Two killed at WINZ office

September 1, 2014

Two people are dead and another seriously injured after being shot in the Ashburton WINZ office:

 

. . . A balaclava-clad man carrying a sawn-off shotgun entered the Work and Income office on the corner of Cass and Moore streets and fired several shots before fleeing on a bike.

The gunman was last seen heading towards the Ashburton river. Shots have reportedly been heard since coming from the river. 

A source told Fairfax Media that one person was shot dead on site and another died at Ashburton Hospital.

Police confirmed that two people had been killed and the third person was in hospital. . . .

This is firstly a tragedy for those who died, their family friends and workmates.

It is also a shock for the community and other public servants:

Ashburton District Mayor Angus McKay said he felt “weak at the knees” when he heard about the shooting at the town’s Work and Income office.

“Ashburton is not this kind of town,” he said.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett called it “an extreme situation and tragedy”, adding that all resources were going into looking after WINZ staff.

She was travelling down to the town this afternoon.

Public Service Association (PSA) said the shooting was a tragedy and nobody should go to work in fear that they might not return home. 

PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff said “Our thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy,”

“We don’t know what the cause is, but we will be supporting our members from Ashburton Work and Income at this terrible time. . . .

This has already been used for political point scoring on Twitter.

It shouldn’t be.

No political views justify killing innocent people at work.

It’s a tragedy.


Work best way out of poverty trap

September 1, 2014

Welfare has a place for people who can never support themselves and others who, for a variety of reasons, need temporary help.

But it’s a safety net that can turn into a poverty trap.

The best way out of that trap, and the best answer to poverty, is work which is why National has put so much effort, and so many resources, into helping those who can help themselves to do so.

The policy is working for the people going off benefits on to work and its working for New Zealand by reducing the long term economic and social costs of welfare dependency and poverty which comes with it.
Clearly, our policies are #working4nz.


Campaign opening the right way

August 25, 2014

The National Party campaign opening attracted around 2,500 members.

John Key asked us to thank all of you who came along to help make our 2014 campaign launch a stunning success today. Over 2500 of you joined us in the heartland of South Auckland to keep #TeamKey working for New Zealand. Thank you.

When I arrived the crowd was enjoying the music of Lapi Mariner and his band and teenage MC Lavana Seuala had us hanging on his every word.

He welcomed Social development Minister Paula Bennett who went through the accomplishments of the last six years which clearly drew the dots between head and heart.

National has taken tough decisions because it cares about improving the lives of the most vulnerable and knows that helping people move from welfare to work is best for them, their families and the country.

Lavana then welcomed Deputy leader and Finance Minister Bill English who reminded us of the importance of careful financial management and paid tribute to Prime Minister John Key.

Then it was the PM’s turn.

Such was the rapturous reception he got, it took him about five minutes to get to the stage and twice that to get back out.

He began his speech by saying how good it was to be in South Auckland.

 Doesn’t it feel great to be launching National’s election campaign here in the heartland of South Auckland?

We’re the party that’s working for New Zealand.

We’re the government that’s delivering results.

The economy’s growing.

Wages are rising.

Benefit numbers are dropping.

Crime rates are falling.

More elective surgery is being done in public hospitals.

And this year, after all we’ve been through as a country, I’m proud to say that the Government’s books will be back in the black.

On top of all that, my sense is that New Zealand has become a much more assured and more optimistic country.

A multicultural and more vibrant country – one that’s increasingly comfortable in its own skin.

I think back to 2008, when every month a net 3,000 people were leaving New Zealand for Australia.

Do you know what that figure was last month?

It was 80.

Rather than a stadium full of people leaving for Australia, it’s now more like a busload.

Because people know in their hearts and in their heads that New Zealand is moving in the right direction.

So the choice in this election is clear.

It’s between strong and stable leadership that’s delivering the benefits of a growing economy.

Or a group of parties that can’t agree with each other.

It’s between policies that are getting real results for New Zealand families.

Or a reversal of everything that’s working.

A choice between a government careful with your money.

Or parties whose election promises already add up to $28 billion and who want to tax you more to pay for them.

