Sarah's Southland Scoop - November 2015

Invercargill news
Sunday, November 1, 2015

Stewart Island
It was fantastic to see some of the students from Halfmoon Bay School in Wellington recently experiencing our capital city and meeting fellow students from other isolated schools. It was the second time in two weeks I got to see some of the students after visiting the Island and their school in October along with Hon Paul Goldsmith. In Wellington, the students met MPs and John Key as well as other students from isolated areas, and visited the Weta Workshop. My earlier trip to Stewart Island involved a tour of Ulva Island and a wonderful southern lunch of oysters and blue cod at the South Sea Hotel. Power output and cost is an important issue for the locals on Stewart Island and as such, I am currently working with Southern District Mayor Gary Tong and Councillor Bruce Ford investigating sustainable power options for the island. There is still a lot of work to be done but I can’t wait to update you on the progress!

Drop Your Boss
Am I mad? Perhaps a little. But it’s all for a great cause! This month I will be dropped off the side of the Fire Station’s training tower to help raise funds for more than 1300 local youth in Foundation for Youth Development Programmes; Kiwi Can and Career Navigator. I will be competing with a host of Invercargill leaders, bosses and well known locals who are also being dropped to see who can raise the most money. If you would like to donate visit givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/dropsarahdowie
To see me get dropped come on down to the fire station at 9.00am on Saturday 21 November.

Benefit figures drop
Recent figures show the number of people collecting a benefit in Invercargill has decreased compared to the same time last year. At the end of September there were 4,405 people on a benefit compared to 4,435 a year ago. I am very pleased with the decline in numbers as it shows more locals are gaining independence by moving into employment or study. These people are now contributing to our growing economy, and their children can thrive in financially independent households. Nationwide benefit numbers across all main benefit groups are down on the same time last year, and this is the lowest September quarter since 2008.

Southland Regional Development Strategy
The Southland Regional Development Strategy report, the first stage of the strategy, was recently released. The project is about taking a unified approach to attracting investments and opportunities to the region. It’s a vision to increase Southland’s population and make the region more vibrant. It’s great to see the City Council, Southern District Council and Environment Southland working together on this. The strategy is a great idea, and will provide a pathway forward for the region to build on the industries we have and ensure we develop opportunities for the future. Attracting skilled workers is a key factor and our immigration changes will support this population growth. A couple of the changes include doubling the points for entrepreneurs planning to set up businesses in the regions under the Entrepreneur Work Visa from 20 to 40 points and streamlining the labour market test to provide employers with more certainty earlier in the visa application process. We also have some new amnesty policies coming in for Filipino farm workers, which is very important for our population here in Southland.

Education Act revamp
I am encouraging Southlanders to submit on the Government’s update of New Zealand’s education act. The Education Act informs the direction of New Zealand’s education, and this update to the Act will make a real difference to the schooling of Southern kids. The current act is 26-years-old and provides little guidance to schools on what educational success looks like. So, this is an opportunity for Southlanders to have their say on a revamp of education legislation that will help shape the future of the education system. We are fortunate to have effective teachers and learning institutions in our electorate, and I hope the community will have their say during this consultation process so we can continue local educational success. The consultation process began on November 2 and runs until December 14. Further information about the consultation and how to make submissions can be found at www.education.govt.nz/education-act-update