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I have listened to some strongly worded views on the coalition government’s new plan for Auckland’s transport with many North Shore drivers unhappy we’ll be hard hit by an increase in petrol taxes, up to about 25 cents a litre or around $15 every time we fill up our cars. Around half of this will be from a nationwide tax increase on fuel and the other half from a new regional tax for Auckland, but how will it specifically benefit us here on the Shore to ease the time wasting congestion on Lake and Esmonde Roads for example? I’m very interested to hear your views on what value you think we get for the not inconsiderable rates we give Auckland Council every year. If we had the choice what are our local priorities that would make a difference to our quality of life here on the Shore? I have a brief questionnaire I’m posting on my Facebook and Website which I’ll be taking up with Mayor Goff next month and I’d appreciate your views.

We are certainly enhancing the lifestyle and lifespans of our local songbirds and it was good to hear an update on progress ridding the peninsula of rats from DOCs Predator Free 2050 Auckland Ranger. Kat Lane’s role in helping coordinate community projects using DOCs expertise, has meant she’s been able to work very effectively with Celia Walker from Restoring Takarunga Hauraki. Together with the enthusiastic volunteers, they’ve made impressive gains with nearly 400 rat traps in a community wide grid network to ensure they don’t re-infest. Rat numbers are tracking very low which is why we all heard so many more birds this summer. Congratulations to Kat, Celia and the big team who’ve made that happen and there’s always room for more volunteers to help fight the War on Weeds, holding the line on rat control and helping with the next bird count of our 20 most popular songsters, email Celia at pestfreedevonport@gmail.com or go to www.norats.org or www.doc.govt.nz and look at Predator Free 2050 for other ways to get involved.

When I became the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage with special responsibilities for WW100 commemorations in 2014, it was my honour to unveil plaques commemorating our soldiers stories in Belgium and France. As part of my personal contribution, I narrated Nga Tapawae, in the footsteps of the ANZACs recordings featuring moving dramatised extracts from soldier’s diaries which you can now download as a free app to enhance your awareness of the soldier’s experiences. ANZAC Day has always been a day of commemoration and some sadness in my family, as we remember those who served and those who were not as fortunate as my family and never returned home. My Grandfather fought at Gallipoli and then in Egypt in WWI, and my father and uncle in the Airforce and Navy respectively during WWII so I’ve always appreciated our country’s proud record of service and the sadness of the survivors for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The Depot will reflect the mood of our community with ‘A Moving Tribute’, a photography exhibition which follows the tour of the Victory Medal around New Zealand and Europe. We’re looking forward to going to the opening on Monday night with members of the Kiely family whose father Tom is one of the very few surviving children of the brave WWI kiwi tunnellers in Arras.

This year’s ANZAC Day for Grant and I will begin with the dawn parade in Browns Bay and as proud members of our local Devonport RSA we will be joining the Parade and laying a wreath at the mid-morning Devonport ceremony. Gary Monk ONZM will be laying a wreath with his granddaughter Ella on my behalf at the Takapuna Commemorations. At the going down of the sun, we will attend the always poignant Takapuna Grammar sunset service with its roll call of honour of the names of the 85 former pupils who died serving in WWII and in Korea.

Lest we forget. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

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