people who interact with it,” says Hon Meka Whaitiri.

/////////////////////////////////////////// National Bowel Screening Programme to be reviewed

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 03:30 PM PST

Minister of Health Dr David Clark has ordered an independent review of the National Bowel Screening Programme. The free screening programme is being rolled-out in stages around the country, with three DHBs currently on board. It is due to be in place nationwide by mid-2021. “During the pilot programme, which ran from 2011 to the end of last year, issues were identified with the updating of addresses that resulted in some people not receiving their invitations to be screened. I want to be assured that everything possible is done to avoid these sort of issues happening again,” says Dr Clark. Last year, the Ministry of Health wrote to about 2,500 people who had not received screening invitations due to the issue. Three people may have been impacted by the delay and have gone on to develop bowel cancer. One of those people has sadly died. According to the Ministry’s clinical advice, it was not possible to say whether the outcomes for any of the three people would have been different if they had received their invitations, but their cancers might have been detected earlier if they had chosen to be screened.

Since the issue was discovered addresses have been manually updated in the National Bowel Screening Register by cross referencing with the National Health Index. Work is ongoing looking at address records to ensure all errors are being identified. “The Ministry of Health has taken full responsibility for this matter. As Minister of Health I also apologise unreservedly. “The independent review will look at a broad range of factors, including information technology, DHB capacity, operational management and clinical matters. “We know that screening saves lives. It is important that the public have confidence that we are delivering a safe and effective programme and this review will help ensure just that,” says Dr Clark. The roll-out of the National Bowel Screening Programme will continue during the review. The review is expected to be complete by June.

/////////////////////////////////////////// Statement on Bill English

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 03:22 PM PST

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has today paid tribute to outgoing National Party Leader Bill English. “Bill has worked tirelessly as Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister, and Opposition Leader among his many public roles. Very few serve for so long at such a high level, but garner the respect of many. “He has always stood for what he believes in. He is a man of clear convictions who has always had a genuine concern for the well-being of New Zealanders, and gave a huge portion of his working life to serving on their behalf. “The impact of public service on a politician’s family cannot be understated. In the 27 years Bill served as an MP, with the support of his wife Mary, his children were born, and grew up. They have made great sacrifices so he could do his job to the best of his ability. “I wish Bill and his family all the best for the future,” says Jacinda Ardern.

/////////////////////////////////////////// New Zealand hosts conventional weapons conference

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 12:40 PM PST

New Zealand is hosting 14 Pacific countries at the Pacific Conference on Conventional Weapons Treaties in Auckland from 12 to 14 February. New Zealand’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Fletcher Tabuteau, formally welcomed delegates to the Conference with a reception in Auckland. “The Conference provides an opportunity to reinforce the importance our region places on enhancing human security and protecting our peoples from harm,” said Mr Tabuteau. “It further reaffirms the role that the Pacific can play in protecting and strengthening global norms and in advancing the scope and span of humanitarian law,” he said. The Conference is sponsored by the Governments of Australia and New Zealand and is being attended by Pacific countries including: Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Contact: Talani Meikle, Ministerial Advisor, 021 195 4309

/////////////////////////////////////////// New Zealand to assist following Cyclone Gita

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 12:32 PM PST

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says New Zealand is making available an initial $750,000 to support relief efforts in Tonga following Cyclone Gita. “Initial assessments of the damage are still coming in. However, it is clear that Cyclone Gita has caused significant damage,” Mr Peters says. “This is an initial contribution that will enable us to respond quickly to requests from the Government of Tonga to meet immediate needs, such as emergency shelter, water and sanitation. We stand ready to provide additional support as the extent of the damage becomes clear,” he says. “We will also be responding to requests for assistance from New Zealanders in Tonga.” “Given the force of this Cyclone all signs point to a lengthy clean-up effort and our thoughts are with the Government and people of Tonga as they come to terms with the scale of this disaster,” Mr Peters says. Contact: Stephen Parker, Chief Press Secretary, 021 195 3528

/////////////////////////////////////////// Government will respond to high cost of road deaths

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 02:00 AM PST

Research released today reinforces the need to do more to stop people being unnecessarily killed and injured on our roads, says Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter. The Ministry of Transport’s annual Social Cost of Road Crashes and Injuries report estimates that the total social cost of fatal and injury crashes rose from $3.87 billion in 2015 to $4.17 billion in 2016. In per-crash terms, the updated average social cost is estimated at $4,916,000 per fatal crash, $923,000 for every reported serious injury crash and $104,000 per reported minor injury crash. “While it’s impossible to put a value on the loss of a loved one, this report shows that on top of leaving a huge hole in the lives of families, friends, workplaces, and communities, road crashes have a huge impact on our society. “Over 900 people lost their lives on New Zealand roads between 2014 and 2016. This enormous loss of life is preventable and we shouldn’t tolerate it. “This is why the Government will make safety a higher priority when it invests in transport. This means more median barriers to stop head on crashes, safer speed limits on some roads, and safer street design for people walking and cycling. “In December we boosted road safety funding by $22.5 million to improve stretches of rural road around the country. “By making our roads safer, we can work to minimise preventable deaths and reduce the high emotional, physical and social cost of road crashes,” Ms Genter says. The latest report is available on the Ministry of Transport’s website:

