Supreme Court judge to lead terror attack Royal Commission

Source: New Zealand Government

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today released the terms of reference for the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch terror attack and announced Supreme Court Justice Sir William Young as its chair.

“The Government will ensure no stone is left unturned as we examine as quickly as possible how the March 15 attack happened, what could have been done to stop it and how we can keep New Zealanders safe,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“The Royal Commission plays a critical role in our ongoing response to fully understand what happened in the lead up to the attack and to ensure such an attack never happens again.

“The Commission will look at:

  • The individual’s activities before the attack, including:
  • Relevant information from his time in Australia;
  • His arrival and residence in New Zealand;
  • His travel within New Zealand, and internationally;
  • How he obtained a gun licence, weapons and ammunition;
  • His use of social media and other online media; 
  • His connections with others, whether in New Zealand or internationally; 
  • What relevant state sector agencies knew about this individual and his activities before this attack; what actions (if any) they took in light of that knowledge; and whether there were any additional measures that the agencies could have taken to prevent the attack;
  • Whether there were any impediments to relevant state sector agencies gathering or sharing information relevant to the attack, or acting upon such information, including legislative impediments, and
  • Whether there was any inappropriate concentration or priority setting of counter terrorism resources by relevant state sector agencies prior to this attack.

“Justice Young, who is a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court of New Zealand – New Zealand’s highest court – has the extensive experience and skills required to lead the Inquiry.

“I am confident that in his nearly nine years as a judge on our highest bench, Justice Young has the judgement, clarity and care to do the job, with a sound understanding of intelligence issues and experience working in the public eye.

“The Commission has been tasked to engage with New Zealand’s Muslim community, including appointing qualified people to help with effective consultation.

“The Royal Commission will be established by Order in Council this Wednesday, April 10.

“It is scheduled to start considering evidence from May 13 and is expected to report back to the Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy within eight months – by December 10,” Jacinda Ardern said.

The Commission will have a budget of $8.2 million and one further member will be appointed by the end of April.

 Notes to editor:

  • More details on the Royal Commission are online

Justice William Young biography:

  • Justice William Young graduated with an LLB (Hons) from the University of Canterbury and later gained a doctorate from Cambridge University. He worked in a law office in Christchurch before taking up practice as a barrister in crime, civil, commercial and tax litigation, acting latterly for, among others, the New Zealand Serious Fraud Office and the New Zealand Commissioner of Inland Revenue.
  • He was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1991, to the High Court in 1997, and to the Court of Appeal in January 2004. Justice Young become President of the Court of Appeal in February 2006.
  • In June 2007, Justice Young was awarded the DCNZM (Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit) for services as President of the Court of Appeal of New Zealand. Justice Young was designated a knight companion of that order in 2009.
  • Justice Young was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court with effect from 1 July 2010. He is an honorary Bencher of the Middle Temple and an honorary Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.


New steps in improving our response to family violence

Source: New Zealand Government

Speech to the Auckland Branch of the NZ Law Society, 25 March 2019

First of all I want to acknowledge the victims and survivors of the terrorist attack in Christchurch just ten days ago. As we are still processing what happened and considering how we are going to change and respond as a nation, it’s important to reflect on how we can all promote peace in our communities and ensure that everyone in them can live free of violence.

We have been swift to say that these kinds of acts of mass violence against religious or ethnic groups is not the Aotearoa New Zealand we stand for and love. But the sad reality is that a different – but not completely unconnected – kind of violence is all too common in our homes.

An estimated one million New Zealanders are affected by family violence and sexual violence every year. That includes the people who themselves use violence, and it’s important that we include them in our thinking. Even as we center victims and survivors in our discussion and decision-making, we must be able to hold those who use violence to account, to take responsibility and change their behaviour.

Our society is a violent one. But it doesn’t have to be.

Tonight I want to talk with you about the new Family Violence Acts and the wider work the government is doing to improve the responses to family violence and sexual violence.

