A good number of people in Devonport work from home and we’re fortunate to be one of the areas already connected to the Government’s $2 billion Ultra-Fast Broadband programme which we’re now extending to more than 151 additional regional towns, meaning up to 85 per cent of Kiwis will have access to world class fibre by the end of 2024. Rolling out this faster, more reliable internet is a vital part of our Government’s plan to develop a productive economy, improve health and education outcomes and create more jobs. I’m not sure if many of you will realise how incredibly advanced this makes New Zealand. This sort of connectivity is the gold standard, worldwide, and will make us the fourth-best-connected country in the world behind Japan, Singapore, and Korea.

As the Minister of Arts Culture and Heritage, it’s always encouraging to see how well the arts are supported in my own home base of Devonport. The Devonport Library Associates, very ably led by its Chair Jan Mason, has just had the official launch of its important Devonport Writers’ Collection which began in 2015 with the idea that local writers’ work should have a prominent place in our library. Unlike other books belonging to Auckland Libraries, which circulate to all council libraries, these titles are always returned to Devonport and the DLA has since dedicated funds to expanding the collection in perpetuity.

Our Government has started the year at a gallop with our safer communities’ package; our economy is growing with annual economic growth expected to average around three per cent over the next five years; we’ve have got jobs growing and unemployment falling and there’s $2 billion less of ACC levies, which is going back into the pockets of all of us.  We’re working hard to help the most vulnerable in our society and there are 50,000 fewer children living in benefit-dependent households since 2011 and our initiative to be the first Government in 40 years to raise benefits has relieved some of the pressures on these vulnerable children.

We probably all know someone who suffers from diabetes, with around six per cent of New Zealanders and their families affected by this long-term condition which is a major health challenge for our country.  Our Government understands the toll it takes on people’s lives and my colleague Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has announced $5.7m for research into diabetes management. This will see work on three projects – a study into preventing type 2 diabetes by including probiotics and prebiotics in the diet, a digital health initiative aimed at helping people prevent and manage diabetes using online tools as well as funding to support a targeted programme aimed at improving outcomes for Māori living with diabetes.

Congratulations to the group of local volunteers, including Takarunga/Mt Victoria’s unofficial guardian Roger Giles, who are now in charge of the mountain’s rat-control programme following an official handover by the Maunga Authority. It’s heartening to see so many people helping fight the good fight against predators and helping us reach our ambitious Predator Free New Zealand goal by 2050.

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