'It would help them immensely' - 'Sick leave bank' lets workers donate sick days to colleagues in need

Fixing up Napier’s parks is Tony Wright's day-to-day.

But after being diagnosed with Lymphoma two years ago, he's spent a lot of time off work, focusing on his own health.

"A couple of my colleagues and my manager wanted to donate time to me, knowing I was needing it. They knew I was down on sick leave and holidays," Mr Wright said.

That's why the Napier City Council is setting up a sick leave bank for its over 500 staff.

"Which allows people who have serious illness or need longer periods off work to claim some of that time," Napier Mayor Bill Dalton told 1 NEWS.

He says contributors must have 20 days of sick leave left and those who want to use the fund must have worked at the council for a minimum of two years, with checks and balances put in place.

"They'll need doctors' certificates, they have to apply through the chief executive and if it's approved then it's there to help them," Mr Dalton said.

Sworn police officers can already donate their annual leave to a similar fund and council staff in Marlborough started a scheme last year which has hundreds of days stocked up already.

But an employment lawyer warns businesses must make clear whether the leave is banked in days or dollars. Employment lawyer Christie Hall says it could be unfair otherwise.

"If you are banking it by days and you get all the $17/hr workers who are giving up their leave and putting it in the bank, and then you get the $100k manager falling sick and using all the leave out of the bank, then that's going to pay out at a much greater rate than it was accrued for," she said.

Tony Wright says the extra admin is worth it for his team.

"I've got a couple of colleagues that are going through things, not so much them but their wives. And even for them to take their wives to do treatment and things - it would help them immensely."

The scheme has proved popular already, with nearly 170 days donated so far.

The Napier City Council is one of a growing number of employers offering a "sick leave bank" for their staff. Source: 1 NEWS



'They're just going through the motions' - Christchurch homeowners criticise Budget's quake recovery funding

Some Christchurch homeowners still battling with their insurance companies and the Earthquake Commission say the Government's Budget commitments for the city are a case of "too little, too late".

The Government confirmed yesterday it's providing $300 million to accelerate the Canterbury recovery, for projects in the Residential Red Zone, and the completion of major anchor projects like the Multi Purpose Arena. It also announced a multi-million dollar special insurance tribunal to help with stalled claims and a public inquiry into EQC.

Embattled homeowner Mike Stewart said for those who are already stuck in court battles, an inquiry and a tribunal are of no use.

"I think it's a waste of taxpayer money. They'd be better to spend that money actually fixing people's houses. They'll have a result that they know. They're just going through the motions," he said.

Mr Stewart and his wife Julia McEntyre bought a home in 2013, with a full property inspection and sign off from EQC. Two years later, they discovered more than $300,000 worth of hidden damage.

Despite EQC claiming fault for the botched repairs, its maximum payment is limited at $100,000 and their insurer says it's not its responsibility either.

"I think an inquiry is just going to spend more taxpayer money to find out what we already know. EQC have already said it’s their mistake," he said.

His wife Julia said it's "too little, too late".

"I'd rather that they use that money to fix people's houses, and let people get on with their lives," Ms McEntyre said.

However, Peter Woods, lawyer with Anthony Harpers who assists organisation EQC-Fix, said an inquiry is necessary.

"I think it’s great news. EQC’s been a total mess. So we need to see why that happened and make sure it doesn't happen again. We've still got hundreds, if not thousands, of people with unresolved claims. We need to know why that's happened. And how we can stop it happening again," Mr Woods said.

A spokesman for Earthquake Commission Minister Megan Woods said he expected the inquiry would begin later this year. It would have the power to compel evidence, and hold public hearings. The terms of reference of the inquiry are to be announced shortly.

The Government has assigned funds to a tribunal and independent inquiry, as well to accelerate anchor projects like the stadium. Source: 1 NEWS

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'It's extremely disappointing, you know?' - Labour MPs under fire over lack of targeted spending for Maori

Selling the budget to Maori is a challenge for any government.

Labour says its big ticket items will be good for Maori, like the families package it announced earlier, as well as cheaper doctors' visits and building more houses.

"We made a commitment during the campaign that we would focus on housing, health and education. We ran a mainstream campaign during the election. We didn't talk about foreshore and seabed," Labour MP Willie Jackson said.

"Mainstreaming Maori issues has shown over the decades it doesn’t work," Maori Party president Che Wilson said.

Whanau Ora providers, which work with disadvantaged Maori families, are unhappy Labour hasn't delivered an election promise of $20 million in extra funding.

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, chief executive of the Te Pou Matakana Whanau Ora commissioning agency, said it's been a long-standing struggle to convince the government to provide more funding for mainstream Maori issues.

"We're in here for the long haul and that's been the problem - trying to convince the government, the previous government and this government that the needs are great. They didn't just happen overnight and they will not be solved overnight as well," Ms Raukawa-Tait said.

Targeted Maori spending for things like broadcasting, community and economic development are also under scrutiny.

The Maori development budget is $316 million this year but that's dropped from under National and the Maori Party when it was $328 million.

The drop in funding has led critics to say the Labour Maori caucus hasn't done well enough.

"It's extremely disappointing, you know? We had two MPs in parliament from the Maori Party and we were still able to leverage and you've got 13 Maori MPs in Labour and it looks like there's no leverage," Mr Wilson said.

However, Labour rejects the Maori Party leader’s claims.

"What I’d say to the Maori Party is turituri - we've got $1.2 billion in the families package alone. That will go to Maori - that's huge in anyone's books," Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis said.

Critics says ground's been lost on targeted funding, but Labour says what's good for everyone is good for Maori. Source: 1 NEWS