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From The Heartland

30 November 2007

From The Heartland

It's great to get out on the road and watch the big South Island landscapes panning across your windscreen.

Today I'm making my way across Otago in the first week of my Heartland Tour. I've hit the road to meet as many people as I can, listen to their concerns, and give them a chance to learn a bit about me and my vision for the future. As I go, I'm handing out copies of my DVD "Ambitious for New Zealand - Meet John Key" (Click here to view it online)

On Tuesday, we started the tour in Darfield, and drove through South Canterbury at a speed considerably less than Helen Clark's motorcade. Since then I've spent some time in towns like Timaru, Ranfurly, Arrowtown, and Millers Flat, and met heaps of locals.

I'm really enjoying myself. I've been touched by the warmth, enthusiasm and support I've received. It's clear there's a big mood for change in provincial New Zealand, and it's great to chat with all sorts of people, from 95-year-old Ray Sheat, who reckons I need to sort out a few of Parliament's bad boys, to a union delegate at a freezing works who says he's sick of Helen Clark and will be voting National next year for the first time.

In the weeks ahead, my Heartland Tour will be moving on to other parts of the country. Keep an eye out for us. We'll be in a big white ute with my grinning mug on the side - and we'll be travelling at legal speeds…


While I'm on the road, I'm keeping a close eye on Labour's Electoral Finance Bill. Just about every day it seems that some new flaw in the legislation shows up. And just about every day another newspaper says it should be scrapped. Yesterday, the Dominion Post called it "an abject failure".

Labour has botched this bill, and it's making a fool of itself by trying to ram it through Parliament before Christmas and not letting New Zealanders make submissions on the changes it has made.

Helen Clark needs to show some leadership. She needs to admit Labour has stuffed up. She needs to scrap the bill and start again. She needs to consult all parties and let the public have their say. Our democracy deserves nothing less.


Last week I had the huge privilege of spending time at Scott Base as a guest of Antarctica New Zealand.

The Antarctic is a humbling place. The emptiness of the terrain, the vastness of the spaces, and the sheer size of the mountains makes whatever is around you seem tiny and insignificant. But New Zealand's work on the ice is substantial and important.

Our presence there:

1. Maintains our strong historic link with the continent and protects our territorial claims in the Ross Dependency.
2. Builds on our relationship with the United States through our combined Antarctic programmes.
3. Furthers our scientific work and helps the world understand and preserve this unique continent.

I had a fascinating few days meeting the 85 or so Kiwi scientists, staff, and defence personnel at Scott Base. We visited the huts of the Shackleton and Scott expeditions which are being preserved by the Antarctica Heritage Trust. We saw the huge Adele penguin colony at Cape Royds, and we visited the site of ANDRILL out on the ice shelf.

ANDRILL is a multi-national drilling project involving researchers from New Zealand, the US, Germany and Italy. They are drilling through the ice to the seabed so they can examine sediments that are millions of years old and learn how the continent has changed.

I also spent a "night" out on the ice in a tent. At this time of year there is perpetual daylight, so all through the "night" you can see Mt Erebus looming over Ross Island and Scott Base.

Erebus, of course, plays a big part in our recent history. I wanted to visit the site of the Erebus tragedy and pay my respects to the New Zealanders who lost their lives there, but the weather closed in and the trip had to be cancelled.

It was a great privilege to meet and talk to the world-class Kiwi scientists at Scott Base and at McMurdo Base, run by the US, where several New Zealanders work for the National Science Foundation and American universities. Their commitment to science and the Antarctic is truly inspiring, and I'd like to thank them for giving me a glimpse into their work and their lives.

I'd also like to thank Paul Hargreaves and Lou Sanson, Chair and Chief Executive of Antarctica New Zealand, for hosting me. They're doing a great job of running our Antarctic programme, preserving the Ross Dependency, and giving New Zealanders an insight into the life, geography, and science of that great southern continent.


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