Latest News

Critical opportunity for feedback on Govt's agricultural emissions plan

October 12, 2022 Share

Joseph Mooney, MP for Southland and Associate Spokesperson for Agriculture, encourages the people of Southland to ensure their voices are heard as the Government consults on its proposed plan to price agricultural emissions.

"Farmers and rural landowners will be disappointed by the Government's failure to acknowledge that New Zealand farmers are already the most carbon-efficient food producers globally in its recent announcements on agricultural emissions.

"Our farmers make a significant contribution to New Zealand's economy. Agriculture earns more than half this country's export revenue, and they deserve credit where it's due", Mr Mooney says.

"Farmers I have spoken to have expressed serious concerns that the consensus they thought they had reached with the Government to best manage and reduce emissions on the farm through the He Waka Eke Noa Partnership was largely ignored.  Instead, the Government came up with a different proposal which could gut our rural communities while seeing emissions increase overseas as food production and jobs move offshore.”

Mr Mooney says Labour's plans to reduce sheep and beef farming and production by one-fifth in five years, is simply unacceptable.

"What Labour is saying is one-fifth of our sheep and beef farmers will be gone by 2030 and on top of that, there will be a five per cent reduction in our dairy farmers too during the same period. 

"That is just ridiculous, and the reductions could counter-productively lead to higher global emissions as more sheep and beef production moves overseas to less-efficient farms, potentially contributing to worsening the food security crisis already being experienced globally.

“National supports New Zealand's emissions targets, including reaching carbon net zero by 2050. New Zealand needs to cut its carbon emissions. And that means reducing agriculture emissions over time.

"However, National would also ensure Kiwi farmers enjoy regulatory settings that make it easy to develop and adopt new technology to reduce emissions – not just send primary production, jobs and emissions offshore.

"We backed the sector-led He Waka Eke Noa process as a way to introduce emission pricing for agriculture alongside other measures to reduce on-farm emissions, including the use of new technology. Farmers should be able to earn credits for all forms of on-farm carbon capture. 

“National trusts farmers to be the best environmental stewards of their land, who will use technology, ingenuity and local knowledge to figure out local solutions that work to reduce emissions sensibly.

"Long-lasting change requires broad and enduring support. Consensus with farmers is vital, and failure by the Government to fully consider the impacts of their plan could potentially have disastrous consequences for farmers, rural towns and their communities.

“I strongly encourage anyone interested to make their voice heard and have their say in the conversation on agricultural emissions through the public consultation process”, Mr Mooney says.

The consultation runs until 18 November 2022 https://environment.govt.nz/publications/pricing-agricultural-emissions-consultation-document.

Hanley's Farm public meeting on NZ Post delivery failures

October 07, 2022 Share

A public meeting planned on the lack of New Zealand Post (NZ Post) delivery services to the Hanley’s Farm area, Queenstown reflects the community's strong sentiments around the ongoing postal service failure in the area, says local Southland MP Joseph Mooney.

"I've been working with resident representatives of Hanley's Farm, the Hanley's Farm Mail Delivery Group, to highlight residents’ concerns with NZ Post's failure to deliver mail there after the group's negotiations with the state-owned enterprise reached a stalemate.

“We have arranged a public meeting on the issue that will take place at Te Kura Whakatipu o Kawarau - Primary School at Hanley's Farm, Queenstown, on Monday, 17 October 2022, at 6pm.

"When I first looked into this matter in 2021, I understood that NZ Post's service delivery decisions were based on accessibility for their vehicles to the area, amongst others.

"It has since transpired that the Government's postal deed of understanding with NZ Post has not kept up to date with residential growth in areas like Hanley's Farm, resulting in residents not receiving the mail delivery service they are entitled to.

"It is part of a trend we are seeing under this Labour Government with government departments failing communities with inadequate and outdated service delivery plans.

