The state of Tararua’s roads and the long waiting times to see a doctor were two issues touched on briefly by Prime Minister Chris Hipkins when he visited the district on Friday.
While the state of the roads is not unique to Tararua, what makes it more difficult is that the district has one of the longest roading networks in the country but one of the smallest ratepayer bases.
Hipkins said Tararua District Council was to receive $19.5 million for its roading, a move that would ensure cyclone damage recovery would not impact the district’s ratepayers.
Labour’s Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty, who is Minister for Emergency Management, said he had pushed hard for the funding and had worked closely with Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis.
Hipkins then spoke of the Te Ahu a Turanga – Manawatū Tararua Highway which he had visited earlier in the day.
“We are creating a whole new highway as we don’t want to have to keep patching up our roads. This new route will provide an all-weather highway.”
Regarding the nationwide shortage of doctors, Hipkins said the government had announced it would significantly increase medical school placings, beginning next year by providing 50 more placings and increasing the number to 95 each year after that.
He said in speaking to an Otago trainee doctor from the West Coast he was advised that the recruitment of medical students should look to provincial and rural areas where they were most likely to return to practice.
He also said Te Whatu Ora was providing more locum coverage.
“The announcement of a $1.1 billion rebuild of Hawke’s Bay Hospital will be good news for Tararua. It will mean people from this area will have access not only to health care in Palmerston North and Wellington Hospitals but Hawke’s Bay Hospital as well.”
A big focus of Friday’s visit to Tararua was to visit Trust House which provides 3500 school lunches a day across 22 schools from seven kitchens and employs 270 staff.
Trust House chief executive John Prendergast said the trust had been involved in the free lunch programme since 2020.
“We carried out the trial for the programme which involved Flaxmere School.”
Trust House usesthe kitchens at all the hotels it owns, apart from Featherston School’s programme which had a small kitchen purpose built in its hall.
“The school lunch programme is one of the most positive things we do. It’s good for everyone, it’s good for the kids, it’s good for the staff and it’s good for us,” Prendergast said.
Hipkins then took his turn in the kitchen assembling an entire tray of chicken rolls that formed part of the lunch for the pupils of Eketahuna School.
Once the rolls were assembled Hipkins packed them in reusable containers and placed a sticker on each one that said “Made by Prime Minister Chris Hipkins Enjoy”.
Watched closely by school lunch manager Bridgitte Walls. Hipkins passed the test although she did make the comment he was a little too slow.
Hipkins said it was great to visit a provider of free school lunches and took the opportunity to officially announce that Labour, if re-elected, would continue the programme for a further three years.
“We know things are difficult for families with the cost of living rising. These free lunches save families $33 a week per kid. We also see the wider benefits. Kids are more focused in class so they are an aid to learning and they also make a difference to those working within the programme.”