I know what I choose.

But I have to tell you that under MMP anything is possible.

Despite being low in the polls, it’s still possible for Labour to cobble together a government with the Greens, Dotcom and others, because that’s how the maths might work.

So everyone who wants National to lead the next government has to get out there on September 20 and party vote National.

They should have total confidence in doing that.

I lead a government that knows what it’s doing, and knows where it’s going.

I’m unashamedly positive for New Zealand.

I back New Zealanders to get ahead.

In the next 27 days I’m going to keep doing what I’ve done for the last six years – be relentlessly focused on what’s best for New Zealand.

I think we’ve got a great future ahead of us but we can take nothing for granted.

In 27 days from now, New Zealanders have the chance to lock in our plan for another three years.

In doing so, they’ll be voting for higher wages, more jobs and more growth.

Today is the official start of our campaign.

We’ve already announced some of our election policies.

These reinforce the approach we’ve always taken – supporting the most vulnerable, helping families, and staying tough on people who don’t follow the rules.

We’re cracking down on gangs that do so much harm.

We’ve set a target to reduce the crime rate even further.

We’ve released a policy I feel very strongly about, because it affects so many families at a difficult time.

We know the anguish people go through when their loved ones are in their final days and weeks – and we want to do our best to support them.

So we’ve made a commitment to increase funding for hospices by $20 million a year.

And let’s not forget – we’re the Party that funded the breast cancer drug Herceptin and, as a result, 1,100 women have got this treatment.

We’re also committing more to education.

We’re putting aside $350 million to build nine new schools in Auckland, with three earmarked for here in South Auckland.

Education is a huge focus for this government, and for me personally.

It’s the real opportunity we have to achieve generational change in the fortunes of New Zealand children and families.

We’re already seeing clear progress.

More kids are leaving school with at least NCEA Level 2, and I’m pleased to say the biggest lift in achievement has come from Pasifika students.

But we’re doing a lot more.

Earlier this year I announced a $359 million package of policies to do two things – to keep the best teachers in the classroom, and to get principals and teachers working together to raise student achievement across the board.

Because that’s what makes the biggest difference for our young people.

That, and getting them into work.

Under this government, the number of teenagers who are not working and not in education is heading towards a record low.

We’re working hard to expand the training opportunities available for young people, including Trades Academies and more apprenticeships.

Teen parents and other young beneficiaries now have a responsible adult alongside them.

That person makes sure they are in education or getting a job, have the support they’re often lacking from a parent, and are paying their bills.

And I can tell you that since 2009, the number of teen parents on a benefit has dropped by 40 per cent.

We’re going to announce more policies this election.

And you know from National that everything will be carefully considered and fiscally prudent.

Taken together, our policies won’t come anywhere near the big spending that Labour and the Greens have committed to.

I think New Zealanders can see that for what it is.

The country has yet to post a surplus but already our opponents are promising the earth to get elected.

They haven’t learnt from the past.

In its last five years, the previous Labour government increased its spending by 50 per cent.

The pressure this put on the economy helped drive mortgage rates up to almost 11 per cent.

That was tough for home owners.

But that’s not all.

Under the previous Labour government, house prices rose faster in New Zealand than in any other developed country.

In fact house prices doubled over Labour’s nine years.

No wonder home ownership is now more difficult for young Kiwis.

National values home ownership.

That’s because it provides stability for families, strength for communities and security in retirement.

So it’s important for young people to get their foot on the ladder, and into their first home.

We’ve been tackling this issue head on.

For a start, can I tell you that one of the best ways the Government can support more New Zealanders into home ownership is by helping to keep interest rates lower for longer.

We’re doing that by carefully controlling our spending and sticking with sensible monetary policy.

We are also working to increase the amount of land available for new houses, and to get those houses built.

We’re setting up housing accords with local councils to free up more land.

We’ve already signed accords with Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Western Bay of Plenty and Tauranga.

And the latest figures show building activity up 16 per cent over just one quarter.

There are also other things the Government is doing to help people get into their own home. . .

The PM then went on to announce policy to help more first-home buyers onto the property ladder.

