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SaveMart shows why unions are vital for New Zealand

Written By: - Date published: 2:02 pm, September 27th, 2017 - 47 comments
Categories: employment, health and safety, jobs, minimum wage, poverty, Unions, wages, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

Those of you who are keen op shoppers will have been following the explosive story of SaveMart employees over the last few weeks. John Campbell on Radio New Zealand first aired the allegations that employees in the New Lynn store were being made to sort through bales of filthy clothing dumped in Child Cancer charity bins, without gloves. Employees found used syringes, dirty nappies, bloody underwear, sex toys and even a dumped sheep’s head. Just as importantly for SaveMart shoppers, the clothes are not cleaned before sale. It is only the ‘pickers’, minimum wage workers, mostly women, who are responsible for sorting through which clothes should be hanging in your wardrobe and which are destined for the rubbish. They were told they had to use their bare hands to feel if fabric was soiled or wet.

When the women at the New Lynn store were denied their request for gloves, they contacted their union, First Union, for help. Worksafe New Zealand was brought in by their union, and in response SaveMart separated the unionised staff from non-union employees with metal bars. Staff were told by management not to socialise with each other outside of work. Eventually, owner Tom Doonan decided to fire all the people who had joined First union.

New Lynn isn’t the only store that contacted Worksafe to try to improve conditions. In Napier, after staff unionised and called in an inspector, the store closed for three months when given a list of health and safety requirements. They simply reopened and rehired a new set of non-unionised staff. Authorities were aware that SaveMart wasn’t a great place.

These are the kinds of working conditions most New Zealanders find shocking and disgusting. We don’t expect people to be denied access to hot water to clean other people’s excrement off their hands, or denied drink bottles in the heat of summer. So those of us in unions decided to do something about it. We started a public campaign to save the jobs of SaveMart employees who had been bullied for speaking out. In just a week over 6,000 people had signed, including many loyal customers. Employees and ex-employees sent even more incredible stories in. On Monday, SaveMart announced they would be reinstating those 10 women who joined their union in New Lynn.

Union members will now be using crowd funding to train health and safety representatives in SaveMart stores. They will help make SaveMart a safer place for employees and also for the customers that shop there. Save Mart owner Tom Doonan has made a good profit for many years off other’s charity. It’s about time a better, safer deal is won for those who sort the clothes, clean the stores and put the money through the till. First Union members are also calling for everyone working at SaveMart to contact their union and get behind the campaign.

People working at SaveMart can now wear safety gloves because of the power of collective action. But there is something badly wrong when a campaign is needed to win something so basic. Unfortunately, this is just one example of an employer showing complete disregard for their employees. Health and safety and the right for employees to freely join in union, it should be a fundamental part of doing business in New Zealand.  But sadly, for too many New Zealand working people like those at SaveMart, employers prevent their employees from knowing what their basic   rights are.

The real question is, why did it take so much public pressure to achieve meaningful change? We think of these horrific working conditions as happening in ‘other countries’, not in New Lynn, Levin, or Christchurch. It should never have got to this point.

Being an employer is a big responsibility which requires respect for employees as people.  Good employers in New Zealand recognise and respect their staff. They see their wellbeing as essential to good business performance. Good employers also respect and value the collective voice of their staff; their union. They recognise that when their staff join, and work together, in union it is an opportunity to improve the dialogue and engagement in the workplace.

Good employers aren’t threatened when working people raise workplace issues because they understand that real staff engagement involves staff being able to disagree and give voice to their own issues and ideas at work. Without that voice, employee views will too often come second to making a buck.

Sadly over the past three decades, there has been a steady erosion of the rights of working people. Employers are encouraged to be profit maximisers above all else and impose a command and control culture in the workplace. The new ‘normal’ for many younger New Zealanders, women, migrants, and people of colour is something older New Zealanders wouldn’t like or recognise. Helen Kelly had a simple answer to how this happened – ‘It’s by design’. She meant that bad working conditions are no accident. With Government support, companies like SaveMart and other bad employers have been encouraged to feel like its okay to deny working people their basic rights to things like health and safety and forming and joining in union.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can change the future for working people in this country. We can have better employment laws which protect our rights and make sure all employers know what’s okay and what isn’t acceptable. Collectivism is about working people securing respect at work from all employers. When we stand together for basic Kiwi values, change is possible. There is strength in numbers and in unity. There is power in the collective. There is power when we work together in union. Join us.

