We are halfway through 2020, and it has already thrown us more than we imagined in January. Although change and uncertainty is present, what has not changed is my commitment to Whangarei and to every person who calls the area home.
Refining NZ + Jobs
The impact of COVID-19 is being felt far and wide and I know many people have lost, or are at risk of losing of their jobs and businesses. This is a hard time for many, and we are committed to bringing New Zealand through this time stronger than ever. Our commitment is to job retention, job creation and job innovation.
The refinery at Marsden Point is an example of critical infrastructure that needs to be maintained, not only for the employment it offers to thousands of Northlanders, but also to reduce our dependence on offshore interests. I have met with officials from Refining NZ at the end of June to press upon them the importance of retaining local jobs and a strong presence in Northland.
Safe Return of International Students
International students are important to New Zealand. They make a significant contribution to the economy, and provide valuable skills in research and development helping to ensure New Zealand institutions are well-regarded internationally. The border closure in response to COVID-19 has serious implications for current and future international students, and for universities and other education providers, including NorthTec. The isolation policies at the border may be suitable but as we have seen in recent weeks, the delivery is poor. I have been working hard with our education team to develop a robust policy alongside education providers to ensure the safe return of international students. Safety is the biggest point and we are recommending intensive screening for international students over and above that for returning New Zealanders.
Working hard for Whangarei
I left Parliament very late this last Thursday after speaking in the House about a range of infrastructure projects for Whangarei. I will share more on this next month.
Power Pricing in Northland
Increases to Northpower's transmission charges will add around $8 a year to the average residential bill. Dairy farmers and large electricity users, for example Refining NZ, will pay more significant increases. We must keep our attention and focus on sustainable electricity generation in Northland for Northland. The geothermal development at Ngawha is an exciting prospect. The viability of current and previous proposals to generate electricity in Northland must be considered as we seek to reduce costs for all Northlanders and secure energy sustainability and stability in our region.