I am now mid-way through a two week recess from Parliament. Recess is always a good chance to catch up with what is happening in the electorate, to visit organisations, various groups and meet with constituents.
This fortnight sees me hosting post budget breakfasts throughout the electorate, speaking at several service club meetings, hosting an afternoon tea for seniors in Ashburton, and visiting schools and early learning centres.
The ultra-fast broadband (UFB) rollout is underway. It will deliver broadband speeds of 100 Mbps to 75 per cent of Kiwis where they live, work, and study by 2019. It is a key part of National's plan to build a stronger economy, lift wages, and provide the world-class health and education services families need.
The UFB rollout will see 25 schools, 80 healthcare providers, and 1390 businesses in the Rangitata electorate connected to ultra-fast broadband by year 2018/19, and will bring huge benefits to our area.
The government has reached agreement with Telecom and Enable Networks to build a UFB network in those urban areas not covered by the earlier agreements with Northpower and Ultra-Fast Fibre Limited. As part of the deal, Telecom will split off its network arm, Chorus, into a separate company. All broadband retailers can compete fairly to sell UFB.
Crown Fibre Holdings has driven a very hard bargain to give New Zealanders a world-leading network at a world-beating price. The new network will be open to all internet providers to use, ensuring Kiwis benefit from competitively priced and innovative internet services. The Government's investment of $1.35 billion will be matched by its commercial partners, bringing Kiwis the best network at the least cost.
Local exporters will be better connected to their markets, and professionals such as accountants, lawyers, and advisors will be able to offer their services to national and international clients. Schools will be able to share scarce resources like physics and IT teachers. Tertiary students will be able to engage remotely, through high definition video conferencing and real-time collaboration. Health providers will be able to send x-rays in seconds, rather than days via courier, saving time, money, and ultimately, lives. And patients will have a greater ability to engage with specialists remotely, either at home or at their local GP clinic.
The UFB network is complemented by the Government's $300m Rural Broadband Initiative. This will give 86 per cent of rural houses and businesses broadband peak speeds of at least 5Mbps, and 95 per cent of rural schools access to UFB speeds of 100Mbps.
National's plans for faster broadband are hugely ambitious, and will see New Zealand leapfrog its competitors to become one of the world's most connected countries.
If you would like more information about the ultra-fast broadband rollout, visit www.crownfibre.govt.nz. For more details about the Rural Broadband Initiative, visit www.med.govt.nz/rural-broadband. Alternatively, call either of my offices on 03 6831386 (Timaru) or 03 3087510 (Ashburton).
National is delivering on our whole-of-government approach to ensure that all children have the opportunity to succeed.
National's focus on vulnerable children means we're bringing together initiatives from the Social Services, Health, Education and Justice to protect and nurture our children.
Already, National has put in place a wide range of programmes to better protect children.
In Budget 2011 we've announced further targeted programmes like $550 million to increase participation in early childhood education, and $43.7 million to improve services for children in state care.
At the moment the 4500 children in state care are 17 times more likely to end up in jail, costing tax payers $90,000 a year. This government is putting the money in early to prevent that being the future for these children.
Canterbury trades training boost & Aoraki Polytech
Budget 2011 has provided up to $42 million for trades training for Canterbury, to ensure that Cantabrians can build their skills and contribute to the rebuild of their city.
This investment will fund up to 1500 extra training places as part of a cross-agency response to meet labour demands for the reconstruction programme called 'Skills for Canterbury'.
The 'Skills for Canterbury' package also includes up to 3000 more places in polytechs for construction-related training from existing funding, accelerated training programmes at polytechnics, and further funding and measures to help place more people into the construction industry.
Polytechnics and ITOs have places available now and the Government encourages people who want to be involved with the rebuild of Christchurch to contact their local provider
Aoraki Polytechnic is delighted with the 'Canterbury Trades Training Boost' Government initiative and will commence compressed trade training in June 2011, pending final approval from NZQA.
