(Dr Shane Reti, Deputy Leader National Party – who once described himself as the ‘engine behind the leader & alongside his colleagues’ and the one ‘more akin to say less & do more’ is visiting his home town, Hamilton this weekend. In this exclusive contribution to NewsViews, Dr Reti expresses his keen desire to find out the challenges residents of this region are facing, and to help find appropriate solutions -including changing policies of party, if needed).
Visiting Waikato is always a pleasure, including joining with my National Party colleagues – the Hon David Bennett, MP Tim Van De Molen and the Hon Tim MacIndoe, and meeting with the people there and listening to their needs and concerns many of which we share as a party.
Hamilton is my home town, having been brought up at Ruakura and schooled at Knighton, Peachgrove, Hamilton Boys and then junior doctor placing at the Waikato Hospital.
We have concerns for education and achievement standards, climate change proposals that impact everyone, but especially the rural sector and iwi relations for which we are seeing slow progress on the Ngati Maniapoto treaty settlement.
The obvious and most immediate disruptor has been coronavirus and am very interested to explore the resultant health impact in the Waikato. This includes evidence for a clear and credible vaccination rollout pathway and engagement with primary care and Maori health providers to achieve this. I recently met with the Waikato DHB and understand some of the challenges they face.
Undoubtedly, several businesses have been affected by the economic impact of coronavirus and closed borders. Therefore, we will gauge their support for the Trans-Tasman bubble petition that we have started.
Hardship and child poverty affects all regions and the Waikato is not immune to this. New ideas and new thinking, especially around jobs and the role they must play will be key discussion point while I look for a sense of the jobless in the Waikato and what opportunities are available.
Housing is clearly a major issue and the Waikato will also have challenges getting people on the housing ladder. I heard the phrase recently “hotels for coronavirus and motels for the homeless” and the Waikato, like other regions will also have this experience.
My observation in visiting other regions is that there are usually pockets of innovation around how we address this problem including social housing providers, rent to own and papakainga type models. I am excited to find those innovations in the Waikato.
As a party, we are of a view that information and communication technologies will be a key factor in our future in a post-covid world. Technology defeats our geographical isolation and we have been well positioned by the National Party’s broadband initiative of a few years ago. I am aware of some of the IT centres of excellence in the Waikato and am keen to explore what policies and actions the National Party can take to further assist initiatives of this kind.
I am very much looking forward to visiting Hamilton and the Waikato and meeting people, including reliving memories of playing junior rugby in the fog of Hamilton East gully and on the frost of Matangi Hillcrest.
Dr Shane Reti QSM, Deputy Leader National Party & party’s spokesperson for Health and Children
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