The accolades for our city keep coming. Whanganui is the most beautiful city in New Zealand and now one of the smartest.
The international Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) selected Whanganui for their annual 21 cities best prepared for the 21st century list.
It's an impressive achievement that recognises the forethought and groundwork put in by our business community and professional leaders.
Whanganui was one of the first cities in New Zealand to adopt high-speed broadband, and we're continually investing in our primary production, innovation and tourism industries.
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Whanganui has seen steady population growth over the past five years.
We have welcomed huge numbers of constituents to our electorate since June, a staggering 263 in July alone, more than double the same time last year.
Whanganui is still one of the most affordable cities in New Zealand despite real estate prices rising 45 per cent.
As cities like Auckland grow increasingly congested and residents fork out more in fuel taxes and higher rents, people are flocking to the regions.
Those pressures are certainly felt here and the cost of living is not likely to let up anytime soon.
Rates may increase with the pressures put on regional councils to improve freshwater and the price of electricity is predicted to rise due to the coalition Government's ban on oil and gas and reliance on imported fuels like coal.
The coal-face of which carries considerably more cost (to import), dirty burning coal emitting much more carbon than ever, and fuels the fire of maxing out on the Zero Carbon Bill targets.
And then there is the matter of the (local and central) government's selective consultation and engagement dispensing with a recognition of the place and role of Whanganui mana whenua (alongside other local community groups conferred with) in refugee re-settlement into Whanganui.
The concerns associated with the ever-spiralling pressures and demands on limited housing stock, health and welfare care and services for local Whanganui people – especially the most disparate, desperate and vulnerable in our community.
It will be interesting how this matter will be addressed having raised concern about such discontent where a government purports to be the most transparent and accountable government ever, creating a special Crown/Maori government entity Te Arawhiti committed to active engagement yet failing to deliver at a local level with local Whanganui people.
The fact is the local and central government failed to consult and engage as Te Arawhiti purports it ought to. I have facilitated engagement to occur between Crown & local Maori in a few weeks' time to focus on a constructive and positive way forward for all concerned.
It was recently confirmed that Mars Petcare will close in 2020. It will be a loss to Whanganui and the many workers who have given years to the firm.
However, it will also be an opportunity for our city to welcome new enterprise and investment. Since the initial announcement and shock of it, I have met several times with Mars executive management and staff, sounded out potential investors interested in the substantial workforce and premises.
Though nothing is on paper, I am confident Whanganui will overcome this setback and I continue to network and work my connections in attaining a good result and outcome again.
Similarly, I know the rural communities of Whanganui, Raetihi and Waimarino are duly concerned about the state of State Highway 4 following the disastrous slip/landslide last month. I have probed inquiry and discussions via my networks pending reports and an action plan from NZTA to safely repair the road and get residents, businesses and commuters moving again.
I travelled the Parapara recently to Auckland (to the U2 concert in memory of Greg Carroll – Whanganui /Nga Rauru - my husband Dean's cousin's son killed 33 years ago – the Joshua Tree album and song One Tree Hill dedicated in his memory) and noted the safety road-checks sites in situ along with the sobering likelihood that this disruption will remain an inconvenience for some years (as it already has been on a lesser scale) though grateful there was no loss of life.
Another work in progress on the plan.
I wrap up November with electorate visits to Hawera and Stratford for the annual A&P shows. I am also heading to Brisbane and Canberra for the Australian Parliamentary Exchange later this month. As always, my electorate offices are open for any concerns you may have or issues you need assistance with.
Although I may not be in Whanganui, Whanganui remains always with and in me, networking, connecting, promoting, advocating.
As mana whenua, I carry the mantel of leadership of my Whanganui rangatira tupuna/ancestors.
As MP for Whanganui I carry always the torch for Whanganui and my Whanganui constituents. I value our community and I value you– Ko koe he iti kahurangi.