The Tom Column - Looking forward to a busy year

Columns
Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Happy New Year to everyone! Well the year is now well and truly underway, with many of us now back to work after some incredible weather in Taranaki over the holiday break.
It has been a good time to get out and about in the province, with so many great events and places to go with family and friends.
I’m looking forward to another busy year, and although Parliament does not begin again in Wellington until February, this month is most certainly busy with local projects and meetings, constituency work and the ongoing business to attend to with the Select Committees that I Chair.
As an MP, one of the most important things to me is supporting families and households. I know the issues that matter to our community are a stronger economy and more jobs, better frontline health and education services, and a safer New Zealand.
Jobs and wages are growing – 34,000 new jobs in the past year with a further 195,000 people expected to be in work by mid-2020. Wages are growing considerably faster than the cost of living and the average wage is expected to increase $6000 to $63,500 within five years.
Our economy is performing solidly with economic growth over the next few years expected to average 2.7 per cent a year.
Reduced ACC levies, with more to come, are helping businesses and households, as is the roll out of ultra-fast broadband and investment of billions in roads, schools, and hospitals.
Businesses are confident and hiring more staff and more Kiwis are voting with their feet and either staying in New Zealand or coming home.
We’re continuing to see improved results from our public services in areas that really matter – such as better health care, lower crime, higher educational achievement, and more New Zealanders moving off welfare into work.
We’ve fulfilled our promise of returning to surplus in 2014/15 and we will continue to focus on keeping a tight rein on spending, running surpluses, and paying down debt.
Around 750,000 children under 13 now have access to free GP visits and prescriptions, paid parental leave went up last year and will increase again in April, and our HomeStart programme is helping young Kiwi families buy their first home.
The Korean Free Trade Agreement, signed last year, is helping farmers and businesses and next month (February) we will sign the Trans Pacific Partnership – New Zealand’s biggest ever free trade deal – worth around $2.7 billion to our economy by 2030.
After recharging the batteries I’m heading into the 2016 parliamentary year focused, energised, and full of ideas to keep Taranaki and New Zealand moving ahead. I want this country to seize the many opportunities available over the next few years to get more jobs and higher wages to support New Zealanders and their families.