These forms of violence undermine the physical and mental health, employment, housing, and education of families and whānau. They have an impact across generations. Ending this violence is one of our greatest opportunities to improve wellbeing, and for this reason, action on family violence and sexual violence is a priority for the government.

In 2016, the Family Violence Death Review Committee said New Zealand doesn’t have a family violence safety system. Instead, we have a ‘default system’ consisting of a fragmented range of processes and responses, with one-off interventions that don’t manage risks.

To achieve an effective, integrated system that changes social norms and delivers on prevention, early intervention, crisis response and long-term recovery, we need everyone – inside government and in communities – understanding their role and who are competent and resourced to take action.  We need a plan – a whole-of-government and whole-of-society plan.

So in September, we announced a Joint Venture of 10 chief executives across government who are now collectively accountable for action to address family violence and sexual violence.

This means government agencies working together in new ways to reduce family and sexual violence, to break down the silos in our responses.

Its role is to lead, integrate, and provide support for everyone involved – victims, survivors, people who use violence, and their communities; to ensure that effective, whole-of-government response we need. And to be publicly accountable for that response through reporting to Parliament.

The joint venture is working alongside an interim Māori/Crown partnership group – Te Rōpū – because we know that building genuine partnership with Māori into our model will drive significant improvements in the system. The interim group is preparing advice on what the enduring arrangements for this partnership should look like, and helping to develop a national strategy and action plan.

We all know that myths and misunderstandings about family violence and sexual violence abound. Many people don’t understand the dynamics and the drivers of the violence, how it can escalate, where it comes from, that it’s about control and unequal power. That sexual violence is most often committed by people the victim knows. That family violence can continue when someone is out of the home at work, and that the time when a victim leaves an abusive relationship is the most dangerous.

These myths and misunderstandings put lives at risk.

As lawyers, you are a critical part of the response to family violence and sexual violence. You play a crucial role in the process of achieving justice and resolution for victims and survivors, as well as ensuring the right to a fair trial and help to change for defendants. You can have a tremendous impact, not just in the technical aspects of your work – as we heard recently at the Victims’ Hui held in Wellington, for many people just the act of explaining how the court process works and what’s expected of them can be a huge deal in making the process easier.

So you need to know how to respond, identify risks, and act in ways that enable safety. You are part of the solution.

Our new family violence legislation should help.

The first phase of this legislation came into effect in December.

It introduced new provisions including new offences of strangulation or suffocation, coercion to marry, and assault on a person in a family relationship. These offences criminalise behaviours and practices that are known to be used by perpetrators of violence, but weren’t previously consistently responded to or given enough weight. Strangulation, for example, is a significant risk factor for future, escalating violence. It’s important we can see where and when that is happening.

Coercion to marry, I want to be clear, is not the same as arranged marriage. This arose from a lot of discussion with ethnic and migrant communities who need that distinction clearly spelled out in order to identify and respond to abusive situations.

And assault on a person in a family relationship will now sit alongside “male assaults female”, which will allow us to respond to violence in a range of adult relationships, including in-laws, parents, grandparents, siblings, and those in a close personal relationship such as carers – another important facet of family violence which was highlighted by the disabled community.

We are monitoring the legislation and its application to ensure we do not lose sight of the gendered nature of family violence, or inadvertently end up prosecuting victims’ acts of resistance and self defence. Pulling out forms of violence beyond intimate partner violence works within this framework.

The phase one changes also affected the Bail Act and Evidence Act, so the safety of victims of family violence offending, and their family, will be the primary consideration when deciding whether or not to grant bail, and on what conditions; and Police and courts will be empowered to impose any conditions they deem necessary for the protection of the victim and their family.

And it is now easier for Police to use video evidence on behalf of the victims. The pilot of this has already seen an increase in early guilty pleas.

Phase two of the legislation comes into effect on 1 July.

It updates the definition of family violence to more clearly recognise the controlling, coercive nature of it, and the cumulative harm it causes. It acknowledges the impact and flags raised by individual acts that may not seem significant in of themselves. Lawyers will importantly need to recognise this change and ensure clients get the protection they need.

