It's school holidays and I hope you are taking advantage of the great deals on offer to explore our local backyard, it's certainly been great to see the visitors in abundance out and about too!
Love Taupo has great information on the top things to do when you are in the region, whether you fancy skiing, snow-boarding, cycling or mountain biking or simply just walking one of our amazing scenic trails.
I know our businesses are certainly welcoming the additional income and it is encouraging to see economic reports from Te Waka that spending is on the up again in the region.
The Taupo Winter Festival is a must-do for families with an action-packed school holiday programme.
This week, I would like to touch on recovery and the options we have to ensure our economy and our communities are strong and become prosperous again.
I would also like to tell you more about our infrastructure plans and some of the mini successes we have had in the electorate recently in that space.
National Leader Todd Muller has announced our plan to get New Zealand Working again. The plan is to rebuild our communities, our economy, get Kiwis back to work and deal with the economic and jobs crises.
The five pillars of our plan are Responsible Economic Management, Delivering Infrastructure, Reskilling and Retraining our workforce, a Greener Smarter Future and Building Stronger Communities.
I've been out and about catching up with our businesses and in some parts of our electorate, like Taupo and the South Waikato businesses are still closing and people are losing their jobs and families their livelihoods.
Our plan forward simply has to include investment in businesses, to give them the confidence to invest and grow, to create more jobs so that our economy can become self-sustainable again.
We need to socially invest in our communities to ensure the money being spent on recovery is going to the right initiatives, people and families for not only their survival but their future prosperity.
Another trend emerging is the large numbers of people moving onto benefits after losing their jobs. We urgently need a longer-term strategy for helping those people and that should include targeting the support to the right people and through the right initiatives.
Despite the worrying trends though, I'm encouraged by the optimism of our businesses and the community. During Volunteer Week I met with so many of you who shared your thoughts on what you are hearing and seeing at the coal face in the community. It was heartwarming to hear your stories of resilience and strength, even in the face of adversity.
Great news too in a recent media article that Cambridge is one of the towns most searched for property!
There will be opportunities for you to catch up with me at upcoming Friendly Forums, details in the newsletter further down. I do look forward to seeing you shortly.
Recovery - what are the options?
Conversations around how and when New Zealand should reopen to the world are plenty and there are differing opinions on what that re-opening should look like when it happens. I have been receiving messages from many of you expressing your views on both the pros and cons of opening our borders to aid New Zealand's recovery from the effects of COVID-19.
What has become clear, is that the answer is not clear cut and the ever-changing global landscape keeps on throwing us a curveball just when we think we are nearly there.
A recently released paper by Koi Tū The Centre for Informed Futures, "Re-engaging New Zealand with the world" has sparked some thought-provoking conversations about the merits of reopening our borders. Whatever the narrative, it's very clear that a longer-term strategy is needed to ensure that, when push comes to shove and New Zealand is forced to brace itself for an undefined period of isolation, it is not at the expense of our economy, our businesses and communities and their abilities to survive this.
How do we balance the risk of COVID-19 re-emerging in New Zealand with saving the livelihoods of its nation? How do we socially invest in our communities to ensure that the money we are spending, is going to the right places and situations to ensure the ongoing safety and welfare of our communities post-COVID?
The paper explores the merits of an evidence-based process, and accurate data will no doubt become vital in our thinking when we consider what our next move will be.
As always I appreciate hearing your thoughts.
Infrastructure has been a strong focus of the past couple of weeks and history shows that National has been consistent when it comes to supporting and building the infrastructure needed for our local, regional and national economies to flourish. National's recent announcements on infrastructure projects are reassuring and there are more to come. We are focused on projects that support growth, address safety concerns and help support regional New Zealand.
I've met with representatives of NZTA over several roading issues in the electorate, especially in Cambridge. People are concerned about the Karapiro Road intersection. I'm pleased that Waka Kotahi NZTA is looking at securing funding for warning signs at this intersection as it's simply a death trap.
Other positive outcomes from our advocacy on behalf of the community with Waka Kotahi NZTA, are the 60 km/hr RIAW signs placed on the Cambridge - Piarere Road. These signs are to mitigate the problem of no pre-warning that a lower speed section of the road is ahead, resulting in many people suddenly reducing their speed with associated consequences.
