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Govt bribe attempt to silence councils on Three Waters

April 20, 2022 Share

The Government has indicated that they anticipate a delay in introducing their Three Waters legislation, originally planned to be presented by December last year but now postponed to mid-2022.

But local councils in our Taupō electorate are one step ahead and prepared to face off with Government.  Minister Mahuta had publicly conceded that she had 'underestimated' certain things in driving her Three Waters agenda and referring to Councils' 'high level of sensitivity' about her reform plans. She was possibly avoiding naming it for what it is. Councils are overwhelmingly opposed to her asset grab and at the expense of local communities.

In the meantime, the Government has also placed a thinly veiled gag order on councils in an apparent attempt to control what they say to the media about Three Waters. They are attempting to bribe them with a $2 billion funds to spend however they want – even on projects that have nothing to do with water infrastructure. In return for the bribe, councils must not do a0nything that criticises the Government.

It isn't reassuring to see a government that once claimed it would be the most open and transparent Government ever using its power to try to shut down criticism and debate.

To make matters worse, the Government's Three Waters National Transition Unit (NTU) has already provided notice that it would establish a panel of service providers to progress the transition to the four new water service entities proposed to take control of Three Waters. This is before the Government has even taken a bill to Parliament for debate.

I've been in touch with all three local councils in our Taupō electorate who have partnered to oppose the Government's proposed four water entity model.

Waipā Mayor Jim Mylchreest, Taupō Mayor David Trewavas and Mayor Jenny Shattock of South Waikato District Council and their chief executives are amongst 32 member councils of Communities 4 Local Democracy He hapori mō te Manapori (C4LD) who have presented their alternative proposals for Three Waters Reform to the Government.

I plan to meet them again in the coming weeks to hear their views and take these to Parliament when the time comes to debate the legislation that the Government is trying to force on local Councils and the communities they represent.

Instead of enforcing their will on Councils, the Government should focus on keeping the 'local' in local Government by encouraging councils to collaborate, contract or form CCOs, and let communities decide what's right for them – not the Beehive.

Govt must step up on 3rd bridge in Cambridge

March 02, 2022 Share

A third bridge in Cambridge is becoming critical as Cambridge's population grows by the minute, yet it appears that it's not a priority for Government.

News that the Waipa District Council has extended the public consultation period on its draft Transportation Strategy to 22 March is welcome.

However, responses to written questions to the Minister of Transport on the issue suggest that Government is blissfully ignorant of the crisis unfolding on the roads in our town.

I've been calling for the urgent consideration of a third bridge for some years and have held several meetings with the community and key stakeholders over that time.

At a public meeting on the issue in December 2020, Council representatives suggested that a third bridge is unlikely to feature in Council's ten-year plan.

Some of the reasons offered included the lack of central government funding required that will inevitably see rates rise for locals otherwise. They also cited concerns around the potential impact of such the bridge on property values.

Well, it's fair to say that concern around property values would be the least of our town's problems if congestion makes it impossible to live and work here.

At a further public meeting on 15 January 2021, the community also queried the location of another crossing over the Waikato River to ease traffic congestion if a third bridge was not an option for the Council in this decade.

The Chamber of Commerce at the time expressed valid concerns about the lack of urgency from the Council to plan adequately for the growth of Cambridge that is already outstripping forecasts.

Council was petitioned to allocate priority funding in its 2022 transport strategy review for an evaluation to confirm alternative river crossing solutions and future proof the transport corridor. There were suggestions that, if fast-tracked, it could take Council four years to build the bridge.

Therefore, it was disappointing that the Minister of Transport, Michael Wood revealed no proposals or plans in the Government’s National Transport Strategy 2022 – 2024 for a third bridge. I specifically asked him what proposals were being considered or planned for a third bridge in Cambridge, when construction would start, and the funding amount allocated.

It is possible Council has yet to engage with Waka Kotahi NZTA on this issue, or the Government is out of touch with the realities of the growth of Cambridge and its associated transport corridor issues.