"I've written to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises and asked several Parliamentary Written Questions about what the Government intends to do to ensure NZ Post maintains its minimum service obligations to the Hanley's Farm community.

“The Minister’s answers suggest the last time the public were consulted on the outdated postal deed was nearly a decade ago in 2013, so the public meeting will be a great opportunity for residents to make their voices heard and demand the postal services that they are entitled to", Mr Mooney says.

Invitations to the public meeting have been extended to NZ Post, the Minister for State Owned Enterprises, the Minister for Digital Economy and Communications, RCL Group (the developers of Hanley's Farm) and Queenstown-Lakes District Council. 

ENDS

Notes to Editors:  Written Questions Replies 19677 (2022), 19679 (2022), 19680 (2022), 19681 (2022) and 19682 (2022) attached.

Govt must delay winter grazing regulations - Joseph Mooney MP

September 08, 2022 Share

The Government is about to pile up to $100 million of unnecessary compliance costs onto farmers because its freshwater regulations are more than a year overdue, National’s spokespeople for Agriculture and Water, Barbara Kuriger and Joseph Mooney, say.

“Under Environment Minister David Parker’s regulations, farmers must have a certified freshwater farm plan for winter grazing on sloping land. If they do not have a certified plan, they must obtain a resource consent.

"Two years after the regulations were passed, the Ministry for the Environment has not completed the framework allowing farmers to certify freshwater farm plans. Officials have indicated the framework will not be ready this year.

“The regulations have already been delayed by David Parker twice, but are now due to come into force in November. Because the guidelines will not be ready, many thousands of farmers will have no alternative but to apply for resource consents for their winter grazing.

“Officials say as many as 10,000 resource consents will be required, while industry estimates are higher. Each application could cost up to $10,000.

“The total cost to New Zealand’s farmers could be $100 million if David Parker continues to sit on his hands.

“Most of the affected farms are in Southland, Otago and Canterbury, but farms will be affected in most parts of New Zealand.

“With New Zealand’s farmers already facing the highest inflation in more than 30 years and sharply rising interest rates, adding $100 million in unnecessary costs is a kick in the guts for New Zealand’s most productive sector.

“The worst part of this is that forcing farmers to apply for consents is unlikely to achieve any environmental gains.

“If New Zealand’s regional councils were to suddenly receive 10,000 applications, the consenting teams would inevitably be swamped, meaning the process would likely become a box-ticking exercise.

“Farmers are looking at paying up to $100 million for an expensive tick box exercise to cover David Parker’s failure to get these regulations sorted. It is outrageous.

“This Government cannot deliver anything. David Parker should put the new regulations on hold for a further 12 months while his officials get their process sorted.

“National supports moves to improve freshwater management, but New Zealand needs regulations that are fit for purpose”, says Mr Mooney.

Media contact: Connie Giquel, 027 230 1499

Worst worker shortages in 50 years but no Govt plan to fix

September 08, 2022 Share

New Zealand is experiencing the worst worker shortage in at least fifty years. And it's hitting businesses in my Southland electorate very hard.

It's no surprise that our daily news feeds are increasingly flooded by stories from businesses worried about their livelihoods due to the ongoing worker shortage.

Everyone I talk to would love to hire someone locally, who isn't there with the biggest workforce shortages in nearly five decades.

Nearly every day, the issue of chronic worker shortages and immigration issues are being raised with me by hospitality, accommodation and tourism operators, contractors, plumbers, and farmers and growers, to name just some of the industries affected.

The stories are all too common. Small businesses are highly distressed due to spending a signification part of their day trying to recruit staff. Still, they are left overworked and understaffed despite paying wages at the top end. Recruitment agencies say they have no workers available on their books.

Businesses report experiencing problems with the Immigration New Zealand website, and glitches in the system result in them having to resubmit applications numerous times. The immigration system is complicated and has resulted in extensive processing delays of visa applications. It means prospective employees cannot commence work for months in many cases.

