It has been another busy few weeks politically, and hopefully by now you have seen the latest policy announcements by National. These were around tax rebates for child care, known as FamilyBoost, and a commitment to reduce the number of consultants that government uses. More on these later.
However, it hasn’t been politics that has been the major news of recent weeks – it has been the terrible weather events here in New Zealand, and particularly in the North Island. We of course have had the huge rains and flooding followed a few weeks later by Cyclone Gabrielle. As I write, the overall death toll is eleven. Each number represents a grieving family, but can I particularly acknowledge the two volunteer firefighters - Dave van Zwanenberg and Craig Stevens – who gave their lives serving their community in Muriwai.
There are many New Zealanders still struggling in the aftermath of these events – be it those still cut off, through to the likes of horticulturalists whose crops were wiped out. The cost of these weather events will eclipse that of the Canterbury Earthquakes. Consequently, there is much to be discussed, not only in parliament, but as a country as a whole. Questions around how and where we build, also also how much are we as a country prepared to spend to upgrade our infrastructure. It has been long ignored due to the share scale of expense, however, these events highlight the importance of investment now.
LOCALLY AROUND TAMAKI
After the storms, I have spent a lot of time visiting locals and businesses to see how they fared. We were lightly touched compared to many areas, but still affected with a number of businesses needing to clean up after the storms. Tamaki Drive was closed for some time, as too were the likes of Ngapipi Road. My thanks to the road crews and others who worked hard to clear the debris and re-open these important road corridors. Sadly, there was also a young child hurt by a large falling branch in Maddills Farm – and just outside our electorate, the terrible and fatal slip on Shore Road.
Housing is once again a major issue, with intensification continuing. I am very aware of the proposed private development on Waimarie Street in St Heliers. This has been authorised directly by the Minister using a law relating to Covid. I lobbied him last year and while he has continued to support the project, I have succeeded in allowing locals - and not just immediate neighbours - to have their say. My thanks to the St Heliers and Glendowie Residents Association for collating these local responses. You can find out more here.
I am also aware of the new developments being proposed by Kainga Ora in Orakei and Meadowbank, and existing developments in the likes of Glendowie. I have been in meetings with community representatives about Orakei and attended the recent Kainga Ora 'open day’ in Meadowbank. While locals understand the need to improve existing state houses, the scale and intensity is causing great concern. There are more details below, but I am calling a public meeting about housing intensification, with Kainga Ora in attendance, on Monday 3 April.
Frustratingly, crime continues to be an issue as many will know from the constant sounds of sirens and the police helicopter above our suburbs. I continue to visit as many local businesses ram-raided or broken into as possible. It is simply heart-breaking but I am confident in National’s policies to empower police and toughen up on those committing these crimes.
At the start of the year, I received further and new portfolios. On top of my work in foreign affairs; the arts, culture, and heritage space; and Customs; I now have been given the shadow minster role for Internal Affairs. This means I have responsibility (in Opposition) for everything from the fire service to gambling, passports to cyber security. It is a huge and broad portfolio – but a fascinating one. It also means I find myself in another governance and board role, sitting on the Lottery Grants Board. So, lots to keep me busy!
As I previewed at the start of this newsletter, National has announced two new policies in recent days. The first is called FamilyBoost and seeks to help families with the cost of childcare, particularly as the cost of living increases. The proposed tax rebate will see some getting up to $75 a week to assist with childcare costs. National estimates that this will impact around 130,000 lower and middle-income families, who will keep up to $3,900 more of what they earn every year. It works for families earning up to $180,000, who will receive a 25 per cent rebate on their early childhood education expenses, up to a maximum of $75 per week paid directly into their bank account every fortnight.
We also announced that when we regain the Treasury Benches, National will reduce spending on consultants and contractors, saving taxpayers $400 million a year across a range of government departments and Crown entities.
My increasingly popular podcast has two new episodes for you to listen to. On the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, I sat down with Misha Zelinsky to discuss how this all ends. Misha is Australia based, a foreign affairs expert, journalist, and Fullbright Scholar. He was also in Kyiv when the war began. I work beside him on other foreign affairs issues and value his insights. You can hear the podcast here.
I also sat down with one of my human rights heroes, Benedict Rogers. Benedict is the founder of Hong Kong Watch which he formed as the Chinese Communist Party crushed the democracy in Hong Kong. We worked together to help Hong Kongers leave and continue to advocate for the rule of law, democracy, and freedom. On this podcast, we talk about his wide ranging work and his new book The China Nexus which I highly recommend reading. To listen to my and Benedict’s chat, click here.
PUBLIC MEETING ON HOUSING
In response to the plans by Kainga Ora to intensify its housing across Tamaki, I have called a public meeting with them, so that locals can engage and discuss what is planned. I look forward to seeing you there. Details are:
Monday 3 April, 7pm to 8.30pm
St Chads Church and Community Centre, Meadowbank
Finally, I have been asked by my caucus colleagues to attend the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) meeting in Bahrain beginning this weekend. This is a forum that has existed since the 1890s and where MPs from around the world gather to discuss issues of common interest. I am particularly looking forward to engaging with colleagues from Ukraine as well as from across the Pacific, and of course, friends from allied countries such as Canada, Australia, the USA and UK.
I look forward to seeing locals around the electorate when I return and at the public meeting on housing in April.
MP for Tamaki
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