Extra police to make rural communities safer
OPINION: This is my first column for 2017 and so I would like to wish everyone a happy New Year. I hope everyone was able to take a break where they could spend some quality time with family and friends.
We had a very full agenda last year but I have the feeling that 2017 is going to be another level all together.
I'm excited to be working with our new Prime Minister Bill English who has a strong rural background and understands the importance of the primary sector. He has recently returned from a successful trip to the United Kingdom and European Union to promote the benefits of free trade with New Zealand.
The world stage is constantly changing and is in an interesting space right now. I'll be doing my part to ensure that we build and maintain strong relationships with all our important trading partners, and constantly look for new market access opportunities.
There's plenty of work I want to progress before we head into election mode later in the year, with the date now set for September 23.
My first priority is continuing to support those farmers and growers who are affected by the earthquakes in the top of the South Island. Applications are open for the Earthquake Relief Fund and we will also be looking to facilitate skilled workers on farms to help with the recovery over the next few months.
I'm also keeping a close eye on weather conditions across the country as dry conditions are proving difficult for farmers in some areas. This includes many parts of the East Coast of the North Island and supporting North Canterbury in their recovery.
I've just announced that the drought conditions in Northland are now officially a medium scale adverse event, which triggers extra Government support.
Extra funding will now be available if required to co-ordinate support through local organisations such as the Rural Support Trusts. In extreme cases there will also be Rural Assistance Payments (RAPs) available to farmers in severe hardship.
Inland Revenue will also be exercising its income equalisation discretion to help provide flexibility and relief for drought-affected farmers.
Farmers have been working hard and preparing for these conditions, but things are getting tough and there is little rain forecast for the foreseeable future.
Once again this reinforces the importance of irrigation and water storage. Last year Crown Irrigation Investments announced $165,000 to scope irrigation scheme options in Northland, and in 2015 MPI contributed $75,000 towards a report examining the potential of irrigation in the region.
While supporting rural communities through adverse events remains a priority, so does protecting rural families.
I'm very pleased with the announcement of a major boost in policing across the country with an extra 1125 police staff, including 880 sworn police officers.
Another 140 officers will focus on regional and rural policing, meaning that 95 per cent of New Zealanders will be within 25 kilometres of 24/7 police support, every day of the year.
There will also be a new national 24/7 phone number for non-emergencies introduced next year making the police more accessible for everyone.
- Nathan Guy is the Minister of Primary Industries.