Small Business Workshops
This month I had Small Business Minister Craig Foss in the electorate to present a Taking Care of Business workshop for business owners and managers. The workshop covered recent changes to health and safety legislation, tax, ACC and minimum employment standards. There was a fantastic turnout with over 70 Southland businesses taking up the opportunity to hear Minister Foss. Taking Care of Business explained the new legislation, compliance and highlighted the support government is providing to help business owners focus on making their business a success.
Recently I wrote to Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith asking him to consider raising the thresholds for HomeStart to enable more Southlanders to access the grant available through this scheme. With median house prices in Invercargill and Southland having plateaued over the last eight years, the region is an attractive place for people to buy their first home or buy land and build. With interest rates as low as they are at the moment this is the perfect opportunity for young families to take that next step from tenant to property owner and increasing the HomeStart thresholds is certainly the way forward for Southlanders to achieve this.
Southland International student enrolments on the increase
Some encouraging numbers for Southland were recently released by Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce who said international student enrolments in the region increased 18 per cent last year, bringing the total number of international students in Southland to 1470. This sector is New Zealand’s fifth largest export industry and supports a significant number of jobs in Southland and nationwide. It’s excellent to see our region contributing to one of New Zealand’s fastest growing export markets.
ACC invests $30m to reduce falls and fractures for older New Zealanders
A $30.5 million investment over four years by ACC aimed at preventing falls and resulting injuries is a welcome boost for older New Zealanders. Falls are the most common cause of injury in those over 65 years and can have a devastating effect on confidence and independence. This investment is about providing support to those that are injured as well as helping their family members to ensure the best quality of life. ACC will also look to increase the work around fall prevention and related injuries and reflects the Government’s commitment to ensure older people live well, age well and are healthy, connected, independent and respected. The investment will allow better access to areas such as strength and balance programmes, identify and treating those at risk of osteoporosis, in home assessments for environmental hazards and medication review for those taking multiple medications. Because falls can happen for any number of reasons, by putting the right services in place we are helping ensure support is available where and when it is needed the most.
Small Community Youth Grant Fund
Youth in Stewart Island received a welcome boost from Government with Youth Minister Nikki Kaye recently announcing an increase in the Small Communities Youth Grant Fund to $90,000 for the next three years. The fund aims to support young people living in small island communities like Stewart Island. It targets youth-led initiatives and activities, organised for and by young people aged 12 to 24 years. I was pleased to host students from Halfmoon Bay School at Parliament last November as part of a five-day trip to Wellington made possible by the fund. Young people in small island communities don’t always get the same opportunities as those living on the mainland and this fund gives them the ability to further develop initiatives in areas such as leadership, mentoring and to help all young people realise their potential.
Duffy Books in Schools
I was privileged to meet with students, teachers and parents of Fernworth School where I presented books to students through the Duffy Books in Homes programme. Their stirring school haka was a wonderful tribute to those students who received books and it was lovely to see how proud they are of their school.
Across the country around 90,000 New Zealand children received a free book as part of Government Book Week, just in time for the start of the school holidays. Run by the Duffy Books in Homes programme, students of the schools that are enrolled receive five free books every year, which they can take home and keep. The Ministry of Education funds one of these books during Government Book Week.