17 November 2009
It's goal, goal, goal!
The wind has not dampened Wellingtonians' high spirits after last weekend's stunning 1-0 All White's win, qualifying them for the next year's World Cup, where they will play against soccer's supreme line-ups.
The spirits of New Zealanders are also high as we continue to come out of economic recession. Our latest sporting victory has given us all extra reason to celebrate, with millions of dollars being boosted into the economy as New Zealand celebrated the win.
The news gets better: the All Whites aren't the only high flyers in sport.
Earlier this month, I went down to Christchurch as Associate Minister for Disability Issues to open the 2009 Asia Oceania Zone Wheelchair Rugby Championships.
The Wheel Blacks battled it out to qualify for the 2010 world championships and took on international competitors from Australia, South Africa, Japan and Korea.
The atmosphere at the games was charged with intense competition and a strong will to win. The players showed their determination to let nothing get in the way as they moved fast on court with their specially designed wheelchairs.
The Wheel Blacks ended up in the finals against Australia, and while they lost the final, their runner-up status has qualified them for the World Championships next year.
Valuing our citizens
For three days in a row, I had the pleasure of speaking to network members of the Manukau East Council of Social Services (MECOSS) quarterly Disability and Older Persons meeting, the Howick and Pakuranga Grey Power General Meeting, and the inter-Rotary Club Food and Wine festival at Howick Club.
At the MECOSS meeting, I shared the government's three themes for the disability sector, which are:
1. Modern Disability Supports, which means providing simple and easy access to support; ensuring choice and self-determination and early support; and helping resilient families and supportive communities, also known as Whanau Ora.
2. Accessible New Zealand, which means ensuing cities and towns are accessible; that transport and the built environment meets the needs of disabled communities, that government services, including information, are accessible.
3. Contributing Citizens, which means disabled people are able to achieve at school and work; can look after themselves with this help of family and whanau; and have equal access to justice.
To achieve this, we have established the Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues, which ensures there is a whole of Government focus on the disability sector.
The Ministerial Committee is charged with the responsibility of ensuring the Government's multi-billion dollar annual disability spend is meeting the needs of disabled people fairly and effectively.
Currently, the funding for disability sector is through a range of departments, with District Health Boards giving just under $1 billon dollars a year, the Ministry of Health providing $890 million a year, the Ministry of Social Development contributing more than $480 million a year, and the Ministry of Education giving more than $400 million.
We also have three priorities for senior citizens, which I highlighted at the Grey Power meeting.
The first priority is addressing the issue of employment of older people through encouraging flexible work options and negotiated retirement plans.
The second priority is changing attitudes about ageing - promoting the contributions older people make to their communities, while encouraging older people to continue to stay involved.
The third priority is raising awareness about elder abuse and neglect, which is a problem in many communities, but one that is not often talked about.
I also was able to update Grey Power on initiatives in superannuation. The National-led government has committed almost $20 million dollars over the next four years to maintaining NZ Superannuation and Veteran's Pension after-tax married rates at a minimum of 66 percent of the average wage, rather than letting them drop back to 65 percent.
We have also introduced new superannuation portability rules, which allows New Zealanders over the age of 65 to travel and retain their full entitlements.
Previously, older New Zealanders could not spend more than 26 weeks outside of New Zealand without having their pensions affected. Under the new rules, citizens will be free to travel and live where they choose while still getting their full entitlements.
We have also boosted health funding by an additional $3 billion dollars in priority funding over the next four years.
This includes $89.5 million dollars over four years to improve quality and supervision in aged residential care facilities and respite care for those being care for by others at home, $70 million dollars for up to 800 additional health professionals over four years to increase services for people requiring elective surgery, and $60 million dollars over four years for hospice and palliative care.
These initiatives give our older citizens greater freedom in the way they choose to spend their "Golden Years".
The Howick club put up their welcome mat at their fundraiser for the Hospice, with an interesting display of arts and crafts for sale as well as plenty of wine and beer to wash down the oyster, whitebait, and fish feast that was laid on.
Seven different Rotary clubs were represented as we enjoyed the food and wine fundraiser for the Hospice.
The band and the occasional bit of sunshine peeking through the clouds made it an enjoyable task to donate towards a good cause.
Visit my website at www.pansywong.co.nz for snappy shots of our beautiful Botany electorate.