There are also new principles to guide decision-making, including the need to consider the views of victims, that access to court should be speedy, perpetrators should have access to services to that help them stop and prevent family violence, and the need to recognise that children are particularly vulnerable to family violence, and family violence has a long term impact.

We know that if violence is occurring between a child’s parents, it can cause as much harm if not more than a direct assault against that child. We need to ensure we are protecting children in the context of intimate partner violence and helping to re-establish their relationship with their protective parent.

This is also being covered by our Family Court considerations.

The Act makes important changes to Protection Orders, Police Safety Orders and other mechanisms to improve safety.

It lays the foundations for better family violence response systems by promoting consistent, collaborative responses to people experiencing family violence.

A range of agencies will now be defined in law as Family Violence Agencies with the expectation that they will collaborate to identify, stop, prevent, and otherwise respond to family violence. They must consider sharing information with other agencies where doing so would help keep people safe. This doesn’t include information held by lawyers, but it’s useful for you to know that new guidance and tools on how to share information safely will be available for agencies and practitioners.

The New Zealand Law Society recently hosted a webinar on the family violence legislation. This is available as part of Law Society Continuing Education. A second webinar will be available to support the 1 July changes, and I strongly encourage you all to take part.

The Ministry of Justice has been working with victims, survivors and people who use violence as well as advocates to support the implementation of the new legislation. This means redesigning protection order application forms and developing a risk and needs assessment and brief intervention service when a Police Safety Order is issued.

As I said, this is a priority for us. In addition to the legislation, Minister Little is leading the Family Court rewrite, and the report is due 1 May. We’ve also increased funding to frontline services and much more, including judicial education on family violence and sexual violence, bail information pilots, and ISR.

It’s important to me that we create a safe system, and that needs to include the courts.

I will, with the Minister of Justice’s support, be taking proposals to Cabinet this year to improve how the justice system responds to victims of sexual violence.

These proposals are built on Law Commission advice and important academic and policy work completed over the last decade.

In the meantime, the Ministry is implementing operational changes aimed at reducing trauma and revictimisation for sexual violence victims.

This includes improvements to our court buildings and an online guide to the justice system. This was co-designed with survivors and survivor advocates, to help victims understand the processes and roles in the justice system. We are also implementing psycho-social support from the point of disclosure, and I want to acknowledge the guidance and training for prosecutors issued by the Solicitor-General. It’s not enough, but it’s a start.

You will all have views about the role of the justice system in our response to family violence and sexual violence; how evidence is gathered and presented in court, what support should be available to victims, their family and whānau, as their cases proceed; and how we should react to people who are alleged to have committed these crimes or are found guilty of doing so.

As we continue improving the system, I welcome your perspectives.

I am a strong believer in hearing from a broad range of voices, because it’s easy to get stuck in our own frames of reference, and the cultures of the organisations we operate in.

It’s critical to hear and include the perspectives of different ethnic groups, of diverse gender or sexual orientation, those living with disability, children and young people, and especially people who have direct experience of family violence and sexual violence.

We also need the expertise of those who advocate for and represent victims and survivors, and the professionals who see the trauma and know what is effective in holding perpetrators to account and changing their behaviour.

In the justice system, as a first principle, we need to approach family and sexual violence from a “do no more harm” approach. This means acknowledging the trauma that many people engaging in the justice system are already carrying and the need to create a system that is safe, effective and fair, and doesn’t cause further harm.

We have deep cultural and social norms to address and failing systems to mend. We need solutions that will endure: better enabling families and whānau to be strong; ensuring women and children are safe in their homes and communities; having men be confident in their masculinity and able to express their emotions without using violence; and that people of all genders are treated with respect.

We need all New Zealanders working together to address family violence and sexual violence. We need to think beyond the way things have always been done, see the future free of violence that we want to create, and identify how we are going to change the way we work to get there.

