It has been a busy few months with visits around Selwyn, Banks Peninsula and Christchurch City, but I have enjoyed catching up with old and new friends and constituents. I am thrilled to be the new Minister for the Environment, despite being sad to leave some good stuff behind in Internal Affairs As Minister for Communication and IT I have made some exciting announcements in the last few weeks also with broadband being extended in our rural communities.
Weedons School gets a new classroom block
It was a privilege to open a new classroom block at Weedons School, made possible by funding provided by the Ministry of Education. The school is thrilled to have the extra space and it is putting it to great use with a new classroom, a music room and teacher aide facilities. Thanks to the Weedons children for the warm welcome and the beautiful singing.
St John’s new regional facility
The Prime Minister and I visited the new St John’s regional facility and spent time in the Southern Communications Centre. We were shown some of the mass casualty equipment purchased by St John using the $2.8 million grant provided by the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust.
Thousands of people from all over the world generously donated to the Appeal and it is so heartening to see their donations now helping charities like St John to continue to support Cantabrians when it is needed.
Energy efficient homes for Christchurch
It is obvious to everyone who lives here in Canterbury that the task of rebuilding is a challenging one.
More than 100,000 homes (or approximately half the housing stock of Christchurch) have been damaged during the last 18 months of earthquakes and aftershocks. 7,000 homes have been red-zoned and the Government has purchased them or is the process of purchasing them. More than 3,000 of the 5,000 businesses in the CBD have been displaced and more 1,300 buildings in the CBD must be demolished or partly demolished.
So the job ahead is large. But with every challenge of this nature also comes opportunity. We can build smarter, safer, stronger, warmer homes for our families. The perfect time to make your home warm, comfortable and cheaper to run is when you are building or renovating. It is your opportunity to go back to the drawing board and really think about how you can incorporate energy efficiency into your home's design.
Last month I officially opened a brand new Stonewood home built in Lincoln. This new showhome is the very first 7 star Homestar showhome in New Zealand and will be taken as a given that homes will meet this standard in the future. It is a home which makes the most of its location, with excellent thermal efficiency to save you long term heating and cooling costs. They have also used specified materials which ensure low maintenance costs and products that will perform efficiently for years.
Good energy efficient design needn't cost much more, but you'll enjoy the benefits for many years to come. You can make a big difference to the warmth and comfort of your home, save yourself money and help our environment by managing the way you use energy every day.
More schools, hospitals, and libraries to be connected to faster broadband
As a Member of Parliament for a largely rural area, and also as Minister for Communications and Information Technology I was thrilled to announce that more schools, hospitals, and libraries will be connected to faster broadband in the final phase of National’s $300 million Rural Broadband Initiative.
We all know how important it is to have easy access to good, fast communication. Having faster broadband will break down the barriers of distance that rural communities face. By introducing it into our schools, our hospitals and our libraries we know that students will be able to video conference with specialist teachers, doctors and nurses will be connected to training sessions in big cities and communities will have access to information and job-seeking tools through broadband in public libraries.
Across the country, this phase of the Rural Broadband Initiative will see a further 193 provincial schools, 183 rural public libraries, 37 rural hospitals and 10 Health Centres receiving Ultra-Fast Broadband fibre connections of up to 100 Megabits per second. National is also upgrading 57 remote schools to faster broadband. This is in addition to phase one of Rural Broadband Initiative which is already underway, and means every one of our schools will be able to access better, faster broadband.
The Banks Peninsula and the Selwyn region are both set to benefit greatly from our Rural Broadband Initiative. The Akaroa, Leeston, Darfield and Lincoln Maternity Hospitals and the Darfield, Akaroa and Little River libraries will be connected to ultra-fast broadband in the coming years. In addition two remote schools on the Peninsula – Le Bons Bay School and Okains Bay School – will be connected to faster broadband using point to point wireless technology. National is delivering on its promise that no school will miss out. Many of these schools have relied on satellite broadband and have managed with small data caps and low speeds. The improved broadband for remote schools will be light years ahead of where they are today.
We are ensuring that our rural communities will be well connected with the latest technology. Connecting all communities to fast and ultra-fast broadband over the next few years is a key plank of National’s goal of creating a more competitive and productive economy. I’m proud to say that we are delivering on that goal.
I’m looking forward to the brighter future it will bring to our communities and our local economy.
Focus on families and young children
National is focused on supporting parents and families. In tight economic times we have preserved income support entitlements for families. We are identifying the things that are important to families and making comprehensive changes that are helping.
Working for Families payments have been adjusted by 5 per cent, meaning higher payments for most families. We’re spending 40 per cent more since 2008 on Early Childhood Education to ensure the youngest Kiwis get an opportunity for the best start in life. We’re maintaining paid parental leave at 14 weeks – despite tough economic times. And we’re fully-funding PlunketLine 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
It’s also important that we get back to surplus and get debt under control. A growing economy creates more jobs, higher wages, and the better standard of living that New Zealand families deserve.
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New unit for rebuild of central Christchurch
Rebuilding Christchurch is one of National’s four priorities for this term in Government, and this week we took another step with the announcement of a new business unit to focus on rebuilding the city centre.
The Christchurch Central Development Unit, which sits inside the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), will provide clear leadership for the rebuild of the CBD and work in a positive partnership with Christchurch City Council, which remains the consenting authority.
This is another milestone as we get on with rebuilding Christchurch. It marks a shift in focus from demolition to building the new, vibrant, distinctive, and green central city the people of Christchurch told their council they wanted.
The new unit’s first task will be to prepare a blueprint to implement the Central City Plan within 100 days. The blueprint will give property owners, developers and business sectors a lead on how the city will look and how they can be involved.
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I welcome your thoughts and feedback so be sure to contact me and tell me what's on your mind.
Amy Adams MP