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By Newsroom America Feeds at 13 Mar 01:39


/////////////////////////////////////////// Singapore-New Zealand Inaugural Defence Ministers Meeting

Posted: 12 Mar 2018 09:13 PM PDT

Defence Ministers Ron Mark and Dr Ng Eng Hen today conducted their second annual Singapore-New Zealand Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Auckland. This meeting reinforces Singapore and New Zealand’s mutual agreement to enhance defence ties in the face of common security challenges. Mr Mark noted that this was also his first meeting with a South East Asian counterpart in his capacity as Minister of Defence. Substantively, their meeting completed the review of the bilateral defence relationship framework and agreed for further cooperation between the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), through Air Force Staff Talks, an Education and Training Working Group, and an Operational Working Group. New Zealand would continue to evaluate the proposal for Singaporean F-15 jets to train at Ohakea Air Force Base. On behalf of Singapore, Dr Ng expressed his gratitude for SAF training opportunities in NZ and for the NZDF to train together. Mr Mark noted that Singapore is New Zealand’s closest defence partner in South East Asia, and the history of collaboration between the SAF and NZDF demonstrated the warmth, strength and maturity of the relationship. Dr Ng and Mr Mark acknowledged the longstanding collaboration between Singapore and New Zealand on overseas peace-support missions, including in Timor-Leste, Afghanistan and most recently in Iraq as part of the Defeat-ISIS coalition. Dr Ng and Mr Mark conducted in depth discussions on the regional security architecture and security issues. They affirmed their ongoing commitment to the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus framework and Five Power Defence Arrangements. Dr Ng expressed support for New Zealand’s co-chairmanship of the ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Group on Cybersecurity with the Philippines. Mr Mark expressed New Zealand’s support for Singapore’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2018, and was looking forward to attending the Shangri-La Dialogue in June.

/////////////////////////////////////////// Consumer finance review highlights lending issues and debt collection practices

Posted: 12 Mar 2018 09:12 PM PDT

Stakeholder feedback has confirmed that predatory practices, irresponsible lending and unacceptable debt collection practices are still impacting on vulnerable New Zealanders. Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Kris Faafoi said research, undertaken by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, confirmed his fears. “While many lenders have improved disclosure and the information provided on their web sites, consumer advocates are expressing strong concerns about the high cost of credit, and inadequate assessments of the affordability of loans. “People are being provided loans they are not going to be able to pay back, and are drawn into situations where the cost of the resulting debts is many times the original due to interest rates and penalty charges. “Clearly the reforms of the CCCFA in 2015 didn’t go far enough and we need to act to protect people from the appalling burden these debts can create.” The research is part of a review of consumer finance regulation and is likely to lead to new legislation. “I expect to release a discussion paper on the key issues and proposed solutions around the middle of this year. This will report the findings of the review. It is likely to consult on a number of options for interest rate caps, as well as options for improving compliance with lender responsibilities. “The review is also looking at the debt collection methods employed by some debt collection agencies. Unrealistic repayment schedules, debtors being harassed, false and misleading claims and punitive interest and fees applied during debt collection are some of the unacceptable practices that have been described. I am going to ensure we address the concerns that I have been hearing about lending practices that impact on vulnerable people.” You can find more information on the review here.

/////////////////////////////////////////// Joint statement from bilateral between New Zealand and Viet Nam Prime Ministers