So I challenge you to examine the role of the legal profession in the response to family violence and sexual violence, to step up and join us to deliver a system that responds far better to the violence that is happening now, in order to stop it happening ever again.

Thank you.


Native frogs and kiwi protected by Nature Heritage Fund purchase 

Source: New Zealand Government

A block of native forest which is home to threatened native frogs /pepeketua and Coromandel brown kiwi will be preserved after being purchased by the Nature Heritage Fund.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage today announced the formal protection of 130 hectares of native forest, at Papa Aroha, 11 kilometres north of Coromandel township. 

“The owners offered the Aradia block to the Fund to guarantee it would be protected for future generations,” Eugenie Sage said.

The land is covered by logged kauri forest and tairaire-tawa forest with emerging stands of rata.

New Zealand has only four species of native frog, all of them are listed as threatened or at-risk. Habitat for two species, Hochstetter’s frog and Archey’s frog, will now be permanently protected by the Native Heritaqe Fund purchase of the Aradia block of native forest.  

“Archey’s frog is our smallest native frog, growing to only 37mm in length. It’s also one of the world’s oldest frogs. Fossils show its hardly changed in 150 million years.

“Archey’s frog is listed as the world’s most Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered amphibian species by the international EDGE of Existence Programme.

“Living beside streams, Hochstetter’s frog is our most aquatic native frog. All our other native frogs live on land in shady moist areas. Hochstetter’s frog is dark brown grows up to 48mm long and is found on the Coromandel, Great Barrier Island and at other sites in the upper North Island.

“The Aradia block is also home to Coromandel brown kiwi, which is genetically different to other brown kiwi. It is the rarest of the four forms of brown kiwi with an estimated population of around 1700.

“Other native birds found at the site include North Island kākā, korimako / bellbird, pied tomtit /miromiro, tūī, kererū, riroriro / grey warbler, pīwakawaka / fantail and New Zealand falcon / kārearea.

“Threatened native fish living in nearby rivers include tuna/ long fin eel, giant kōkopu, and koura freshwater crayfish. 

“The good news for this native wildlife and the native forest is that the Department of Conservation (DOC) has controlled introduced predators at the site. The Fund’s purchase will enable this control to continue into the future.” 

The Nature Heritage Fund was established in 1990 to help protect the indigenous ecosystems of Aotearoa through direct purchase or covenant on a willing buyer/ willing seller basis. The Aradia purchase cost the Fund $412,000.

To date, more than 343,000 hectares has been approved for protection through the Fund.


Mega mast confirmed for New Zealand forests

Source: New Zealand Government

Monitoring by the Department of Conservation has confirmed the predicted mega mast or heavy seeding in New Zealand’s forests this autumn, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said today.

Results from extensive seed sampling across the country in February and March point to the biggest beech mast for more than 40 years with exceptionally heavy seed loads in South Island forests. Rimu forests and tussock grasslands in the South Island are also seeding heavily.

Forest seeding provides a bonanza of food for native species but also fuels rodent and stoat plagues that will pose a serious threat to native birds and other wildlife as predator populations build up next spring and summer.

Eugenie Sage said that new funding of $81.2 million in Budget 2018 over four years had enabled DOC to scale up its predator control programme to respond to the threat posed by the mega mast.

“DOC is planning its largest-ever predator control programme for 2019/2020, at a cost of $38 million, to suppress rats, stoats and possums over about one million hectares or 12 per cent of conservation land.

“This is a step up from the previous largest programme of 840,000 ha in 2016 and 600,000 ha in 2014 and 2017 when there were significant but smaller mast events.

“Responding to the increased threat from introduced predators during such a big mast year is critical if we are to retain our unique native species that set New Zealand apart from the rest of the world.

“If we don’t act, we could lose populations of bird species like our tree-hole nesting kākāriki/orange-fronted parakeet and mohua, and bats, which are so vulnerable to rat plagues.