I also recently tabled an amendment in Parliament to the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Bill Schedule to include the extension of the Waikato Expressway to Piarere in the listed shovel ready projects. The amendment was vetoed, yet again regretfully.
This piece of highway extension is critical and my press release outlines why we need this project to continue. The area in question is growing and with the completion of the Waikato expressway, the infrastructure is in place that will continue to see traffic volumes rise and demand increase.
The proposed extension to the expressway would provide the infrastructure that would future-proof the transport links in the area and deliver a safe, resilient and high-quality road for the Waikato region to support growth and safer travel.
I’ve been advocating for safety and other improvements on that piece of the highway for many years as there are several dangerous intersections involved. Three years ago I was at the announcement of the project by the then Minister of Transport Hon Simon Bridges and was very excited about the prospects of the new road being built.
It was cancelled by the Government following its $5 billion cuts to the state highway budget in 2018. Instead, the Government progressed with an intersection upgrade at State Highways 1 and State Highway 29 along with short term safety improvements.
The good news is that National has committed to delivering the extension in its first term.
National would seek to fast track the consenting process for the expressway to ensure we began work in our first term and secure the desired route. This would also open up future opportunities to extend along State Highway 29 and down State Highway 1.
Project benefits include:
- A four-lane highway in this area will triple the capacity on this route.
- It will improve resilience in the roading of the area and support safer and faster freight and connections between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.
- Travel time savings are estimated at up to 3 and a half minutes.
- It will enhance journey time predictability by reducing the number of road closures by up to 90 per cent for safety-related closures.
- The project will improve access to local community features and maximise the opportunity for future growth in the community and increased local tourism.
- The number of deaths and serious injury crashes on the Cambridge to Piarere corridor is expected to reduce by more than 70 per cent through the improvements.
The announcement by Todd Muller that the project will be delivered under National is therefore welcome news as our region can only benefit from this new 16-kilometre four-lane motorway that will connect the Cambridge section of the Waikato Expressway to the intersection of SH1 and SH29.
Read more here.
Welfare stats show the need for JobStart
205,278 New Zealanders are now on Jobseeker or Covid-19 relief payments, including the more than 60,000 who have joined the ranks of the unemployed since mid-March. The number of people on unemployment benefits was already high heading into the lockdown but these figures are unprecedented and illustrate the economic and job crisis New Zealand is facing.
The trend in the current figures shows more and more people are losing their jobs and moving onto benefits.
We need to support people to get off the dole, into work and back into the driver seats of their lives. National will create more jobs and opportunity for New Zealanders, we have a track record of getting people back into work and this is what we will do again.
Rights of Victims of Insane Offenders Bill
The passing of the first reading of my Member's Bill is a positive first step towards putting victims at the heart of our justice system, including the family of Graeme Moyle, whose brother Colin was viciously murdered.
The Rights of Victims of Insane Offenders Bill aims to ensure victims of legally insane offenders are treated the same as other victims of crimes. The Bill aims to rename the verdict of ‘not guilty on account of insanity’ with the new verdict acknowledging that the offender did commit the criminal act. It also goes further to ensure that victims of legally insane offenders will be notified if the offender is released from a secure health care facility and back into the community.
While this Bill won't bring Colin back, it might just help other victims and families of victims who have been let down by our justice system at the hands of insane offenders. The Bill will make sure there is no doubt about who is guilty of committing the crime and might just bring closure for some victims and their families. It's about putting victims firsts.
You can watch my speech in the House on the Bill here.
Upcoming Friendly Forums
- Taupo: 24 July 2020, 10am, Kowhai Room, Ruapehu Wing, behind the old Waiora House site, Crn of Spa Road and Motutaiko Street, Taupō
- Cambridge: 31 July 2020, 10am, Cambridge Health and Community Centre, Taylor Street, Cambridge
- Turangi: 7 August 2020, 10am, Board Room, Taupo District Council Turangi, 3 Turangi Town Centre, Turangi
- Tokoroa: 14 August 2020, 10am. Venue to be confirmed