The Council has been called upon to dedicate a workstream within its 2022 Annual Plan to consider alternative ways of working with Waka Kotahi NZTA to manage traffic congestion from Leamington and re-route to the low-level bridge.

Any unnecessary delay with futureproofing the transport infrastructure in Cambridge will place undue pressure on the community and businesses that depend on it. While it's commendable that the Council has extended public consultation on its draft transportation strategy until 22 March, this is a community issue that cannot be ignored.

I have been calling on Council to decide “where” the third bridge would be and to secure the site. The construction of the bridge might be some years off, but if the site isn’t secured soon the rate at which development is occurring will mean fewer options available.

The Government also needs to be aware of this major infrastructure and build it into their future thinking. We must stop the piecemeal approach to transport infrastructure planning for our growing towns or we make them less liveable than they are today.

I intend to engage with the Transport Committee at Council to hear their thought process in this space and actively lobby the Minister to include it in their National Transport Strategy sooner.

Taupō electorate general practices in crises

February 25, 2022 Share

The Government has made its expectations clear that GPs and their General Practices across the Taupō Electorate will be the first triage point of call for cases or household contacts of patients during Phase 3, and according to their “Care in the Community” model.

The Government anticipates “most people with COVID-19 … will be able to self-isolate and fully recover in their own home with support from local healthcare providers”.

GPs will electronically be notified of each positive case and will be expected to call them to determine their level of support and needs.

However, the Government may have overlooked the fact that many communities in my electorate are experiencing a chronic shortage of health professionals, particularly GPs and locums needed to support the increase in services expected.

As case numbers continue to rise, especially for that are outside of a household, there is no doubt that general practices will be under significant additional pressure as DHBs and Primary Health Units seek to minimise traffic to hospitals and their emergency departments.

In some areas, communities already face long waiting times to see a GP, and in others like Tokoroa, one clinic has no permanent GP. Their only option becomes the hospital emergency department.

Travelling long distances just to see a doctor can be a costly exercise for many at a time when the cost of living is rising substantially.

Nurses can also be expected to assist on the frontline in triaging patients before they see a GP. However, nurses require a doctor to sign off orders, referrals and regular prescriptions. With no permanent GP on-site at times, unnecessary delays with medications could become life-threatening.

Current self-isolation rules also mean medical practices may need to close their doors to minimise face to face contact with patients or risk staff shortages.

In Lakes DHB coverage area, as the outbreak develops, elective services (day stay theatre) will be reduced or stopped in both Rotorua and Taupō when additional staff (and beds) are required. Most outpatient services will be via video or telehealth with less face to face clinics.

Before border closures, the bureaucratic immigration process for attracting health professionals from abroad was already an issue. Since then, the delays in opening the borders have created a real crisis in the making for general practices and the communities they serve.

The Government has failed to plan for the multi-faceted problem facing our health sector. This is a sector that is now being called upon to step up and cover the Government’s lack of planning when they are already struggling to keep their heads above the water.

I will be writing to the Minister of Health, seeking his assurances that he has a plan for ensuring general practices in my electorate get the support they so desperately need.

Note to editors

Supporting links to info referred to:
[https://covid19.govt.nz/prepare-and-stay-safe/about-covid-19/our-response-to-omicron]
(https://covid19.govt.nz/isolation-and-care/care-in-the-community/)

Media Statement - Louise Upston MP: Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill

February 21, 2022 Share

The Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill was recently voted into law. While I voted against it at the Second Reading, I supported it at its Third Reading.

I am a proud supporter of the LGBTQI+ community and want New Zealand and especially the Taupō electorate to be a place that celebrates and supports diversity, including our rainbow community.

The Bill prohibits changing sexual orientation or gender identity by conversion therapy of a person under 18 or someone with impaired decision-making capacity.

For the first reading, the National Party Caucus took a party position against the bill and then agreed subsequent readings would be a conscience vote.

