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The Government’s just announced significant changes to education and is scrapping the old school decile system for a ‘Risk Index’ scheme, with schools funded to help students turn their dreams to reality. Some schools have been stigmatised by a low decile ranking but a school’s new rating will stay private and be reviewed every year instead of every five. Rather than allocating funding on the basis of neighbourhood characteristics as the current decile system does, the Risk Index will instead provide fairer funding that better reflects the needs of children in our schools. The new model will probably take effect from 2019 or 2020 – final criteria are still to be finalised.

I’m still exercised about congestion on Lake Road as I’m sure many of you are. Originally around $54 million was allocated in 2012 to fund an upgrade but in 2015 it was removed from the Auckland transport budget. It’s hard to know why and is frustrating for those of us who get stuck in gridlock that there is no solution on the books. Congestion on Lake and Esmonde Roads is getting worse and something really needs to be done to ease it.

Grant and I have just been to our seventh annual highly enjoyable Vintner’s Brunch which is the North Shore Hospice’s biggest fundraising event, raising a record $320,000. I’m a strong supporter and advocate for palliative care and I will always be an enthusiastic supporter of the great comfort and skill they bring to end of life care. We’re fortunate to have such an outstanding service as our North Shore Hospice in Takapuna.

After 5 months at sea, HMNZS Te Kaha is back home in safe harbour. Defence Minister Mark Mitchell came down from his Rodney electorate to the Devonport Naval Base to personally welcome the crew home. The original stint was extended when the New Zealand Navy rushed to aid the US Seventh Fleet, after the USS Fitzgerald collided with a Container ship. The Navy is such an integral part of our community yet it’s easy to forget the families that have had 5 months without their loved ones, so thank you to the officers and crew of Te Kaha and their families for almost half a year serving away from home. Your service builds New Zealand’s goodwill and develops relationships which we use not only for defence but also to strengthen trade and diplomatic relations with our Allies.

Big congratulations to Takapuna Grammar’s Chorale group, who are finalists in the ‘Big Sing’. After getting to exercise their lungs in Sydney the group of 32 singers will be one of two dozen choirs competing at the choral festival. Westlake Girls and Boys will also be in the ‘Big Sing’ with a group from each school and one combined choir creating a bit of North Shore rivalry at the festival which will be held at Aotea Centre later this month. I wish everyone the very best of luck - I don’t envy the judges one bit in what’s sure to be a close contest.

I’d like to invite anyone who’s interested in our ambitious Predator Free 2050 goal to come join us at a special event hosted by DOCs new Auckland Predator Free Ranger Kat Lane at the Barracks at North Head this Saturday where we’ll hear about the predator free movement in our own back yards and the new enabling fund and DOC strategies to help our dedicated volunteer groups attain their pest and weed free goals. Contact Kat at kalane@doc.govt.nz for more information. There’ll be refreshments plus a sausage sizzle

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