Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Election 2014: What Labour is doing in Taranaki-King Country.

As we head into the election, each political party is releasing policy, putting up hoardings, mobilising their volunteers (or paying circular deliveries if you are Colin Craig) to deliver pamphlets, and politicians are out kissing babies.

I live in the Taranaki-King Country electorate.  It's a dark blue electorate.  You could put a gorilla up as the National candidate and no one would bat an eye lid and vote it in as the National MP for Taranaki-King Country.

Shane Ardern has been the MP for Taranaki-King Country (TKC) since 1998.  The only thing he has ever done of great notice was drive a tractor up the steps of Parliament in 2003 to protest again the proposed "Fart Tax" that was being proposed to counter the greenhouse gases created when a cow farts.  It was a memorable stunt.

After that, however, nothing Shane Ardern has done is even worthy of putting in a Wikipedia site.

In fact, as a constituent, from September 2012 until April 2014 I tried to get Shane Ardern to meet with the Waipa Branch of NZEI, teachers and support staff, people who are his constituents.  He refused, point blank, to meet us.

So when he announced in early December 2013 that he would retire from politics at the 2014 election to spend more time with his family and on the farm, I was extremely pleased, ecstatic.  As it was my birthday that week I took it as a birthday present from the gods.

And Labour in TKC has been invigorated by the fact that there is no incumbent MP standing in the electorate. 

Late last year the call went out for a meeting to be held, and in late February a meeting was held, potential candidates put up their hands, and in late March a candidate was selected by ballot.  Penny Gaylor, a district councillor from Otaki on the Kapiti Council and active Labour party member, was voted as the candidate.  Then a Labour Electorate Committee (LEC) was formed in April, those members attended the Region 3 List Selection Day in May, and by June the campaign was in full force.

Penny Gaylor after the votes were counted for who would be the Labour candidate for Taranaki-King Country in the 2014 election.
The LEC has been very active in getting Penny Gaylor's name out in the community and she has been spending considerable time visiting people and organisations in Te Awamutu, Raglan, Kawhia, Otorohanga, Te Kuiti and Inglewood.  She has also attended events in New Plymouth with Andrew Little and attended a meeting in Taumarunui recently in order to raise the profile of Labour and the party policies as well as making herself known in the TKC electorate and beyond.

Some time in May we vaguely heard of a candidate for National being selected.  A farmer, female.  And then we heard of a Green candidate.  And then earlier this month a candidate from the Internet-Mana party.  So currently we know of four candidates duking it out for TKC.
Penny has been supported by some senior MPs in getting the Labour campaign started and promoting local issues that Labour is strongly concerned about.  One of the first MPs to visit was Annette King (Rongotai MP and Health spokesperson) along with List MP Sue Moroney (Chief Whip, Hamilton West candidate and Social Development spokesperson).  That day they visited a local kindy in Te Awamutu, Plunket and discussed the impact of the Matariki birthing unit being closed by the DHB with midwives and other community members.

Annette King, Penny Gaylor and Sue Moroney discussing issues at the Plunket rooms with parents, community leaders and health professionals of Te Awamutu.

Penny has also be actively visiting people in a number of communities, door knocking and has also done some phone canvasing.

Penny has visited Raglan Area School and other businesses in Raglan with List MP Moana Mackay (Environment, Climate Change and Science spokesperson) and Waikato-Hauraki MP Nanaia Mahuta (Maori Affairs and Treaty of Waitangi spokesperson) in May....
Penny Gaylor and Nanaia Mahuta and the team at the recycling company they visited.

Nanaia Mahuta, Moana Mackay and Penny at Raglan Harbour.
...she has done some canvasing and door knocking in Stratford with Whanganui candidate Hamish McDuall....
Penny Gaylor and Hamish McDuall in Stratford.
....attended the Fieldays with David Cunliffe (Labour leader, New Lynn MP and spokesperson for Regional Development and the SIS), Sue Moroney and Cliff Allen (Hamilton East candidate) on the Thursday and again on the Friday with Damien O'Connor (West Coast MP and Primary Industries, Fisheries, Food Safety and Biosecurity spokesman) and Cliff Allen....
David Cunliffe helps Penny out with some "adverstising".

