A hallmark of our Government has been to think long-term and our top priority is to encourage a strong economy. We achieved a $1.8 billion surplus last year which lets us make choices about investing in what matters to families like health, housing and education. Construction is booming with over 30,000 new homes annually and a promise of 34,000 more houses in Auckland during the next 10 years as part of the Crown Building Project.
Local families will benefit from $700 million invested in SH1 Northern Corridor Improvements, the Northern Busway extension and 5km of new walking and cycling paths enhancing transport options.
Central government is doing its bit for Auckland infrastructure. Now Auckland Council, in particular, their North Shore representatives Darby and Hill need to step up and fight harder for a fairer share of our rates to be spent here. Lake and Esmonde Road congestion is an increasing problem in our electorate. I’ve had discussions with the Mayor and Auckland Transport is seeking public feedback in June.
As Conservation Minister, I’ve issued a “call to action” for the nation to get behind efforts to protect our threatened native plants and animals which are found nowhere else on earth and help to define who we are as New Zealanders.
I’ve just launched NZ’s first ever draft Threatened Species Strategy and welcome any feedback. It will help guide all future protection projects including community groups that are already doing valuable work, and are to be commended, such as the Campbells Bay Urban Sanctuary and Devonport’s Environmental Network.
Predator Free 2050 has created a wave of enthusiasm to achieve ambitious goals, while the War of Weeds and Battle for our Birds, for which I announced new funding of $21.3 million, are fundamental to expanding native species protection.
Myrtle rust is a serious new disease blown in from Australia that affects plants in the myrtle family including pohutukawa and manuka, as well as common garden plants like feijoa, guava, bottlebrush, lilly pilly and gum trees. Please take a close look at new growth on any of those plants in your own garden. If you see bright yellow spores on the underside of leaves do not touch them. Call MPI’s Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline immediately on 0800 80 99 66 for expert guidance and they will come and assess it for you.
Tourism is now our biggest earner contributing $14.5 billion last year and generating 188,000 jobs. Tourism Minister Paula Bennett and I announced new funding of $76 million to upgrade DOC tourism infrastructure including $12.7 million to expand the Great Walks network and $5.7 million to develop Great Short Walks. We’ve also put in $11 million for a new computer system so we can introduce Differential Charging. Overseas visitors will pay more for DOC facilities and New Zealanders, who’ve contributed already through paying taxes and rates, will continue to enjoy our DOC estate at a discounted lower rate. We are still working through the details and the changes will be made in time for next Summer.
With our proud sailing heritage, I’m sure all North Shore yachties will be watching the build-up to the America’s Cup and there’s a lot to look forward to when the British take us on for the upcoming Lions series. The Masters Games were a great success. Congratulations to uber energetic Monika, from my Takapuna office, who did us all proud as part of an undefeated water polo team Taua’s winning gold.
If you would like to make an appointment to see me please phone 09 486 0005 or e-mail Northshore@parliament.govt.nz for an appointment.