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Don Brash Writes - No. 75, 18 April 2006

Don Brash Writes

No. 75, 18 April 2006

This newsletter comes to you from Washington, where I am on the first leg of a two-week trip that will also include New York, the UK, China and Singapore. I am using this trip to undertake high-level discussions about ways in which New Zealand's foreign relations interests, particularly trade, can best be progressed.

While I will update you on the trip in my next newsletter, I will take this opportunity to let you know what I have been up to during the parliamentary recess.

Plunket Petition

In the past few days I signed my name to a petition calling for the Government to reinstate funding to the iconic PlunketLine service.

Plunket has been giving good advice to Kiwi mothers and babies for generations. For the past 12 years their dedicated 24-hour phone line has been a crucial source of this support. Mums and dads trust PlunketLine. I am appalled by Labour's decision to axe funding for it. Helen Clark made a promise in 1999 that her Government would "fund the PlunketLine service on a 24-hour-a-day, seven days a week basis". The Prime Minister's failure to honour that promise is a betrayal, not only of the Plunket organisation, but also of Kiwi parents and children.

I am hopeful that if enough people sign Plunket's petition, Labour will be forced to reverse its decision.

You can sign the petition by downloading a copy at www.plunket.org.nz.

Labour's Energy Crisis

Last week I visited Lake Tekapo, one of the South Island hydro storage lakes. This lake - like hydro lakes throughout the country - is dangerously low, meaning there is a real danger of power blackouts this winter.

I am concerned that Labour is so embarrassed at having a third power crisis in six years that it would rather gamble on it not happening than face the facts.

I believe it is time for the Government to initiate an electricity savings campaign. A well-designed conservation campaign seeking modest savings now would cost little compared with the economic damage that blackouts would cause. I have pledged support for any fast tracking of public money through Parliament necessary to get such a campaign started.

Though this would be a short-term fix to get New Zealand through this winter, it underscores a wider crisis in the Government's electricity policy. Labour's failure to address the roadblocks in the way of building new generation, such as the Resource Management Act (RMA) and the policy mess over Kyoto, has got us to this point.

New Zealand needs a robust energy policy that provides security and efficiency of power supply. We simply can't afford to prevaricate over new generation options.

National would confront this issue on a number of fronts. We would appoint a Minister of Infrastructure to take responsibility for ensuring New Zealand's power needs are met now and into the future. And, as a matter of priority, we would reform the RMA to provide a better balance between protecting the environment and responding to urgent infrastructure needs.

Don Brash

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