Hospitality operators say they find the 'job check' requirement just another layer that Immigration NZ has introduced, making an already complicated process even more challenging.

Farmers are saying they have to work exceptionally long hours, with calving underway but insufficient workers to do all the jobs on the farm. Fruit was left rotting on trees last summer due to a lack of pickers, and there are growing concerns that this will happen again in the coming summer without enough seasonal workers and backpackers.

All of them have one thing in common. Loss of income and diminished livelihoods, all because they want to operate successfully but can't due to a lack of staff.

For many businesses, having a steady income means getting ahead under their own steam and looking after their families and employees. They don't need to rely on the Government to keep them afloat.

When businesses thrive, they don't just thrive for themselves and their families. They thrive for the prospects of their children, their communities, and the local economy.

A lack of continuous income due to having to close for days on end due to a lack of staff means less food on the table, clothes for the kids, and petrol in the tank. It means those families struggle to pay bills, the rent, and the mortgage.

There is a global war for workers, with other countries competing for Kiwi workers. Still, our Government has made it more challenging with its "immigration reset" for Kiwi businesses to compete for that talent that everyone needs right now.

The negative outflow of people from New Zealand is exacerbating our labour shortages. We are 4,000 nurses short, and the Government won't give them an immediate path to residency like in Australia.

It is just as perplexing that as we open our doors to international tourists again, and our overseas workers are an essential piece of that puzzle, the Government is making it more difficult to recruit from abroad.

We need a government to help businesses create real jobs and access the workforce necessary to fill those jobs.

We need an immigration system that doesn't act like a police force but instead as a recruitment agency for the talent our country needs.

Instead, their approach seems set on enforcing make-believe immigration policies on businesses for make-believe workers in a make-believe world.

The Government needs to put this right and give businesses the confidence they need to grow and invest in their workforce.

When businesses have that confidence, they create jobs for real people that put food on the table, provide clothes for the kids, and pay the bills for families up and down my Southland Electorate.


ENDS

 

 

 

 

 

The Ensign Column - Joseph Mooney MP - September 2022

September 08, 2022 Share

Spring is here, and this gorgeous season represents joy, hope, renewal and growth. It is lovely to see the daffodils out in bloom!

It's a busy time for our farming sector midway through calving and lambing, and our growers will be looking forward to harvesting their crops as summer is fast approaching. I do hope the Government engages early with the sector to ensure a sufficient number of seasonal workers available to cover the harvesting period.

The freshwater regulations come into force at the start of November. Under the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020 regulations, farms using intensive winter grazing must have either certified freshwater farm plans or apply for resource consent.

But despite the looming November compliance date, the Ministry for the Environment is yet to publish guidelines meaning none of the affected farms can develop their plans. This means thousands of farmers face uncertainty around whether to plant crops for winter grazing next year as it will require everyone to go through the costly and time-consuming process of applying for resource consent.

The worst part is that forcing farmers to apply for consent is unlikely to achieve any environmental gains.

National supports moves to improve New Zealand's freshwater management, but the current regulations are not fit for purpose. We will be pushing hard against these unworkable regulations and regulatory overreach. There needs to be more emphasis on local solutions rather than a one-size fits all blanket rule.

Three Waters remains high on the agenda too. At recent select committee hearings, many councils raised the issue of the Government's massively overblown costs over $3 million of hard-earned taxpayer money spent on promoting a flawed Three Waters policy.

The Government should be listening. I'll keep fighting on behalf of our community to make the Government accountable to you on Three Waters, and National will repeal and replace these broken reforms.

On another note, congratulations to the Hokonui Huanui Project on its recent launch. I am excited about the support this project will offer tamariki and rangatahi in their journey from birth to adulthood. I look forward to hearing more about their successes over time to come.

