Firstly, happy holidays and best wishes to you all during this festive season. It's a great chance to catch up with friends and family, reflect on our lives and on those doing it tough.

It's also a time to celebrate and enjoy our wonderful country, one of the greatest places in the world to live and raise a family.

I think we can be an ever better country where more of us have the chance to be the best we possibly can. But there's some serious things holding us back, there's no point denying it.

So, let's face them and fix them. In 2017, we can choose to change the government and build a better New Zealand


Of course, there are many wonderful things happening in Hawke's Bay. Tourism is booming, bringing money into the region, and households are spending more, helping to create jobs.

But it's not right that with Hawke's Bay house prices rising 20 percent in the past year, more young couples can't afford their first home. It's not right that a generation is growing up who will have to rent homes their whole lives.

It's not right that there are fewer police on the beat as crime rises.

It's not right that 96-year-old Trixie Cottingham in Levin had her home care cut because her DHB is underfunded.

There's a wonderful mother of five, Kerry Owen, I met in Auckland recently who has set up a charity that provides hot lunches to 3000 kids in South Auckland every winter. A great idea, but that tells us a lot about poverty in this country.

The Kiwi dream is slipping away for more and more of us. Bill English is a new prime minister with old ideas that have failed for eight years.

It's time for a fresh approach.

Here's my pick for five big issues facing Hawke's Bay and the country as a whole, and what we will do to fix them.


1. Affordable housing
Nearly three-quarters of adults under 40 in Hawke's Bay are renting. Buying a first home is just too expensive.

Labour will build 100,000 affordable homes for first home buyers. We'll ban the foreign speculators who use our homes as gambling chips.

2. Safer communities
Crime is up in the Hawke's Bay with a 34 per cent increase in burglaries in the past year. National has cut police numbers.

Labour will recruit 1000 more police to make our communities safer.

3. Healthcare when you need it
National has cut $5 million out of Hawke's Bay DHB's health funding. The result is more expensive GP visits; people getting home help cut; and long waiting lists.

Labour will reverse National's health cuts and fund the system properly to keep up with the growing and ageing population.

4. Opening up higher education
Under National, tertiary fees are up 40 per cent and the number of people studying is falling. That's not how you build a wealthy, smart country.

Labour will make everyone's first three years of tertiary study fees free, so that people get the skills we need for the 21st century.

5. A good start for all our kids
New Zealand should be the best country in the world to raise a family. Yet, we have 110,000 kids living in houses that have a "severe mould or damp problem".

We can fix that. My Healthy Homes Bill says you can't rent out a house unless it is healthy to live in. We don't let butchers sell rotten meat; this is no different.

There's other problems, of course, but these five show Labour's vision for a better country.

Getting the basics right gives everyone the freedom to live their version of the Kiwi dream.

New Zealand can be the best country in the world to bring up our kids once again so Kerry Owen can wind up Feed the Need and our grandmothers like Trixie Cottingham get the care they need. But, first, we have to change the government.

Andrew Little is Labour Party leader