Kaikoura Star - Provincial Priorities meetings in Kaikoura

Monday, November 30, 2015

My recent meeting with Kaikoura constituents as part of an electorate-wide tour named ‘Provincial Priorities’ has proved an excellent way to shine a light on a number of local issues.

The tour has taken me to many of the more outlying areas of our electorate, including Kaikoura’s Mt Lyford Lodge.

Provincial Priorities was the brainchild of MPs from larger electorate, including myself, who wanted a more effective way of keeping in touch with all constituents, not just those in larger centres.

The Kaikoura Electorate is one of the largest in New Zealand  and visiting every corner of it is something I have been striving to achieve - and feel I have achieved to a large extend - since being elected to this position over a year ago.

But still, any chance to get out into the rural areas is fantastic.

My meeting with locals at Mt Lyford Lodge provided me with a wide number of viewpoints, and a really good feeling of what is happening at grassroots level.

An obvious topic of conversation was the Kaikoura civic centre issue.

In my last column here in the Kaikoura Star, I reiterated that the ratepayers of the Kaikoura district absolutely have the right to know the cost of this project.

Since that column was published, no further information has been made public and Kaikoura people remain in the difficult position of facing a bill of unknown proportions once the project is completed.

This issue is something I will continue to follow: It is of vital importance that ratepayers are updated by council as soon as possible.

Other issues that were raised at Kaikoura’s Provincial Priorities meeting included connectivity issues such as broadband and cellphone blackspots; transport; roading; skills and employment.

These are issues that are faced by rural communities across the country.

During previous visits to areas such as the West Coast, Southland, Taranaki, King Country, the North Island’s East Coast, and here in Canterbury and Marlborough, I have heard similar comments made.

I am pleased to say that rural connectivity in particular is something that this government has been actively addressing, and almost all of the residents across the Kaikoura Electorate will have access to high-speed broadband within the next decade.

The Government provided $360 million in Budget 2015 to extend UFB (Ultra-Fast Broadband) - which has already been rolled out in Blenheim - and the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), and to establish a Mobile Black Spot Fund.

Improved connectivity is not a luxury: It’s a necessity in today’s technology-driven economy and increasingly drives innovation and business development.

I look forward to holding another round of Provincial Priorities meetings next year.

These events offer the chance to gather precious, vital grassroots information which offer different perspectives and adds into my bank of knowledge of our electorate.