ENDS

The News Column - September 2022

September 08, 2022 Share

Alexandra hosted its first-ever South Asian Cultural Festival, and it was a privilege to speak at the opening and announce the poster competition winners. Some of the artwork by our local school children was quite incredible! Congratulations to the Arasan NZ Trust, who organised a great community event in partnership with Welcoming Communities and the Central Otago Regional Council.

Calving is in full swing too, and with lambing on the way, it is a busy time for farmers. The primary sector is the backbone of our country, bringing in $52b in revenue last year, and we are grateful for the hard work of our farmers and growers.

It is still a time of struggle for many though, as New Zealand is experiencing the worst worker shortage in at least fifty years. 

Talking with growers, there will be another significant workforce crunch this summer unless something is done. Minister Stuart Nash's recent comments regarding backpackers not being the ideal tourist as they travel on a shoestring budget, weren't encouraging as backpackers typically provide a lot of the seasonal workforce in Central Otago.

The Government needs to engage with the industry now to resource the seasonal workforce to ensure the fruit doesn't just fall on the ground again like it did last summer.

Farmers are also reporting issues with the freshwater regulations coming into force at the start of November. Under the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020 regulations, farms using intensive winter grazing are required to have either certified freshwater farm plans or apply for a resource consent.

But despite the looming November compliance date, the Ministry for the Environment is yet to publish guidelines meaning none of the affected farms are able to develop the plans. This means thousands of farmers face uncertainty around whether to plant crops for winter grazing next year as it will require everyone to go through the costly and time-consuming process of applying for resource consents.  The worst part of this is that forcing farmers to apply for consents is unlikely to achieve any environmental gains.

National supports moves to improve New Zealand’s freshwater management, but the current regulations are clearly not fit for purpose.

National will be pushing hard against these unworkable regulations and regulatory overreach. There needs to be more emphasis on local solutions rather than a one-size fits all blanket rule.

The 65th annual Alexandra Blossom festival happening later this month is definitely something to look forward to.  It's New Zealand's longest-running festival, starting in September 1957. Hopefully, you and your family look forward to enjoying the many activities.

ENDS

Govt Better Work Action Plan for tourism workforce not action enough

August 30, 2022 Share

The Government’s draft Better Work Action Plan for the tourism workforce released earlier this month is a shining example of this Government’s inability to prioritise the real issues which face many businesses in my Southland electorate says local MP for Southland, Joseph Mooney.

“Everywhere I go, I hear of severe staffing shortages resulting in businesses having to reduce hours, close for days at a time, and some may close for good because they can't get staff.

"New Zealand is facing its biggest worker shortage in fifty years and to make matters worse, the Government's immigration settings continue to make it harder for businesses to get staff from overseas.

“The Action Plan is high-level and almost entirely theoretical.  Some ideas proposed in the plan will have almost no impact on the current worker shortage in Southland.

"Instead, the Government needs to make it easier to hire workers from overseas as the immigration hurdles that this Government continues to put on New Zealand businesses amid a global war for talent, are extraordinary and incredibly short-sighted.

"While National believes this plan should be halted until the current labour shortage is solved and tourists are coming back to the country at pre-COVID levels, I will encourage businesses to have their say on the draft Action Plan. 

“Submissions on the draft plan are open until 14 September 2022 and a range of in-person and online workshops have been scheduled. While the Queenstown workshops have already taken place, submissions can still be made online.

“Together we can persuade this Government to focus their attention by urgently addressing the worker shortage issue and give businesses in my Southland electorate a fighting chance.”

Media Contact: Connie Giquel 027 230 1499               

Note to editors:  Draft Better Work Action Plan consultation document can be found at https://www.mbie.govt.nz/have-your-say/better-work-action-plan/

Space Matters to Kiwis and NZ Inc

July 23, 2022 Share

Opinion - by Joseph Mooney MP, Spokesperson for Space

We are seeing the emergence in New Zealand of a new globally significant and world-leading high-tech sector in Space.  Space as an economic enabler, offers unique opportunities to deliver economic benefits and high-value jobs not only in our major cities but also in regional New Zealand.