Sue Moroney, David Cunliffe and Penny Gaylor with some Rhode Street School students at the Fieldays.
....a meeting (among others) with young people strongly involved in politics in New Plymouth with Andrew Little (List MP, candidate for New Plymouth and Justice and Labour spokesperson)...
Andrew Little and Penny Gaylor at the Youth in Politics meeting in New Plymouth.
...and just this last week, on Monday, Maryan Street (List MP, candidate for Nelson, spokesperson for Tertiary Education and State Sector) came and visited Otorohanga's Wintec campus and spoke with Grey Power in Te Kuiti.
Maryan Street and Penny Gaylor with some Wintec staff in Otorohanga.
And the next day, David Shearer (Mt Albert MP and spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Energy) and Chris Hipkins (Rimutaka MP and spokesperson for Education and Forestry) arrived in Te Awamutu and met with Penny Gaylor, the local Labour party faithful and Dean Taylor from the Te Awamutu Courier before heading down to Otorohanga for a tour of the Otorohanga Timber Company, a meeting with The Lines Company, dinner with more local Labour party faithful and a public meeting at the Otorohanga Rugby Club.
Chris Hipkins, Penny Gaylor and David Shearer outside of Churchills in Te Awamuti.

Steve Wilshier explaining how the OTC adds value to timber products before exporting them overseas and also supplying the New Zealand market.

Brent Norris (TLC CEO), David Shearer, Chris Hipkins and Penny Gaylor after a healthy discussion on electricity supply.

Penny Gaylor, David Shearer and Chris Hipkins taking questions from the audience at the public meeting at the Otorohanga Rugby Club.