 

 

 

47 comments on “SaveMart shows why unions are vital for New Zealand ”

  1. ianmac 1

    Incredible that these days only 11% of the work force belong to unions. Wonder why successive governments have made it so difficult to belong.
    Zero contract hours?
    Workers working several jobs?
    Can be fired without notice?
    Low pay is better than no pay?

    • infused 1.1

      All the ones I’ve had dealing with are assholes and act like bullies. There’s always more than one side to the story.

      • tracey 1.1.1

        It is about the relationship. And that goes both ways. In many union employer relationships both sides are entrenched in adversarial low trust relationships.

      • millsy 1.1.2

        Seems you described yourself there. Given the fact that you are on record as saying you love firing your workers all the time.

      • esoteric pineapples 1.1.3

        The representatives in the union I’m a member of are fantastic. I think they do an amazing job, especially considering the toxic situations they have to deal with on a daily basis.

    • Baba Yaga 1.2

      “Wonder why successive governments have made it so difficult to belong.”
      They haven’t. They’ve just given us choice. It just so happens that most workers have chosen some other form of representation.

      The SaveMart case is a good example of why some people choose to join unions. There will be other examples of why people choose not to.

  2. tracey 2

    And those NZers who have supported this steady erosion of basic rights with who they vote for cannot comfort themselves with ” lazy bludgers” as they do with poor treatment of our beneficiaries.

    The lack of rise in real wages ( unless you be politician or CEO) coincides with the deliberate decimation of union membership.

    Keep up the great work Richard.

  3. tracey 3

    Compare this

    June 2016

    “NZ Kiwifruit Growers Inc chief executive Nikki Johnson said growers supported the Government prosecuting people who broke the law.

    “The overwhelming majority of our industry complies with labour regulations and we have an ongoing work programme with government agencies to educate growers and contractors about their legal responsibilities to their workers.

    “Kiwifruit is a major contributor to regional economies and we take our responsibilities to our community very seriously – we strongly condemn these illegal and unprincipled actions.”

    http://i.stuff.co.nz/business/80892811/kiwifruit-business-ordered-to-pay-226k-after-skipping-workers-holiday-pay

    To this

    July 2017

    ” NZ Kiwifruit Growers chief executive Nikki Johnson said the findings were disappointing, but not surprising.

    “We’ve been aware of issues around labour compliance for some time… the operation that MBIE have announced took place in the 2016 harvest so we’ve been working proactively on this issue for some time.

    “The level of non-compliance is perhaps surprising, but it does mean that the work we are doing is justified… we’ll be looking for improvement across the industry. ”

    I note that taxpayers are paying to upskill employers… Employers are not paying to get themselves upskilled. Just so we are clear, this is a business subsidy

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/country/335331/half-of-audited-kiwifruit-companies-underpaid-workers

    • Stuart Munro 3.1

      Why do they need educating?

      You break non employment laws and the police will tell you ignorance is no excuse – as they charge you. It’s government collusion in illegal employment practices.

  4. Michael 4

    Our employment laws are so inadequate, Mr Wagstaff, because you collaborated with successive governments that deliberately made them that way.

  5. Incognito 5

    Collectivism got replaced by hyper-individualism. Socialism got replaced by neoliberalism. Will the unions make a comeback or will we see a different kind of community spirit rising up?

  6. Barfly 6

    Would someone care to do a “Whaleoil” by publicly announcing Mr. Doohan’s address?

    – not that I would ever suggest anyone should threaten such a wonderful employer but perhaps with a physical address people could most accurately communicate their desire to him for fair treatment of his employees.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1

      Echo, echo…

      So you kinda suggested it twice already. I think it’s a bad idea.

      • Ian 6.1.1

        For once I agree with you. I can remember Tom Doonan,s first few years in NZ as I think an assisted imigrant from the UK. A 10 pound pom from memory. He has done pretty well for himself considering his first job in NZ was weeding pumpkins and I note he has donated $3.5 million to charities over the years. Think of all the cotton he has rescued from landfills,the money he has paid to employees,the tax he has paid and the union crap he has negotiated through. The guy deserves a knighthood.

        • McFlock 6.1.1.1

          His workers don’t even get gloves to deal with real crap.

          Fuck that guy.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1.1.2

          🙄

          What McFlock said. Think of all the ethical employers he’s put out of business in his race to the bottom.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1.1.3

          …not to mention breaking the law.

          I note that Ian cuddles up to crims.

