I would like to wish Times readers a very Happy New Year. I hope you have all enjoyed the festive period with family, friends and loved ones.
I’d also like to thank our shift workers and emergency services who work tirelessly through the festive period to keep New Zealanders safe.
We’ve got a big year ahead. Later this month the National-led Government will hold our first Caucus meeting of 2017 to plan the upcoming year.
This is the time for us to reflect on our progress in 2016 and how New Zealanders want to see their country develop through the coming year.
Some of the highlights of 2016 include the economy continuing to strengthen under the Government’s programme of consistent economic and fiscal management.
Around 250,000 extra jobs have been created over the past three years and unemployment is falling.
We are seeing strong growth in sectors such as tourism, ICT, construction, and high-tech manufacturing. New Zealand is also experiencing our biggest building boom – in the past five years, annual residential building consents have more than doubled. In Auckland, they have almost tripled.
I’m particularly pleased to see that paid parental leave was lifted in 2016 to 18 weeks for families, and achievement rates in schools continues to grow well.
Locally, it was great to see progress made on projects I’ve championed over the years, like the Uxbridge Art Centre and the Reeves Road flyover.
While the recent Kaikoura earthquakes have had a major impact on affected families and businesses, they are not expected to disrupt the overall momentum of the economy.
However, they do highlight the importance of using the good times to prepare so New Zealanders can be supported through challenging times.
Budget 2017 will be a good opportunity to fully assess the progress we have made in the last year and look at how best to support New Zealanders throughout 2017. Good progress has been made in education, health care, and developing a thriving economy.
I would like to thank you all for your support. If I am able to help in anyway, if you require any advice or assistance, my Botany Road office is now open again for the year. We look forward to helping you where we can.
Otherwise, I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2017.
Jami-Lee Ross, Member of Parliament for Botany