As we celebrated International Moon Day on July 20 this year, it was fifty-three years ago in 1969 that astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon.  

Many of our ancestors travelled to these islands guided by the stars. In 2018, New Zealand became only the 11th country in the world to send a rocket into orbit. Fast forward to 2022, and New Zealand has become the fourth most frequent launcher on the planet. This year marked our first nationwide public holiday Matariki celebrating our historical connection to the stars.

It is incredible that only four years after New Zealand first sent a rocket into orbit, NASA chose to launch a spacecraft from New Zealand to the Moon.  I was at RocketLab Mission Control when they launched the CAPSTONE Minisat spacecraft.  It is headed for the Moon as part of the Artemis project by NASA that aims to return humanity to the Moon, land the first woman and the first person of colour on the Moon, and from there send humans to Mars.

I also had the privilege of being on board the last mission to New Zealand by the SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) aircraft, a flying observatory as it flew towards Antarctica.  It was fascinating to see the complex mission in action and the passion of everyone involved as they looked 1,000 light-years across the Universe at things like "star nurseries".  Past SOFIA missions have seen the discovery of water on the sunlit surface of the Moon and the Universe's first type of molecule called the Helium Hydride.

On both occasions, I was reminded of just how far New Zealand has come as a world-leading space-faring nation, and the huge potential for our country to make the most of the opportunity. 

Space as an economic enabler

The Space industry in New Zealand is already fully operational, productive and developing fast.  

Over the last twenty years, I have observed with close interest the birth and development of what is called "New Space". Peter Diamandis established a space competition called the Ansari X Prize, offering a $10 million prize for the first non-government organization to launch a reusable crewed spacecraft into Space twice within two weeks. That was won in 2004 and has stimulated the "New Space" industry, which is the commercialisation of the Space sector.  

NZ has been quick out of the blocks to build a New Space industry from scratch and rapidly become a leading nation in this sector.  According to an MBIE report in November 2019, the New Zealand Space sector was already worth $1.75 billion. Some say it is already worth more than the wine industry in New Zealand.  Space directly supports an estimated 5,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) roles and indirectly supports 12,000 FTE jobs.

Space is rapidly becoming a key industry internationally too, as countries increasingly understand its significance. 

In the United States, Space is considered of such importance that the National Space Council is chaired by the Vice-President and includes the Secretaries of State, Agriculture, Defense, Labour, Transportation, Energy and Education, as well as the Assistant to the National Climate Advisor and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Interestingly, the National Party is currently the only political party in New Zealand that has a Spokesperson for Space.

As that Spokesperson, I believe in the opportunities that technology, science and Space hold for a better New Zealand and the benefit of our daily lives.  I am regularly engaging with industry leaders, scientists and academics both in New Zealand and Australia to hear more about their lessons learnt and ideas for Space. 

How does Space benefit us?

Space capabilities provide critical data, products and services that drive innovation worldwide. They advance our understanding of the Earth, the Universe, and humanity, create good jobs and economic activity, enhance our health and well-being, and inspire us to pursue our dreams. 

Data from satellites provide services that underpin many of the daily conveniences Kiwis have come to expect in banking, telecommunications, security, transport and climate change monitoring. Services like internet access, GPS connections, weather forecasting, and emergency management to track large fires, to name a few. 

The agriculture industry benefits from Space technological advancements that allow farmers to monitor their cows' movements and crops' health through apps that rely on satellite data, thereby increasing productivity while reducing their environmental footprint.

Satellite data also offers the opportunity to be a game changer for how New Zealand manages one of the world’s largest exclusive economic zones, as well as our responsibility for one of the world’s largest search and rescue areas spanning 30 million square kilometres from Antarctica almost to the Equator.  We are a small country with limited resources and can only send out a small number of planes and boats to monitor the oceans that surround us. Low earth orbit satellites are an increasingly cost-efficient technological enabler which can provide a data-rich oversight of these zones.