DOC’s Tiakina Ngā Manu predator control programme, previously known as Battle for our Birds, uses aerially applied 1080 pesticide and large-scale trapping to protect native birds, bats, frogs, lizards and giant land snails at the most important sites across the country.

This work is carefully targeted to sustain the most vulnerable populations of kiwi, kākā, kōkako, kea, whio/blue duck, mohua/yellowhead, kākāriki/orange-fronted parakeet, rock wren/tuke, long and short tailed bats/pekapeka, native frogs and Powelliphanta snails.

DOC’s seed sampling programme involved snipping branches by helicopter from over 8000 beech and rimu trees at nearly 200 sites across the North and South Islands and counting more than three million seed pods from 43,000 samples.  More than 1000 tussock plants were also monitored at 63 sites. The estimate of seed-fall this autumn informs predator control planning.

Priority sites for predator control include Kahurangi, Abel Tasman, Arthur’s Pass, Westland, Mt Aspiring and Fiordland national parks, the Catlins and Whirinaki. The programme includes more than 66,000 ha of trapping with the remainder (more than 900,000 ha) aerial 1080 operations

Aerially applied 1080 is the only tool currently available that can effectively knock down rodents over large areas before they reach plague levels after a beech mast. Numerous studies show that it protects vulnerable wildlife and allows birds to produce more chicks to sustain and build their populations.

While most sites have been confirmed and are at an advanced stage of planning, predator control operations will only proceed at mast sites from May this year if rodents reach levels that pose a threat to wildlife. 

The Department has been consulting with iwi partners, regional councils and other pest control agencies, community groups and neighbouring landowners in recent months as part of its planning.


NZSL Video Interpreting Service extending to weekends

Source: New Zealand Government

The service that allows people using New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) to phone others by using an interpreter will soon be available at weekends, Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Kris Faafoi and Disability Issues Minister Carmel Sepuloni announced today.

The NZSL Video Interpreting Service provides an interpreter who translates to others on the phone or in person.

“The Video Interpreting Service is the most in-demand government-funded relay service and we know user groups are keen for it to be made more available,” Kris Faafoi says.

“It’s currently available 8am to 8pm on weekdays. From 1 July, this free service will also be available during the weekend and on public holidays. We hope that it will help improve people’s ability to connect with others and participate in their communities.”

Carmel Sepuloni says the Video Interpreting Service is a vital communication channel for some NZSL users.

“The Video Interpreting Service provides a tool where those who use NZSL can communicate with friends and whānau, contact service organisations, and participate in situations where interpreting services aren’t always available such as medical appointments,” she says.

“The ability to communicate with others is important for living a successful and rewarding life, and is something we all should be able to take for granted. The extended service will go some way in improving this and I look forward to seeing how the other services may be improved in the future.”

The government is currently undertaking a public consultation on relay services, including the NZSL Video Interpreting Service, for people who are Deaf, deafblind, speech-impaired or hearing-impaired.

The public have until 9am, Monday 15 April to have their say on the six proposed changes to these existing services.

Further information on the relay services, proposed changes, and making a submission are available in New Zealand Sign Language and English here.

View the NZSL video of this statement here.

Notes to editors
From 1 July 2019, the Video Interpreting Service will be available:

8am – 8pm Monday to Friday
10am – 5pm Saturday
12pm – 5pm Sunday
8am – 9pm Monday to Friday during May and November to support parent-teacher meetings

The service’s hours will operate as above during public holidays.


More Kiwis able to access lower-cost primary health care

Source: New Zealand Government

Health Minister David Clark is pleased to mark World Health Day today as new figures show cheaper doctors visits are available to nearly all the New Zealanders the policy was intended to reach.

This year for World Health Day the World Health Organisation (WHO) is focusing on universal health coverage.

“This is a great day to note that more New Zealanders can see their doctor at an affordable cost, thanks to the Government’s cheaper doctors visits initiatives launched in December last year,” David Clark said.

