The new year has got off to a flying start with plenty going on in the Rangitikei and lots to celebrate.

Our region was successfully represented at this year's Wellington Cup in January, with Gorbachev taking out the $250,000 signature race.

Trained near Bulls by former international equestrian Bryce Newman, ridden by Ryan Elliott, and owned by Kevin O'Donnell, Paul Bardell, Joe Huwyler and Brian O'Dea, there's more than a hint of Rangitikei in the mix. Congratulations.

I also spent a couple of days at the Karaka sales. There were plenty of people there - along with hundreds operating behind the scenes to ensure the smooth running of this iconic event - though it seemed to me New Zealand buyers weren't represented as well as in previous years.


I couldn't help but wonder if this was a consequence of nervousness among our racing fraternity as we await the Minister for Racing's response to the Messara Report.

I was delighted to be invited to the Feilding Rotary Club where I enjoyed being part of a lively discussion about the state of the nation. It was particularly interesting to note the general consensus (regardless of political persuasions) regarding this Government's propensity to over-promise and under-deliver.

National was well represented at the annual celebrations at Ratana Pa to commemorate founder T.W. Ratana's birthday. Along with a strong contingent of MPs, I was also joined by the Rangitikei's Youth MP, William Wood, who will represent me - and us - at this year's Youth Parliament, which is held every three years and is on in Wellington in July.

William is a motivated and driven student of Palmerston North Boys High School and I'm looking forward to spending time with him over the coming months as he accompanies me to local events and constituency meetings.

After our visit to Ratana, William wrote a few words about his experience - so I'll hand over to him now to finish off ...

"My experience as the Youth MP for Rangitikei has only just begun, yet I have already been offered some incredible opportunities.

"Attending Ratana alongside the National Party contingent was my first official event as Youth MP. Ian and I have, however, discussed some quite exciting ideas for the coming year.

"I am the first to admit that getting to meet those you see on the TV and in the news is an intimidating thought. When I got the message that I would be attending alongside Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett some terrifying thoughts flashed through my mind, 'What if I embarrass myself?', 'What if they aren't actually nice people?'


"All this was put to rest, however, when I was met by a group of interesting and genuinely engaged MPs. Sitting down for lunch at a local cafe with Bridges on my right, Bennett on my left and a whole variety of MPs in-between was a surreal and humbling experience.

"It is unbelievable how receptive MPs are to the ideas of youth, whether it is talking with Paula Bennett about more youth employment opportunities, or to Nick Smith about the foundation of the Youth Parliament.

"The politicians I have met realise that engaging with youth is the same as engaging with our future. I look forward to representing my peers in Wellington this July, and working with Ian to make the Rangitikei an even better place for us youth."