Home ownership provides stability for families, strength for communities and security in retirement, that’s why I’ve just announced that we’re going to help 90,000 first home buyers into a house of their own over the next five years. ntnl.org.nz/1BQ94dK #Working4NZ

Details of the policy are here.

We’re doubling the support for first home buyers with KiwiSaver HomeStart Grants of up to $10,000 – or a total of $20,000 for a couple – for those purchasing a newly-built home. ntnl.org.nz/1BQ94dK #Working4NZ

When the alarm went off at 5am yesterday I wondered why I was going all the way to Auckland for such a short time.

On the 3 1/2 hour drive to Christchurch I wondered again.

But once there, any doubts I had were dispelled.

It was amazing to be part of such a positive and buoyed up crowd of people who are in the party for the right reasons and are working with the MPs and candidates to help return National for three more years so it can keep working for New Zealand.

It was good to be reminded of what matters and that National has such a strong caucus and line-up of candidates who are focussing on that.
Campaign launch

And it’s not only members who recognise the party’s strengths.

The taxi driver who took me from the airport was a Pacific Islander.

He said his people had traditionally voted Labour but that was changing as they recognised that National’s values and policies were better for them.


Budget Advice boost

August 22, 2014

A lot of people don’t know how to budget and it’s not only those on low incomes who find their expenditure is too close, or even in excess, of their income.

That’s what makes budget advice such an important service and thanks to a boost in funding, more people will be able to get help.

Budgeting services now have the opportunity to apply for extra funding to support their work with low income New Zealanders, with a $2 million funding round open for applications. 

“Budgeting services work alongside some of the most vulnerable people in the community, providing the advice and financial skills they need to get ahead, and stay out of debt,” says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

“The Government is committed to supporting this work, and in Budget 2014 we announced a $22 million boost for budgeting service providers over the next four years.”

The application process is now open for $2 million in funding, which is intended to support groups who are unfunded or facing demand pressures, and will include organisations not currently supported by the Ministry of Social Development.

Of the funding, $500,000 will be targeted at providers focused on helping people get access to early intervention and using innovative techniques in the work they do.

“Non-government organisations understand communities and the challenges they face like no one else, and budgeting services do an incredible job helping people managing on low incomes get the tools and support they need,” Mrs Bennett said.

“This funding also complements last week’s launch of the Community Finance lending scheme, which will provide low and no-interest loans to people at risk of unethical lending by loan sharks.”

“The Government is standing alongside vulnerable New Zealanders, and the extra funding for budgeting services will help people and families most in need access advice and information to help them build better lives.” 

More information and application details are available here.

This is another example of helping people help themselves and will be money well-spent.

 

 

 


Breaking debt cycle

August 15, 2014

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has launched a Community Finance pilot scheme  which will give people a safe alternative to loan sharks:

“Community Finance will help people with borrowing for assets they need for employment, education and a better quality of life,” says Mrs Bennett.

“This is another way we are helping families to help themselves become financially independent, by offering sustainable borrowing that avoids spiralling debt.”

“Community Finance is an excellent public-private partnership between the Bank of New Zealand, Good Shepherd New Zealand, The Salvation Army, and the Ministry of Social Development.

“Together, our aim is to help low-income families and individuals build up their asset base and achieve greater financial knowledge and skills.  Too many people on low incomes feel they have no other option but to borrow from unethical lenders who overinflate their prices and charge exorbitant interest.

“The first Community Finance product is StepUP loans for cars and other goods and services, which are now available to people on low incomes in Manukau City and Waitakere.

“The Bank of New Zealand-backed loans offer good discounts from market interest rates.  They are also free of traps such as fees (often hidden in the small print) and savage penalties which other, less ethical, lenders charge.

“The scheme has begun with a one-year pilot in South and West Auckland with the Ministry of Social Development contributing to the running costs of the not-for-profit organisations that provide the backbone and borrower support roles.  No Government capital will be loaned directly to borrowers.

“People can apply for the loans through the two local branches of The Salvation Army and borrowers will be supported over the lifetime of the loans with financial education,” says Mrs Bennett.

