Sarah's Southland Scoop - August 2015

Invercargill news
Saturday, August 1, 2015

It’s a pleasure to finally release my first e-newsletter!

What a whirlwind 10 months it’s been since I was elected Member of Parliament for Invercargill. I’ve been busy setting up an office, hiring staff and working on issues across a breadth of subjects relating to Southland. I am pleased that the office is working really well, business processes have been established and it’s wonderful to get some win across the line for constituents.

I am pleased to introduce my staff, who support me greatly in my work:

MP Support Emma Campbell
Emma is mother to 18-month-old Marjorie with another baby on the way. Prior to her MP support role, Emma worked as a probation officer in Invercargill and managed the rental department at Professionals. She is enjoying her role as MP support. “I really enjoy helping constituents with any issues they come to me with.”

MP Support Melanie Luke
Melanie, mother of one, enjoys the variety of the role. “I love meeting people in our community and learning about different services this region offers.” Before becoming an MP support, Melanie was the promotions officer at Hospice Southland and previously sponsorship and marketing manager for Southern Steel Netball.

MP Support Belinda Ballantine
Belinda and her husband have two children. Belinda’s background is in immigration and she has also worked for the NZ Custom Service, Southland Hospital and casinos throughout New Zealand and overseas. She has been in the MP Support role for almost a year. “I must admit that I find achieving results for the constituents, however big or small, the most rewarding part of the job.”

Policy, Research and Communications Assistant Nicci McDougall
Nicci, mother to four-month-old Coby, has recently started in her new role. Prior to starting, Nicci worked as the court and social welfare reporter at The Southland Times. She is enjoying her new position and says she’s looking forward to any new challenges ahead.

What a journey
This time last year I was campaigning and working hard to make sure I secured the role as Invercargill’s MP because I am incredibly passionate about representing the interests of such a fantastic group of people and our dynamic province. In September my dream came true. In the 2014 General Election, I claimed my position as the first female Member of Parliament for Invercargill. It has been an exponential learning curve but at the same time it‘s also been challenging and life has certainly been a balancing act. As a mother to two young children I quickly became accustomed to juggling the responsibilities of motherhood with working life. Without the help of a supportive husband, my mum and dad and a wonderful nanny it just wouldn’t have been possible but at the same time, having children and a family means that I can bring this perspective to Wellington. As your local MP I am honoured to represent my constituents in Parliament - the views of your families with an emphasis on justice, law and order and the environment from my background in law and conservation. I am looking forward to sharing my news and informing you of my recent experiences. I am also eager to hear your thoughts so please see my contact details at the bottom of this email.

American Council of Young Political Leaders exchange
I recently returned to Invercargill following the American Council of Young Political Leaders exchange in Washington DC.  The programme, which focused on international educational exchanges for young political leaders worldwide, aims to establish long-term relationships among young people who are set to become tomorrow’s global leaders and policy-makers. I was privileged to get the opportunity to tour the Supreme Court, visit Wyoming and meet with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Matthews along with acting NZ Ambassador to United States Carl Worker to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I was pleased to forge closer relations with one of our closest international friends and I look forward to applying my recent experiences back here in the south.

Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter
Southlander’s can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s great news that Meridian Energy and New Zealand Aluminium Smelters have signed a variation to the existing electricity agreement this month. This is fantastic for Southland! The smelter has been such an important part of our economy for a long time, which can now continue. NZAS contributes $525m to the Southland economy and approximately 800 full-time equivalent employees and contractors work at the smelter.

Healthy Families NZ launch
Due to the snow Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman couldn’t get into Invercargill and so I deputised for him at the launch of Healthy Families NZ in Invercargill – an exciting Government-funded initiative that aims to improve people’s health where they live, learn, work and play in order to prevent chronic disease. The initiative will greatly benefit the Southland community and aid people to make better healthy living choices – by making good food choices, being physically active, sustaining a healthy weight, being smoke free and drinking alcohol only in moderation. Sport Southland is running the initiative and will be responsible for bringing together a partnership of community leaders and recruiting a dedicated health promotion workforce. Encouraging individuals and families to live healthy, active lives is part of National’s plan to help kiwi’s lead healthier, happier lives and to reduce chronic disease and obesity in New Zealand.

Countdown Kids Hospital Appeal Launch
This month I had the privilege of attending the launch of the Countdown Kids Hospital Appeal at the Southland Hospital. The appeal is a fundraising venture by Countdown supermarkets throughout New Zealand. Funds raised make a significant difference to the care and well-being of sick New Zealand children and their families in hospital. Southland Hospital has received a huge $480,000 of new equipment and resources to support their care of children in the past six years since it became part of the fundraising venture. As a mother, it breaks my heart to see children in pain and I hope people will get behind this appeal to help our region’s young people. The appeal runs from the beginning of August until October 30, 2015, nationwide.

Youth Parliament
Young people who are passionate about Southland are now invited to apply to take up the title, and responsibility of Youth MP for Invercargill. The successful applicant will join 121 other youth MPs selected to engage with and represent their community from January 2016 and attend Youth Parliament on July 19-20. Applications close Friday September 4 at 5.00pm. One of the best things about being a Member of Parliament is being a constituency MP. I represent the views of Southlanders and it is rewarding to help our diverse communities that make up the Invercargill electorate.