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1998-04-20 08:17:32


New Zealand Government Report: A Wish List to Avoid a Disaster



A New Zealand Government report on y2k is forthright in its assessment of the threat. For those who dismiss y2k as "no big problem," this report ought to be sobering. Its title: "THE Y2K INQUIRY, Report of the Government Administration Committee" (April 1998).

What is even more sobering is that the report calls for the creation of a Year 2000 task force. "Task force" is a fancy phrase for "a committee."

To say that this report is late in the process is an understatement. And the report's recommendations must now be acted on by the government, which adds further delay. The long list of recommendations is a wish list. Wish lists, even if they come true, do not get the coding done.

* * * * * *

Over the weekend at the turn of the century the country's whole infrastructure system will change. Some things will not work. Even now organisations are being affected by the Year 2000 (Y2K) date change. No organisation will escape Y2K problems. The Government Administration Committee has conducted an inquiry into the Y2K date coding problem. While triggered by technology failures the true nature of the Y2K problem will be the disruption or breakdown of services upon which individuals and public and private sector organisations depend. If not enough is done to avoid or minimise Y2K problems then public safety, not to mention the health of the economy, will be at risk. Services such as power, water, sewage, communications, transport, transaction mechanisms, and security could be adversely affected. Research in the UK has shown that 1500 patients' lives could be put at risk in the first two weeks of January 2000. This equates to 75 lives in New Zealand on a pro rata population basis.

The Y2K problem is one of the most serious problems facing New Zealand business and the global economy. Many of New Zealand's major trading partners are not ready for the Y2K challenge. Our government needs to encourage them to do more for the sake of our exporters, the life blood of our economy. Many of New Zealand's small and medium sized businesses, and public sector institutions, such as hospitals, schools and universities, need encouragement by the Government to identify and address their Y2K problems urgently.

Fixing the problem represents a massive cost for business in New Zealand and internationally. Estimates put the cost of correcting the Y2K problem and associated expenses at nearly $4.4 billion per day worldwide. The problem could impact on the Government tax base and prove to be inflationary as businesses seek to recoup costs from the consumer. The cost of doing nothing will be far higher.

The committee has devised a national strategy to address the Y2K problem. Its key components include a Year 2000 Task Force and a national media campaign as well as a raft of other essential measures and initiatives identified in this report. What the problem needs most, however, is leadership at a national level. Action on the strategy needs to be taken urgently. We ask the Prime Minister to take a leading role with respect to Y2K.


That the Government establish a Year 2000 Task Force. This task force should coordinate the Y2K activities of all public sector organisations and monitor risks to critical systems of national importance. The task force should report directly to the Prime Minister at regular and frequent intervals. The task force will also need to monitor developments in the private sector, because of the interdependencies between the public and private sectors.

That the Government undertake an assessment of the critical areas of Y2K risk to New Zealand's major economic and social systems, at the earliest opportunity.

That the Government through the task force coordinate contingency plans to come into effect if there are major failures by government systems, key public utility providers and infrastructure components as a result of the Y2K problem.

That the Government provide funds for an effective publicity campaign to raise awareness of the Y2K problem, particularly amongst small and medium sized businesses.

That the Government ensure that all government departments and other public sector organisations attain a set and uniform standard of Y2K compliance for critical systems.

That the Government ensure that all critical linkages and connections between the computer systems of public sector organisations and outside organisations have been identified and assurances of Y2K compliance gained from those outside organisations.

That the Government contact our major trading partners inside the Asia-Pacific region and seek assurances that they are making every effort to ensure their public organisations and private businesses are aware of the Y2K problem and are taking appropriate steps to address it.

That the Government establish a consultancy or hotline facility to assist small and medium sized businesses gain access to information and service providers regarding the Y2K problem.

That the Government require all government departments to complete implementation of their Y2K action plans by 31 December 1998 to allow for possible failures from 1 January 1999 and for one full year of testing prior to the year 2000.

That the Government request that Ministers seek assurances through purchase agreements that the Y2K problem is being dealt with appropriately by departmental chief executives.

That the Government report quarterly to the Government Administration Committee regarding levels of Y2K compliance in public sector organisations and on any action the Government is taking.

That the Government support this report being debated on the floor of the House.


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