It’s now almost nine years since I became your Member of Parliament in Auckland Central, and throughout that time I have worked hard to deliver a number of different projects to benefit the communities within this electorate.
Recently I became the Minister of Education, a role which I cherish because it means I can focus on giving all New Zealand children the very best start in life.I am proud to be part of a Government which announced an extra $7 billion of new investment in health, education, police and social services in the recent Budget.
Here’s what we are doing to fulfil our commitment to deliver better public services for our growing country.
Reaping the benefits of growth
The Government’s stewardship of our economy through some challenging times has made New Zealand, and Auckland specifically, a very attractive place to visit, work and live. Instead of leaving to get ahead, New Zealanders are staying and many are coming home to take advantage of the opportunities provided by our growing economy.
This year's budget shares the benefits of this growth by improving public services and investing an extra $4 billion in the infrastructure needed to meet our projected growth of 3% per year over the next five years.
The extra funding means we’ll invest a total of $32.5 billion in new infrastructure over the next four years, including the biggest investment in decades in new roads, schools, and hospitals.
It is important that we continue our efforts to ensure we are getting the right people to help with future demand for services. Recently we announced a package of immigration changes to better manage this demand and to ensure the quality and quantity of migrants remains appropriate. These changes include the introduction of remuneration thresholds for both permanent and temporary skilled migrants.
34,000 more houses for Auckland
The Government recently announced the Crown Building Project, the next step in its strategy to address housing in Auckland. The project will build 13,500 new social houses and 20,600 new affordable and market homes. This is the equivalent of building three and a half new houses across every street in Auckland.
Many of my constituents have talked to me about how the housing market has affected them or their children looking to buy their first home. This project allows the Government to make the most out of the residential land it owns in order to help Auckland’s most vulnerable families, first home buyers and all those looking to purchase a home. These houses will be spread throughout Auckland’s suburbs and will help to alleviate some of the pressure caused by the popularity of areas like Auckland Central.
$240 million investment in Auckland schools
The $240 million investment in Auckland school property in Budget 2017 is a huge boost, building on the $162 million in last year’s budget for Auckland school property. We will deliver four new schools, one major school expansion, the relocation of two special education schools, cater for new roll growth and replacement classrooms and additional special education satellite units.
In 2014, we announced an accelerated growth programme aimed at building nine new schools and additional classrooms to deliver an extra 17,000 student places in Auckland by 2019. So far, more than 8,000 of these additional student places have been delivered. The remaining places are all at various stages of delivery, from planning or design through to consenting and construction, and will be delivered by 2019. This latest package will provide a further 4000 student places on top of the 17,000 already announced, which means we’re now on-track to deliver an extra 21,000 student places in Auckland by 2021. The Ministry of Education is now looking much further ahead, up to 30 years into the future, to identify where it may need land and work more closely with local authorities and infrastructure providers to plan for high-growth areas.
$321 million to help vulnerable kiwis and $2 billion to boost family incomes
Budget 2017’s $321 million Social Investment Package is targeted at improving the lives of our most vulnerable people. This package targets integrated services for those individuals, families and communities who face the biggest long-term social and economic challenges. We want to get in earlier with the right interventions to get their lives back on track. This investment involves funding for 14 initiatives including additional support for mental health, homelessness, family violence prevention and severe behavioural services.
The Budget also includes a $2 billion a year family incomes package, designed to ensure New Zealand families share the benefits of a growing economy. The package makes changes to tax thresholds, Working for Families, and the Accommodation Supplement to help Kiwi families get ahead. It lifts the incomes of 1.3 million families by an average of $26 a week. Lower income families with higher housing costs will receive considerably more.
Auckland Central Projects Update
Along with my national responsibilities I continue to work on a range of local issues and projects for Auckland Central, which include:
Construction is now well underway since the Government announced a significant funding commitment to the City Rail Link late last year. I have supported the CRL project since 2009 and have liaised with a number of individuals and groups including the Auckland Council regarding project disruption in central Auckland. Budget 2017 included $436 million for the first stage of the City Rail Link to greatly boost the capacity of the commuter rail network in central Auckland.
Progressed redevelopments at Bayfield School ($12 million) and Freemans Bay School ($19 million) as well as the $79 million redevelopment at Western Springs College (an important secondary school for Auckland Central residents).
Progress on reform of the Unit Titles Act, affecting many electorate residents of apartments. I started a campaign for change and have worked with a group of property professionals and the Minister for Building and Housing to improve the law. Proposals are currently being worked through covering improvements in dispute resolution and greater transparency of information for people living in apartments and townhouses.
$88 million package of cycleways benefiting Auckland and Auckland Central.
$40 million property investment for Waiheke Schools (Waiheke High School and Te Huruhi School).
Rollout of ultra-fast broadband on Waiheke Island recently completed. This is hugely important for social and economic progress for island residents and businesses.
Earlier this year I approached the Auckland council, Auckland Transport and the Mayor regarding greater investment and improved ferry services for Waiheke. They have confirmed they are now working on a revised ferry strategy which will cover Waiheke Island.
Advocated and helped deliver the opening of the Aotea Conservation Park and re-opening of the Aotea Track on Great Barrier Island. I am currently advocating for additional tourism funding for the island including giving greater national recognition to the Aotea track.
Helped to ensure the learning hub is resourced for Great Barrier Island students. I am currently exploring the potential for tele-health services for the island.
Improved cellphone reception for Great Barrier Island with a new cell site going live in the north of the island.
Each year my office and I continue to deal with more than 10,000 constituency queries or issues from people and organisations. These queries, my constituency clinics and feedback from door knocking have led to the development of new policies and projects that address issues at the heart of this constituency.
There are numerous other projects that I am working on both locally and nationally, so please contact me if you would like further details.
It is a privilege to be the MP for Auckland Central and I look forward to continuing to work hard and deliver for my constituents and for all New Zealanders. Please do not hesitate to contact my office by phone on 09 378 2088 or by email on email@example.com if you need any assistance.