Fulfilling a promise
The Prime Minister also visited Rotorua Girls High School, where he presented the NZEI Te Riu Roa Scholarship to Helen Tina, a support teacher who specialises in working with deaf children. He gave a speech to the Grey Power AGM, and visited a number of media organisations including the Daily Post and TV Rotorua.
On 1 April, all Superannuation payments went up. Superannuitants are now getting 6.85 per cent more in the hand than they were before 1 April last year. This increase more than compensates for the 4 per cent inflation increase, and includes a permanent compensation for the one-off rise in GST last October. For example, the married rate has increased to $1045 a fortnight, a rise of almost $66 in the past year. Since September 2008, the married rate has gone up $166 a fortnight, per couple, an increase of 18.9 per cent.
Along with the immediate one-off increase to superannuation payments in October 2010, to compensate for the rise in GST and the revamped overseas payment policy for superannuitants, our seniors are now able to enjoy their hard earned retirement with a fair income.
The Budget this week will be about pressing on with the wider economic programme. It's about building stronger growth based on savings, investment and exports. The focus is on getting back to surplus as soon as possible and repaying debt. The challenge now is to build confidence and get on with building a faster-growing economy.
It will focus on increasing savings and investment, as well as the rebuilding of Christchurch. It will be a balanced and responsible Budget for the times.
The earthquakes and finance company collapses certainly come at a considerable cost to taxpayers, but they are one-off costs. The Government is responding to them. However, it's important there is no over reaction.
In the Budget, there will be restraint in new spending, which will be prioritised towards health, education, and justice. New initiatives will total almost $1 billion. However, this will be substantially offset by reducing lower priority spending in other areas.
Budget day is 19th May.
Water Quality high on all agendas
Early in April I attended the Lakes Water Quality Society's annual symposium in Rotorua. There were many interesting speakers in attendance, and the positive drives from a number of key organisations were heartening.
In particular, the consensus reached by Dairy NZ and the Rotorua District Council to find a constructive way forward for dairy famers in the Lake Rotorua catchment is to be applauded. The development of the report Intervention Packages for Lake Rotorua is a positive start, the publication of which is being eagerly anticipated.
Nick Smith, Minister for the Environment, spoke about the Government's role in freshwater management, speaking in particular about planning for growth. The content of his speech
Great news for the Health system
Our health service is continuing to show improvements in its service performance, according to the latest report card on key Lakes DHB targets. The key areas are:
- Over the last two years, an extra 1,006 people have had elective surgery for important operations such as general surgery, orthopaedics, and ear nose and throat conditions. That's an extra 10 patients getting surgery each week.
- An extra 220 two-year-olds were fully immunised in the Lakes area under National during 2009 and 2010. In total 1,504 two-year-olds were immunised, a record 85%.
- Around 1,100 more patients were seen and treated at local emergency departments within six hours. That's an increase of 7% from 2009.
- By December 2010, 100% of patients needing radiation treatment had started their treatment within 6 weeks. None of these patients have had to go to Australia.
- Under National, an extra 26,700 prescriptions have been made available in the Lakes area, meaning around 3,800 people are getting subsidised medicines they would not have got two years ago. It's expected this year that around 10,000 more people will get subsidised medicines they wouldn't have had two years ago.
Much of this improvement has come from having more frontline staff. In New Zealand today there are now 300 more police officers, 1600 more teachers, 1000 more nurses, and more than 500 extra doctors than 2 years ago. The public service administration which grew by 50 per cent under the previous government now has 2000 fewer full-time positions in core government administration. In many cases numbers have fallen through people leaving their jobs, vacancies not being filled, or mergers between government agencies. For the Lakes area, this has meant 20 more doctors on the front line.
Commodity success buoys New Zealand's economic outlook
Our commodity prices are one bright point on the economic horizon. They continue to enjoy growth, mostly on the back of increasing demand from export markets. This growth is part of the reason behind a very positive outlook for the rural sector in 2011, particularly for the latter half of the year. While land prices appear to be still "finding a floor", there are some indications of stability beginning to show. With the increasing dairy payouts starting to find their way to the farm gate, forestry exports booming and sheep and beef showing improvements, there is light at the end of the economic tunnel and 2011 should end positively. This is despite the tragedies in Christchurch and Japan. While the high NZ dollar may have a negative pull on this growth, the net effect is still very buoyant.
My clinic days in Kawerau are continuing, with my monthly visits including meeting constituents and community groups on various issues. This has included meetings with a group of business owners who are now well down the track on re-energising the Maori Wardens.
Maori Wardens do excellent work throughout my electorate, their presence at events and on the streets in Rotorua and Murupara prevent a lot of petty crime. The Wardens have my support in their efforts within their communities and I look forward to seeing them out and about in Kawerau in the near future once they have completed their training. The course will be underway by the commencement of the second school term.
I have also met with the tutors of the Building and Construction course which will provide on the job training and education for Kawerau youth. I was instrumental in having this course re-opened after Kawerau College chose not to pick it up in the 2011 school year.
Paula Bennett, the Minister for Social Development, visited Kawerau and Rotorua with me on the 29th April. I was able to show her first hand some of the struggles that the people of Kawerau are having, and also some of the good news stories
Te Puke stuff
My children and I had a lot of fun heading back to the Annual Pumpkin growing competition at Pongakawa in April. I am always amazed at how big people can grow their pumpkins! It was also a great opportunity to farewell long term residents Harold and Betty Cameron, who have decided to enjoy their retirement in Te Puke. The community in Pongakawa will miss them.
I was also able to visit the AFFCO meet works and a kiwifruit packhouse, and see first hand how each of these businesses work. Both businesses are big employers in the area, and have gone from strength to strength, and I applaud their efforts. I am a full supporter of the single desk kiwifruit marketing arrangements!
The united industry response to the PSA crisis has been heartening. The growers, along with Zespri, have put together a co ordinated strategy to deal with the outbreak. It proves that the financial support central Government gave them was a good investment. It's a huge tick for the single desk marketing structure and I have been impressed all who have been involved.
18th May: Students from Rotorua Lakes High School visiting Parliament
19th May: Budget
20th May: Constituent Clinic in Rotorua - phone 07 348 5871 for an appointment
23rd May: Morning Tea with Senior Citizens, Rotorua
25th May: Constituent Clinic in Te Puke - phone 07 573 7125 for an appointment
25th May: Hosting a BA5 in Te Puke - phone 07 573 9125 for more information
27th May: Constituent Clinic in Rotorua- phone 07 348 5871 for an appointment
1st June: Hosting Hekia Parata, Minister for Energy and Resources in Rotorua
3rd June: Constituent Clinic in Rotorua- phone 07 348 5871 for an appointment.
Last year I promised the students of Selwyn Primary School that if they improved their reading, I would get the Prime Minister or an All Black to come and visit the school. On April 15th, I was able to make good on that promise by taking the Prime Minister John Key to visit the students at Selwyn. The school did a wonderful job of hosting us, and I am very proud of them, both for improving their reading, and the way they looked after the Prime Minister.