Government delivers for all New Zealanders
The holiday season is a time to get together with family and friends, and enjoy the good things about the great Kiwi summer. It’s also a time to take stock, and a time to look to the year ahead. As we look back over the past year, I am proud of what this Government has achieved.
Parliament has wrapped up for the year having passed 120 bills into law, including KiwiSaver HomeStart legislation. In Invercargill there have been 193 KiwiSaver HomeStart applications approved since April, totalling $727,000.
The economy is performing solidly after a slow start to the year. Jobs and wages are growing significantly faster than the cost of living. Figures released in September show Southland has the highest Labour Market participation rate in the country at 73.8% compared with the national average of 68.6%.
We’re continuing to see improved results from our public services in areas that really matter such as lower crime. The crime rate in Southland is continuing to decline and in fact the Southern District has one of the lowest crime rates in the country. Police statistics show in 2004 there were 9437 recorded offences in Southland compared to 6569 last year – a drop of more than 2500 offences in the area.
Our flagship policy of free doctor visits and free prescriptions for children under 13 came into effect, which will provide real benefits for families. We also extended paid parental leave this year and in 2016 Kiwi families will get another two weeks. We’re doing more to help children living in hardship, including increasing benefit rates for families with children by $25 a week – the first real increase in more than 40 years.
Record numbers of tourists are visiting New Zealand and spending more than ever before – around $9.4 billion a year. This is especially exciting for our fledgling tourism sites located right here in Southland. For example, Stewart Island hosted 33,073 visitors in 2015 (year-end September) up just over 4000 from the previous year.
We signed the Korean Free Trade Agreement and successfully concluded negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership – New Zealand’s biggest ever free trade deal – worth around $2.7 billion to our economy by 2030. As an export driven economy here in Southland – the door opens to new markets and strengthens our resilience especially for our primary and manufacturing industries.
I’m looking forward to spending time with family and friends before heading into a busy 2016 in a Government that is delivering for families and households. I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge those who have fallen on hard times or for whatever reason cannot spend Christmas with family. I encourage you to remember the true meaning of Christmas and if you do have the opportunity to help someone in need, please do so.
Southland is a great place to get ahead, to raise a family and achieve. I wish everyone a safe and Merry Christmas and I look forward to continuing to deliver for the electorate in 2016.