Parliament has had its second round of sitting weeks and already the year is becoming extremely busy.
Both the Commerce Committee and the Finance and Expenditure Committees (FEC) have kicked off and it’s great to be getting stuck in to some important issues. Chair of the FEC Committee, Tauranga MP Simon Bridges, is doing an excellent job as are our new Members of Parliament who have settled in well.
I’ve also been out and about in the Electorate meeting with constituents and within the last few weeks I’ve hosted Ministers Hekia Parata and Steven Joyce in Rotorua.
The summer now seems to be behind us (although I don’t actually remember it being in front of us) and I hope everyone has enjoyed a great start to the year.
First meeting as Commerce Committee chairman
The Commerce Committee held its first meeting on February 9 and it was great to catch up with my fellow committee members.
As committee chairman, I’ll be carrying an extra load of responsibility but I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the work the committee has in store. We currently have two bills before us, one on consumer protection and the second, a 526 page draft law to create greater certainty around investments and financial transactions. We are also considering an inquiry into the price of milk.
I’ll be keeping everyone up to date with what’s happening.
Education Minister Hekia Parata in Rotorua
I hosted Education Minister Hekia Parata in Rotorua late last month and despite the unseasonably wet weather, we managed to squeeze in visits to two schools, a work place and few business meetings.
We visited Rotorua Lakes High School and Chapman College, two excellent schools, as well as the local branch of the Ministry of Education.
Minister Parata also spoke at a Rotorua Chamber of Commerce Luncheon and was hosted by Ng?ti Whakaue at Te Papaiouru Marae in Ohinemutu.
I also invited all board chairs from school Boards of Trustees from the wider Rotorua area to meet with the Minister. This was an excellent meeting, attended by more than 50 people enabling those we have elected to oversee our schools to talk directly with the Minister of education.
Picture: A Rotorua Lakes High School student, Minister Parata and I at Rotorua Lakes High School.
Dairy Industry Restructuring Act
I’ve received a lot of feedback about DIRA and it’s great to see people taking the time to make their opinions heard.
Locally, I’ve met with a number of representatives from Federated Farmers and Fonterra from Rotorua, Reporoa and Rerewhakaaitu and held a public meeting with more than 50 dairy farmers in Pongakawa. These meetings were constructive and informative.
The closing date for submissions on the DIRA Consultation was 24 February and it’s pleasing to see that a significant number of local farmers have put in submissions on this important proposal.
To find out more about DIRA, visit http://www.maf.govt.nz/news-resources/consultations/reviews-of-fonterra’s-farm-gate-milk-price-setting.
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce in Rotorua
I hosted Minister of Economic Development Steven Joyce in Rotorua in February where he officially opened Rainbow Springs’ new $10 million attraction the Big Splash. This is a significant investment in Rotorua tourism and extends the impressive number of cultural and adventure tourism activities that we have.
Tourism plays an important part in the economy of the Bay of Plenty, and Rotorua is at the heart of this.
Picture: Minister Joyce gives a thumb up to the Big Splash as we reach the bottom of the ride.
Te Puke A & P Show
Every year I look forward to the Te Puke A & P Show and the opportunity to connect with town and country folk.
The show was on 11 February and this year I helped judge the Miss & Master A & P Te Puke contest with fellow judge Robyn Slater.
I spent the day catching up with the locals and my children enjoyed the farm animals and various show rides.
We had a little bit of rain, a lot of sunshine and the wind picked up after lunch time.
A great day overall and the organisers are to be commended for once again putting on an excellent show with plenty to see and do.
Good start to the year in Kawerau
Before Parliament kicked off this year, I spent a day in Kawerau holding clinics and catching up with community leaders. I visit Kawerau a number of times each month and hold formal constituent clinics at least once each month.
This year looks set to be a busy one for the community with some positive programmes underway.
Wh?nau Ora has opened its doors, working with Manna Support Services to help families get back on track.
The beginning of the school year seems to have started relatively smoothly- the primary school mergers commenced with youngsters setting out to their new classrooms which were ready thanks to the hard work of the schools’ Board of Trustees and staff during the break.
While I was unable to attend the official opening of Te Whata Tau O Putauaki due to Parliamentary business, I understand it was an extremely successful day.
About 70 pupils have enrolled at the school and I look forward to meeting them later in the year.
Have your say on MMP
MMP is up for review this year and I urge you to have your say if you haven’t already.
The review was launched by the Electoral Commission last week after New Zealander’s voted to keep MMP in last November’s referendum.
The Electoral Commission will report back to the Government by 31 October 2012 with recommendations on whether any changes to MMP are necessary or desirable.
More information about the review is available from www.mmpreview.org.nz, or by calling Freephone 0800 36 76 56.
Emergency calling system to be reviewed
People concerned about the efficiency of the 111 emergency calling system will have an opportunity to have their say during the system’s current review.
Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams released a discussion paper reviewing the calling system on Tuesday.
It concludes that the 111 service works well and has a high level of resilience.
However, the review raises questions about whether current governance arrangements are well-suited for considering improvements to the service, and the impact of new technologies.
Two options are suggested to manage the future direction of the 111 service:
• Setting up a small, dedicated group in a government agency; or
• Strengthening the joint industry-government advisory board which currently oversees the 111 service
People can check out the discussion paper at www.med.govt.nz/sectors-industries/technology-communication/communications/emergency-call-services/111-review.
Submissions can be made at www.parliament.nz and are due by 5pm on Friday 30 March, 2012.
Rotorua Mudslide Day
On February 19 I went along to the Rotorua Mudslide Day to help the Volcanic Zone of Scouts mark their 150th anniversary.
It was a great family day and doing the mudslide reminded me a lot of my childhood.
Being part of a scout group is a great opportunity for our young people as it challenges them to do their best and give them opportunities to build skills.
Picture: Looking rather wet and muddy after my turn down the mudslide.
Dates to look out for:
• March 20 – March 22: Parliament in session.
• March 24: Ngongotaha Volunteer Fire Brigade Honours Night.
• March 25: Opening of Rotorua’s Elim Church.
• March 27 – 29: Parliament in session.
• March 30: Electorate AGM.
• March 31: Mamaku Cart Track Opening.
• April 1: Old Forest School Open Day in Pongakawa.
• April 3 – 5: Parliament in Session.
• April 6: Good Friday
• April 9: Easter Monday