Success for bereaved petitioners – Govt introduces legislation to facilitate roadside drug tests

A petition with 1300 signatures calling for random roadside drug testing on New Zealand roads had a rocky experience with our law-makers.  It was set to be submitted to Parliament on May 9 last year but this was scuppered when its main champion, National MP Nick Smith, was suspended from Parliament for 24 hours.

The petition was started by a family who lost their son to a drugged driver in a crash in Nelson on New Year’s Eve 2017.

Before it was re-submitted, the way we remember it, the Government announced plans for public consultation on the introduction of roadside drug testing. And yesterday the Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Bill was introduced to the House.

Its first reading is intended next week.

The new law will allow Police to test if drivers are under the influence of drugs anywhere, anytime, just as they do now for alcohol, Police Minister Stuart Nash said.

Last year, 103 people died in crashes where the driver was later found to have drugs in their system.

The Bill allows Police to use oral fluid tests to check drivers for drugs which are likely to include THC (cannabis), methamphetamine, opiates, cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy), and benzodiazepines. These – we are told – are the most prevalent and high risk drugs and medications used by drivers in New Zealand.

Drivers who test positive for the presence of drugs will be fined, immediately suspended from driving for 12 hours, and lose half their demerit points.

They will face harsher criminal penalties where blood tests confirm impairing levels of drugs in their system, or drugs combined with alcohol.

Specific criminal limits for drugs will be added to the Bill by Supplementary Order Paper and provided to the select committee for scrutiny, allowing the independent expert panel sufficient time to provide advice on the setting of these limits.

Warm houses

Associate Housing Minister Kris Faafoi has “confirmed the multi-million-dollar expansion of the Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities Retrofit Programme”.  This curiously suggests that – until he gave this confirmation – there had been some doubt about the $500 million investment in the upgrade and renewal of state homes.

Under this programme, around 1,500 older state homes in 30 towns and cities are being upgraded and renewed over the next two and a half years, making them warmer, drier and healthier for tenants. Work is expected to start later this year.

The improvements made to homes under the Retrofit programme include full insulation of the homes with wall, ceiling and floor insulation, double glazing, improved air-tightness, ventilation and new heating to ensure a healthy indoor living environment. Work on some homes may also include upgrading bathrooms and kitchens, converting homes to a more modern, open plan living layout, and making the homes more accessible.

More jobs and the recovery of the economy from the damage done by the response to Covid-19 inevitably came into the press statement, as they do in so many press statements from the Beehive nowadays.  Faafoi said:

“As well as being a significant investment in New Zealand’s public housing supply, this $500 million is also a major investment in the regional economies where this retrofitting work will happen.”

Kāinga Ora aims to use “contractors of all sizes” to carry out this work, creating more opportunities for a range of companies in the regions.  No fat-shaming, then, eh?

The Retrofit programme is part of Kāinga Ora’s programme to improve its older stock. It estimates around 40,000 properties will need upgrading over the next 20 years.

More information on the expansion of the retrofit programme will be made available at https://kaingaora.govt.nz/news

Resolving rent disputes

And here comes another big lump of expenditure in the name of the post-pandemic recovery.  The Government is allocating $40 million to help with the cost of mediation and arbitration for New Zealand businesses and landlords to resolve issues about adjusting rent as they face the economic impacts of COVID-19.

It had previously announced funding to improve access to arbitration in a timely and cost-effective way to support small or medium businesses to reach agreement on a fair rent.

The funding will now also cover mediation for commercial landlords and tenants whose leases do not provide for a reduction of rent in the event of an emergency.

And yep  Here comes the all-too-familiar rationale :

“It is critical that businesses who have not reached an agreement be assisted to find a solution that will help New Zealand recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19,” said Andrew Little.

“This funding will ensure that tenants and landlords, even if financially constrained, will be able to access dispute resolution services.”

Justice Minister Little didn’t miss the chance to remind us that New Zealand First did not support the previously proposed legislation and it does not support this action – but

“…I think we have reached a good solution that will be of assistance to many small business across NZ as they face the ongoing economic effects of COVID-19.

Further detail about eligibility for and availability of the subsidy will be made available on the Ministry of Justice website, and the service will be up and running within 8 weeks. This funding can be used for arbitration on existing contractual terms, or to access subsidised mediation.

