Paul Swain - MP for Rimutaka
March 2002

The health and well being of our children and young people is one of the most important issues facing us all. Recently the government made two important announcements aimed at improving the lot of our young people and I welcome them both.

The first announcement was that the government is to fund the development of a vaccine to combat New Zealand’s meningoccal epidemic. $100 million is to be spent developing a vaccine to immunise more than a million young New Zealanders over five years. There isn’t one region in New Zealand that has not been affected by this disease and 2001 was the worst year ever in terms of the number of deaths.

Every parent worries about their child contracting this awful disease, we desperately need a way of protecting our young people against it. Clinical studies of a vaccine developed specifically for New Zealand will start this year, and if the outcome is successful, every New Zealander under the age of 20 would be vaccinated within the next five years.

Meningococcal disease causes more hospitalisation and fatalities than any other notifiable infectious disease in New Zealand. In 2001 26 people out of 660 reported cases of the disease died. And there is a significant cost for survivors - the disabling effects can include limb amputations, massive skin grafts or brain damage.

However, until a vaccine was widely available in New Zealand, we all needed to be able to recognise the symptoms of meningococcal disease and to seek treatment early. Symptoms in a very young child can include a fever and vomiting, or the child may refuse drinks or feeds, be excessively sleepy, or cry and be unsettled and is oversensitive to light. A rash that looks like blood spots under the skin may also appear at a later stage. The symptoms in an adult are similar.

If your child exhibits any of these symptoms see your doctor as soon as possible.

The other announcement which we made recently was the new youth minimum wage rates.

The Adult Minimum Wage - for 18 year olds and over - will increase from $7.70 to $8.00 an hour, an increase of 3.9% in line with annual average wage growth. And the minimum wage for 16 and 17 year olds will increase to 80% of the adult minimum wage. Young workers on the minimum wage will now receive $6.40 an hour, as compared to $5.40 an hour.

The increase in the adult minimum wage will affect around 5,500 adult workers and the increase in youth minimum wage rates will affect about 6,900 16 and 17-year-olds. This is good news for low-income earners and young people working in our district. The changes to minimum wage rates will come into force on 18 March 2002.

If you would like to discuss these or any other matters further, please phone me at my Taita electorate office on 567-0156 or my Upper Hutt electorate office on 528-5715. I am also available at my Parliament Office on 470 6565. If you prefer, you can write to me C/- Parliament Buildings, Wellington (no stamp required).