“As of April 1, approximately 96 per cent of Community Services Card (CSC) holders and their dependants who are enrolled with a general practice are able to visit their doctor at low cost. Those not already enrolled with a very low cost access practice will on average pay $20 to $30 less for a consultation. This means almost all Kiwis who hold a CSC won’t be charged more than $18.50 to visit their doctor.

“We know that cost has been a barrier for nearly 600,000 New Zealanders when they need to see their doctor. For some, their health has deteriorated until they needed to go to hospital. This isn’t good enough and I’m proud of the fact this Government has done something about it.

“All general practices in the Northland, Lakes, Tairawhiti, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Whanganui, Hutt Valley, Wairarapa, West Coast and South Canterbury DHB regions have opted to provide lower-cost visits to their eligible patients with a CSC.

“I’m particularly pleased to see that more than 96 per cent of Māori and over 97 per cent of Pacific people who are CSC holders are enrolled with practices that offer lower cost fees.

David Clark says the Zero Fees for Under 14s scheme, which was part of Labour’s coalition agreement with New Zealand First, is also helping make primary care more accessible.

“Almost all (more than 99 per cent) of enrolled children aged 13 and under can now access zero fee general practice visits.

“Zero Fees for Under 14s is helping deliver on our priority of ensuring all children in New Zealand have access to the primary health care services they need to reach their full potential.

‘”I’d also like to acknowledge the commitment of the primary care sector to implement the initiatives so promptly. The initiative’s positive outcomes wouldn’t be possible without the sector’s broad support and hard work,’ says David Clark.


The initiatives include:

• People with a CSC, and their dependants aged 14 to 17 years, who are enrolled with a general practice will pay less for visits to see a doctor or nurse at their general practice. An adult with a CSC won’t pay more than $18.50 for a standard visit with a doctor or nurse and young people aged 14 to 17 years, who have a parent or caregiver with a CSC, will be charged no more than $12.50.

• All enrolled children aged 13 and under won’t be charged a fee for a standard visit with a doctor or nurse at their general practice. They also won’t be charged an after-hours fee at participating clinics or pharmacies or the regular $5 prescription fee.

It’s anticipated that from 1 April 2019:

• 91 per cent of non-very low cost access (VLCA) practices will have signed up to the CSC initiative.

• 94 per cent of practices (including the above non-VLCA and all VLCA practices) will be offering low-cost services to their enrolled CSC holders and dependants.

• 96 per cent of CSC holders and dependants who are enrolled with a general practice will be able to visit their enrolled practice at low cost.

These figures will be confirmed by mid-April 2019, following final analysis.


Indigenous experts advise on Declaration plan

Source: New Zealand Government

Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta today welcomed the delegation from the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) to Aotearoa. 

Last week Nanaia Mahuta announced that New Zealand will be taking a step forward on indigenous rights by leading a process to measure New Zealand’s progress towards the aspirations of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

EMRIP members have been invited to Aotearoa to provide advice on the development of that plan.  

“This is an exciting opportunity to hear from indigenous experts about how Aotearoa can be reflected in a Declaration plan, drawn from global models. 

The EMRIP members have been invited to New Zealand by the Aotearoa Independent Monitoring Mechanism for the Declaration and the Human Rights Commission and with the agreement of the New Zealand Government. 

“There are a range of policies and strategies already in place that are relevant to the Declaration, but there is no overall plan. EMRIP’s visit will help the Crown and Māori work together to create a plan to guide the implementation of the Declaration,” said Nanaia Mahuta.  

During their visit, EMRIP members will meet with various organisations, experts and the Government. They will also hold two community hui in Auckland and Wellington.  

“We are pleased to host these indigenous experts. Aotearoa is the third country to be visited by EMRIP, and this visit will show that we are genuinely committed to developing a national plan for the Declaration that meets New Zealand’s needs and aspirations.  

“We wish them the best for their time in Aotearoa and look forward to meeting and engaging with them,” said Nanaia Mahuta. 

Editorial Note:  

About the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP)


The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is one of three UN expert bodies that focus specifically on the rights of indigenous peoples  

EMRIP is made up of seven independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to provide advice and expertise. 