Support for veterans

The Veterans’ Support Amendment Bill (No 2) has passed its third reading and will become law, amending the Veterans’ Support Act 2014 in response to recommendations from the 2018 review of the operation of the Act by Professor Ron Paterson.

The new provisions in the Act are intended to increase fairness and make it easier to access support and services while placing a greater focus on the needs of veterans’ families, a greater recognition of psychological illness, and more flexibility for decision-making.

What sorts of changes are we talking about?

Ron Mark, the minister in charge,  gave the example of veterans who fall foul of the law and are banged up in one our prisons.

Veterans’ Affairs will continue to provide treatment and rehabilitation services to veterans who are imprisoned and family members will not lose any entitlements they are receiving.  The new provisions also make it easier for family members to access support when a veteran dies.

Some of the Paterson recommendations were more complex, Mark said.  These require more policy development work and consultation.

He expects another more substantial amendment to the Veterans’ Support Act will be needed during the next term of Parliament to address these bigger issues.

The changes just announced come into effect on 1 October.

A full list of the Paterson recommendations and the progress towards addressing them is on the Veterans’ Affairs website: https://www.veteransaffairs.mil.nz

Partnering with tribes

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta have co-signed an Addendum – with the Iwi Chairs of Te Rarawa, Ngāi Takoto and Te Aupōuri – to the Te Hiku o Te Ika Iwi-Crown Social Development and Wellbeing Accord on behalf of the Crown.

This promotes the idea of a treaty partnership, a concept that can’t be found in the wording of the Treaty of Waitangi but which has been fostered in recent years by judges whose pronouncements increasingly become the bases for government “partnership” policies.

Te Hiku Iwi Development Trust Chair Rick Witana accordingly enthused:

“The Accord is a great example of partnership and investment between iwi and Crown into a generation with an inter-generational view.”

Sepuloni said the Accord requires a multi-agency approach to Crown-Māori relations and is based on Crown agencies working collaboratively with iwi on the co-design of solutions for whānau and communities.

“This requires a significant paradigm shift in the way iwi and Government agencies have engaged historically. Government agencies, led by the Ministry of Social Development, have been working closely with the Te Hiku Development Trust to ensure an ambitious work programme.”

Oh – and more money is being dished out for this initiative using the Covid-19 recovery rationale.

“As part of the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund Foundational Package announced earlier this year, $8 million over two years has been earmarked to support this work programme. It will have a specific focus on delivering initiatives aimed at improving wellbeing outcomes for Te Hiku whānau, particularly in the response and recovery from COVID -19.

“I’m really encouraged by this Iwi-Crown partnership and the investment we have made as a Government to ensure that we build better communities post-COVID-19, which will also support us to honour our commitments to the Accord,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

Marine farm standards

New environmental standards will make the re-consenting of existing marine farms more consistent across the country.

The new regulations for the National Environmental Standards for Marine Aquaculture (NES-MA) will come into effect on 1 December.

The NES-MA is designed to remove complexities and standardise the rules nationally for re-consenting 1,150 marine farms.

Marine farming generated more than $650 million in revenue last year and brought around 3,000 jobs to local communities.

Around 55% of existing marine farms have consents which are due to expire in the next five years.

The Government says a nationally consistent system is important for the aquaculture industry and for affected local communities, helping to manage the expected wave of re-consenting and enable a more efficient process for managing existing marine farms.

This will give certainty for investment and for sustainable fishing practices.

And (were you waiting for it?) this

“ …  is a priority as the economy continues to open up and recover from the impacts of COVID19.”

The Ministers also signalled further work is ongoing on biosecurity management issues for marine farms. They have asked officials for further advice on ways to improve biosecurity across all aquaculture.

The NES-MA is a component of the Government’s Aquaculture Strategy which outlines plans to grow the sector five-fold to $3 billion by 2035. Aquaculture growth will be accelerated well ahead of the current 2035 target through the Fit for a Better World – Accelerating our Economic Potential initiative released earlier this month.

The project to develop this NES-MA was led by Fisheries New Zealand with the support of the Ministry for the Environment, and the Department of Conservation.

