At the time of writing this newsletter I am saddened to learn of the tragic deaths of 29 miners at the Pike River Coal Mine on the West Coast of the South Island. As with many of you my thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of these brave men. I believe the whole of New Zealand feels their loss and whilst we cannot fully comprehend how traumatic this event must have been, they will know that we stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of this small community as they grieve. RIP.
Standing behind the Kiwifruit Industry
Both David Carter, Minister for Biosecurity and I have visited the Te Puke area several times over the past few weeks, meeting with kiwifruit industry representatives and growers, visiting orchards and viewing testing facilities at Plant & Food Research.
Kiwifruit growers are obviously very worried about the Psa situation but they are appreciative of the efforts of MAF Bio security NZ and ZESPRI. MAF have begun the copper spray programme on infected orchards in a bid to reduce the spread of the bacteria.
It is still too early to say how Psa arrived in New Zealand, or how long it has been here. The disease appears to attack under certain climatic conditions and may have always been here. At this stage, no trade restrictions have been placed on New Zealand kiwifruit but Australia and the United States have placed restrictions on the importation of kiwifruit plant material.
The discovery of Psa is being taken very seriously, and I have been impressed with the maturity shown by the Kiwifruit industry in their management of the situation. MAF staff, along with Government officials will continue to assist ZESPRI to assess any possible new outbreaks, and the long term impact of this potentially disastrous disease.
Hobbit Movies Secure
Late October saw an agreement being reached between the New Zealand Government and Warner Bros that will enable the two Hobbit movies to be directed by Sir Peter Jackson to be made in New Zealand.
As part of the arrangement the Government introduced legislation in Parliament that clarified the distinction between independent contractors and employees as it relates to the film production industry. It is this clarification that guaranteed that the movies will be made in New Zealand.
This agreement secures 4000 jobs over 4 years for New Zealand and is welcome news.
The subsequent strategic partnership that has been made between Warner Brothers and the Government will see millions of dollars worth of benefit to our film making and tourism industrys', worth the investment in tax credits and cost offsets.
Rotorua's Housing New Zealand Homes will comply
I had the pleasure of hosting Phil Heatley, Minister of Housing to Rotorua in November. During that visit he confirmed that around 400 of the 700 state homes in Rotorua received heating and insulation upgrades last year. He also committed funding to ensure that the remaining houses would also be upgraded over the next 18 months so that Housing NZ is doing their bit for air quality in Rotorua. To the families who live in these homes I am sure that this is welcome news and that next winter will be warmer, at least for them, than the last.
I am glad that the BoP Regional Council has agreed to offer interest free loans of up to $4,000 to assist owners of private dwellings comply with the new heating regs. However I do not believe that this is enough. The government's ECCA home insulation and heating scheme offers generous subsidies of up to $3,200 to insulate homes and install more efficient and environmentally friendly heating systems. I have asked RDC to support me in pressing our Regional Council to partner with ECCA so that people in Rotorua can receive this government subsidy and then borrow the remaining funds interest free against their rates. I will be seeking a meeting with Regional Council representatives in the coming weeks to further this initiative.
For more information about this scheme visit the EECA website
Military Style Camps for Youth Offenders
Fresh Start has given Youth Court Judges a greater range of tools to help effectively deal with the young offenders. Experience shows that some young people need a longer, more intensive intervention to turn their lives around.
The most serious repeat young offenders will be sent to Military-style Activity Camps, involving up to three months residential training using army-type facilities or training methods. They provide clear boundaries, and reinforce self-discipline, personal responsibility, and community values.
The camps will be followed by nine months of mentoring and programmes to address the causes of the offending. Parenting orders will give parents of serious young offenders parenting skills, support, and information about addressing drug involvement, school failure, anti-social peers, and abuse at home. Young offenders who are, or about to be parents, may also be ordered to take part.