There are different views for different reasons across Parliament and MPs can cast their votes independently according to their conscience on some issues.

During the Second Reading of the Bill, I still had some concerns following the Select Committee process and voted against it.

Those concerns included the role of parents in decisions about their children, particularly about medical procedures or interventions such as puberty blockers that can have a permanent impact.

Under the Bill, anyone intentionally changing or suppressing someone's gender identity or sexual orientation could be breaking the law.

Every family should be a safe environment for open, secure, and challenging conversations where all family members can share their opinions and concerns without the fear of prosecution.

At the time, I was concerned that the law would criminalise parents for having those conversations.

My job as a legislator is to understand the content and detail of a Bill, and not just the title, to ensure there aren't unintended consequences of the law that we are about to pass.

For this Bill, I carefully reviewed the Hansard and the commitments on record made by the Minister between the Second Reading and Third Reading of the Bill, especially around the role of parents. As a result, my concerns in that specific area were reduced.

As with all conscience votes, I always seek the views of my constituents through face to face discussions and surveys, do my research, and then weigh up both sides of the argument before voting. However, there was a limited amount of time to do this on this bill.

Although I would have liked more time to consider my vote, Labour moved the Bill quickly through the different stages of the legislative process and I had to make a decision that would rest easy with my conscience.

I received over a hundred emails and social media messages where my constituents expressed their feelings about conversion therapy.

I kept an open mind, weighed up the pros and cons of the bill and supported it at the Third Reading.

I'm pleased the Bill has passed. Conversion therapy is an abhorrent practice, and I am glad to see it banned. It has no place in our societies. Thank you to everyone that shared their views with me.

Taupō tourism, events and hospo industries hurting

February 20, 2022 Share

Owner operated businesses in the tourism, hospitality and events industries who joined me at a meeting arranged by Ian and Jill Cammell of Taxicat Adventures in Taupo, say they are at their wits end under red traffic-light restrictions and the lack of tourists.

With the borders still largely closed and locals staying at home, almost all of them have reported loss in customers and sales. Some fear they will no longer be in operation come to the end of this month.

Under the current Phase 2 of the red traffic light systems, people who come into close contact with COVID positive cases have to isolate for 8 days and return a negative test before they can return to work.

This has seen custom to many businesses drop significantly as people stay home to avoid a scenario where they may need to self-isolate.

To make matters worse, while most businesses can continue to operate under the current traffic light system, the shortage of, or inaccessibility to Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) has also seen some businesses whose staff can return to work, not being able to.

Other businesses report being denied an exemption under the Close Contact Exemption Scheme, as they weren’t deemed ‘critical’ businesses.

Concern was raised that businesses are at the mercy of bureaucrats who decides their and their workers’ fate.

Add to that an increase across the board to the cost of living, rents and fuel, and the little income some people still have is spent on simply surviving day by day and there is nothing to pump back into businesses to help them stay afloat.

There is a real risk of a whole generation of families in my Taupo electorate being consigned to a life of poverty and hardship, and accessing benefits will be their only option soon if they cannot secure further support from the Government for their businesses.

The latest Salvation Army State of the Nation report revealed around 209,000 children already living in benefit dependent homes. That's nearly 1 in 5 children since Labour took office four years ago.

I was really disappointed to learn of the cancellation of major events such as Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge and Ironman too.
Hayden Dickason, Event Director of Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge and Wayne Reardon, Race Director of Ironman say the decision to cancel their event was made with regret.

However, under current traffic light systems, it would have been near impossible to host an event that met those stringent requirements.

For others like Bevan Thompson of Bevanz Event Services, the lack of support for events under 5000, especially sports events are seeing their incomes decimated.

While there is support for arts and culture events, there is nothing for sports events with less than 5000 participants. As Bevan says ‘absolutely no support from the government, yet they are determining my work and income with gathering size restrictions.’

Our businesses and their employees need help now.

