Happy camping Hawke's Bay!
This year, I encourage you to have your best summer with family and friends, maybe even under canvas or in your favourite retro 1950s caravan.
You all deserve a break.
Stick to the rules, pick up your rubbish, use the public loos, be kind to fellow campers and residents, and you will live the Hawke's Bay dream.
I'm pleased to report that communities all over New Zealand have swung in behind our plans to tidy up freedom camping, as we prepare to welcome back international visitors next year. From the West Coast to Whanganui, Top of the South to Northland, Queenstown Lakes to Kaikōura beachfront, the demand for tighter rules is growing.
Backpackers in budget vehicles are welcome. Motor homes and towed caravans are welcome. But at the heart of the new law will be greater respect for the environment and communities through a "right vehicle, right place" approach.
Feedback from communities and councils made it clear some freedom campers remain a problem. Issues include uncertified vehicles, parking outside approved areas including on private driveways and front lawns, littering, and disposal of human waste.
We are setting clear expectations for campers. Higher standards must be met before vehicles can be certified as truly self-contained with fixed toilets. Abuses in the past included the infamous bogus blue stickers slapped on vehicles to falsely claim compliance.
One of the best aspects of camping holidays is the shot in the arm for local economies through the surge in spending, largely on retail, throughout summer.
Shop local and feel good about supporting your community. Many retailers are not just small businesses, they are micro-businesses, or owner-operators with few additional staff.
This summer be kind to the staff in retail and hospitality businesses. Be patient and plan ahead for the use of masks, vaccine passes, and scanning QR codes.
I can't sign off without a big thank you for that other shot in the arm you can all take credit for.
The country has hit 94 per cent of the eligible population protected with a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, and 88 per cent fully vaccinated with two doses.
Here in Hawke's Bay we're pretty close to those national figures, at 93 and 86 per cent respectively.
There is good understanding of how the vaccine pass works, and the rollout is going well albeit with a few inevitable niggles at the beginning as people get used to it.
We've also just signed an important international deal to buy 60,000 courses of Pfizer's oral antiviral treatment.
Clinical studies show this drug looks highly promising for treating people who contract Covid-19. It has led to an 89 per cent reduction in hospitalisations and deaths.
Taken orally at the first sign of symptoms, it can significantly prevent people from getting really unwell and requiring hospitalisation.
The Government ring-fenced $300 million for Pharmac to purchase Covid-19 drugs like this, on top of an existing $175m for medicines and supply chain costs. We will have access to six world-leading therapeutics for treating Covid.
Our successful response to the Covid-19 pandemic for the past two years has been a true team effort. New Zealand has the lowest cumulative number of cases, hospitalisations, and deaths per capita in the OECD, and now we have extraordinarily high vaccination rates as well.
At the same time, our economy has continued to perform with record levels of unemployment, high economic growth, and some of the longest stretches without restrictions of any comparable country.
Over the past two years, we have all played a role in the country's strong response. The global pandemic is still raging, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere winter. This summer we can all relax a little, and be proud of our country's story.
Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.
* Stuart Nash is MP for Napier