OPINION: One of the things that always strike me as significant and special about Murihiku is how resilient the people are, writes Rino Tirikatene (Labour) in From the Beehive.
Since the mid-1980s successive National and Labour government policies have impacted severely on the Murihiku economy. First it was forestry, next fisheries, followed by public service restructuring and then changes to the meat industry that saw Ocean Beach Freezing Works close and massive repercussions for Bluff and Invercargill, particularly for Maori and Pacific Island whanau.
Industry by industry has made cuts and it's most noticeable in rural areas. Once there were thriving towns and schools which are now a shadow of themselves, all driven by past economic reforms and the adherence to free market principles.
In 2017 a decision will be made whether Meridian Energy will continue to subsidise power prices for the aluminum smelter at Tiwai Point. For now 650 workers at Tiwai and the other 2500 workers who work in industries contracted to the smelter have certainty, but in three years they and their whanau will face uncertainty again as we play political football with a multinational company.
In spite of the harsh economic times that whanau are experiencing, there are some bright lights on the horizon. In July, the 2013 Youth Parliament was held and I was represented by Kaukiterangi Blair, a Bluff born and bred Rangatahi who attends Southland Boys' High School.
Kau said afterwards: "Inspiration was one of the many things that came from my trip to Wellington. 2013 Youth Parliament gave me a better knowledge of how our nation's democratic system works and how government comes to decisions that will affect us as citizens."
My last bite of the day goes out to Nathan Guy, Minister for Primary Industries. This must be a testing time for him with the Fonterra scare, issues relating to New Zealand export meat sitting on a Chinese dock and the snapper quota biting in the North Island. However, don't forget that the proposal to open 21km of coastline in Otago and Southland to the commercial paua industry is still up for negotiation.
If you haven't made a submission you can still make your voice heard by writing to the Minister Freepost at Parliament. If commercial fishers can't sustainably manage vast areas they already fish, then why would the public allow the opening of further coastal areas ? Make your voice heard, Murihiku.
» Rino Tirikatene is the MP for Te Tai Tonga.
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