The cost of housing has always been a lively topic of discussion, especially for first home buyers. The Government’s KiwiSaver HomeStart programme has given $55 million in grants to nearly 1250 first home buyers in Auckland in the last year. The government grants allow for 10% deposits, with a cap of $600,000 on the house prices. First home buyers who grew up in Devonport and want to stay on the North Shore can get onto the market by buying the small unit style homes that fit under this cap and the special class of borrowing allowed by banks as part of the scheme gives a helpful step up the property ladder for firsthome buyers.

I was very pleased to announce a $76 million funding increase for the Department of Conservation as part of a significant Government investment unveiled by Paula Bennett at the TRENZ tourism conference last week. The major funding boost for DOC means it will be able to improve visitor facilities across the country, from toilets and car parks to huts and campsites. We’ll invest in our most-visited places, such the world-famous Tongariro Crossing, to ensure our conservation land continues to provide the outstanding experiences that bring millions of people to our nation each year, and retains what makes it special – our natural heritage. The money, spread over the next four years, means we can expand the popular Great Walks, with two new multi-day trails joining the likes of the Milford and Heaphy Tracks which attract more than 125,000 people a year. We’ll also meet demand for shorter experiences with a set of Great Day Walks and Great Short Walks, building on the established brand and opening up new opportunities to bring tourists to the regions.

Predator Free NZ and the War on Weeds has built excitement around our world-leading conservation goals. To really help our native animals and plants thrive we need the work Predator Free is doing, plus a strategy focused on increasing their numbers. DOC’s new Threatened Species Strategy lays out how we’re going to grow the populations of 150 native species and increase the breadth and range of DOC’s work to protect another 500 of the most threatened by 2025 – a 40% increase on today.

Welcome news from AT that Ritchies added an extra bus this month on the 082 route from Stanley Bay to Takapuna Grammar and Belmont Intermediate. My neighbours will be able to get on bus and arrive at school on time, as well as get home without having to battle fellow students on overcrowded buses. While this is going to make life easier for many, it’s only a start. There is much more to be done if we are to have a viable and reliable public transport bus and ferry system. People need to have the confidence to leave their cars at home and ease some of the traffic congestion that’s the bane of life in Devonport. With AT’s report on the Lake Road Corridor plan due out soon, I hope the Auckland Council will do more to provide a well thought through strategy for transport those of us who live on the peninsula deserve.

On a more worrying note, the recent discovery of myrtle rust in Kerikeri will be a concern for many. A fungal disease which is spread on the wind and attacks some of our most precious native species, such as pohutukawa and manuka, it appears to have reached our shores from Australia, where it has been prevalent since 2010. DOC is assisting the MPI with its biosecurity response in Kerikeri and across Northland but we need New Zealanders to be vigilant and report any signs of the disease. You can find out more about myrtle rust on the DOC website at If you think you’ve seen it in your garden or somewhere else, phone MPI on 0800 80 99 66, or go onto their website for more information.

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