Most MPs enter Parliament because they want to contribute to measures that will improve our country and, in particular, the lives of our citizens.
That was certainly my motivation. I will measure the success or otherwise of my Parliamentary career on the degree to which I am able to promote initiatives that leave our country in better shape for future generations, while delivering high quality public services, enhancing our environment, securing sustainable economic growth that creates opportunities for all, and promoting caring, healthy communities in our own generation.
In the years since I entered Parliament in 2008, we have been severely hindered by the domestic recession, the global financial crisis, the devastating Canterbury earthquakes and a number of other major setbacks. These challenges have significantly curtailed our room for manoeuvre, but I am proud of the way in which New Zealanders have coped together. All the gains we have made have been hard won, but we have earned high praise from leading international commentators who regularly hold New Zealand’s policies up as a model for other countries to follow.
I have always argued that our welfare system should be as compassionate and generous as possible for those who, usually through no fault of their own, require that assistance.
That’s why I was especially pleased that a key feature of this year's Budget was a $790 million package to help children living in some of New Zealand’s poorest families. The package includes a balanced mix of greater work expectations for sole parents and $25 a week more for families relying on a benefit. When I spoke in Parliament in the 2015 Budget debate, I warmly welcomed this significant boost in benefit payments - the first major increase in more than 40 years.
Many families struggle to make ends meet so I have regularly advocated for measures to support those living on the lowest incomes, while recognising that additional support is only possible with a stronger and growing economy.
I also recognise that older workers make a valuable contribution to our workforce offering knowledge, skills and experience. We need to ensure that there are a range of choices and opportunities to meet the diverse needs of older people in New Zealand as they are our skilled workers, volunteers, caregivers, mentors and leaders.
Since National took office in 2008 the number of 54-65 year olds participating in our economy has increased by 5.8 per cent and the number of people aged over 65 in employment has risen by 7.1 per cent. That means more older people than ever before are contributing their expertise to our economy.
Getting to and from work can be a barrier for older people but the Government is committed to enabling older people to maintain their drivers’ licences for as long as they can drive safely. Transport agencies are supporting older people to continue to be mobile through safe road use, accessible parking options, safe use of mobility scooters and by using public transport and alternative transport schemes.
The SuperGold Card public transport scheme is available to all eligible New Zealanders aged 65 years of over and those under 65 who receive Veterans’ Pension.
Delivering better public health services to New Zealand families also remains a priority, with a record $15.9 billion in this year’s health budget to do just that.
The Government made a $76.1 million commitment to hospices and palliative care. We are funding areas which make a huge difference to people's lives by ensuring terminally ill people are as free from pain and suffering as possible. Hamilton’s Gallagher Family Hospice provides outstanding care and support for families and friends, and this investment will ensure they can continue to do so.
We are also investing $13 million to fund 60 new nurse specialists and help hospices expand their community care services. These nurses play a critical role in training and mentoring staff across aged care facilities, which will help to ensure that as our population ages, high quality care and facilities remain available to them.
As an electorate MP my aims include supporting local families, ensuring that we deliver the best services possible, and concentrating on the important issues that matter to my constituents. I’m confident our plan is working and that real gains are being secured across the board.
I warmly invite readers to my regular Monthly Forums, featuring visiting Government MPs, at Café Agora in Hamilton. For details please phone Alison on 07 849 4301 or email Alison.Renwick@national.org.nz.