For more information visit the Beehive website's Fresh Start page
Hilary Clinton visits NZ
I was honoured to meet and speak briefly with Hilary Clinton during her recent visit to New Zealand. After 25 years, the final barrier to closer diplomatic and trade relations with the US has finally come down. This can only be good for New Zealand, and I look forward to seeing many exciting new initiatives with the mighty United States over the coming years.
Good News for Mamaku
$435,000 funding was approved for Mamaku's ongoing water shortage solutions. The funding will be used to drill a bore some 300 metres down to the regional water table to obtain a reliable source of groundwater. Currently Mamaku sources its water supply from a bore extending 100 metres to a perched water table, where declining yield results in water shortages during summer.
This subsidy is granted under the Ministry of Health Drinking Water Assistance Programme, which aims to improve drinking water supplies in small communities of fewer than 5000 people.
More information about this programme can be found on the Ministry of Health's site
Results of Timberlands discussions
Over the past 12 months I have been in regular contact with recreational fishermen regarding fishing access to the Rangitikei River near Murupara. This issue is an exceptional one, where access to a public river can only be gained over privately owned forestry land. Over the past two months the issue has become more urgent with access over the summer months now being fully restricted. On 7 October I attended a public meeting in Murupara where 120 people came and voiced their concerns. At that meeting I committed to working with Fish and Game and to approach the managers of the Kaingaroa Forest with a view to seeking better access for fisherman over the summer period. Since then I have chaired 2 meetings between Fish and Game, DoC, representatives of fishing clubs, local businesses and forest manager Timberlands. The key issues that need to be addressed involve road safety and fire risks, particularly in the busy summer months. The good news is that we are at least talking through these issues and making some progress. I remain committed to reaching a consensus which will allow legitimate recreational users to fish this important river.
Judith Collins announces stage phase II of Police Station for 2011
The Minister of Police Judith Collins visited Rotorua on Melbourne Cup Day. I had invited Judith to my electorate to look at what additional support the government needs to give our police. I have huge respect for the difficult job that they do, and we found that not only is their moral high, but they are focused on continuing their good work in reducing violent crime, dealing with domestic and family violence and arresting drug dealers who live in our communities and poison our kids. She announced that the government has budgeted for a rebuild of the Rotorua Police Station which will commence next year, and that she will continue to work with me for additional police staff and resources for Rotorua.
I have been spending time this month in Kawerau talking to school principals, Board and community representatives regarding the options put out by the Ministry of Education for merging of some schools in the district.
The district of Kawerau currently has 6 schools - 4 primary, an intermediate and a secondary college.As the population has decreased over the past 10 years, the school rolls are also declining. This results in the schools receiving less operational grant funding, have fewer teachers and increased surplus accommodation.
I have met with each of the six principals individually and taken on board their thoughts on how the mergers should take place. I urge all of the community to also have their say on the issue by going to www.minedu.govt.nz. A preferred option will be announced by February 7 2011 followed by further consultation with the community.
Out and About in Te Puke
I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the new McDonald's in Te Puke in early November. The new Franchisee owners Todd McLoughlin and Marie Lamberth have prepared immaculate new premises, and the attentive staff were a credit to the professionalism of the new owners. Everyone admired the photography of Maketu's Andy Belcher, with his photos of kiwifruit and beach scenes giving a distinctive and uniquely "kiwifruit capital" feel to the restaurant.
Successful series of Public Meetings continue
Over the past few months, I have been running a number of public meetings in our rural and coastal areas. These include Waikite Valley, Ngakuru, Mamaku, Kaharoa, Ngongotaha, Pukehina, Maketu, Mourea, Lake Okareka and Galatea. These meetings have been very useful for me to gauge public opinion on issues such as the alcohol reform legislation, which was read in Parliament for the first time this month.
I continue to enjoy my tour of the electorates schools. From our rural schools in Waikite, Ngakuru, Ngongotaha and Kaharoa, to the schools of Kawerau and Te Puke I have enjoyed seeing our children grow and thrive under the guidance of some wonderful teachers. I opened the Chapman College, attended the Western Heights High School reunion and observed Ag Day at Pongakawa School.