Three of the seven experts will be visiting Aotearoa in the coming  week:

  • Ms Laila Vars of Norway;
  • Ms Megan Davis of Australia;
  • Mr Edtami Mansavagan of the Philippines.



Speech for New Zealand Sign Language Act Celebration

Source: New Zealand Government

Thank you Kim and the team at Deaf Action for this opportunity to celebrate the New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006 with the Deaf community.

Tonight is a celebration of and by the Deaf community. It feels really special for me to also be able to be a part of this.

The passing of the New Zealand Sign Language Act on April 6, 2006 was widely celebrated in New Zealand and internationally for its official recognition of our signed language and the right to use it. 

I want to acknowledge the people in the Deaf community whose advocacy and tenacity contributed to seeing NZSL recognised in legislation as one of Aotearoa’s two official languages.

I also want to acknowledge again Kim Robinson for his ongoing commitment to a better New Zealand for the deaf community and Rhian Yates, a member of the New Zealand Sign Language Board. And to Cruze Kapa for MC-ing this event, as well as Milton Reddy/ Eric Matthew for the opening karakia.

This is an important opportunity to recognise the importance of sign language for the lives and wellbeing of the deaf community.

Language is integral to developing our culture and identity, and it is also a tool that ensures we can communicate with each other, and everyone can access all a society has to offer.

I am pleased that New Zealand Sign Language is an official language here. Government has responsibility for promoting and protecting our official languages. Both New Zealand Sign Language and te reo Māori are vital to our expression of culture and identity in Aotearoa.

We are recognised as a world leader for our commitment to maintaining and furthering the use of our sign language. Through New Zealand Sign Language we can promote equal opportunities for Deaf people and work toward a more inclusive Aotearoa.

This Government is committed to the promotion and maintenance of NZSL. You will have seen recently efforts to ensure there is more New Zealand Sign Language in the public media, in particular during events of national significance. We have also made post-cabinet briefings more accessible by having sign language interpreters present. It is exciting that more people are seeing sign language and more people are interested in learning about it.

These changes are an important part of this Governments commitment to a more inclusive and accessible New Zealand. At the end of last year Cabinet agreed to a policy work programme to accelerate accessibility and consider how legislation may contribute to that. This will be a collaborative work programme including a range of disabled people, older people, organisations, businesses and officials.

From my experience meeting and working with the Deaf Community- it is a passionate and diverse group of people. There are many people and organisations playing a unique part in maintaining and promoting New Zealand Sign Language. I am glad to be here to help celebrate your achievements.

This is a critical time to work together to strengthen NZSL as a core part of Deaf culture and as an official language available for all New Zealanders.

Education is an area that I am keen to see is continuing their work on lifting access to New Zealand Sign Language. 

Government provided more funding in Budget 2018 to lift sign language support for those using it when very young and in school, particularly for those whose first language is New Zealand Sign Language.

This is helping our children and rangitahi, and their whānau and educators, to learn New Zealand Sign Language and to use it for their communication and learning.

I am excited to hear about the success of First Signs and NZSL@School, and am looking forward to seeing how our service model for deaf education can continue to improve. 

Another area that I am pleased to see progressing is the review of the Telecommunications Relay Services. I hope that you have all taken the chance to have your say about the proposed changes for the Relay services, in particular the Video Interpreting Service.   It is important that the future service is user-friendly, reliable and up to date. 

The NZSL Board is also continuing to work hard to promote sign language across New Zealand with the distribution of five million dollars through the NZSL Fund over the past four years. This has supported local community events, the development of resources such as LearnNZSL, and key strategic work needed for the long term health of NZSL, such as the Online NZSL Dictionary. 

Announcements about Round five of the NZSL fund will be made soon, giving us another opportunity to celebrate.

