This will be my first newsletter for December, but also my last for 2020. There is a lot to update on you below – from local successes to activities in Parliament – but first and foremost, I want to say thank you for all the support, advice, and encouragement this year. The results of the election were certainly not good for National, however, we here in Tamaki can be proud of our efforts and for delivering one of the best results of any blue seat. So again, my sincere thanks.
Taking my oath of office in Parliament
A few days ago, I took my oath once again as your Member of Parliament. The oath is important; a reminder that we serve not ourselves but the wider community and that our Head of State, the Queen, can hold us to account on behalf of all New Zealanders. The parliament itself feels very different – we don’t hold as many seats as we once did which translates into fewer Question Time opportunities, no chairing of substantial select committees, fewer support staff, and so on. I will continue to focus on Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Trade issues alongside my responsibilities for Customs and the Arts, Culture, and Heritage portfolios; as you can imagine, there is quite a lot to adjust to and quite a bit on my plate.
While Parliament is great, it is the local work and representation that I get the most energy from and I’m proud to report there has been a lot happening in and around Tamaki of late.
I am very pleased to report some good progress around the proposed Kainga Ora (Housing New Zealand) development on Brenton Place in Orakei. After attending several public meetings, I called on Kainga Ora’s senior leadership to sit down with representatives of the local residents association, schools, local board, and iwi. This meeting was held a few days back with Kainga Ora agreeing to put the building consent on hold for at least six months to actively engage with the community. A further meeting between Kainga Ora and locals representatives will be happening this week.
I managed to snap a quick photo while on a lovely evening walk in St Heliers; we live in an amazing part of the city!
I have also been on a few visits to our local schools, from the opening of a great new school block at St Thomas’s through to Kohimarama School to discuss their need for more classrooms. A visit to several schools in Glen Innes drew my attention to a proposed plan to block Eastview Road. The plan is to effectively split the road in two which, to be honest, makes no sense and not something that locals have asked for. Amongst other issues, buses will struggle to get up the road, leaving kids having to walk along Line Road or Apirana Avenue.
Finally, to the many locals who have come in to chat about everything from housing to immigration, transport to employment – thank you. Such meetings provide me useful insights and enable me to lobby more effectively for you in Wellington.
Parliament has just resumed yet, oddly, also about to close for the year! Would you believe that the government (who determines when we sit) has only recalled the parliament for seven days? Two of which, I might add, were purely ceremonial. That we are sitting for so few days indicates to me that even with their new mandate, the government has not done the policy work needed nor has much legislation to work on.
Within the foreign affairs space, the government has already dropped one key legislative change. The Autonomous Sanctions Bill would have furthered New Zealand’s independence in foreign policy, allowing us to impose and enforce sanctions where we felt it was needed. As things will remain as they are, we can now only implement sanctions applied by the United Nations, who are often compromised by countries who hold very different views on democracy and human rights than we do.
Rachel and I in Wellington to say thank you and farewell to US Ambassador Scott Brown
As you may be aware, I have been actively challenging the recent actions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Our allies, including Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, have rightly made clear that they have had enough of the CCP interference in their political institutions; the undermining of their respective national security; the challenges to independent foreign policy and sovereignty; having their knowledge and research taken; and the use of trade to buy silence. We in New Zealand are not immune or protected from this. The CCP’s ‘coercive diplomacy’ is increasingly apparent and we must not turn a blind eye to the exclusion of Taiwan from the WHO, tensions in the Galwan Valley, intimidatory actions in the South China Sea, and most recently the manifest in Australia with the various tariffs, falsification, and trade restrictions. I have written a more comprehensive op-ed on this matter, including some suggestions of what we can do to protect our trade and our values. You can find it by clicking here.
It has also been good to see New Zealand media begin to take notice; they recently covered my comments on China here.
My team are soon to take a well-deserved break, and so my office will be closed for a few days over the Christmas and New Year period.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family all the very best for the weeks and summer ahead. It has been quite the tumultuous year, but as it draws to an end, I feel very grateful for all your support. A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.
MP for Tamaki
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