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Hon Mahara Okeroa: New but Sombre beginnings

New but Sombre beginnings

The opening of Parliament was a sombre occasion, as many of my political colleagues from both sides of the house mourned the passing of Green Party co-leader Rod Donald.

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The opening of Parliament was a sombre occasion, as many of my political colleagues from both sides of the house mourned the passing of Green Party co-leader Rod Donald. He was a valued Member of Parliament and a good friend to many.

I have been appointed new responsibilities as part of the 2005-2008 Labour-led Government. Prime Minister Helen Clark has given me associate responsibilities in the areas of Arts, Culture and Heritage, Conservation and Social Development and Employment and I am looking forward to playing an essential role in all these areas, as well as continuing to represent my electorate Te Tai Tonga.

We have come so far as a country, and now we have set our sights even higher and over the next term our aim is to exceed expectations for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

The Labour-led government's overall objective for the next three years is to continue New Zealand's transformation to a dynamic, knowledge-based economy and society, underpinned by the values of fairness, opportunity and security.

In the last six years we have sought to lay the foundations for this transformation.

A great deal has been achieved. We have implemented a framework for growing a higher value economy, invested heavily in education and skills development and refocused our system of social assistance. It has supported creative New Zealanders.

In Social Development and Employment, Conservation and Arts, Culture and Heritage we have made great gains and with the implementation of our 2005 manifesto we will see these grow and flourish even more.

We are changing the landscape of our Social Development and Employment sector. The latest Household Labour force survey shows that New Zealand's unemployment rate has hit a new low of 3.4%. We are now going to extend family tax relief to a further 60,000 working families- beyond those assisted through the Working for Families Package - by increasing the amount of income a family may earn before they stop getting the maximum family support rates.

Whauau is the basis of our communities. A strong whanau life ensures that we have a strong future.

Our natural heritage, with our unique plants and animals makes our country one of the most special places on earth. Our clean-green image is one that we all must lend a hand to sustain.

We are dedicated to conserving our natural environment and our commitment to Conservation will continue. We have committed ourselves to continuing to make additions to the public conservation estate and to upgrading the protective status of existing areas as appropriate. We will continue to protect our water quality, our marine life through establishing marine reserves as well as continuing to support the Department of Conservation and the work they undertake protecting our environment.

Our environment is our legacy we leave to our children and its preservation is vital.

My role in the Arts, Culture and Heritage areas excites me.

Labour's vision sees the arts, culture and heritage sector making a huge contribution to our nation's life and being recognised and valued for its role in defining who and what we are. New Zealand's creativity and heritage are priceless assets which define us to the world as a unique nation with our own distinctive images, perspectives, culture and heritage.

I have always acknowledged that Maori have huge creative potential that is manifested in a variety of forms. Over the past 6 years Maori have gained wide spread recognition to explode on the national and international stages. In feature films, music, art and kapa haka, - Maori have excelled.

With the new Labour-led government comes new beginnings, fresh starts and new challenges. I look forward to another 3 years of moving forward as a country in all areas of development.

We were saddened at the Opening of Parliament, by the passing of the late
Rod Donald MP and co-leader of the Green Party. He will be a loss not only to the Green Party but politics in general.

Tena koutou katoa.

ENDS

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