    • gsays 6.2

      Wouldn’t emailling your disapproval be enough?

  7. Whispering Kate 7

    Odd I don’t see any Nats coming on to this post trying to make excuses, fudge and generally try to defend these disgraceful employers – and there are thousands in NZ, in small businesses and many large corporations who are little hitlers. I always think of small business owners as people who are not team players, want to be the big boy and are generally unemployable and hence they start up their own enterprises.

    Yes, I understand that there are many small business owners who are decent and abide by the law but most of the little hitlers I have come across are small business owners.

  8. We started a public campaign to save the jobs of SaveMart employees who had been bullied for speaking out.

    Shouldn’t be trying to save these jobs – they’re not worth saving. Instead they should be getting the place closed down and suing the owners for several million dollars.

    There’s probably some criminal charges that need to be applied as well.

    We think of these horrific working conditions as happening in ‘other countries’, not in New Lynn, Levin, or Christchurch. It should never have got to this point.

    Correct, it shouldn’t have so we, as a Nation, should be asking how it did. What deregulation and unenforcement of existing laws has allowed or even encouraged this sort of behaviour by owners?

    Good employers aren’t threatened when working people raise workplace issues because they understand that real staff engagement involves staff being able to disagree and give voice to their own issues and ideas at work.

    And then there are the majority of managers and business owners who think that their ideas are the only good ones. That employees should simply do as they’re told and will find someway to get rid of people who question them.

    These are, from what I can make out, the majority of employers.

    Helen Kelly had a simple answer to how this happened – ‘It’s by design’. She meant that bad working conditions are no accident.

    And, IMO, she would be right. What we’re seeing is the result of a concerted effort over decades by a few people to undermine the poor. These few people lie, cheat and spread malicious lies about other people to get their way.

    And we all know, after a campaign of lies, which political party supports them.

    • Antoine 8.1

      >> We started a public campaign to save the jobs of SaveMart employees who had been bullied for speaking out.

      > Shouldn’t be trying to save these jobs – they’re not worth saving. Instead they should be getting the place closed down and suing the owners for several million dollars.

      I’m wondering what the correct legal recourse here is. Is it for staff members (or the union on their behalf) to take the employer to court? or is there some kind of employment disputes resolution service? or …?

      Yours ignorantly
      A.

      • yeah, can’t say I know either. The employer’s actions seems to have broken all sorts of moral and legal codes but no one seems to be taking them to court.

        • Michael 8.1.1.1

          That’s because the Judges are all right-wingers. At any rate, they interpret and apply neoliberal employment law in ways that favour employers. The Union will be well aware of the costs of litigation – especially if it loses.

          • Antoine 8.1.1.1.1

            > That’s because the Judges are all right-wingers. At any rate, they interpret and apply neoliberal employment law in ways that favour employers.

            That sounds like a bunch of rubbish to me.

            Does anyone here know the actual answer?

            A.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 8.1.1.1.2

            the Judges are all right-wingers

            Not in my experience.

            they interpret and apply neoliberal employment law in ways that favour employers

            [Multiple citations and meta-analyses needed]

          • Draco T Bastard 8.1.1.1.3

            If they’re not getting to court then the judges have no say.

        • Wainwright 8.1.1.2

          Because it literally takes years to get anything through the employment relations authortity and workers don’t have the luxury of waiting for the process to play out the way bosses do.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 8.1.2

        Any reasonably experienced lawyer should be able to get such a stupid reckless client to back down the moment they get legal advice.

        Which makes me wonder what Talley’s problem is.

  9. Upnorth 9

    Unions should not be taking credit. The employees should…they paid millions to the unions and had to kick their arsenal to do something.
    Go the employees I say!

    • One Anonymous Bloke 9.1

      …they paid millions to the unions…

      Wow! Is that true! I can hardly believe it. Kick them you say. Wouldn’t a simple phone call or email have done the trick?

      No matter, obviously you’re in the know.

      • Upnorth 9.1.1

        Yep unions are lazy

        • One Anonymous Bloke 9.1.1.1

          Yawn. Tiresome ungrateful brat. Read the OP: it clearly demonstrates the value of unions. For further information on how unions can protect workers from low-life centre-right bullies, contact Mr. Peter Talley.

    • Baba Yaga 9.2

      “…and had to kick their arsenal to do something.”
      Really? Sounds to me like the Union acted promptly and effectively. Do you know something we don’t?

  10. Barfly 10

    Would someone care to do a “Whaleoil” by publicly announcing Mr. Doohan’s address?

