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Barker Speech: Whangarei Heartland Metro Centre

Rick Barker: Speech for the opening of the Whangarei Heartland Metro Centre

Speech for the opening of the Whangarei Heartland Metro Centre

Good morning. Thank you Mayor Craig Brown for your warm welcome and introduction. I'd also like to also acknowledge Paul Ellis, Principal of Manaia View School, Chair of Board of Trustees, Briarley Yates, Heartland Co-ordinator and Lou and Sharon Davies - people who have all made this happen.

I take great pleasure in opening this Heartland Metro centre - a new concept being trialled here at The Pulse and at one other location in NZ.

The Heartland Services concept was devised by this Government as a way of fulfilling its promise to rural areas, which had been gradually stripped of direct access to vital services like ACC, Inland Revenue, etc.

It's a simple, flexible and cost-effective way of bringing these and other agencies back to our rural communities. The fact that 26(?) Heartland centres have opened around the country within the last four years - including three in Northland (Dargaville, Kaikohe, Kaitaia) - I think proves that the initiative has been a success and does a good job of answering the demand from our smaller communities.

Heartland is simply about meeting community needs effectively, by bringing agencies and services to the community on a regular basis, and providing a co-ordinator to help the public use these services.

It's not about spending lots of money, or dazzling with science - it's simply about government departments and community agencies working together and working smarter, to provide practical, positive, local solutions to local issues.

The Heartland Metro trial is a further step forward in establishing services that are tailored to their community - in this case, the young people of the Whangarei area.

Here at The Pulse, Whangarei's unique one-stop-shop for youth services, becoming a Heartland Metro centre will provide funding towards a much-needed co-coordinator/receptionist. The co-ordinator will provide a vital link between the participating agencies and make it much easier for young people to access the services they need. Heartland funding will also help meet the facility's running costs, which until now have been shared between the participating organisations. I know that The Pulse was developed as a response to Whangarei's youth-related issues - including high rates of unemployment, teenage pregnancy, crime, drug and alcohol related issues, amongst others.

Whangarei is certainly not alone in having a range of issues with its young people that affect the community in general.

So I must congratulate all those people who got together to seek a different way of working with young clients - for having the insight to realise that no one agency can provide the answers to all youth problems, and for having the vision of a "one-stop-shop" where all these problems can be addressed, in an environment where young people can thrive and move forward positively.

There are many people in Whangarei who have worked tirelessly and enthusiastically over the last few years, to overcome various obstacles to get The Pulse up and running, and to develop the facilities to the high standard we see here today.

I know it was a major exercise, bringing together the various government and community-based services, working through the joint funding issues, securing this excellent site and upgrading it. So on behalf of Minister Steve Maharey and myself I thank all those who put in so much time and effort to accomplish this mission successfully.

It is a tribute to the way that government agencies, community services and local government in Northland are willing to collaborate and work alongside each other for the good of the people they serve.

Involving young people in the process has also ensured that the facility is tailor-made for its service users, and has strong buy-in from the community.

You don't have to be a genius to realise that our young people are our future - tomorrow's leaders, decision-makers, workers, parents and community members.

The majority of our young people enter adulthood with commendable poise and confidence, and are well equipped to face our modern, rapidly changing world. But for many, making their way towards independence is not so easy, especially if they lack a strong support network of family and friends.

They face a range of challenges, the hazards of modern society and meeting the changing demands of the modern workplace.

Some people need help in overcoming these challenges and going on to fulfil their potential. And young people in particular, when seeking help, need an environment that makes them feel safe and welcomed, without judgement but with assistance to find their own way and devise their own solutions for their own futures.

The Pulse (and of course the people who work here) is a major step forward in providing services from one site which can help young people identify and overcome those things which are preventing them from fulfilling their potential, and address the underlying causes.

By seeing staff from all the different agencies working so closely together, they will be encouraged to seek help, to see those agencies as "human" and existing to assist and support them - not to judge or condemn them.

By becoming a Heartland Metro centre, The Pulse will be able to extend the service it offers even further and provide a truly co-ordinated one-stop-shop approach, which I hope will meet the needs of the community even better.

I hope it will help young people and the community in general to be the best they can be, and to be well placed to take advantage of the growing opportunities for work and play in this beautiful part of the country.

I am very pleased, therefore, to declare The Pulse, Whangarei, a Heartland Metro centre.

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