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I would like to congratulate the organizing committee for another hugely successful Southern Field Days at Waimumu last week.

With over 32,000 people attending, it has become established as the biggest and best agricultural and agri-business event in the South Island.

The government recognizes that food production and security of supply is going to continue to be a major export earner for New Zealand for the long-term.  We have recently strengthened our biosecurity structures with Government Industry Agreements to give our trading partners confidence in our ability to respond to disease outbreaks.

The Foundation for Arable Research and Dairy NZ are working hard on the benefits of arable crop rotations in dairy systems to control nutrient leaching.

Waimumu showed the strength of our agricultural heart.  The Government is working hard to ensure we maximize this success in trade markets.

The National Government has increased spending on health by over $1.2 billion in the last two years to grow public health services.

The extra $49m in health spending for the Southern DHB over the last two years has been put to good use in improving front line health services such as elective surgery.

Figures from the Ministry of Health reveal that, since the election, an extra 2989 Southern patients, have received the elective operations they have needed.

In total, 10,376 patients from the Southern DHB area received important elective surgery in 2010, including hip replacements, joint replacements, ear nose and throat surgery amongst other surgery.

In 2010, 4282 other these patients were over 65.

Within the total surgery numbers, there had also been nearly 500 more orthopaedic surgeries in 2010.

It shows the frontline focus is working for us.

More than 4700 businesses in Southland stand to benefit from the 1 April cut in company tax to 28 per cent.

This is more assistance for productive businesses in Southland.  Cutting company tax from 30 per cent to 28 per cent increases incentives for our firms to reinvest earnings back into jobs and growth.  This company tax cut puts us ahead of Australia, and helps make New Zealand companies more competitive.

The company tax cut is part of the second round of Budget 2010 tax changes.  Across-the-board personal tax cuts kicked in last October.  These tax cuts are paid for by last year’s increase in GST and a number of other tax measures that take effect on 1 April and make the tax system fairer.

The National-led Government’s tax reforms are helping tilt the economy towards savings, investment and exports, and away from unsustainable consumption, borrowing and government spending.

The economy is growing, unemployment is dropping, and our exports are increasing.

About 40,000 more people are in jobs than this time last year. The value of New Zealand’s exports has increased by 15 per cent as we enjoy near record commodity prices.

And all of this is happening as we rebalance our economy on to a more sustainable footing – away from borrowing and consumption, and towards saving, investment, and exports.

New Zealanders are saving more rather than borrowing to speculate on houses or buy flat screen TVs.

This trend towards saving more builds a strong platform for faster long-term economic growth.

Growth matters. It creates jobs. It lifts incomes. It boosts living standards and pays for the world-class health and education services that families need.

While it was disappointing to see the Ranfurly Shield head back up State Highway One, there are at least two positives to come out of last Saturday.

Firstly (although this will be of little relief to the Stags) the Shield stays in the South Island.

Secondly, having the Shield has showcased Southland’s innate traits to the rest of the country.  Dogged resilience in the face of the odds, the ability to meet and conquer a challenge, and people who have a “can do” and when needed “must do” attitude.

The local government elections at the weekend have given us new faces and some new directions.  In Southland, our local bodies could do worse than to further harness and highlight our unique population traits to make the province a greater place.

Thanks Stags – it was great fun while it lasted.

Firstly, I’d like to congratulate Nigel Skelt, the team at Stadium Southland, Sport Southland, and all those who have rolled their sleeves up to get on with business after the Stadium collapse.

You can-do attitude has meant the school holidays sporting programmes, major events, and local sports have been able to continue despite the major disruption to business as usual.

Another major disruption, and one that will hit the entire province hard, is the loss of so much stock in the week-long winter blast.  My condolences go out to all those involved, and while I know it is not a good time for either farmers or animals, stay strong in this time of gloom.

From October 1, the tax cuts promised by the Government come into effect.

The average family will be about $25 per week better off, the average wage earner about $15 better off, and a couple on NZ Superannuation will get about an extra $11 a week.