/////////////////////////////////////////// Andrew Little attends World Government Summit

Posted: 11 Feb 2018 09:39 PM PST

Justice Minister Andrew Little will today represent New Zealand at the World Government Summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The annual World Government Summit brings together political, business and civil society thought leaders to focus on how humanity can harness innovation and technology to solve universal challenges. The UAE is an important partner for New Zealand and our 16th largest export market. Dubai is a gateway to the Middle East and North African region for our exporters and is an important hub for tourists travelling to New Zealand. Mr Little will meet with senior Emirati leaders to further strengthen New Zealand’s relationship with the UAE. Andrew Little has just visited Iraq and Afghanistan with Defence Minister Ron Mark.

/////////////////////////////////////////// Search for CTO to be widened

Posted: 11 Feb 2018 07:54 PM PST

The government is to widen the search for New Zealand’s first Chief Technology officer. Broadcasting, Communications, Digital Media and Government Digital Services Minister Clare Curran says she was heartened to receive more than 60 applications for this critical position but after careful consideration has decided not to make an appointment at this stage. “This is a vital role to ensure we can use and develop digital technologies for the benefit of all New Zealanders. While the candidates we looked at have an impressive range of skills and backgrounds, I am not confident that we have found the right person yet,” Ms Curran says. “We always knew it was going to be extremely difficult to find one person with all the skills we want so I’ve decided not to appoint anyone to the position at this time and to seek input and perspectives from a new digital advisory group which is being set up. “As I’ve said previously, this is a role for someone who has a high level of expertise in the digital technology industry, who is passionate about the issues, who carries the influence needed to stimulate public discussion. “It’s also a position for someone who wants to work with government and other stakeholders to deliver and support meaningful change. “Even though I am very keen to establish this role, I’m not prepared to make a decision in haste. The Chief Technology Officer will be accountable to the Prime Minister and to the Minister and will provide independent expert advice to Ministers and senior leaders on digital issues. “The CTO will be responsible for preparing and overseeing a national digital architecture, or roadmap, for the next five to ten years. We intend to close the digital divides by 2020, and to make ICT the second largest contributor to GDP by 2025,” Ms Curran says. “The internet and digital tools are fundamental to us achieving these goals and I want the CTO to work on issues such as improving digital equality, protecting citizens’ rights online, and building a connected nation. “They’ll do that alongside the Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Advisory Group and the two other Advisory Groups that I have already signalled I will be establishing. “More than three hundred people have expressed an interest in being on the Digital Economy Digital Inclusion (DEDI) Advisory Group and we are in the process of selecting,” Ms Curran says.

/////////////////////////////////////////// More scrutiny on pay of senior public servants

Posted: 11 Feb 2018 07:45 PM PST

Stronger oversight of the pay for chief executives and conduct of Crown Entity Board members are two of several changes in a Bill introduced in Parliament today, State Services Minister Chris Hipkins says. These amendments in the State Sector and Crown Entities Reform Bill are designed to bolster the public’s trust and confidence in Crown entities, which are often the face of government, Mr Hipkins said. “This government is committed to raising pay levels for those on low and middle incomes. But there is a high level of public concern that the levels of pay for the highest paid chief executives is excessive, and in some cases, Crown entity Boards have not met either the State Service Commissioner’s or Ministers’ guidance. “These changes will address those cases in particular by giving the remuneration system more teeth. The public expects accountability and transparency, and under these changes Boards of statutory Crown entities will need to obtain the State Services Commissioner’s written consent to the terms and conditions of employment for a chief executive.” Mr Hipkins said there are good reasons why state services pay is lower than private sector equivalents and there should be more consistency within the state services of remuneration for similarly sized jobs and between jobs. The amendments to the State Sector Act 1988 and Crown Entities Act 2004 also address three other key areas: Crown entity chief executive terms of appointment The term for new appointments as chief executives will be for no more than five years, renewable. Setting standards of integrity and conduct for Crown entity boards The Commissioner will be able to issue a code of conduct to the Board members of all entities within scope of his mandate, in line with international practice. The State Services Commissioner’s powers to carry out investigations For more consistency in the way inquiries are conducted across government. “The State Sector Act 1988 and Crown Entities Act 2004 were ground-breaking when they were passed. It is time, however, to reconnect certain aspects of Crown Entity Act under a unifying spirit of service to the community. “The Commissioner will be able to take a more consistent and integrated approach across the sector in the areas covered by these amendments.” The relevant Cabinet papers can be found here.

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