Govt reports on how millions of our money are being used to improve our wellbeing – but the disarmament news is grim

Buzz from the Beehive 

Our improved wellbeing – hurrah – has been high among ministerial considerations as they spend our money over the past 24 hours.

We are  being safeguarded against falling into debt traps, funded to improve the quality of rural water supplies, provided with more mental-health support, and protected from bosses who would do our health and safety a mischief.

For good measure, Phil Twyford has been updating an audience about international efforts to secure the world against nuclear attacks (but he admitted progress is slow).

Their efforts are recorded on the Beehive website, which tells us ministers have been  

* Improving protections for Kiwis who borrow under Buy Now, Pay Later schemes

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Dr David Clark today announced that further checks aimed at stopping vulnerable consumers from landing in Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) debt traps are on the way

The amount of money spent with BNPL in New Zealand grew to $1.7 billion in 2021, up from $755 million in 2020.

The Government has agreed affordability checks should apply to BNPL loans above a threshold (proposed at $600), which would entitle borrowers to the same kind of protections to borrowers using other credit contracts, such as credit cards and personal loans. Options for how the affordability checks should be carried out will be subject to consultation.

Loans below the threshold limit will not have to go through the same process, but comprehensive credit reporting will be necessary.

All providers will be required to have hardship processes in place and belong to a dispute resolution scheme. Directors and senior managers will need to be certified fit and proper by the Commerce Commission.

Final regulations are timetabled for 2023.    

* Reminding rural people of the government’s readiness to pour money into rural water projects

Associate Minister of Local Government Kieran McAnulty was in Eketāhuna today to announce the Government is accepting applications for a $10 million programme to support rural drinking water suppliers meet Taumata Arowai water standards.

If you have no idea who or what  Taumata Arowai might be, it  is the new water services regulator for the nation and has declared it is committed to ensuring all communities have access to safe and reliable drinking water every day. It also has an oversight role in relation to the environmental performance of drinking water,  wastewater and stormwater networks.

Under the proposed Three Waters reforms, privately owned rural water suppliers will not be included in the public water service entities and will have responsibility to upgrade water infrastructure themselves to meet Taumata Arowai standards.

Many rural communities, unable to connect to council supplies, are dependent on small rural water suppliers that rely on volunteers.

MacAnulty said that under the Rural Drinking Water Programme registered, not-for-profit and privately owned drinking water suppliers that are in areas of high deprivation will be able to apply to have modern water treatment systems installed, and training and maintenance to keep their drinking water safe. Any new equipment that is installed for rural water suppliers under this programme will be owned by them.    

* Spending $25 million on improving mental health services for university students

Health Minister Andrew Little reminded us that more mental wellbeing support than ever before is now available to tertiary students at university, thanks to the Government’s $25 million Budget 2020 Tertiary Student Wellbeing package.

He was prompted by the start of enhanced mental health and addiction services on campus at the University of Waikato today, the last of the country’s eight universities to roll out the expansion.

The $25 million Budget 2020 Tertiary Student Mental Wellbeing package is a joint initiative delivered by the Ministries of Education and Health, and is in addition to funding made available to Te Pukenga, which provided more wellbeing supports at the two Auckland Polytechnics.

Te Pukenga?

Our clever government communicators have determined that Te Pukenga will be less bewildering for most people than if they called it “New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology”.    

* Giving workers a stronger voice on the issue of health and safety

The Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Michael Wood, has announced plans to change the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to require businesses to initiate an election when a worker asks for health and safety representatives

Small businesses in lower-risk sectors can refuse such requests for a health and safety representative.

The Bill – expected to be introduced by the end of the year – will not make health and safety representatives mandatory for businesses. Businesses will only be required to initiate an election where workers request them and workers may engage in less formal ways, such as through regular health and safety meetings.

The Bill will also propose changes to health and safety committees so that if five workers, or a health and safety representative, ask for a health and safety committee, a business will need to form a committee.

* Updating us on our efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons  

Disarmament and Arms Control Minister Phil Twyford delivered a speech about New Zealand’s disarmament efforts, in particular our advocacy against nuclear weapons, and to explain why we remain committed to achieving a world without nuclear weapons.

He began with a progress report that brought the threats by Russia’s Vladimir Putin into considerations :

It will not be news to any of you that the picture is grim.

But conflict continues around the world, including in Myanmar, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Syria; we are confronted by North Korea’s continuing ballistic missile and nuclear programmes in contravention of UN Security Council resolutions; China has become more assertive in pursuit of its interests.

The list of challenges goes on and, quite frankly, can seem overwhelming.

Do you feel reassured?

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