Aoraki has been working closely on this with other polytechnics, ITOs, Ministry of Social Development and local industry.
Trades training is the backbone of the polytechnic sector, and by increasing student numbers Aoraki will not only help with the country wide skills shortage, but will also positively contribute to the rebuild of CHCH, and the economy of Canterbury.
Views now sought on give way rule changes
Public consultation is now underway on the proposed changes to the give way rule.
Changing the give way rules for turning vehicles is part of the Government's 10-year Safer Journeys road safety strategy. The current give way rules for turning vehicles are confusing and out of step with the rest of the world.
Research shows changing the rules could reduce relevant intersection crashes by seven per cent.
Currently if you are turning left you have to give way to right turning traffic coming towards you. The change would reverse this so the left turning vehicle would have right of way in this situation.
Changes are also planned to the rule for T-intersections. This rule applies when there are conflicting right-turns at a T-intersection. Currently, the right-turning vehicle on the terminating road (the base of the 'T') has priority over the right-turning vehicle on the through road (the top of the 'T'). The change will require traffic from an uncontrolled terminating road to give way to traffic on a through road.
An extensive education campaign would be carried out to ensure drivers are aware of the new rules before any changes come into force.
The NZ Transport Agency is now consulting on proposals to amend the Land Transport Road User Rule which includes the changes to give way rules as well as changes that would clarify existing road rules and improve school bus safety. Any changes will come into force early next year.
For more information about the Rule or to make a submission go to the NZ Transport Agency website: www.nzta.govt.nz.
100 days to Rugby World Cup!
New Zealand is a keen sporting nation, and on 1 June we will be 100 days away from our biggest sporting event ever, the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
100 days out, and all the main preparations are in place. So it's time for us to get involved and join in the Rugby World Cup vibe.
Around 85,000 international visitors are expected in New Zealand for the Cup. This will be our country's third largest event ever, and will include our largest festival ever. The REAL New Zealand Festival will showcase even more of our local talent, culture and produce/services.
A lot of visitors will be spending time in our region during the Cup, and we will be putting our best foot forward, adopting teams and volunteering. Rugby World Cup will not only boost our economy, it will heighten our Kiwi pride.
The Best of Mid Canterbury Festival, the Art Rocks Festival in Timaru and the Methven Spring Festival will all give opportunity to showcase our region.
Next census to be held in March 2013
The next New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings will be held in March 2013.
The 2011 Census was postponed after Christchurch's 22 February earthquake.
There are major benefits to holding a census in 2013, including being able to revise the electoral boundaries and hold a Maori electoral option ahead of a 2014 General Election. Population data can also be updated.
I was delighted to read that Internationally-recognised Ashburton born illustrator, David Elliot, and Canterbury literary legend, Margaret Mahy have won the country's most prestigious gong for children's literature, The New Zealand Post Children's Book of the Year Award for their picture book, The Moon & Farmer McPhee.
Not only did The Moon & Farmer McPhee win the ultimate award it also took the Picture Book Category award, and was described by the judges as an "absolute treasure".
The initial idea of the book was David's and is based on childhood memories of holidays spent on farms in Mid Canterbury. David had also wanted the book itself to have an association with the Ashburton Art Gallery which is where the collection of his work, and working drawings for the book are stored.
Not only was The Moon & Farmer McPhee launched at the Ashburton Art Gallery on 6th November 2010 it was also dedicated to Kathryn Mitchell the then Manager/Curator of the Gallery.
June 1 Post budget breakfast at Temuka (phone 03 6831386 for more details)
June 2 Post budget breakfast at Rakaia (phone 03 3087510 for more details)
June 3 Post budget breakfast at Methven (phone 03 3087510 for more details)
June 4 Harness Jewels, Ashburton Raceway
Timaru Girls High School Hostel 90th Anniversary celebrations
June 6 Queen's Birthday