In this issue of Plain English, I talk about my recent activities in the electorate, the "Shoe Boxes of Love" initiative, and some lessons learned from the Christchurch earthquakes.
As always, I'm looking forward to hearing back from you.
It's always a pleasure to come home to my electorate. Over recent weeks I have been around the electorate enjoying school visits, public meetings, and constituent appointments.
I have attended meetings and functions in Queenstown, Arrowtown, Tuatapere, Nightcaps, and Te Anau, where I had the privilege of speaking to the Te Anau Rotarians.
A highlight I always look forward to is visiting schools as they are vibrant and busy. I had the pleasure of visiting several Western and Northern Southland schools: St Patricks, Fiordland College, Te Anau Primary, Mararoa Primary, Mossburn and Balfour where I met students and spoke to the pupils. In some cases I spoke to assemblies and in others to classes and special groups, including the senior students at Fiordland College where we spoke about the Alcohol Reform Bill.
It was great to hear the thoughts of the senior students about the effects of alcohol on them personally. They thought that splitting the age for being on licenced premises to the status quo 18 years and being able to purchase alcohol to 20 years was a good option. I appreciated their honesty.
A small group of students at Te Anau Primary School each asked me a question. The questions were commendable and I could see how much thought and research went into preparing them. The whole school joined in singing their theme song about Fiordland.
Many school students and teachers alike were throwing themselves into fundraising for Christchurch after the devastating earthquake on 22 February. The highlight was seeing all the kids and teachers at Mossburn School in pyjamas. They all looked very comfortable. I was very impressed with the attitude of these students who cared deeply for the people of Christchurch.
At Croydon Aviation and Heritage Trust I presented funding from the Tourism Facilities Grant Programme, administered by the Ministry of Economic Development. The $72,000 grant will help with the final fit out, including interpretation display panels to tell the stories and history of the aircrafts on display and work to improve access for visitors to the centre. The centre is home to nationally and internationally significant operational vintage aircraft.
After leaving the Croydon Aviation Trust I visited the Mobile Surgical Bus parked outside the Gore Hospital. On this day they had been treating school children with decaying teeth. I was disturbed to learn how many children are having their second teeth removed and how many children under five have badly decayed teeth.
‘SHOE BOXES OF LOVE' FOR CHRISTCHURCH
We are seeing an enthusiastic response to the ‘Shoe Boxes of Love' initiative, designed to get care packages to quake affected people in Christchurch.
The boxes are care packages filled with goodies and feel good gifts, some which include personal notes of support.
This is a great opportunity for us to show Christchurch residents that we are thinking of them, and doing our bit to help them get through this difficult time.
People are asked to create a Shoebox of Love and deliver it to an Electorate Office.
The boxes from around New Zealand will be sent to Christchurch and distributed by Rotary and other key support organisations.
Clutha Southland residents have been quick to offer support through financial donations and offers of accommodation.
l have been overwhelmed and humbled by the level of support from our community, we cannot underestimate the toll the earthquake is taking on Christchurch residents. They are going to need our support in the coming months.
The 'Shoe Boxes of Love' initiative is based on one that worked successfully in Queensland after the January floods, where more than 11,000 packages were delivered to families.
For more information please contact one of my Electorate Offices or visit www.shoeboxesoflove.org.nz
READY FOR THE UNEXPECTED
The most recent Christchurch earthquake and the earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan remind us to make the time to put together an emergency survival pack.
Civil Defence is working hard to ensure we are better prepared for the unexpected, be it an earthquake, storms, tsunami, volcanic eruption or even a pandemic.
Their website: www.getthru.govt.nz has good information on what we should all have ready for an emergency.
1 APRIL CHANGES HELP REBALANCE ECONOMY
National has been working hard to tilt the economy towards savings, investment and exports, and away from unsustainable consumption, borrowing and government spending.
Changes that kicked in on 1 April are helping make New Zealand businesses more competitive and further rebalancing our economy towards savings, productive investment, and exports.
At the same time, increases in benefits and pensions are helping protect the most vulnerable.
Cutting the company tax rate to 28 per cent from 30 per cent improves our country's competitiveness and increase incentives for businesses to reinvest earnings back into jobs and growth.
A number of property and other tax changes encourage sound investment decisions and make the tax system fairer.
Looking ahead, there are reasons to be optimistic about growth, which is forecast to pick up later this year despite the devastation and disruption of the February 22 Christchurch earthquake.
New Zealand's commodity export prices remain at near record levels, while interest rates and inflation are relatively low. The rebuilding of Christchurch will provide a boost to the regional and national economy and the Rugby World Cup will attract tens of thousands of visitors.
National is firmly focused on lifting New Zealand's long-term economic growth to create jobs, boost incomes, and raise the living standards of hard-working Kiwis. We need to do this so we can provide the world-class public services that all New Zealanders deserve.
HEAT SMART WARMS 7205 HOMES IN OTAGO AND SOUTHLAND
I am delighted that 7205 homes in Otago and Southland now have good quality insulation and clean heating thanks to the Government's Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart scheme.
In February alone, more than 264 homes were retrofitted in the region.
The National-led Government is spending $347 million over four years to retrofit at least 188,000 homes. Since July 2009, more than 91,000 homes around New Zealand have been retrofitted through the scheme.
SOUTHERN CRIME RATE LOWEST IN 15 YEARS
It is pleasing to see the crime rate in the police Southern District is the lowest in 15 years.
New figures show recorded crime in the Southern District, which covers Otago and Southland, dropped 8.4 per cent per head of population in 2010. This is above the national average of 6.7 per cent which is great news for our region.
Recorded crime in the Southern District per head of population is the lowest it has been for 15 years.
I'd like to commend Southern District commander Superintendent Bob Burns and his staff for their dedication and hard work in keeping our community safe.
Last year, 26,431 offences were recorded, a drop of 7.6 per cent on the previous year or 8.4 per cent when adjusted for population growth. Southern police resolved 54.6 per cent of these offences, an improvement on the 51.9 per cent resolution rate in 2009. Theft and related offences made up the biggest percentage of recorded crime in the district at 27.5 per cent. Sexual assault and related offences were down 27.5 per cent on 2009.
Bill English MP
15 Main Street,
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