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Mapp Report - Visit To Afghanistan

6 November 2009

Visit To Afghanistan

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of visiting our troops in Afghanistan.

The Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan Province is doing a fantastic job. You know that they are well respected by the fact that even 7½ years after the PRT was first deployed, children wave to them, and look forward to seeing them.

Bamyan is starting to see growth. A new town centre is being built; roads are being sealed, the hospital has been rebuilt. The polytech has 1000 students in education, agronomy and other disciplines.

Of course, Afghanistan is still a country with deep problems. These were evident in Kabul – there is a level of security in the city that is daunting. The city has grown from one million to nearly four million in the past 10 years. There is a plethora of security systems, reconstruction and a hum of activity.

I did get the sense of a country making progress, though things are particularly difficult in the south.

Our NZDF people in Afghanistan are in good spirits. Their morale is high and they can see they are making a difference.

From Afghanistan I went on to Bratislava in Slovakia to attend a meeting of NATO and ISAF Defence Ministers. The key topic was General Stanley McChrystal’s recent assessment. There was general support for the building-up of the Afghan Government to ensure that NATO/ISAF will be able to leave a well-functioning country. Of course, troop numbers are still an issue for President Obama.

It is important to attend such meetings, to ensure New Zealand’s voice is heard at this level. This is how we ensure our interests are considered.

ACC REFORM

Over the past four years, ACC claim costs have risen 57%. Unfunded liabilities have risen from $4 billion to $13 billion. This is unsustainable. The Government has been forced to make decisions between raising levies and cutting back on entitlements.

As part of the agreement with ACT to support the ACC Reform Bill, the Government has agreed to open up the ACC Work Account to competition from private insurers. A second agreement allows the ACC steering group to investigate where competition could be effective in other ACC accounts.

However, the Minister for ACC, Nick Smith, has made it clear that it is unlikely that the insurance function in the other ACC accounts will offer any significant work for private insurers.

Submissions on the proposed changes to ACC close at 5pm on 10 November and can be e-mailed to consultation@acc.co.nz.

THE MARY BARRETT GLADE

I was very happy to hear that Polly Pollock of Devonport will continue to maintain the lovely glade of native trees she has created on Navy land in Lake Rd.

Polly has spent many years developing the Mary Barrett Glade from scratch. The land was originally a rubbish dump. The Glade is named after her late daughter, and is very popular with walkers and joggers. School groups are also frequent visitors.

Earlier this year the Navy had planned to take over looking after the Glade, when Polly had some health problems. She is now almost fully recovered, and with the assistance of my office Polly and the Navy have reached agreement that she will carry on as long as she is able to do so.

ENDS

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