    – not that I would ever suggest anyone should threaten such a wonderful employer but perhaps with a physical address people could most accurately communicate their desire to him for fair treatment of his employees.

    • McFlock 10.1

      Nice try with your second paragraph, but it would still evaporate if anything bad did actually happen as a result of your request being granted.

      Email, boycott, see your MP, write letters to the editor. Don’t be a dick.

  11. Dot 11

    Cheers for collectivism and thanks for all your valuable work

  12. McFlock 12

    It’s the lack of gloves that gets me – that’s just gross. What sort of arsehole thinks that’s ok? And a lot of people might think Save Mart is like an opshop, when it doesn’t even do good things for its employees, let alone anyone else.

  13. Anonymous 13

    I’m surprised they make enough money to dump all the waste they receive, let alone pay 10 wages.

    So wait, did they get any punishment /at all/ for breaking health & safety AND employment law?

  14. Wayne_2 14

    I find it incredible that the employer is not being hauled over the coals for this.
    Surely the legal rights of these employees have been breached?

    This is such an egregious, blatant case of employer bullying that Mr Doonan should be in court being sued for all the prick is worth.

    • Tricledrown 14.1

      Successive National govts have destroyed unions and cut the Labour inspectorate’s to virtually non existant.

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    6 days ago
  • The Night of Parmenides: accepted
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    6 days ago
  • The Virus, the Politician, and the gang member
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    Frankly SpeakingBy Frank Macskasy
    6 days ago
  • Rapid kits, responses, and openings: watch motivations, or catch something worse with Covid…
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    exhALANtBy exhalantblog
    7 days ago
  • Bollocks
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    7 days ago
  • World-leading?
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    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • Why Is Labour So Frightened Of “Mr Stick”?
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  • The Need for an Updated Strategic Approach to Covid-19 Control in Aotearoa NZ
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    SciBlogsBy Public Health Expert
    1 week ago
  • Mairon: The Actual Source for the Blasted Name
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  • Forced Re-entry
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    1 week ago
  • Repeal this unjust law
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: Preparing for the flood
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • The Virus, Not The Government
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    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • NZ Politics Daily: 8 October 2021
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    1 week ago
  • Open letter to Michael Barnett, Julie White, et al
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  • Introducing Mr Stick.
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  • Skeptical Science New Research for Week #40, 2021
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    1 week ago
  • Standing on one leg is a sign of good health – and practising is good for you too
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    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: More dishonesty over the CCR
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Schrödinger’s Wraith: The Status of the Witch-King of Angmar, 15th-25th March, T.A. 3019.
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  • How rainbow colour maps can distort data and be misleading
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    1 week ago
  • Gordon Campbell on Korea’s march to global cultural domination, plus a K-pop playlist
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    1 week ago
  • In a lockdown, where does work end and parenting begin? Welcome to the brave new world of ‘zigzag...
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    1 week ago
  • Using Rapid Antigen Tests to Improve COVID-19 Control in Aotearoa NZ
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    1 week ago
  • NZ Politics Daily: 7 October 2021
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    Democracy ProjectBy bryce.edwards
    1 week ago
  • Bryce Edwards: Political Roundup – Will electoral and political finance law reform succeed this ti...
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    1 week ago
  • Will Jacinda Stand? Or, Has She Already Fallen?
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    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: The CCR was a huge waste of money II
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Celebrating Women in Space
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    1 week ago
  • COVID Clusterfuck
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    1 week ago
  • Unsurprising
    Former rugby league star Manu Vatuvei has admitted importing methamphetamine. The Warriors icon was charged in December 2019 with possessing methamphetamine for supply and importing the Class A drug. He previously denied the charges and earlier this year said he would “fight for his innocence” after he outed himself as the sportsman ...
    1 week ago
  • Bond, Wokeness and Representations in Cinema
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    1 week ago
  • The Virus, the Bubble, and the Trap
    . . . . . References National Party: Open the Trans Tasman Bubble Now (archived) Twitter: National Party – Sign the Trans Tasman bubble petition Twitter: Judith Collins – Sign the Trans Tasman bubble petition RNZ: Tourism New Zealand forecasting billion-dollar economy boost if trans-Tasman bubble opens Stuff media: Crack ...
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    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: Not keeping their promises
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • A useful ruling
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Gordon Campbell on the civil war (and looming famine) in Ethiopia
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    1 week ago

