Personally, I have been delighted with what our town and region has done in terms of hosting Rugby World Cup teams, matches and, most importantly, the associated tourists. Whangarei has very much outgrown the stigma of gangs and drugs, unemployment, union strikes and depression that I remember in the 70’s and 80’s. It’s been a place to be proud of. Yes, of course we still have significant challenges, but we should be upbeat about how far we have come from those days.
As I write this, New Zealand is in the midst of celebrating Conservation Week. We are blessed with spectacular landscapes, an abundance of wildlife - particularly our native birds - and a marine environment which keeps many of us fishing and in involved in various coastal activities. We need to protect and preserve these environmental treasures for the future.
As we celebrate Conservation Week, we have a lot to be proud of. The past month saw some great achievements in conservation.
Recently, I went out with our local “Police on the beat” over the Saturday night shift, 10pm to 6am Sunday morning. I do this on occasion to keep tabs on what they have to deal with and to get a better feel for what I’d otherwise just read in the papers.
The recent riots in England have been attributed in large part to the problems lived by young people; without jobs, without futures, without hope. We don’t see the riots here in New Zealand which is great. But when I go out on Whangarei streets with Police at night I still see far too many drunk teens. If they were tired from a weeks work or from a commitment to sports they wouldn’t be causing trouble.
The minimum driving age is now up, and the alcohol they can consume before they drive is down…… to zero!
Too many young Northlanders die on our roads, in fact young New Zealanders are seriously over-represented in our crash statistics and in our road toll. 15 to 19 year olds make up almost 7.5 per cent of New Zealand’s population and 6 per cent of all licensed drivers, but in 2010 they were involved in around 17 per cent of all serious injury crashes. Last year alone, crashes where young drivers were at fault resulted in 60 deaths and 385 serious injuries.
The first step was ensuring the new Government realised we needed significant investment in Northland to improve the situation. From that, the Ministers of Health and Finance announced funding of $4.9 million to upgrade child and adolescent oral health services in Northland. That funding has been used to build new community dental facilities, upgrade others, to buy further mobile dental clinics, and to fund the employment of extra dentists and dental assistants. This has all been under the radar…. but NDHB staff should be praised for it.
There is a fairly low level of tolerance from Whangarei residents about untreated wastewater overflowing into our Harbour, even if it’s due to serious storm events. Rightly so! In the same way, no-one wants sewage slowly seeping from 500 septic tanks into Ruakaka estuary, and then flowing into Bream Bay waters. That’s why I’m delighted to confirm that the Government will stump up and help fund the pipework from the 500 local Ruakaka households to the tune of $6.8m plus GST