Posted: 12 Mar 2018 07:50 PM PDT


At the invitation of the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, His Excellency Nguyen Xuan Phuc, paid an official visit to New Zealand on 12-14 March 2018. An official welcome ceremony in honour of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc took place at Government House in Auckland on 13 March, followed by official talks and an official lunch with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. On the same day, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc called on Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives, the Right Honourable Trevor Mallard. Earlier, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc gave remarks at the Viet Nam – New Zealand Business Forum and received a number of New Zealand senior business leaders. During this visit, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc visited University of Waikato and Plant and Food Research.Political cooperation The two sides noted recent exchanges of high-level visits, including the state visit to Viet Nam by the Governor General of New Zealand, His Excellency Lieutenant General the Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae in August 2013; the official visit to New Zealand by the Prime Minister of Viet Nam, His Excellency Nguyen Tan Dung in March 2015; the official visit to Viet Nam by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Right Honourable John Key in November 2015; and the visit to Viet Nam by the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern to attend the APEC Summit in November 2017. The two Leaders agreed to further intensify frequent high-level visits in both directions, as well as to maintain bilateral cooperation mechanisms, including the Joint Commission on Trade and Economics, Bilateral Defence Dialogue and Political Consultations, to exchange views on issues of mutual concern, such as climate change, regional architecture, consular services and cooperation on human rights issues, among others. Noting the positive momentum in the relationship since the establishment of the Comprehensive Partnership in 2009, the two Prime Ministers agreed to advance the Comprehensive Partnership and assigned relevant ministries and branches of both sides to actively and effectively realize the Plan of Action 2017-2020 as well as to expeditiously conclude talks and consultations by 2019 on a Strategic Partnership elevation in the near future as mutually agreed. Defence and security The two sides acknowledged the recent positive developments in bilateral defence cooperation such as the signing of the New Zealand-Viet Nam Three Year Defence Cooperation Action Plan 2018-2021 and the Peacekeeping Operations Training and Cooperation Implementing Arrangement, as well as high-level defence visits in both directions. The two leaders also welcomed further broader security and defence cooperation, including in military industries and research, cyber security, anti-terrorism, countering drug-trafficking and money laundering, and illegal migration. Both sides agreed to discuss existing and other possible legal corridors for cooperation in these areas.Trade and investment The Prime Ministers noted that trade between the two countries is now at a historic high with two-way trade in goods and services reaching a record US$1.24 billion in 2017, representing a 32% increase over 2016 and a tripling of goods trade since 2009. The two Leaders expressed confidence that the target of US$1.7 billion in two-way trade could be reached by 2020 accordingly. They welcomed the signing of the Arrangement on Economic and Trade Cooperation on this occasion, and requested the early convening of the 6th meeting of the Joint Commission on Trade and Investment. Both sides committed to individual and joint actions to reduce barriers to bilateral trade, especially for agricultural products. The establishment of a dedicated Agricultural Counsellor in the New Zealand Embassy later this year was noted as an important step in this regard. The announcement of the Import Health Standard Export Plan for Rambutan and the signature of a Food Safety and Quality Management Cooperation Arrangement during the visit were further signs of positive cooperation. The Leaders noted that Customs cooperation and the proposed Customs joint work programme would also further facilitate trade between the two countries. The two Prime Ministers noted that investment between the two countries had yet to reach its potential. Both Leaders agreed to encourage investment, including in areas such as high-tech agriculture, green and renewable energy and infrastructure. Development cooperation The Prime Ministers welcomed the positive impact made by New Zealand’s development aid to Viet Nam, highlighting flagship projects in dragon fruit commercialisation, safe vegetable production, dam safety, scholarships and English language training. Up to NZ$29 million would be invested by New Zealand in the three year period up to July 2018. The two Leaders committed to substantial cooperation in the years ahead, sharing New Zealand skills and technologies to make a practical difference in areas of Vietnamese priority such as agriculture, disaster risk management, knowledge and skills, and renewable energy; and to build stronger and lasting connections between the two countries’ government agencies, universities, research institutes, businesses and NGOs. The Prime Ministers agreed to an enhanced annual consultation mechanism on development cooperation led by the Viet Nam Ministry of Planning and Investment and its New Zealand counterpart. On this occasion, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced two new projects, namely, a three-year partnership supporting Vietnamese farmers and food processors to modernise production, generate safer food and improve incomes (NZ$1.5million); and a pilot renewable energy project supporting the Electricity Regulatory Authority of Viet Nam with the tools to develop the wholesale electricity market enabling greater efficiency and renewable energy uptake (NZ$0.5 million). The Leaders welcomed the newly signed Memorandum of Understanding between Plant and Food Research New Zealand and Generalexim of Viet Nam to improve avocado production in Dak Nong province and a new project to reduce pre- and post-harvest loss through safely reducing rodent damage on rice crops between Landcare Research of New Zealand and Viet Nam Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Both projects were facilitated by New Zealand’s Government to Government Partnerships Office. Education and training The Prime Ministers noted that education and training cooperation between New Zealand and Viet Nam is strong, expanding rapidly and is one of the pillars of both today's relationship and future Strategic Partnership. The two Leaders appreciated the signing of the renewed Strategic Engagement Plan on Education 2018-2020, and set the target to increase the number of Vietnamese students in New Zealand by 30% by 2020 facilitating further student exchanges, university-to-university joint programmes and other cooperation in both countries. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc welcomed the regular promotion and operation of the Working Holiday Scheme and expressed Viet Nam's readiness to receive New Zealand citizens under this Scheme. Connectivity and people-to-people contacts The two Prime Ministers noted that tourism between both countries is growing rapidly with Viet Nam visitors to New Zealand expanding by over 32% and New Zealand tourists to Viet Nam by more than 19% in the last year, boosted by the establishment of direct flights by Air New Zealand between Auckland and Ho Chi Minh City in 2016. Both Leaders called for the expansion of air links and to further promote travel between the two countries. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed the inclusion of New Zealand in Viet Nam’s e-visa programme as a very positive step streamlining entry for New Zealand tourists, following New Zealand’s implementation in 2016 of e-visas for Viet Nam visitors. The two sides recognise the success of the Vietnamese community in New Zealand and highly value their contribution to the development of Viet Nam and New Zealand as well as to the better promotion of bilateral relations.Regional and international cooperation Both countries continue to work closely in multilateral and regional forums, such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM+) process, and the East Asia Summit (EAS), in order to enhance regional prosperity, address regional security challenges and enhance cooperation on issues of mutual interest. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reiterated New Zealand’s support for Viet Nam’s candidature for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for the 2020-21 term, and extended an offer to share advice and experience gained from New Zealand’s successful term in 2015-16 with Viet Nam. New Zealand and Viet Nam recognise the critical importance of deepening regional economic integration and supporting trade liberalisation across the Asia-Pacific region to ensure the prosperity of both countries. Both Leaders welcomed the signature of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on 8 March 2018 in Chile and reiterated their commitment to swift ratification and implementation of the agreement in the coming months. Both Leaders reaffirmed their interest in achieving a modern, comprehensive, high quality and mutually beneficial outcome in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement negotiations. The two sides agreed to continue cooperation to further fossil fuel subsidy reform. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern conveyed congratulations to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc for Viet Nam’s successful hosting of APEC in 2017 and welcomed Viet Nam’s offer to share its experience to support New Zealand’s preparations to host APEC in 2021. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc welcomed the growing cooperation between ASEAN and New Zealand, especially in areas which help ASEAN successfully build up the ASEAN Community. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reiterated New Zealand's strong support for ASEAN centrality in the evolving regional architecture. In the important year of 2020, when Viet Nam alternatively chairs ASEAN, ASEAN and New Zealand will commemorate the 45th anniversary of establishing a Dialogue Partnership and the 5th anniversary of Strategic Partnership, and Viet Nam welcomed any New Zealand initiatives to enrich these milestones. Both sides emphasized the importance of maintaining peace, security and stability in the South China Sea through implementation of international legal obligations in good faith, respect for legal and diplomatic processes, peaceful resolution of disputes, and maintenance of freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Both Leaders encouraged the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in its entirety as well as the swift conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc expressed his gratitude to the Government and people of New Zealand for the warm hospitality extended to him and his delegation. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc extended an invitation for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to pay an official visit to Viet Nam at a mutually convenient time. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc also forwarded the invitation of President Tran Dai Quang for the Governor General of New Zealand, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Dame Patsy Reddy to pay a state visit to Viet Nam at her convenience.