Earth's environment and atmosphere, that 'thin blue line' is a precious commodity which must be monitored and protected.  Earth observation from space captures meteorological data enabling better management of our planet's environment.  Space technology can help our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet our international obligations around global warming and climate change.

Leveraging our Kiwi ingenuity 

New Zealand is already a leader in technology. We have a proud tradition of punching above our weight, from our famous no.8 wire mentality to our sports teams, to Ernest Rutherford the Kiwi scientist who split the atom. 

It was a Kiwi that invented the electric fence. Today, one merely needs to tap an app on your phone, and cows stay in their paddock solely because of a virtual, invisible fence that works through a satellite in the sky, another Kiwi invention.

We must ensure that our decision-makers now recognize that ingenuity and potential with a regulatory framework that supports and leverages our unique position.

Leading the way

Space offers opportunities for both urban and regional New Zealand.

For example, in the South Island Space Operations New Zealand provides ground communications support for launches and satellite missions from its Invercargill and Awarua facilities near Bluff. It was one of the ground stations that supported the recent CAPSTONE launch.

The Xerra Earth Observation Institute in Central Otago has plans to develop satellite data products to drive regional economic growth.  NASA first started launching super-pressure balloons from Wanaka as far back as 2015.

Christchurch is home to a burgeoning space industry with notable players such as Dawn Aerospace, who have developed green propulsion systems for small satellites, and are developing a new aircraft that could revolutionize access to Space with a reusable vehicle that can take off and land from standard airports. Kea Aerospace is building solar-powered, remotely piloted aircraft that will fly for months at a time in the stratosphere. 

And, of course, Southland-born and raised Peter Beck founded RocketLab pioneering New Zealand's ascent to Space.  The business is growing rapidly with its manufacturing facilities in Auckland and the world’s first and only private orbital launch site in northern Hawkes Bay.

Reviewing what is working and what is not

The challenge will be maintaining a peaceful use of Space as the resource becomes more contested.  New Zealand is already known and respected for its global diplomacy. Our unique launch capacity gives us an ideal opportunity to contribute to the rules and norms that can facilitate the peaceful development of Space. 

The Government is reviewing the operation and effectiveness of the law controlling New Zealand's space commercial space activities, the Outer Space and High-Altitude Activities Act (OSHAA Act) that came into being in 2017.  

A separate study on broader space policy issues with a public consultation process later this year will ask questions about "the peaceful, sustainable and responsible uses of space and what this means for space activity in New Zealand, and the recognition of Māori interests in space."

I hope the process will also explore initiatives for maximizing the enormous commercial potential and advantage New Zealand already has to be a game-changer on the global space industry stage.

The role of universities and other training institutions in developing the future space workforce is critically important too. When Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, Director of the Space Institute in Auckland, joined me on a Facebook Live broadcast recently, his passion for creating opportunities for future leaders in the space industry was inspiring. 

It reinforced the importance of supporting stem subjects like science and technology at school and beyond, and the role of Space in inspiring children to engage and develop an interest in STEM subjects from a young age. We must invest more in science and technology than we have in the past, as that is the world's future.

Now is the time for a cohesive action plan, working with the industry and educational facilities to develop a roadmap outlining our strategic direction to support the Space sector in New Zealand.

Why should we invest in Space, some may ask?  The short answer is “Because Space matters to Kiwis”.  The opportunities for NZ Inc to prosper are limitless. 

ENDS

 

 

 

Clutha Leader Column Joseph Mooney MP - July 2022

July 14, 2022 Share

School holidays are here, and Parliament is also in recess for a couple of weeks. Like many of you, I, too, look forward to spending some valuable time with family before hitting the ground running again later in July.

I enjoyed my visit to Tahakopa School in the Catlins recently. While the school currently only has three pupils, size is no impediment to their success! The students won a national writing prize, and the school is well resourced. They certainly put their 3D printer to good use using designs from the internet. 

