OPINION: Te Tai Tonga is the largest geographical electorate in Aotearoa, writes Rino Tirikatene (Labour) in From the Beehive.
It starts at Lower Hutt and ends at Rakiura and includes the Chatham Islands. I have four electorate offices around this vast rohe and constituents can either visit or ring the free phone to make contact with me.
My electorate offices are busy hubs in communities that are struggling to pay rent, power and food bills as the cost of living continues to rise despite salaries remaining stagnant. On a daily basis from my Kilbirnie office to Nelson to Christchurch and Invercargill my team of staff are faced with issues that relate to our economic climate and job losses, Government department cuts and just plain old lack of money. Whanau are working harder for the same money they got five years ago but living costs are not what they were five years ago. Whanau are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table and their whare warm.
The John Key/National party- led coalition Government's job is to provide an economic plan for Aotearoa that encourages growth and the flow-on effect of growth, development and innovation is the creation of jobs. It's sort of a 101 of really basic economics? Is that what we currently see from this Government and its coalition of allies, including the Maori Party?
To date not many of the cities I have offices in are seeing job growth, quite the opposite in fact.
Latest unemployment statistics for Invercargill to the June 2013 quarter (HLFS survey) shows that unemployment rose by 50 per cent to 4.9 per cent from the March quarter. While that increase includes seasonal workers, this figure has continued to increase for the same quarter during the past two years and it is a trend in all parts of my electorate.
The guts is being ripped out of the manufacturing sector and skilled workers are heading overseas and taking their knowledge with them. The baby boomer generation is due to hit Work and Income applying for pensions and the youth unemployment and NEET (not in education, training or employment) figures continue to rise despite the Government's Youth Guarantee scheme aimed at providing NCEA qualifications to kids who have disengaged from formal education.
I wonder how many government MPs spend time in our communities asking whanau "what has changed for your family over the last five years and how can we make it better?".
Perhaps if government MPs had to live your life for six months they might get a better grasp of what's actually going on? It's called survival.
As always, it is my privilege to be the MP for Te Tai Tonga and serve the people. Mauri ora!
» Rino Tirikatene is the MP for Te Tai Tonga.
- © Fairfax NZ News