People were very interested in the education policy that Labour had released the previous week, and were also very keen to hear about Labour's ideas in the energy portfolio, particularly to do with electricity.  Also discussed was the rehabilitation of offenders in prisons through teaching them to read, write and do maths; forestry exports and jobs; housing; tourism, railways/transport and dairying.
The next morning, David Shearer, Chris Hipkins and Penny Gaylor also attended a public meeting in Taumarunui and discussed similar issues before Chris and David visited the Wairakei geothermal electricity generation plant. 
I am also adding in here the Storify of my tweets and others who responded from the public meeting held by the Labour candidate for Taupo, Jamie Strange, at the Cambridge Primary School.  David Shearer, Chris Hipkins and Sue Moroney also spoke at this meeting and Hamilton East candidate Cliff Allen and Waikato candidate Christine Greer also attended the Cambridge meeting.  At this meeting electricity was especially the hot topic, but also issues on education, social welfare, homelessness, pollution of waterways and the minimum and living wages.
Next month Penny will be hosting Grant Robertson (Wellington Central MP, Shadow Leader of the House, spokesman for Economic Development and Employment, Skills and Training)  in Te Awamutu and Annette King in Inglewood and also hopes to have several other Labour MPs visit districts in the TKC electorate.
Labour is committed to encouraging growth and development in the regions.  They want jobs and businesses in the regions that add value to products such as wood (like at the Otorohanga Timber Company), dairy, meat, wool, and many other products before they are exported.  Go to most wharf facilities and you will see raw logs being loaded onto ships to China... and then watch it come back as building materials.  Why are we exporting raw product to have it processed overseas and then import it back in to New Zealand?
Just in the last year in Hamilton and out in the Waikato we have seen the closure of the Huttons factory with the loss of 125 jobs, 90 jobs cut from New Zealand Post, 93 jobs cut at the Huntly East Mine, 22 jobs gone from Genesis' Huntly Power Station and an unspecified number of jobs are to go from the Genesis Call Centre in Hamilton, Metso in Matamata closed down (due to the high dollar by the way) costing 30 jobs, Thames Timber cut 70 jobs and we know there will be job losses when the Waikato DHB shuts the maternity units in Morrinsville and Te Awamutu and if National gets back in and shuts down the Ruakura Research Centre. 
That's 340 jobs gone, plus the unspecified amount of jobs from the Call Centre, and the Maternity and Research Centre jobs yet to be given confirmation, in the Waikato alone since August 2013. 
That's another thing, why would you shut down a research centre that focuses on dairy research in the middle of the best dairy country in New Zealand and move them to Christchurch????
There are probably many other job losses that have not been so publicly recorded.
www.interest.co.nz has a page called Reported job losses which they are updating monthly from a variety of sources around the country.  At the end of 2013, the tally of job losses recorded on this page was 6,390, and at the time of publishing this blog in July 2014, the 2014 tally of job losses recorded was 2,669 - and July is not a closed book yet.
The website also has a page covering the Recession job-loss tally of late 2008-2009.  In November/December 2008, 4,486 jobs went nationwide, 594 in the Waikato alone (but there were others classed as nationwide that could include further job losses in the Waikato that have not been specified).  From January to August 2009, plus October, 18,699 jobs disappeared (a significant number were in the state sector), and 650 jobs were lost in the greater Waikato (plus additional ones classed a nationwide).  What is interesting when you look at both pages, both time periods, is the number of jobs gone in regional New Zealand is fairly significant. 
And it is significant to each and every one of those communities, because for every person who loses their job, there are people, families depending on that income that no longer will be getting that income.  It affects their communities because they no longer have that money to spend at the supermarket, the local book store, the corner dairy, for the sports club fees, the school fundraisers....
What many people in the regions forget is that the regions do well under Labour.  The Labour led government under Clark was good for the regions.  Unemployment went down.  Farmers prospered with the structure provided by Fonterra under Labour.  Horticulture and aquaculture expanded.  Research and development that benefitted the regions was encouraged.  When someone plans the economy, it allows and encourages development throughout the country.
As I drive down the street in Te Awamutu, there are a number of empty stores.  Then go further south in the Taranaki-King Country... there are pockets of inspiration, but still too many empty shops, closed down factories, mills and services.  Too many people for the jobs available, and many in poorly paid employment.
Under National's "hands off the steering wheel" policy, we've seen companies like Metso (which built large scale mining vehicles and crusher machines and the like which were exported all over the world) close down because the high dollar made their business unsustainable.  That was a long standing business in Matamata, (originally as Tidco, then as Svedala), around since sometime in the 1970s, which was hailed in 1988 by Mike Moore as an example of a New Zealand company as an exporter on the up and up.  Just about all my life I have known someone who works at this company, family and friends, which has now withdrawn from Matamata and New Zealand.
So it was great to visit a business like Otorohanga Timber Company with Penny and Chris last week that has an extremely strong commitment to their community (Steve is well known for supporting a good cause in Otorohanga), employing local staff year round as well as local students back in town for summer from university and tech, and even young rugby and cricket players from overseas in town for the season.  This business has had to adapt to the economy, but would probably do even better out of its exports if the New Zealand dollar wasn't so high.
While, obviously because I am a teacher, I am basing my voting choices on education primarily, I am also considering other factors.  Jobs is an important factor.  If there are great jobs for people in the regions then there will be children for me to teach.  If their parents are gainfully employed, earning a quality wage, then their kids are likely to be in a warm, dry house, fed and clothed, their health needs met, and ready to learn at school.  Employed people mean that a variety of businesses in the area flourish, also employing people.  And communities become vibrant because of the businesses that are well established support local sporting and community groups and also encourage new businesses to open.  And I love to shop, so a vibrant community is good for me!!
Like David Cunliffe said, this election is about people.  It is about their hopes and dreams.  It is about being valued and respected.  Having reliable, stable employment and being paid well for the job you do gives people hope. 
Labour wants to bring hope back to regional New Zealand.
To find out more about how Labour plans to do this, click here to go to the Labour policy on Regional Development.  It gives you a broad over view of the policies and the ability to download the detailed policy.
So if you are in the Taranaki-King Country electorate, get out and meet your candidates (all of them) and talk to them about the policies of their parties and find out about the people that have put themselves up as candidates for you to choose as your representative in Parliament.
And you never know... Taranaki-King Country could become a red electorate with Penny Gaylor as MP - you just have to get out and #votepositive #ForABetterNZ!

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