This time last year we were halfway through the lockdown. Looking back and going hard and early in our health response gave us the opportunity for a head start on our economic recovery. We are rebuilding – while the pandemic is still raging in much of the rest of the world.
We have seen double digit growth in apprentice numbers, despite the impacts of Covid-19. People from across the community are signing up for careers in the trades. The Government invested more than $320 million in free trades training, and nearly $100 million to support employers to retain apprentices and take on new ones. And the upward trend is continuing in 2021.
Additional funding for Flexi-Wage and industry interventions such as Apprenticeship Boost, has also seen 32,880 people move into employment from a main benefit in the first three months of this year, the highest number since records began
But, of course, there is more to do. As I started writing this column, I had just finished changing a flat tyre so starting with our local roads seems appropriate. The Kaipara ki Mahurangi electorate has over 678km of unsealed roads, 78 per cent of the unsealed roads in the Auckland region. Many of them are not just unsealed, but are in poor condition, too. I live on one of those unsealed roads, so I share your pain when it comes to concerns about safety, dust in the air and our water tanks, damage to our cars and the risks to users – whether they be in a car or truck, or on foot, bike or horse. There is massive growth in our area and I’m working with the Local Board, councillors and my Parliamentary colleagues to get the area a fair go.
It’s not just our roads, there’s pressure on all our services. And as populations grow, so to do the requirements of our infrastructure. This doesn’t have to mean more bureaucracy and greater organisational complexity, it means we need to be building our system to support all New Zealanders, whoever they are and wherever they live. New Zealanders living in rural areas face specific challenges in terms of access to health care, and our health system has not always prioritised us. Equity of access is vital and, because of that, the major health reform announced is a welcome sight.
Health New Zealand will be our first truly national health system. It will replace the 20 district health boards (and 20 different sets of decision-makers), removing duplication and unnecessary bureaucracy across the regions, making sure that health workers can do what they do best – keep people well.
None of these major reforms are a silver bullet and there is always more to do, but we are getting on with the job. Lastly, my office in Warkworth (Riverside Arcade) is now well and truly open with lots of walk-ins. Drop in and say hi if you’re around.
Marja Lubeck, Rodney-based MP