It was great to take some time to catch up with Owaka Police Officer and Search and Rescue member Senior Constable Murray Hewitson. Murray’s 18 years of service to the community is commendable, and his hard work and dedication certainly appreciated. Poaching remains an issue, and Murray and his team are committed to tracking down and prosecuting offenders.

Carbon farming and forestry are issues front of mind for many in the region and the potential impacts on local communities such as school rolls.  

Water is also front of mind, and local farmers I met say regular testing of water at the source of catchments will provide helpful, robust data on nitrogen levels in rivers versus what farms are contributing.

At the same time, the Government is ramming through its Three Waters agenda with the Water Services Entities Bill before a Select Committee of Parliament. The bill lays out the final plans for establishing a complex and unaccountable bureaucracy. If passed, the bill would see their Three Waters plans bundle water assets into regional mega-entities out of local community control. 

The four entities will be controlled by a complex and unaccountable bureaucracy comprising representative groups co-governed 50% by local council representatives and 50% by mana whenua. There is still some time to submit on this bill by 22 July at https://www.national.org.nz/three-waters.

I am planning a public meeting in August on the water issue and will be communicating more details in my August update and through social media.

The shortage of midwives across our region remains high on my agenda. Recent media coverage of the issue suggests a 45 per cent vacancy rate for midwives across the Southern region. Mothers and their babies deserve world-class care to give children the best start in life.

We have called on the Government to fast-track nurses and midwives through the immigration system and not wait until September for the system to come into force. 

You, too can make your voice heard on this issue at https://www.national.org.nz/fast-track-more-nurses-and-midwives.  

ENDS

 

The Ensign Column Joseph Mooney MP - July 2022

July 14, 2022 Share

School holidays are here, and Parliament is also in recess for a couple of weeks. Like many of you, I too, look forward to spending some valuable time with family before hitting the ground running again later in July.

Reliable connectivity as a critical infrastructure must-have for our rural communities has recently been a topic of much discussion in the community. Local legend has it that New Zealand's first phone call was made 145 years ago, in 1877, from Roxburgh to a local station using equipment given to the station owner by Alexander Bell!

I hosted Melissa Lee List, MP and National Spokesperson for Broadcasting & Media, Digital Economy and Communications, at a public meeting in Roxburgh to discuss broadband connectivity and mobile coverage issues in our region. Thank you to everyone who came out to join in the conversation.

People living in isolated rural areas without sufficient connectivity face becoming "digitally excluded" from society as modern lives move online.  Poor local internet services and at times no access to high-speed data affect some people's ability to work and educate from home too.

Parliament will debate digital exclusion and connectivity in the coming months, and I will ensure our local community's voices are heard. Rural communities must not be left behind when it comes to reliable connectivity.

Staff shortages, fair pay agreements, rising inflation, interest rates and living costs are also issues front of mind at the moment.  

I will be co-hosting an "Off the Clock" Networking Drinks with the Southland Business Chamber at the Croyden Lodge on 20 July, where we will discuss these and more. Please join us at the event, registration details can be found at www.southlandchamber.co.nz.  

While out and about in the electorate the past few weeks, I also attended the Southland Primary Schools Cross-Country event at Waimumu near Gore. It was a beautiful day for it and a fantastic event for our local students and their families. Well done to all involved, from participants to the organisers and many businesses supporting the event.

News of Rector John McKinlay of Gore High School's retirement will be met with sadness by many, but his outstanding 43-year teaching career is commendable and something to celebrate. We wish John and his family all the very best in his well-deserved retirement.

Finally, congratulations to Kate Heffernan, who has been named in the 12-player Silver Ferns squad and javelin thrower Tori Peeters who are heading to Birmingham next month to compete in the Commonwealth Games.

We are proud to claim you as two of our own. Well done, Kate, and  Tori and we will be sure to watch you in action at
the  Games.

ENDS