Lack of income and people forced out of work and unable to access a RAT to return is seeing a real crisis unfolding in my Taupo electorate.

Some are calling for a citizen-initiated referendum on some of the decisions the Government is making.

I've written to the Minister of Tourism, calling on him to urgently act. We need to be targetting financial support to small business owners in my community and we need it urgently.

National will invest in the SH5 Napier - Taupō

February 17, 2022 Share

The blanket speed reduction decision on the SH 5 Napier to Taupō needs to be reversed and the Government should instead focus on improving the quality of the road.

Answers to Written Questions by the Minister of Transport on the SH5 is further proof that the Government should be prioritising a comprehensive upgrade of the State Highway 5 (SH5) between Napier and Taupō instead of simply lowering speed limits.

In December 2021, I asked the Minister how many complaints he had received about the state highway over the past two years. Out of 59 complaints, five were about maintenance issues, 9 for potholes and 2 for drainage. Even more concerning is information from Waka Kotahi NZTA that revealed 2992 repairs to potholes over a five year period!

Yet, despite the poor maintenance statistics, Waka Kotahi NZTA went ahead and decided to lower the speed limit for 83 kilometres on the SH5 instead of investing in urgent road maintenance, surface upgrades and safety features.  The Government has demonstrated an absolute disregard for both the importance of this piece of road and its users.

This road is the only highway link between the central North Island and Hawke’s Bay region, making it particularly important for freight, including access to the Port of Napier and tourism.

While lower speed limits can be helpful for more dangerous sections of roads, imposing them on most parts of the road will only pile on additional costs in lost time and revenue for those responsible road users who already drive to the conditions and current limits.

In August 2020, National committed to investing $300 million to improve the SH5 route. The commitment also included an immediate fast track of the safety projects.  At the time, the Road Transport Forum described the road as ‘so patched up it looks like a patchwork quilt’.

An urgent upgrade is to the surface and seal of the road, instead of just fixing dangerous potholes repeatedly. Significant safety issues also need to be addressed through a retrofitted median and roadside barrier, re-engineered and straightened dangerous corners, new passing lanes, widened shoulders, and safer turning opportunities.

I'm pleased that the local community has joined my ongoing efforts to directly challenge the Government on their flawed decision. I’m working with Tony Alexander, an advocate and a regular user of that stretch of road as a truck driver, and Kiri Goodspeed who has initiated a parliamentary petition on the issue, to highlight the Government’s inaction on upgrading this piece of road.

I am also planning two stakeholder meetings at both ends of the road in Taupō and Napier in the coming weeks and will also be inviting NZTA, mayors and other regional community leaders to attend.

While the evidence is clear that better, modern roads are safer, Labour has no plan and no funding to address the deficiencies.

This road needs significant investment to save lives, bolster regional growth and improve journeys, particularly for truck drivers and tourists travelling in Hawke’s Bay.

This is sensible, shovel-ready work that can get underway quickly, creating jobs and improving safety.  It’s about time the Government gets on with it and action National’s proposals to improve the poor condition of this road rather than just slowing everyone down.

Backing South Waikato in 2022

February 15, 2022 Share

Welcome to 2022! I hope you’ve managed to have a good break over the summer holiday period or have one planned soon.

My break had a healthy balance of resting, recovering and much needed time with family I had been apart from due to alert level boundaries. It was also an opportunity to reflect on a turbulent last year when Delta came and caused such disruption to our lives.

We have all learnt that it pays to be adaptable and flexible as you never know what is around the corner. Undoubtedly, many of us have also realised that health and wellness are vital as we go forward into 2022 better equipped to deal with the unexpected.

Omicron has come around and is expected to spread widely in the community. The requirements of self-isolation for close contacts of a positive case will have a massive impact on those who are still working.

I will be meeting with social services agencies in the coming weeks to discuss how families who are self-isolating, are best supported with their welfare and wellbeing needs.

Businesses have also called for the reinstatement of the wage subsidy and resurgence support payments to ensure business contingency, and I will be working closely with them to engage with Government for support.

