Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was pleased to be able to visit Whanganui without an impending crisis on her hands.
"The last time I visited the region, it was the day I learnt of our significant unfortunate Covid outbreak in August last year. I needed to remove Whanganui from being a trigger," she said.
Ardern was in Whanganui on Thursday, visiting one of New Zealand's leading Māori health providers and a programme delivering employment and trades training.
Flanked by Whanganui MP Steph Lewis and Te Tai Hauāuru MP Adrian Rurawhe, Ardern's first stop was Te Oranganui, an iwi-governed health provider delivering services to Māori across Whanganui and the wider region, as well as Covid-19 vaccinations.
Ardern was greeted by a large contingent of the organisation's staff, as well as Mātaiwhetū/CEO Wheturangi Walsh-Tapiata, who said she was thrilled when the Prime Minister asked to visit the organisation.
"When I was contacted about the suggestion of a visit, I think you were going up to Waitangi to talk about Chinese businesses. I was thinking, woah, Waitangi one day, Te Oranganui the next," Walsh-Tapiata told Ardern.
Walsh-Tapiata explained that Te Oranganui was one of the oldest iwi health and social service providers in the country, providing mental health, addiction, disability, and whanau and community care.
"It tells you how long this organisation has been around in how it has been really committed in finding different ways we as Māori can respond to our community."
Ardern praised the work of Te Oranganui in addiction and mental health services, saying that was an area the Government was focused on.
"We are desperately trying to scale up the offering of those services, but in particular, making sure we are offering those through primary healthcare, be that through iwi health providers or GP services.
"That is a massive change from where we've been."
Also on the Prime Minister's agenda on Thursday was a visit to the Waiora Christian Community Trust, which is delivering the E Tu Tangata course, giving at-risk youth the opportunity to gain practical skills to enter the workforce.
The programme is designed to allow those wanting to learn and improve their work skills
experience in the construction and manufacturing industry, opening up pathways to an apprenticeship or full employment.
In September last year, the organisation was given $800,000 under the Government's Provincial Growth Fund to deliver the programme.
The programme is rooted in a Christian kaupapa Māori approach and has the benefit of providing additional learning support services ensuring rangatahi, many of which have either struggled in education or have had a difficult past, can reach their full potential.
Speaking to the group, Ardern praised the importance of the groups' work in encouraging trades training, which she said is a priority for the Government.
"We have seen a huge increase in the number of people taking up apprenticeships, and I say that with huge pride. When we first came in, one of the things we wanted to do was increase the mana of our trade."
"We need more people with those skills, because that is one of the elements of affordable housing."