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Plain English No.3 - 29 Oct 2009

Plain English from Bill English

29 October 2009

The Shield is ours

I was so proud to be one of the more than 14,000 people who took part in the Invercargill street parade to celebrate the historic Ranfurly Shield win.

What a great way to congratulate the Southland Stags players, coaches and management for the Shield victory over Canterbury. It's been 50 years since we held the Shield and it's tremendous to have it back.

This is a fantastic result for the province and it will be a great boost for communities across Southland.

I've been following the Stag's progress closely throughout the season. To win the Shield, as well as make the Air New Zealand Cup semi-finals, is tremendous.

I am hoping we will be celebrating again in Southland this weekend, after the Stags meet Wellington in the Air New Zealand semi-final clash in the capital.

Out and About

I shared a great day with 200 others for the opening of a new road sealing project in Kaka Point. Along with long-time Kaka Point identity, Mrs Rona Williamson, I cut the ribbon that signalled the completion of the sealing of an important link for both locals and tourists. The two roads covered are part of the Kaka Point loop of the Southern Scenic Route, connecting the township to the Owaka Highway and The Catlins.

The day ended at the Kaka Point Community Hall with speeches and afternoon tea and gave me the opportunity to talk to many people in this beautiful part of the electorate.

Queenstown office blessed

And from one beautiful area to another - I hosted a morning tea in Queenstown to celebrate the opening of my office at Frankton. Tare Bradshaw from the Hokonui Runanga performed a Mihi and blessed the office.

Honouring community volunteers

Volunteers are the "glue" that hold communities together. They are vital to the running of most organisations, schools, churches, fire brigades and sports teams. They often behind the scenes and with little or no fanfare so I was pleased to acknowledge their work when I hosted two further volunteer functions recently.

The first was at the Queenstown Senior Citizens Rooms and the second at the Winton Salvation Army.

Winton schools focus on values

While in Winton I visited St Thomas School, my old school and spoke to the senior pupils about values, leadership, strength of character and perseverance.

At Central Southland College I spoke at the launch of the school's mission and values statement. I also joined the pupils at Winton School for assembly. Values are something I was brought up with. People in the South appreciate values and strength of character and perseverance.

Boost for tourism

In Milford Sound, I had the pleasure of being guest speaker at the launch of Real Journey's new tourism boat MV Sinbad. This purpose-built monohull is being used for Nature Cruises in Milford Sound. Real Journeys does a tremendous job for tourism in Fiordland and the $2.5 million boat reflects the strong confidence the company has in the future prospects of the New Zealand tourism sector. The day was spectacular and I enjoyed catching up with innovative Southland people.

You can see photos of some of these visits on my website

Trades Academy for Catlins

It is good news that Catlins Area School will be the base for one of five new Trades Academies set to open throughout the country in 2011.

Trades Academies are part of the Government's Youth Guarantee programme. They'll provide more career choices for 16- and 17-year-olds, and give them greater opportunities to develop their knowledge, skills and talents through trades and technology programmes.

The New Zealand Virtual School will be a pilot for an ICT-focused way of delivering industry-related education. It will provide distance learning to students throughout the country, and will broker work placements for students and hold trade camps once a year for students to receive face-to-face teaching and learning along with detailed career guidance.

The New Zealand Virtual School proposes to work with three other southern schools, a tertiary institution and several industry training organisations and industry partners. It will give students a head-start in an industry-related career, earning both NCEA credits and a tertiary qualification.

This Government is committed to bringing out the best in our young people. We want to see more students gain qualifications which will set them on a strong career path and help them achieve in their chosen field.

Warm up New Zealand

September was a record month for homes in Otago and Southland being retrofitted with insulation and clean heating under the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart programme.

Figures for September show that 506 homes in the two provinces were retrofitted, giving a total figure of 1225 houses in Otago and Southland during the first three months of the programme. The Government scheme being delivered by Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) is proving a great success.

In Wellington:

The Government has been sitting in urgency to complete the passage of a number of bills before the end of the year.

Hunt for proceeds of crime

A team of specialist investigators is to be formed to hunt down and seize the millions of dollars in profits made by organised crime.

The new 22-strong Assets Recovery Unit will be at the sharp end of our fight against organised crime and methamphetamine.

The unit will support new laws giving police the power to detect and seize the assets and profits gangs and organised crime obtain illegally.

The proceeds will be used to fund methamphetamine rehabilitation and other initiatives that repair the damage organised crime has caused in our communities.

Levy on offenders to help victims

Among legislation passed under urgency was the Sentencing (Offender Levy) Act that helps address the financial and emotional costs that fall on victims of crime. It is part of the National-led Government's Action Plan on Violent Crime.

Convicted offenders will be levied $50 at sentencing with $13.6 million expected to be collected in the first four years to fund additional entitlements and services for victims of serious crime.

Eight new entitlements and services for victims will be funded by the levy. They will be implemented over the next nine months and include:

A significant increase in the funeral grant to families of homicide victims.

A daily court attendance grant of $124 a person for up to five adult members of a homicide victim's family.

An increase in the discretionary grant for families of homicide victims which are suffering financial difficulties, from $1500 to $5000.

A court service for victims of sexual violence which give them access to a trained adviser who understands the dynamics of sexual violence cases and the needs of victims

I'm confident these entitlements and services will make a real difference in the lives of victims of crime. I don't pretend we can take away the pain of victims' loss or injury, but we can help smooth the path to resolution.

I'm particularly pleased that every convicted offender will provide funding for these new services. It's important they contribute to addressing the harm their behaviour causes victims.

MMP referendum at 2011 election

National is honouring an election promise with the announcement of an MMP referendum. At the 2011 general election voters will be asked two questions - if they want to change the system, and what alternative voting system they would prefer.

If a majority of voters want a change, a further referendum will be held in 2014 asking voters if they prefer MMP or the alternative voting option that receives the most votes in 2011. The 2017 general election will be held under the alternative system if more people prefer that option.

After five parliamentary terms under MMP, it's important that New Zealanders get a chance to have their say about which electoral system they prefer. By holding the referendum at the same time as the 2011 election, the Government expects a higher voter turnout that more accurately reflected the public's views. I hope the people of Clutha-Southland take up this opportunity.

ETS Changes and Agriculture

This Government takes climate change seriously, and we are balancing our economic opportunities with our environmental responsibilities.

Our plans for the ETS, which are before a select committee, ensure we don't destroy peoples' jobs and the backbone of our economy by jeopardising the key agriculture sector. They defer agriculture to the more realistic timetable of 2015. The changes also encourage tree-planting by creating internationally valuable credits for forest owners.

Kind regards,

Bill English MP


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