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It was good to be part of a high level visit with Prime Minister Bill English and Minister of Health Dr Jonathan Coleman, to North Shore Hospital, where DHB chair Lester Levy briefed us on the hospital’s achievements. It’s been one of the great success stories among the DHBs, going from one of the poorest-performing in the country to one of the very best. The Prime Minister was impressed with the progress the hospital has made and with Waitemata DHB’s transformation. The elective surgery and the other new facilities, including the magnificent chapel, have made a real difference to the North Shore population, offering us the peace of mind that comes from knowing there is excellent medical care right here if you need it.  

I’m very impressed with the work of the Devonport Business Association under its new chair, Dianne Hale, for their efforts to establish a much-needed new visitor information centre in Devonport on the ground floor of the old Council building on Victoria Road.  It was obvious to everyone in Devonport over the summer just how many tourists were flocking to our historic village and enjoying exploring the local maunga and beaches. With two significant events coming up (the World Masters’ Games in April, and the British and Irish Lions tour in June) the association is to be applauded for its strong advocacy role and encouraging tourists to spend more of their dollars in Devonport.

I met with Dianne recently and have now written to Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development at Auckland Council supporting the association’s request to occupy the old council building while it awaits earthquake strengthening. I understand the much-admired Flea radio station, which was based on the wharf, is seeking a new home, and in what seems a sensible arrangement, the association has indicated it would welcome the Flea joining them in the old council building.

The focus of the WW100 Commemorations this year has shifted to Belgium and as the Minister of Arts, Heritage and Culture I’ll be attending the Commemorations for the Messines centenary (June 7) and the Passchendaele centenary (October 12) in Wellington. The excellent WW100 website (ww100.govt.nz/national-ceremonies) will tell you where the ceremonies are being held and I’d encourage you to go along to commemorate these important events in our national history.  

The many years of hard work by the Passchendaele Society has resulted in a number of important activities this year including the New Zealand Memorial & Garden at Zonnebeke which will be opened in October. I planted a flax there when I visited the site – which has received more than $600,000 of Government funding through a Lotteries grant – during a visit to Europe in 2015, and was impressed by its vision as a place of peaceful reflection on the sacrifice of our troops. I’d particularly like to acknowledge the contribution of Devonport’s own Mike Pritchard, who first met me to discuss the project in 2012. Mike has been a driving force and the garden simply would not have happened if it wasn’t for his efforts.

The society is sending 10 young New Zealanders to the Passchendaele commemorations in Belgium and if you would like further information on this please visit www.passchendaelesociety.org

It hardly needs saying that Lake Road and the daily traffic congestion is the bane of many of our lives and I remain very concerned about Auckland City Council and Auckland Transport’s plans for our only road in and out of Devonport. Along with ferry services, transport issues will be high on my agenda when I have my first meeting with Mayor Goff in a few weeks’ time.

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