EDUCATION Minister Hekia Parata spent some time in our region last Friday, beginning the day by hosting a cross-sector forum at the Awapuni Racecourse in Palmerston North.

The purpose of the forum was to talk about raising student achievement in the Whanganui-Manawatu-Taranaki region, and the minister spoke about her priorities and how our region was doing. This was followed by a round-table discussion.

The forum was attended by more than 30 people from the education sector, including Steve Maharey, vice-chancellor of Massey University Palmerston North; police district commander Sue Schwalger; Steph Gundersen-Reid, chief executive of the Manawatu Chamber of Commerce; and Ruka Broughton, Aotea district manager for Te Kohanga Reo National Trust. Five school principals were also invited along, including Chris Moller from Wanganui Collegiate School.

I know those who attended were pleased to be a part of such a productive and relevant initiative, and to have an opportunity to engage with one another - and with a minister who has a clear sense of direction, and who is clearly passionate about what she's trying to achieve across New Zealand's education sector.


Ms Parata had time to visit a couple of Rangitikei schools while she was here. Principals Ben Ward Smith, from Lytton Street School, and Karene Biggs, from Rangitikei College, have both made significant progress regarding student achievement.

At Rangitikei College, the Minister was welcomed by the school community before being shown around by head girl Makuini Paulger and head boy Jake White. Ms Biggs and board of trustees chairman Greg Carlyon provided an overview of the school's achievement since 2012, including a number of successful initiatives they have implemented that have contributed to the significant lift in NCEA results over the past three years.

At Lytton Street School, the minister enjoyed a rousing welcome, after which she caught up with some key people from the school's governance and management teams to talk about student achievement.

On Friday I went to the Northland Field Days, along with National MPs Jo Hayes (list) and Andrew Bailey (Hunua), which were held in Dargaville from February 26-28.

While their Field Days don't draw as many exhibitors or spectators as ours, an estimated 20,000 people passed through the gates over the course of the three days and I can report that it was a pretty good show.

Of course, back on home turf, this year's Central Districts' Field Days are being held at the end of next week at Manfield Park in Feilding, from March 12-14. They are New Zealand's largest regional Field Days with more than 540 exhibitors confirmed and 38,000 visitors expected over the three days.

While there will be plenty to see, do, buy, try and eat, the Field Days also provide a fantastic opportunity for exhibitors to increase their brand awareness, meet existing and potential customers and launch new products. I'll see you there.