Brian and Grace Johnston and Caitlin Dickson went to Kenya with the most noble of intentions; to help others, as part of a larger group on a Bethlehem College mission trip.
Tragically, an accident cut their lives short. Words can be hard to find when something like this occurs. As I am sure all in our community here do, I express my heartfelt sympathy to all involved, the families and the wider Bethlehem College community as Brian, Grace and Caitlin are remembered over the next few days.
Better stroke care for Bay of Plenty residents
Three hundred Bay of Plenty people suffer from a stroke each year so it is very good to see that a dedicated stroke unit opened this week at Tauranga Hospital.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in this country and one of the biggest causes of disability in older New Zealanders. It is largely preventable, however on average 21 New Zealanders suffer from a stroke each day – two thirds of strokes occur in people over 65 and one third are fatal.
Stroke services in New Zealand were neglected for many years but this Government committed, as part of its election manifesto, to provide New Zealanders with better stroke services and have dedicated acute stroke units throughout the country.
Research shows a dedicated stroke unit prevents many people from having a more severe stroke and significantly improves a patient's recovery after a stroke. This unit will be led by a professor who specialises in stroke care and has been recruited by the district health board from Britain.
Back to Parliament
While many of us have been back working for a while, Parliament starts again next week when there will be the election of a new speaker.
I'm looking forward to another busy year as the National-led Government focuses on priorities of a stronger economy and more jobs, better frontline health and education services, a safer New Zealand, and rebuilding Christchurch.
The Government is on target to get back to surplus in 2014/15. This will mean we can start repaying debt, reducing New Zealand's vulnerability to overseas lenders, and building a buffer against future shocks.
We're pushing ahead with wide-ranging reforms to create a more productive and competitive economy. This includes boosting science and innovation, making it easier to do business, and pursuing an ambitious trade agenda.
New Zealand is looking at economic growth of about 2.5 per cent over each of the next five years, together with increasing numbers of Kiwis in jobs, and a falling unemployment rate.
National is delivering high-quality, modern public services in health, education, and law and order for families. We'll continue to modernise the way public services are delivered, and find savings to put into the frontline. That means more elective operations and less waiting in our hospitals, more opportunities for children in our schools, and better policing on our streets.
The Christchurch reconstruction continues to gather pace, and this will help underpin economic growth and jobs over the next few years.