The lowest tax bracket will drop to 10.5 percent, and there is an immediate increase of 2.02 percent in Working for Families, superannuation, and benefits.

The 1 October changes are an important part of National’s plan to boost growth,create jobs, and lift incomes.

There are quite a few other tax changes, such as reducing taxes on savings over the medium term.  The tax changes will boost New Zealand’s longer-term growth prospects by tilting the economy towards savings, investment and exports and away from borrowing, housing speculation and consumption.

This is the next step in the Government’s programme to achieve faster growth and support sustainable, higher-paying jobs. In addition, the personal tax cuts-GST switch will leave the vast majority of Kiwis better off.

Treasury advice indicates even when all forecast cost of living increases for the rest of the year are taken into account, including the rise in GST and other issues, real after-tax wages will grow as a result of these changes.

We expect some volatility in the next few quarters. The Canterbury earthquake and uncertainties about the global outlook will no doubt impact on New Zealand’s immediate economic performance. That reinforces the need for the Government to press on with its comprehensive plan for turning around the economy.

This is the first part of the most significant tax reform package in New Zealand for nearly 25 years. For ordinary New Zealanders it will reward effort, encourage savings and help families to get ahead.

There are a lot of hurdles ahead of us at the moment.  Economists are noting the Canterbury earthquake will hurt GDP growth as people are unable to work and capital assets need to be rebuilt.

Nevertheless, these changes from October 1 will benefit all hard working New Zealanders.

The devastating loss of the main courts, community courts and offices at Stadium Southland is gut-wrenching, and my thoughts go out to the staff and the sports affected.

The monumental amount of snow that fell on the city is one that has stretched a few memories and no-one I have spoken to can remember it being this bad for some time.

We have to start looking at the ramifications of this, and the first has to be looking after our major sporting franchises affected.  They will need stand-in facilities for next season.  Next will be the rebuild.

The upside to it all is that despite the damage, the Stadium will be rebuilt better than before and like new to remain the jewel in our sporting crown.

It’s a cliché, but that is a bright light at the end of the tunnel.  Good luck to everyone.

The REAL New Zealand Showcase programme is designed to showcase  New Zealand businesses to the world before and during the Rugby World Cup.

In Southland, the initial planning unveiled last week is around the visitor experience.  While we want to highlight our local businesses during the Cup, we also have a prime opportunity to convince people and get them to tell their friends about Southland.

We are facing skill shortages in some sectors in coming years, so we need to use the matches involving Scotland and Argentina and two yet to be named countries to show visitors that there’s more to Southland than just a couple of rugby games.

If we can convince them of our status as a great place to work, live and play, they might just decide to stay, and tell their friends how great our little piece of paradise is.  That’s what we need.

Saturday morning’s earthquake in Christchurch was a frightening reminder of how helpless we can be in the time of a natural disaster.

While the initial response from local government and other agencies is to be commended, the effects of the huge quake will be around for some time and aren’t easily fixed.  My thoughts go out to those who have lost homes and businesses, and I’m heartened by Cantabrians “can do” attitude to getting on with life now the shaking has subsided.

It’s a reminder that we should always be prepared for the ‘big one’ insofar as having essential supplies on hand in case a disaster occurs.

You can find out how to make up your own disaster survival kit at http://www.getthru.govt.nz.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.

By the time you read this, the expert panel on neurology services in the South will have heard the views of the local population.

The meeting today at Stadium Southland is the culmination of a lot of effort by the Otago and Southland communities to have a say in the final outcome.

I was pleased to be able to accept a 45,000 signature petition last week calling for the retention of neurosurgery services at Dunedin Hospital.

I was also heartened by the comments of the Minister of Health Tony Ryall that he would take a lot of convincing that there shouldn’t be neurosurgery services for Otago and Southland people.

We now have to wait for the final recommendation of the panel.  But thanks to you, it won’t be an arbitrary decision.

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You can contact me either by email me here, phone my electorate office on 218 7749, or call in to 97 Dee Street Invercargill (opposite Waxy O'Shea's).

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Authorised by Eric Roy, 97 Dee St, Invercargill

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