It has been a busy month of activities and public holidays. We celebrated Easter, ANZAC Day and Ramadan in April, and soon we will be celebrating the new public holiday Matariki in June.
Mother's Day is just around the corner and I hope your family has something special planned for the wonder women in your lives!
This year, I attended the Waikaka and Drummond ANZAC services. They were both very special occasions, and hopefully, you too were able to join one of the many commemorations in honour of those who sacrificed their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today.
I hosted Leader Christopher Luxon in the electorate where we spent the day talking to local businesses who say they have been doing it tough.
I also hosted Chris Bishop MP at meetings with housing developers where we talked about the increasing costs of housing and rental costs. The Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust is doing great work with its housing developments in the district to support low-income families in housing.
The cost of living is soaring, and families and businesses feel the pinch of the rising cost of basics in life, like food and fuel.
In the lead up to Budget Day on 19 May, we are preparing to scrutinise the Government's Budget 2022/23 to ensure that they have delivered what they said they would and to hear about their plans for the upcoming fiscal year with our hard-earned taxes.
Leader Christopher Luxon has given his pre-budget speech and you can watch it here.
I'm planning post budget meetings in Queenstown and Gore in May too. Details of how you can register your attendance can be found on my website.
Three Waters and co-governance
The Government has announced that they will forge ahead with their flawed Three Waters reform programme despite most councils not supporting their centralisation and divisive co-governance agenda.
New Zealand is a modern, multicultural society built on proud bicultural foundations. The National Party believes in inclusiveness, unity and equality for all New Zealanders – and equality for all citizens under the law.
However, the Labour Government has not been clear on what it means by ‘co-governance’. National does not support the co-governance of public services.
Past co-governance arrangements that were made in the context of Treaty settlements have worked well. These were bounded to the management of natural resources, like rivers, by iwi working closely with local or central government. This is consistent with National’s strong view that devolution and localism work better than centralisation and bureaucracy.
We should also be celebrating the successes that the Māori economy has already achieved. Statistics reveal that as of 2018, Māori own a significant proportion of assets in the primary sectors - 50% of the fishing quota, 40% of forestry, 30% in lamb production, 30% in sheep and beef production and 10% in dairy production.
Māori-owned kiwifruit orchards also produce 13.9 million trays of gold and green fruit each year or about 10% of New Zealand's total kiwifruit exports. Māori own nearly 1,200 hectares of land devoted to kiwifruit.
A 2020 research report suggests that while Māori share of land in horticulture is relatively small at 5%, Māori horticulture has grown 300% since 2006. This growth is set to continue and may double in size in as little as 10 years.
In 2018, Māori also owned 5.7% of the land (1.5 million hectares and mainly freehold) of which approximately 400,000ha is farm land, with more than half used for sheep, beef and dairy farming and less than 1 per cent is dedicated to horticulture.
Farmers facing challenging times
At our two farm Woolshed meetings in Balfour and Waimumu, farmers raised concerns around water, the current drought conditions and the burdensome regulatory reform they are facing all at the same time.
When I met with Thriving Southland and Land and Water Science we talked about the merits of interlinking Government policies for soil, water, biodiversity, and carbon.
NZ is geologically variable and the Government's blanket policy approach is rather ineffective as a result. With 32 water catchment groups in the region, farmers say the lack of reliable data and information on pathways for economic and environmental sustainability creates real issues for informed decision-making on-farm.
Rural health crisis
Rural health is increasingly under the spotlight. Our health services are stretched, especially rural health, and we need to spare a thought for our GPs and nurses that have seen increased workloads as COVID spreads through our communities.
While hospitals too, deal with exploding case numbers, elective and other services mustn't suffer. Access to colonoscopy, gynaecological and orthopaedic services, for example, remains an issue for many in our electorate.
The loss of Te Anau's only midwife is the tip of the iceberg of the midwifery crisis being felt across the Southland and Central Otago regions. Since the closure of the Lumsden Maternity Centre in 2018, the problem has extended wider and poses a great risk to new mums and their babies. I have actively raised these issues with Ministers responsible for Health, Immigration and COVID-19 Response over a prolonged period.
A National government will fund a minimum of a three day stay in post-natal care for mothers and their babies and address pay claims by independent midwives. We understand the challenges of remote and rural communities.
On the flip side, while the Government dithers with government-funded cancer services, the Southland Charity Hospital building nearing completion is exciting news!
I'm in regular contact with Missy Vining and her team for updates on their cause on behalf of the community. Its success highlights the importance of addressing the issue of the lack of Government funding for cancer patients.
Mental health and well-being too, especially for our youth, are big issues in our communities. I'm aware of a survey circulating in Te Anau looking into the mental health of rural young men, and the issue is widespread.
Considering the Government's $1.9 billion spend in this area, it is only fitting that the Auditor-General has announced that he will be investigating the "effectiveness of mental health and addiction services for young people as a group with an increasing need for mental health support".
Postal services found lacking in Queenstown
Due to outdated legislative instruments, some areas in Queenstown are not receiving postal services either. Residents of Hanley's Farm have contacted me with concerns about New Zealand Post's failure to deliver mail in their area.
They say negotiations with the state-owned enterprise New Zealand Post have reached a stalemate. Ministers responsible for NZ Post must front and confirm what they intend to do to ensure NZ Post maintains their minimum service obligations for the delivery of postal services in Hanley's Farm as per the postal deed. Read my press release on this issue here.
Finally, I've written to several Ministers this month, asking questions and seeking answers to the problems our communities face. I'll be feeding back their responses in the coming weeks.
You can stay up to date with my activities by signing up for my newsletter or follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
My team and I are here to assist you in any way we can. You can reach us here.