An emerging issue is the shortage of GPs in our rural communities. I’ve been approached by several people concerned about the lack of a permanent GP at the Tokoroa Medical Centre.

I’ve asked the Waikato DHB what they intend to do to ensure community health services do not suffer, and they have assured me they have measures in place for the contingency of care.

This includes having a doctor at the medical centre daily with a triage system whereby patients will first be spoken to or seen by a nurse to identify their needs and, if required, referred to a face to face consult with the doctor or the hospital.

Another focus for South Waikato this year is housing availability and affordability. South Waikato is growing and we need to ensure we are planning for building resilient communities and infrastructure to accommodate that growth.

We will also continue to fight the Government on its proposed Three Waters asset grab. There is still time to sign the petition if you haven’t already at https://www.national.org.nz/stop-the-three-waters-asset-grab.

Youth Parliament 2022 will take place this year, and Taupō Youth MP Sophia Goodrich and I are keen to explore opportunities for youth in the region, whether through work, training or apprenticeships. There is still some time to join the Youth Advisory Board and I’ll be promoting the opportunity at schools and on social media.

Finally, I wish you and your family health, prosperity and happiness as we get stuck into 2022. My team and I look forward to being of service to you. You can reach us on [email protected] or 07 886 5554.

Backing Cambridge in 2022

January 28, 2022 Share

Welcome to 2022!  I hope you’ve managed to have a good break over the summer holiday period or have one planned soon.   
My break had a healthy balance of resting, recovering and much needed time with family I had been apart from due to alert level boundaries. 
It was also an opportunity to reflect on a turbulent last year when Delta came and caused such disruption to our lives. 
We have all learnt that it pays to be adaptable and flexible as you never know what is around the corner.  Undoubtedly, many of us have also realised that health and wellness are vital as we go forward into 2022 better equipped to deal with the unexpected.
Omicron has come around and is expected to spread widely in the community.  The requirements of self-isolation for close contacts of a positive case will have a massive impact on those who are still working.   
I will be meeting with social services agencies in the coming weeks to discuss how families who are self-isolating, are best supported with their welfare and wellbeing needs.
Businesses have also called for the reinstatement of the wage subsidy and resurgence support payments to ensure business contingency, and I will be working closely with them to engage with Government for support.  
My goals for Cambridge in 2022 include pursuing the upgrade of our transport infrastructure.  I’ve submitted to the public consultation process on the Cambridge to Piarere roundabout and will closely monitor the progress of work while continuing to push for the 16km extension.
The hospitality and events industries face massive losses with the cancellation of significant events, including the NI club and national rowing championships, Balance Farm Awards, Festival One Music Festival, St Andrew’s Craft and Collectable Fair and Rotary Run the Runway, amongst others. 
I am planning a meeting with tourism, accommodation and events organisations, and if you are one of the businesses affected, please get in touch with us for details of the meeting.
The impacts of self-isolation on businesses for staff that come into close contact with a positive case pose another risk.  You might also be a family self-isolating and needing welfare and other support but struggling to get it.  If this is an issue you are facing, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
Housing availability and affordability will be high on my radar this year.  Cambridge is now in the “Millionaires Club”, according to recently released figures. 
Living here is already unaffordable for many, and even more worrying is the prediction that Cambridge’s population will reach 24,000 over the next ten years, requiring 2300 more homes. 
We will also seriously need to look at the third bridge required to accommodate the cars that a growing population will bring.
We will continue to fight the Government on its proposed Three Waters asset grab.  There is still time to sign the petition if you haven’t already at https://www.national.org.nz/stop-the-three-waters-asset-grab. 
Youth Parliament 2022 is taking place this year, and Taupō Youth MP Sophia Goodrich and I are keen to explore opportunities for youth in the region, whether through work, training or apprenticeships. 
There is still some time to join the Youth Advisory Board, and I’ll be promoting the opportunity at schools and on social media.
Finally, I wish you and your family health, prosperity and happiness as we get stuck into 2022.  My team and I look forward to being of service to you. 
You can reach us on [email protected] or 07 827 5572.

