Saturday 26 May 2012

News from New Zealand - attack on the poor and destruction of heritage

The latest Budget of the National government is nothing less than an assault on the most vulnerable.

This legislation was passed 'under urgency', to avoid public scrutiny

NZ: Asset-threshold change called attack on elderly
Opposition parties have described a residential care asset-threshold change in this week's Budget as an attack on the elderly.

26 May, 2012

Opposition parties have described a residential care asset-threshold change in this week's Budget as an attack on the elderly.

An automatic $10,000 annual increase in the threshold, now $210,000, was scrapped in this week's Budget in favour of an inflation increase.

The threshold change means fewer people are eligible for residential care subsidies.

New Zealand First health spokeswoman Barbara Stewart said the "shameful" move was a "sneak attack" that would discourage people from saving for retirement.

"This piece of tacky legislation provides a disincentive for senior citizens to save when a good portion of their savings could be siphoned off to pay for their care."

The move should have been signalled at least a year in advance, rather than being sprung on people with only a few weeks' notice, she said.

Dunedin North MP and Labour revenue spokesman Dr David Clark said the Government was attacking the elderly, while avoiding the debate Labour sought on national super.

The threshold change should have been aired well before the Budget, but was "buried" in a Budget health press release, and not even mentioned by Finance Minister Bill English in his Budget speech, Dr Clark said.

"The Government is encouraging New Zealanders to save but could end up taking more of your nest egg. This measure could discourage people from saving."

An estimate by Ministry of Health deputy director-general Don Gray says altering the threshold will affect 170 people in 2012-13, saving $4.5 million.

Over four years, it will save $41.7 million.

Grey Power Otago president Jo Millar was philosophical, saying the elderly were willing to share the burden of tough financial times. She said the money would help pay for other parts of aged care, such as the boost to dementia care.

The New Zealand Aged Care Association has welcomed the move, but was disappointed the savings would not be earmarked for aged care.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Tony Ryall said the savings contributed to Vote Health, and would pay for new health spending.

Also announced this week was an $18.3 million investment, over the next four years, in mental health services for children and young people.

Twelve youth-focused "One-Stop Shops" will deliver a range of health and social services around the country, with $600,000 helping them meet the demands of mild to moderate mental health issues.

In addition, $1 million will go towards providing information and support for families and parents; $8.7 million will go to mental health workers in secondary schools; $2 million will be spent on a social media innovations fund to help service providers reach young people with mental health issues; and $6 million will further support vulnerable children.

More than 1000 teachers could lose jobs

25 May, 2012

The PPTA has estimated 1,100 teachers will lose their jobs as a result of wide-ranging changes suggested for the education system.

Education Minister Hekia Parata disputes that, but her proposals have still provoked a furious response from many educators.

At first glance, an increase of a couple of kids per teacher doesn't sound that bad. The minister says 20% of our children are failing, and she wants to fix that.

But teachers say not only will these changes not help those pupils, it'll make things worse for the other 80%, and a proposal to remove technology funding has principals saying it'll be the death of intermediate schools.

Lachlan Forsyth spoke to teachers saying meddling with an education system that is consistently rated as one of the best in the world is just dumb

Watch the video to see the full report.

Protest march against
cathedral demolition

26 May, 2012

Christchurch residents opposed to the demolition of the iconic cathedral will take their message to the streets this afternoon.

Protesters are expected to gather at Cranmer Square, before marching to Worcester Street, on the edge of the central city red zone.

The rally has been organised by the Restore Christ Church Cathedral group and has the support of former Christchurch MP Jim Anderton.

Mr Anderton told The Press last week that the protest will show the "depth of concern" about saving the historic building.

"If we could put thousands of people on the street, that would focus the minds of the government and get the attention of everybody," he said.

The demolition of the cathedral began in March after it was deemed too badly damaged by the Christchurch earthquakes to be repaired.

The Anglican Church is planning to build a so-called cardboard cathedral a few blocks away in Latimer Square.

The Christchurch City Council voted last Thursday in favour of halting demolition "to enable deeper and more open consideration of restoration options".

The Historic Places Trust has also called for a pause to the demolition work.

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