Being a minister has seen me get around the country a fair bit in the last fortnight.
I’ve been in Auckland meeting with the parking enforcement industry to help facilitate a code of conduct on wheel clamping, an issue of growing concern recently. I’ve also led consultation meetings in Gisborne, Rotorua, Whakatane and Whanganui on changes the Government is proposing to New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme. If you are interested in this, go to www.climatechange.govt.nz/consultation/ets/index.html
Locally I have held seniors morning teas to keep people up-to-date politically, and as is my tradition I attended ANZAC day services at both the Mount and in Tauranga. The crowds grow every year and demonstrate a strong sense of civic interest within our community.
Focus on families and young children
National is focused on supporting parents and families.
In tight economic times we have preserved income support for families. We’re maintaining paid parental leave at 14 weeks. We’ve reduced income tax across the board, leaving the average family about $25 better off each week. And a 5 per cent adjustment in Working For Families payments this month means higher payments for most families.
Mortgages are often the biggest cost for families. Under National, the average homeowner with a mortgage is $200 better off each week due to lower interest rates.
It’s important to all families that we return to surplus and get government debt under control. This will help us build a growing economy that creates more jobs, boosts wages, and provides the higher standard of living that families deserve.
One of National’s four priorities – and a central part of our plan for a brighter future – is improving frontline public services. Our work is already getting results.
Going to a kindy, kÅhanga reo, or Playcentre is crucial to help children learn and develop. Our target is that 98 per cent of under-fives attend early childhood education (ECE). Despite tight finances, we’ve boosted ECE spending by 40 per cent since 2008. We’re also focusing on expanding ECE opportunities for those children who are most in need.
National is improving the quality of maternity services for expectant mothers. We’re investing $54 million more over four years to better support vulnerable families and give first-time parents extra support and information.
We’re also providing an average of three extra WellChild visits for 18,000 new mums in need during the first three months of their baby’s life. And we’ve established seven teen parent homes, and invested $15 million to ensure that vulnerable teen parents get the support they need.
Calls to PlunketLine have increased thanks to our fully-funding a 24/7 service. There were 110,000 calls in 2010/11, compared with just 69,000 in 2007/08.
A record 92 per cent of under-twos are now fully-immunised, up from just 73 per cent in 2008. We’re on track to achieve our target of 95 per cent for two-year-olds, so we’re setting a new target to have 95 per cent of eight-month-olds fully immunised with three scheduled vaccinations by the end of 2014.
National is committed to helping children and families. We want every young Kiwi to have the best possible start in life – and a bright future.