Further information can be found online at: https://www.fisheries.govt.nz/nes-ma

Taratahi re-opened

The Taratahi Agriculture Centre in the Wairarapa has been re-opened after two years, rejuvenated with a Government injection of $1.2 million into the programme to train 1,000 people, including providing wrap around job placement support.

Covid-19 comes into the story.  These training opportunities are part of the Government’s work to place 10,000 New Zealanders in primary sector jobs by rapidly retraining and absorbing displaced workers in sectors impacted by Covid, said Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

A website and marketing campaign – Opportunity Grows Here – were launched this week to raise awareness of the career opportunities available in the food and fibre sector.

The courses at Taratahi are modelled on those being delivered at Telford Farm, in Balclutha, which has co-designed courses with industry. Telford received nearly $950,000 to fund 620 training spots.

Healthy Māori

Reflecting the Government’s commitment to improving Māori health and wellbeing over the next five years, Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare has released Whakamaua: Māori Health Action Plan 2020-2025 which sets the pathway towards achieving healthy futures for all Māori.

As kaitiaki of the system, the Ministry of Health has an important leadership role to play in creating an environment that enables Māori to live healthier, happier lives, Henare said.

“We know the health and disability system is failing Māori and as a result, significant health and wellbeing inequities have been created. Whakamaua provides clear direction on how we can fix that. 

“Whakamaua sets out a suite of actions that will help us achieve better health outcomes for all Māori.

“Many of the actions listed within the plan will help counter the influence of implicit bias and systemic racism in the system. I’m pleased to say that some of these actions have already begun.”

The Covid-19 recovery has not been overlooked.

“For example, we have already adopted innovative technologies that streamline patient pathways whānau Māori, including initiatives created during the COVID-19 response, like e-pharmacy, virtual consults, and a more inclusive approach to telehealth. 

Treaty of Waitangi tools have been developed, too, to help guide the health and disability system in the development of its plans, strategies and accountability documents.

We re-visited the treaty today and must confess we failed to find the bits that might have helped develop the tools mentioned by the Minister.

The action plan can be found here: https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/whakamaua-maori-health-action-plan-2020-2025

 Cook Islands Language Week

Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio congratulated the Cook Islands community in New Zealand for the ninth year of Te ‘Epetoma o Te Reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani, the Cook Islands Language Week.

The theme for the Cook Islands Language Week 2020 is “Kia pūāvai tō tātou Reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani i Aotearoa”; which means, “That the Cook Islands Māori language may blossom throughout New Zealand”.

Budget 2019 invested $20 million over four years in enabling the Ministry for Pacific Peoples to provide funding support for Pacific language initiatives.

The Cook Islands Language Week programme will be officially launched online tomorrow.

Further information can be found here.

Construction under way

Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter have kicked off construction on Section 2 of Te Ara Ki Uta Ki Tai, the Glen Innes to Tāmaki Drive Shared Path today.

This will be a direct link from the eastern suburbs to the Tāmaki Drive Cycle Route, one of the busiest cycle routes to the city with an average of over 1,500 cycle trips on the route every day.

Cycleways ride in tandem with the bounce-bacv from Covid-19, of course, and Twyford said the project will create approximately 85 jobs and help with Auckland’s economic recovery.

Section 2 of the 7km Glen Innes to Tāmaki Drive Shared Path will be delivered by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency at a cost of $55m and is expected to be completed at the end of 2022.

Yep.  It’s been a busy day for the Beehive – and not all their releases are mentioned in the text above, but are recorded below:

Release

31 JULY 2020

Construction underway on longest section of Glen Innes to Tāmaki Drive Shared Path

Aucklanders in the Eastern Suburbs will soon have more ways to get around, with Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter kicking off construction on Section 2 of Te Ara Ki Uta Ki Tai, the Glen Innes to Tāmaki Drive Shared Path today.

Hon Phil Twyford Hon Julie Anne Genter

Transport

Release

31 JULY 2020

$5 million for Kaingaroa Village Redevelopment

Kaingaroa Village in the Bay of Plenty is to get $5 million to help fund a comprehensive upgrade of its infrastructure, facilities and housing.

Fletcher Tabuteau

Regional Economic Development

Release

31 JULY 2020

$18 Million Funding Boost for Bay of Plenty Business Park

The Rangiuru Business Park project near Te Puke is getting $18 million from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau announced today.