  • New Zealand Ambassador to France announced
    Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta today announced the appointment of Caroline Bilkey as New Zealand’s next Ambassador to France and the OECD. “Aotearoa New Zealand and France have a shared history, and enjoy a strong, collaborative partnership. This includes a strong trade and economic relationship, a shared commitment to support ...
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    20 hours ago
  • Govt welcomes nurses’ pay settlement
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    23 hours ago
  • Judge of the High Court appointed
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    1 day ago
  • Kiwis to have their say on plan to reduce waste
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    1 day ago
  • Next steps in action plan for indigenous rights kicks off
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Iwi-led housing solutions build homes for the future
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • E whakarite ana Te Kāwanatanga i ngā tūāpapa mō twhakamaumahara ki Te Petihana Reo Māori ka t...
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • E whakarite ana Te Kāwanatanga i ngā tūāpapa mō tewhakamaumahara ki Te Petihana Reo Māori ka t...
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Government green lights rapid antigen testing
    Some of the country’s largest businesses have put in an order for 300,000 approved rapid antigen tests for their workforce, after working at pace with the Government on a new scheme unveiled by Associate Minister of Health and Research, Science and Innovation Ayesha Verrall. A coalition of around 25 businesses ...
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    2 days ago
  • Government lays foundations as Māori Language Petition commemorations take shape for 2022
    Taiaha hā! Taiaha hā! - Te kairangi o te reo hoki mai ki taku tikanga, ki taku taumata, ki taku reo, ki taku ao. He reo whai tikanga, he reo whai mana, he reo whai tangata koe. Ki te whāngaihia te reo Māori he ao tēnā, ki te kore he ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Major contract awarded to power NZ Battery investigation
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Additional Funding for Foodbanks and Social Agencies
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    3 days ago
  • Generating a new generation of guardians
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Parts of Waikato, Northland staying at Alert Level 3
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    3 days ago
  • New courthouses for Tauranga and Whanganui
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    3 days ago
  • Speech on the launch of the consultation on the development of the Emissions Reduction Plan
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    3 days ago
  • Opportunity to shape NZ’s first Emissions Reduction Plan
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    3 days ago
  • Convention on Biological Diversity COP 15, Virtual High-Level Segment
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Government books show resilient and strong economy
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    4 days ago
  • ​​​​​​​Health system is ready for assisted-dying law
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Taking a lead in threat to curious kea
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    4 days ago
  • Government provides certainty to working holiday and seasonal visa holders and employers for summer
    The Government will extend Working Holiday visas and Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) work visas for six months to provide more certainty to employers and visa holders over the coming summer period, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has announced. “This offers employers and visa holders the certainty they’ve been asking for going ...
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    4 days ago
  • Lower card fees good for businesses, consumers
    The Bill to help lower the cost of the fees retailers get charged for offering contactless and debit payment options is another step closer to becoming law, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Dr David Clark said today. “COVID-19 has changed the way we spend our money, with online and contactless ...
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    5 days ago
  • Mandatory vaccination for two workforces
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Fund allows more Pacific community led vaccinations
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    5 days ago
  • Small business at heart of economic recovery across APEC region
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    7 days ago
  • Restrictions on abortion medication lifted for health practitioners
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    1 week ago
  • Record day for Māori vaccinations
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    1 week ago
  • Statement on Joint Cooperation in Agriculture between Ireland and New Zealand
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    1 week ago
  • Northland to move to Alert Level 3 tonight
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    1 week ago
  • Prime Minister's Christmas Card Competition
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  • Speech : Pacific Public Sector Fono – Friday 8th October 2021
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    1 week ago
  • Pacific Public Sector Fono – Friday 8th October 2021
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    1 week ago
  • Ruapehu social housing pilot, providing value for generations to come
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • New Children’s Commissioner Appointed
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    1 week ago
  • More support for business available from today
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    1 week ago
  • Compelling case made for modernising local government
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    1 week ago
  • Judge and Associate Judge of High Court appointed
    Christchurch Queen’s Counsel Jonathan Eaton has been appointed a Judge of the High Court, and Auckland Barrister and Solicitor Clive Taylor has been appointed an Associate Judge of the High Court, Attorney‑General David Parker announced today. Justice Eaton graduated with an LLB from the University of Canterbury in 1986, and ...
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    1 week ago
  • Firearms licence extensions granted to those affected by COVID-19 delays
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    1 week ago
  • Extension of Alert Level 3 boundary in Waikato
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    1 week ago