A new year, a new focus on big issues

What a brilliant day it was at the Lawrence Chinese Camp as we celebrated the Lunar New Year and the launch of the Otago Chinese history curriculum collated by local Chinese historians and leaders.

I spoke at this auspicious day on behalf of all my Labour colleagues, who, like me, are so proud that this Government is bringing in the teaching of our New Zealand histories into schools. Most of those present had not had the privilege of learning each other’s stories in school and we recognised that understanding each other’s histories will give our nation the best chance of promoting tolerance, peace and prosperity.

It’s a shame the Prime Minister couldn’t attend and several government ministers also couldn’t make it due to the leadership change and then floods in Auckland. Both are significant events that undoubtedly will impact us here in Taieri.

On Sunday, MP Rachel Brooking and I held a special meeting for our Labour members to reflect on Jacinda Ardern and her extraordinary contribution over five years of leadership and welcome new PM Chris ‘‘Chippy’’ Hipkins into the role. Chris has said our Government’s No 1 priority is the cost of living, and ensuring hard-working New Zealanders, particularly families, can live and thrive. Along with Chris, the wider team of Labour MPs and I are all absolutely committed to tackling the cost of living.

This means a greater focus on what’s in front of us right now, including here in Taieri. We know things are hard for a lot of Kiwis at the moment — global inflation is high, and that’s hitting us at home, too.

New Zealand does remain in a better position than comparable countries as we build a post-Covid recovery. Our economic management means we have near record low unemployment, government debt levels are low, and our inflation rate remains below the OECD average.

While that’s important, the Government hears loud and clear that many New Zealanders, many families, are struggling. We know people are worried about paying their grocery bills and paying their mortgages. We absolutely know there’s still a lot of work ahead of us, and so as Parliament resumes, our focus will shift to bread-and-butter issues facing South Otago and the country.

In 2023, we want to grow a strong economy to make sure Kiwis can get into good jobs, lift incomes and create opportunities for people to get ahead. We’ll keep working hard to strengthen the core public services like health and education.

Here in Taieri there’s also going to be a lot to be positive about. The weather has been our friend over summer, and a huge number of international tourists have returned for a bumper season which has been great news for local businesses.

The challenges facing our country won’t go away overnight, but the Labour team is ready to kick on.