The New Zealand Sign Language Board has an important role in maintaining and promoting NZSL.  The Board has been well served by the current members and past members.  However the time has come to appoint new members to the Board and I expect in mid- April there will be a call for new members.  The Office for Disability Issues will have information on their website about the process.  Applications will be welcomed from people who are fluent in NZSL, with good judgement, and who are committed to the maintenance and promotion of NZSL.

I look forward to another opportunity to celebrate sign language during New Zealand Sign Language Week. The week of celebrations keeps getting better each year and continues to support a growing awareness and acceptance of NZSL, making it more visible to everyone in New Zealand.  

A lot has changed for New Zealand Sign Language over the past 20 years thanks to the passion, skills, knowledge and expertise of this community.  The Government is keen to work alongside the Deaf community so that we can achieve more for the current and next generation of NZSL users.


Rural health training hubs praised

Source: New Zealand Government

Minister for Rural Communities Damien O’Connor has welcomed the Minister of Health’s commitment to develop rural health training hubs.

“Minister Clark’s announcement yesterday shows the Government is listening to rural New Zealand and follows on from the rural proofing policy we introduced last year.

“Those living in rural communities can enjoy excellent lifestyles but they face unique challenges that must be reflected in Government policy.

“This past year alone has seen drought, floods and biosecurity incursions, which cause stress across in rural communities. The Rural Proofing Policy ensures that when policy-makers sit down to design the rules they take into account the unique factors that affect rural communities such as low populations, isolation, and reliance on the primary sector for employment.

“Rural Kiwis should have equitable access to social and economic opportunities, to reach their full potential.

“Developing rural health training hubs in which a range of medical professionals are trained inside rural communities is a great way to build communities up and encourage connections.

‘We’ve all heard stories about rural communities finding it hard to attract GPs and other health professionals. This is a real concern. It means rural Kiwi’s aren’t getting the same access to healthcare as urban Kiwi’s – and that has to be fixed.

“If students are training in rural communities and becoming a part of that community, many will stay at the end of their studies.

“I know there’s still a lot of detail to work through but I’m very excited to see progress towards the first hub and I look forward to watching this initiative flourish.’’


National Erebus Memorial design selected

Source: New Zealand Government

A design that includes a walkway projecting outward to the horizon has been selected for the new National Erebus Memorial after recommendation by a Design Selection Panel, announced Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.  

“I’m pleased to announce the design Te Paerangi Ataata – Sky Song, by Wellington firm Studio Pacific Architecture jointly with designer and artist Jason O’Hara and musician Warren Maxwell, has been selected,” Jacinda Ardern said.

 “The design reflects the enormity of the tragedy and provides a strong sense of connection and loss. The design has a strong narrative to engage visitors and provides a sanctuary within its walls, evoking the great emptiness experienced for those who lost their lives.

 “As the memorial is created, some 257 stainless steel snowflakes will be cut out and given to the families, connecting them to the site and providing a symbolic keepsake that can be passed on to others.  

“The design was chosen after feedback from family members of those who died, those who worked on the recovery operation and in consultation with Auckland Council.

 “My sincere thanks to everyone involved in the process to select the design; we had some fantastic submissions. Planning for the memorial’s construction can now begin with the unveiling timed for May 2020,” Jacinda Ardern said.

 Mayor Phil Goff welcomed the progress being made on building the memorial and said it was long overdue.

 “With Flight 901 having left from Auckland and many of those on board residents from our city, it is appropriate for the memorial to be built here.

 “It has been important to work with the families of the Erebus victims and wherever possible take on board their wishes.

 “The memorial in Dove-Myer Robinson Park, overlooking the Waitematā, is in a beautiful setting, which I hope will provide comfort and solace to those who lost family and friends on Erebus,” Phil Goff said. 

The design team at Studio Pacific Architecture are honoured to contribute to the making of this special place of remembrance for those who lost their lives.

 “It is a privilege for us to contribute towards a memorial experience that captures their adventurous spirit,” Studio Pacific Architecture founding director Nick Barratt-Boyes said.

 The final design and details of the finalist design teams are on the Ministry for Culture and Heritage website.