Even the best budgeters can be faced with unexpected expenses and the poorer you are the more difficult it is to cope with them.

This makes poor people vulnerable to loan sharks to exploit those least able to cope with the exorbitant interest rates they charge.

StepUP loans and the support that comes with them will help those in most need without saddling them with high interest rates.


Most help where needed most

August 12, 2014

When National did an extensive review of welfare in 2008 it found most resources were directed at the people who needed them least while those who needed the most help were left to languish on benefits.

One of the costly, but effective, policies has been one-to-one help for teen beneficiaries.

It’s working and it will be extended if National is re-elected:

A re-elected National Government would extend payment cards, money management, and intensive support and guidance to all teen parents and many 18 and 19 year old beneficiaries.
 
“While the numbers have been reducing, too many teenagers are still at risk of falling into the welfare trap,” says National’s Social Development spokesperson Paula Bennett.

“We want to do everything we can to ensure young people have the opportunity to get ahead.”
 
National introduced the Youth Service approach in 2012 for 16 and 17 year olds, and for teen parents up to 18. The service involves mentoring and advice, money management, and budgeting and parenting obligations.
 
These young people have a capable adult from a community-based organisation to work with them, help them pay their bills directly, and have money loaded onto a payment card for groceries and essentials. They get help to find an education or training course, or to get a job and go off the benefit.
 
“This approach is working well, and that’s why we are going to extend it to 19 year old sole parents, and to many other 18 and 19 year old beneficiaries who need more support or who are at risk of long-term welfare dependence.
 
“Many 18 and 19 year olds coming into Work and Income need more than job search assistance – they need help to get their lives on track, manage their money and pay the bills.
 
“National supports people in need, but expects them to do everything they can to get back on their feet when they are able”, says Mrs Bennett.
 
Under the new policy, Work and Income will assess all under 20s who are seeking a benefit. Self-motivated young people who are not likely to spend long on a benefit will continue their job search with the help of Work and Income, just as they do now.
National wants to do everything we can to ensure young people have the opportunity to get ahead. http://ntnl.org.nz/1ssLCjM #Working4NZ
 
Others with more complex needs will be referred to a youth service provider, where they will receive intensive support and guidance, together with budgeting support and the use of a payment card.
 
There will be no change for young people receiving the Supported Living Payment.
 
“Since coming into Government nearly six years ago, we have made significant reforms to the welfare system and we are seeing positive results,” says Mrs Bennett.
 
“I’m proud of what we have done and we are now seeing 1,600 people go off welfare and into work every week.
 
“But there is more we can do, and that’s why we’re going to extend the successful Youth Service model to take in more young people who really need a hand to get on their feet.”
 
The total lifetime cost of all people currently on welfare is $76.5 billion and more than 70 per cent of that is attributed to those who went on benefit as teenagers.
 
The National Government has already increased training and education opportunities with fees-free Youth Guarantee places for 10,000 16-19 year olds as well as 20,000 Apprenticeship Reboot places and 5,250 Trades Academy places a year.

The number of young people under 20 who are not in education, employment or training, is now the lowest it’s been since 2004.

“National is investing in young people to ensure their time in the welfare system is as brief as possible, so we help them avoid welfare dependency”, says Mrs Bennett.

Keeping young people off a benefit is the best approach.

Ensuring those who are on a benefit get the help they need to get their lives on track, manage their money and get into training then work is the next best policy for the people involved and the rest of us who pay the cost of long-term benefit dependency.

While the numbers of teen parents have been reducing, too many teenagers are still at risk of falling into the welfare trap. http://ntnl.org.nz/1ssLCjM #Working4NZ


Tied up for Tony

July 30, 2014

Parliament will be especially colourful today.

The best Health Minister in recent times, Tony Ryall, is delivering his valedictory speech this afternoon and his National Party colleagues are getting all tied up in tribute to his sartorial splendour:

Photo: On the day of his Valedictory Speech, National MPs are emulating Tony Ryall's infamous shirt-and-tie combos in tribute to an exceptional career.


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