Verve Article - March 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Families First

I’m writing this column in the heat of February, back at Parliament as the Government carries on its work.

As a father of four school-aged children, I’m conscious that this time of year is very expensive for families.  School donations, uniforms, stationary, music lessons and everything else add up fast.

A strong economy that creates lots of well-paying jobs holds the best promise for us all.  And that remains this National Government’s focus.   At the same time we’re working hard to help Kiwi families right now. Here are ten initiatives that I think are particularly important:

  1. We have increasing paid parental leave from 14 to 16 weeks from 1 April this year and then again to 18 weeks in 2016.
  2. From 1 July this year, all children under 13 can see their GP for free.
  3. We’re making homes around the country warmer, drier and healthier through our Warm Up New Zealand insulation plan.
  4. We’re partnering with the private sector to offer the KickStart Breakfast programme to all primary and secondary schools.
  5. We’re investing $359 million in keeping our best teachers in the classroom, and keeping their skills and knowledge in the education sector.
  6. We have nearly doubled our investment in early childhood education since 2008, and we are working hard to get 98 per cent of all children in an ECE programme.
  7. We’re cracking down on domestic violence and crime, and making your communities safer. Crime is now at a 35 year low.
  8. From 1 April this year, our HomeStart programme will help around 90,000 first home buyers in their first house over the next five years.
  9. We’re reducing ACC levies. By 1 July next year we will have put $1.5 billion back in New Zealand families’ pockets. That includes reducing motor vehicle levies by around 40 per cent.
  10. Under our watch, 92 per cent of 8-month-olds are receiving full immunisation from a range of diseases.

There is always more to do, but I think we’re on the right track. I’m excited to be a Minister in John Key’s government, and I’m looking forward to another three years of working for New Zealand.