/////////////////////////////////////////// Inaugural meeting of Independent Advisory Panel

Posted: 12 Mar 2018 06:54 PM PDT

The Provincial Growth Fund’s (PGF) Independent Advisory Panel held its inaugural meeting in Wellington today, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says. The panel – chaired by Mr Rodger Finlay – will play an important role over the lifetime of the PGF and will provide advice to officials and ministers on proposals. “The panel will add great value to the PGF and I’m confident we’ve got the right people with the right mix of skills, expertise and experience,” Shane Jones said. “After meeting with the panel today, it’s clear that each member has a passion for regional economic development and for what this Government is undertaking. “This is the largest capital investment New Zealand’s provinces have seen in decades and the panel will be crucial in assessing proposals and providing the Government with guidance and advice. “Today, I’ve asked the panel to look at the Ōpōtiki Harbour development – a project which has been in the pipeline for some years. “The costs of the project have increased significantly because of engineering and geotechnical requirements. While the PGF is intended to boost our regional economies and provide opportunity, we must always be prudent and responsible with taxpayer money. “The panel will report back to me on the project before the Government makes any final decision on it,” Shane Jones said. Notes to editors: The $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund was officially launched on 23 February. For background click here. Panel members: Rodger Finlay (chairperson) – Rodger is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand and a Chartered Fellow of the Institute of Directors. For the past ten years, Rodger has been solely engaged in governance. He is currently a Governor of Radio NZ, Deputy Chairman of Rural Equities Limited, Chairman of Mundane Asset Management (UK) and a Director of NZ Thoroughbred Racing. Dr Charlotte Severne – Charlotte is a geologist and former chief scientist for oceans and Māori development at NIWA and is currently Assistant Vice Chancellor Māori Pasifika at Massey University. She also holds a number of Tūwharetoa governance roles and has worked with Māori businesses as a science advisor. Dr David Wilson – David has a Masters in Public Policy and a PhD in regional development. He has been leading Northland Inc since September 2013 and has been chair of EDNZ since September 2015. His background is commercial, including experience in sales, marketing, and product management. John Rae – John has a broad range of management and directorial experience in a variety of different business sectors including banking, investment, venture capital, technology, infrastructure, construction and engineering. In addition to chairing the National Infrastructure Advisory Board, John is also chairman of Gisborne’s economic development agency. John Sproat – John practiced mainly in the areas of bank lending, securitisation, structured and project financing and capital markets, working for New Zealand and international corporate banking clients. John is a lawyer by trade and previously worked as a partner for Chapman Tripp for over 20 years. Neville Harris – Neville has worked in the public service for 39 years with prominent roles in the management and supervision of the regulatory framework for corporations, securities, insolvency, intellectual property rights and Crown mineral estate. Neville was Director of the government’s Rugby World Cup 2011 Office and is also on the board of the Christchurch Stadium Trust. Rosie Mercer – Rosie is currently the manager of sustainable business improvement at Ports of Auckland, where she manages infrastructure and environmental projects. She is a chartered member of Engineering New Zealand and was formerly the leader of a New Zealand Defence Force engineering team during a NATO-led operation in Afghanistan. Sarah Brown – Sarah is the project manager for Southland Regional Development Strategy, which runs the Southland regional economic development programme. Sarah was the Southern Institute of Technology Chair until May 2017, a director of PowerNet Limited and a trustee of the 1000 Days Trust and is on the Board of Electricity Invercargill Ltd.

