Every day, six Kiwis are diagnosed with blood cancer. Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand (LBC) is the national charity dedicated to supporting patients and their families living with blood cancers like leukaemia. This year, I was asked to be part of Squad 20 in the 2019 Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge to raise funds for LBC. I have had my head shaved twice raising funds for cancer and it never seems to grow back quite the same way, so to avoid a third time, and to get a bit fitter, the stair challenge seemed like a good idea. When I hit the 32nd floor, with 20 still to go, having my head shaved suddenly seemed a lot more appealing. The climb was physically and mentally demanding, but it was nothing compared to the battle thousands of our kids, friends and family have to fight everyday against cancer. I would like to acknowledge our firefighters from Wellsford, Matakana, Warkworth, Manly and Silverdale who all turned out to take on the tower. A big thank you to the Manly and Silverdale firefighters who helped me train and, although there are too many to mention them all, a special shout out to Sarah, Angela, Callum, Keith and Dave. $1.4 million has been raised and I am joining Squad 20 again next year.
ANZAC services this year brought us together as a community for the first time since the tragedy of the Christchurch mosque attacks. The purpose of these types of attacks is to divide communities and create fear and disruption in people’s lives. I am proud of how we responded as a nation. The best thing we could have done and have done is return to a sense of normality as quickly as possible and this has been especially important for our children. In the hours and days following the attack, I engaged with our police, security and intelligence agencies so I could be satisfied that their response was going to keep our country and communities as safe as humanly possible from a follow-up or copycat attack.
Looking ahead to the 2020 election, New Zealanders will be asked to vote on whether they think loose leaf marijuana (I support cannabis-based medical and pharmaceutical products) should be legalised for personal use. I am strongly opposed to the legalisation, decriminalisation or liberalisation of our drug laws. I fully support a health-based approach to the treatment of drug addiction, but enforcement and rehabilitation do not and are not exclusive of one another. Evidence shows that marijuana is detrimental for brain development in people under 25 and warn that regular use increases the risk of developing depression, psychosis and schizophrenia. If we are going to reform our drug laws, it needs to be done through a robust process of public consultation, select committee deliberations, expert evidence and debate. Our communities need to be 100 per cent aware of what they are voting for. At the time of writing, the Government is refusing to introduce a bill to the House before the referendum so Kiwis can have absolute certainty on what they are voting for. How can you make a decision on such an important issue when you don’t know what the final legislation is going to allow? I will keep pressing the Government to make sure that before you vote in the referendum, you know exactly what you are voting for.
Mark Mitchell, National MP for Rodney