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Peter Dunne Speech: Rotary Club of Hamilton

Peter Dunne Speech: Rotary Club of Hamilton

Hamilton Club, Grantham St

Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to talk to you today about my party's view of New Zealand, and about a serious and growing threat to our country. No, I'm not referring to current events in the Middle East - though everyone knows that's serious enough - but about the dwindling supply of energy sources in New Zealand and our seemingly sluggish response to what I perceive will be a growing crisis.

But first, a slogan!

"New Zealand - it's great to be home!"

That feeling all Kiwis get when, having travelled the globe, they get off the plane sums up United Future's vision for New Zealand.

"It's great to be back!"

My view of this nation is encapsulated in our name.

We want a New Zealand that is not only united in family, and in community, but also in our vision for the future.

Our New Zealand is a safe New Zealand - in the physical sense, certainly, but also safe in the way that home is safe.

Warm, welcoming, non-threatening.

A place where we feel secure in our identity, in our opportunities to advance ourselves, in our opportunities to meet and greet our neighbours and where everyone feels welcome.

So ours is also a welcoming New Zealand, a creative New Zealand, a New Zealand where fresh ideas are encouraged, a 'can-do' country where patriotism and a sense of nationhood are not emotions to be ashamed of or hidden.

Our New Zealand is a positive place, an enabling society, where people take responsibility for their own actions, their own futures, their own opportunities.

Our New Zealand celebrates, and just as importantly encourages, success wherever it happens - in the arts, sport, business, in academic endeavour.

In our New Zealand, tolerance is a virtue and diversity is celebrated, not condemned.

All of these are attributes we would want for our own family - not just for our country.

That is why it is our passionate belief that the family is the very cornerstone of New Zealand.

That is not because of some quaint belief in family values - although there is certainly nothing wrong with that.

It is because strong and healthy families mean a strong and healthy New Zealand.

And strong, healthy families live in vibrant communities and neighbourhoods.

Vibrant communities are much more than any dry economic statistics or the daily parade of health and welfare horror stories.

They are what will ensure we have economic growth and prosperity, rather than a consequence of it.

They are rich in their diversity, bold in their willingness to take on new things, confident in themselves, but also places where all their members, whatever their status, are nurtured, respected and encouraged.

So how do we make vibrant communities?

We make sure communities have the facilities that make them work, like schools, swimming pools, green parks and clean beaches, public transport and security.

We encourage the essential volunteer groups that are the glue of our communities, through grants and other assistance programmes.

We encourage the many events - large and small - that bring communities together - be it Carols by Candlelight, or street parties for Waitangi Day, local festivals and market days, and so on, the list is endless.

Further, strong and vibrant families are the key to strong communities.

They are the engine room of so much of our economic and social development.

And that is why United Future will continue to champion the cause of the family - because it is also the cause of New Zealand.

When you ask New Zealanders why they come home their reasons are invariably the same: it's where my family is; it's a neat place to live and raise the children; and it offers a great lifestyle.

Our country will succeed and prosper only when we make those objectives the end point of our policy direction, rather than continue to treat them as merely coincidental.

And we have much to do here.

Family breakdown is costing us billions of dollars a year.

We have the world's second highest rate of single parent families.

Divorces have doubled in the last 30 years, while marriages have fallen 60%.

321,000 children - a third of all children - are raised on a benefit, twice what it was 15 years ago.

Child assaults are up almost 200% in the last decade and 40% of our criminals are aged between 14 and 18.

As New Zealanders we all possess a unique gift, no matter what our status is, where we come from, who we are, or how long we have been here.

We possess the unique of gift of being a New Zealander and thereby knowing that taken together our individual elements of that gift weave the tapestry that makes New Zealand the place we are all proud to come home to.

When you look at things that way meaningless current slogans like getting back into the top half of the OECD, one standard of citizenship form all, or cutting immigration to the bone, are shown up for their trite absurdity.

It's time to stop wallowing in the mire, and celebrate afresh what makes this country great and why Kiwis are proud to come home to it.

They say nothing promotes success like success.

Promoting our successes is the best way I know to ensure we have more of them, and to ensure that our families and communities prosper and grow stronger as a result.

That is United Future's vision for New Zealand and I am determined to provide the leadership to achieve it.

The great and growing threat that I see to our strong community is a serious lack of energy.

We have had a dry summer and it looks like another dry winter coming up. Even the Minister, Pete Hodgson, has conceded a dry year is a distinct possibility for 2003.

That simply means our supply of clean, renewable hydro energy will dry up.

We may not run out, but we will certainly have less hydro power and that means higher prices for our homes and our businesses.

The minister has talked of an electricity savings campaign starting soon, but will that be enough?

It's already becoming plain that the Maui gas field is running down far more rapidly than originally expected, or than we were told.

There have been plenty of reassurances that domestic supply is assured for a long time, but even if they are true, what about our industries?

And I don't just mean the large factories.

Most New Zealand businesses are small businesses, employing relatively few people.

If they run out of energy or can't afford it, then the business goes under or contemplates shifting to Australia.

The result is fewer jobs in New Zealand - another blow to our strong communities.

Despite the current rosy picture presented of our economy, it is not that strong or robust that it can withstand a major energy shock.

Yet that is what may be in store for us, raising significant questions about the government's ability to successfully politically manage the fall-out.

So, do we as a country have a post-Maui strategy?

I certainly haven't seen one and nor am I fully confident that there is one.

To make matters worse, it is not just a question of what happens when Maui runs out.

Our oil supplies are always under threat and the current Middle East conflict certainly doesn't help that situation.

Then there are the forces that stop us shifting our energy sources.

If anyone suggests burning coal to generate power, there's an immediate outcry warning of catastrophic pollution, even though the coal industry will tell you that new technology has made the burning of coal much less destructive to the environment.

And as soon as anyone suggests a wind farm in this narrow, hilly, windy country, every NIMBY campaigner in New Zealand takes up the cudgels against it.

What about solar power?

I don't know a lot about it, but it seems to me that while it may be suitable for home water heating, I have seen no evidence that it will drive our commercial enterprises.

The trouble, it seems to me, is that we all want the benefits of power but we aren't willing to make the tough, timely decisions that will ensure our communities in the future will have all the power they want.

It is not too much of an exaggeration to suggest that we could end up with severely depleted gas supplies through the demise of Maui at the same time as our hydro-generation capacity is limited by abnormal weather conditions, and the Iraq crisis drives up the international price and availability of oil.

It's not just me saying this. Here's what the Major Energy Users' Group said just last week:

"A lack of competition among generators coupled with the uncertain supply conditions over the next few years (including gas, coal and water) has led us to the conclusion that the wholesale (electricity) market structure at present in New Zealand cannot be sustained in its current form.

When that is placed alongside the factors I have just spoken of regarding wind and solar power, the position could quickly degenerate from the merely extreme to the utterly catastrophic.

And the result of that indecision will be fewer jobs, less income, weakened families and weakened communities.

I don't pretend to have the answers, but I am very keen to use all the influence my party has with the Labour Government to start the search for solutions.

Thank you for your attention.

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