/////////////////////////////////////////// Tomorrows Schools Review terms of reference announced

Posted: 12 Mar 2018 06:39 PM PDT

The terms of reference for a review of Tomorrow’s Schools released today sets the framework for a once in 30-year opportunity to shape the way our schools are led, managed and interact with their communities, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.

“There’s been a lot of tinkering around the edges since Tomorrrow’s Schools was introduced, which has moved the governance, management and administration of schools further and further away from what it aimed to achieve.

“This broad-based review gives schools, students and communities the opportunity to take part in drawing the blueprint for how schools should be organised from here on.

“It will look at how we can better support equity and inclusion for all children throughout their schooling, what changes are needed to support their educational success, and at the fitness of our school system to equip all our students for a rapidly changing world.

“The review will consider how schools might interact differently with their communities, with other schools, with employers, and with other government organisations, to serve the best interests of our young people.”

An independent five-to-seven person taskforce will be appointed in April, which will consult widely before reporting back in November this year.

“The review is part of the Government’s championing of a high quality public education system,” Mr Hipkins said.

“We believe that every child deserves the opportunity to be the best they can be, regardless of where they live, or their personal circumstances. And we want to ensure our schools deliver that opportunity for all New Zealanders.

“A key priority is for our schooling system will be to be more responsive to the needs of Māori and Pasifika children and those children needing learning support for whom the education system has not delivered in the past,” Mr Hipkins said.

The review will also consider the roles of the Ministry of Education, Education Review Office, New Zealand Qualifications Authority, New Zealand School Trustees Association, and the Education Council in supporting schools.

The review of Tomorrow’s Schools is part of the Government’s education work programme, announced in February. The terms of reference for the review are available at

/////////////////////////////////////////// Assistance for Cyclone-hit Tasman and Taranaki

Posted: 11 Mar 2018 09:11 PM PDT

Tasman and Taranaki residents struggling to clear up the mess left by ex-Tropical Cyclone Gita can access a helping hand following an announcement today by Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni. “The Government is committed to ensuring these regions have the support needed to recover from the storm damage wrecked by Gita,” Carmel Sepuloni said. “Today I gave the green light to activate Enhanced Taskforce Green, making up to $500,000 of funding available. “We’ve been in regular contact with people on the ground, particularly the local Councils, Ministry of Primary Industries and the local Rural Support Trusts, and will continue to take stock of the situation as the clean-up continues. “Five hectares of apple orchards in the Tasman District were completely destroyed by flooding silt and debris, the key focus will be on orchards needing silt cleared from around the trees and vines. “So far ten orchards, mostly apple and Kiwifruit, have been identified as potentially needing support in some of the hardest hit areas. Not requiring specific skills or heavy machinery, these are perfect places for temporary workers to make a difference. “We are also assessing a significant number of other properties and it is likely other work will be identified as the work proceeds. “Enhanced Taskforce Green is a work programme that employs job seekers to assist with clean-up following emergency events. Anyone who needs support should contact the Tasman District Council. “While the funding also covers the Taranaki Region initial reports indicate machinery and skilled work is mostly required - not appropriate for ETFG at this stage. However if suitable work is identified ETFG is available,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

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