Backing Taupō in 2022

January 24, 2022 Share

Welcome to 2022! I hope you’ve managed to have a good break over the summer holiday period or have one planned soon.
My break had a healthy balance of resting, recovering and much needed time with family I had been apart from due to alert level boundaries.

It was also an opportunity to reflect on a turbulent last year when Delta came and caused such disruption to our lives.

We have all learnt that it pays to be adaptable and flexible as you never know what is around the corner. Undoubtedly, many of us have also realised that health and wellness are vital as we go forward into 2022 better equipped to deal with the unexpected.

Omicron has come around and is expected to spread widely in the community. The requirements of self-isolation for close contacts of a positive case will have a massive impact on those who are still working.

I will be meeting with social services agencies in coming weeks to discuss how families who are self-isolating, are best supported with their welfare and wellbeing needs.

Businesses have also called for the reinstatement of the wage subsidy and resurgence support payments to ensure business contingency, and I will be working closely with them to engage with Government for support.

The cancellation of significant events such as the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, Equifest and the Taupō Summer Concert has seen substantial financial losses for many.

I am planning a meeting with tourism, events and accommodation operators on 21 February in Taupō, and if you are impacted, please get in touch with us for details of the meeting.

Another issue emerging is the shortage of GPs in our rural communities. Our health system is facing an acute shortage of medical staff. Health network group Pinnacle Midlands Health Network have said that they hold “serious concerns about a community health crisis emerging”.

Urgent action is required from the Government to avert it.

Housing availability and affordability is a further focus for me this year. We will continue to fight the government on its proposed asset grab through the Three Waters Reform too. There is still time to sign the petition if you haven’t already at https://www.national.org.nz/stop-the-three-waters-asset-grab.

The rising cost of living, including petrol prices, is also on my radar this year. I’ve already written to the Minister of Energy, Megan Woods, to ask her what she intends to do about the exorbitant cost of fuel in Taupō.

Youth Parliament 2022 will take place this year, and Taupō Youth MP Sophia Goodrich and I are keen to explore opportunities for youth in the region, whether through work, training or apprenticeships. There is still some time to join the Youth Advisory Board and I’ll be promoting the opportunity at schools and on social media.

Finally, I wish you and your family health, prosperity and happiness as we get stuck into 2022. My team and I look forward to being of service to you. You can reach us on [email protected] or 07 376 5563.

St John staffing review creates uncertain times

December 16, 2021 Share

Louise Upston MP has called on St John New Zealand to ensure that its current staffing review outcomes do not compromise health services provided to the local community and visitors to the Taupō region.

“My office has been in touch with George Clicquot, Territory Manager St John Lakes who advises of a change proposal process is currently underway and which would come into effect early in the New Year.

“The change proposal also covers the roles of Advanced Care Paramedics in the Lakes District DHB and reviewing pathways for training of St John staff.

“It’s my understanding that while no Advanced Care Paramedics are anticipated to lose their jobs during this restructure, should they however leave leave their roles at St John, they would not be replaced. Instead, a medical team from Rotorua will take over the St John contract with the DHB to transport patients. This contract has no specification of paramedics that are required onboard.”

Ms Upston says it’s vital that the St John restructure does not unfairly disadvantage the community. There must continue to be Advanced Care Paramedic services available to the community of Taupō when needed.

“We’ve been here before when the threat of losing rescue helicopter services in the District was looming in Taupō. We would like reassurance that St John has fully considered the implications of not having Advanced Care Paramedics on board when transporting patients as a potential outcome of their restructure, and a guarantee that patient safety will not be compromised as a result.

“Fire and Emergency and Taupō Police representatives approached said that they were not aware of any review, which is concerning,” Ms Upston said.

ENDS

Media contact: Louise Upston 027 476 7887