Fletcher Tabuteau

Regional Economic Development

Release

31 JULY 2020

Town revitalisation and aquaculture investments create jobs in Ōpōtiki

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has today announced that a $26 million investment in Ōpōtiki will see important public amenities upgraded and further progress made on new aquaculture opportunities.

Rt Hon Winston Peters

Deputy Prime Minister

Release

31 JULY 2020

Minister congratulates the Cook Islands community for its 9th year of Language Weeks

The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio wishes to congratulate the Cook Islands community throughout Aotearoa for the 9th year of Te ‘Epetoma o Te Reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani, the Cook Islands Language Week.

Hon Aupito William Sio

Pacific Peoples

Release

31 JULY 2020

Locally-led solutions at centre of new community resilience fund

From tomorrow, community groups around New Zealand can apply to a $36 million fund established to encourage locally-led solutions as communities rebuild and recover from COVID-19, announced Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni and Minister for Community and Voluntary Sector Poto Williams.

Hon Carmel Sepuloni Hon Poto Williams

Community and Voluntary Sector

Social Development

Release

31 JULY 2020

Securing healthy futures for all Māori

The Government has committed to improving Māori health and wellbeing over the next five years.

Hon Peeni Henare

Health

Release

30 JULY 2020

New standards for existing marine farms provide consistency

New environmental standards will make the re-consenting of existing marine farms more consistent across the country.

Hon David Parker Hon Stuart Nash

Environment

Fisheries

Release

30 JULY 2020

Government signs Accord reinvigorating commitment to Far North iwi

Today marks a milestone as the Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni and Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta co-sign an Addendum – with the Iwi Chairs of Te Rarawa, Ngāi Takoto and Te Aupōuri – to the Te Hiku o Te Ika Iwi-Crown Social Development and Wellbeing Accord (the Accord) on behalf of the Crown.

Hon Carmel Sepuloni Hon Nanaia Mahuta

Māori Development

Social Development

Release

30 JULY 2020

Veterans Support Amendment Bill No 2 passes third reading

The Veterans’ Support Amendment Bill (No 2) passed its third reading today and will become law, announced Minister for Veterans Ron Mark.

Hon Ron Mark

Defence

Release

30 JULY 2020

Racing Safety Development Fund open for applications

Minister for Racing Winston Peters says race courses can improve safety with this year’s first round of funding from the Racing Safety Development Fund.

Rt Hon Winston Peters

Deputy Prime Minister

Racing

Release

30 JULY 2020

Boost to agri-education with reopening of Taratahi

The Government’s commitment to increase primary sector jobs and opportunities has been further boosted today with the re-opening of the Taratahi Agriculture Centre, says Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

Hon Damien O’Connor

Agriculture

Release

30 JULY 2020

Acknowledging ethnic community response during COVID-19

New Zealanders are being invited to help recognise the work of the many “unsung heroes” in our ethnic communities during COVID-19.

Hon Jenny Salesa

Ethnic Communities

Release

30 JULY 2020

Government to subsidise arbitration and mediation to resolve commercial rent disputes

The Government is allocating $40 million to assist with the cost of mediation and arbitration for New Zealand businesses and landlords to resolve issues about adjusting rent as they face the economic impacts of COVID-19, Justice Minister Andrew Little said.

Hon Andrew Little

Justice

Release

30 JULY 2020

Roadside drug driver testing Bill introduced

The Government has announced details of a planned new law to give Police the power to conduct random roadside drug testing of drivers, Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter and Minister of Police Stuart Nash announced today.

Hon Stuart Nash Hon Julie Anne Genter

Police

Transport

Release

30 JULY 2020

Boost to upgrade state housing to be warmer, drier, healthier homes

More warmer, drier homes and a big building boost for regional centres across New Zealand are two of the major benefits from a $500 million investment in the upgrade and renewal of state homes.

Hon Kris Faafoi

Housing

Release

30 JULY 2020

Makeover for iconic waterfront destination

The Government will provide $8 million towards the revitalisation of the Paihia waterfront in the iconic Bay of Islands, Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones has announced.

Hon Shane Jones

Infrastructure

Release

 

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