This Government has a very clear vision for New Zealand’s future.
It is one where everyone has a warm, dry and safe place to call home.
It is one where everyone who is able is either earning, learning, caring for others or volunteering.
It is one where we have a strong economy which lets us share the benefits fairly to lift the living standards of all New Zealanders and their families.
It is one where we look after our beautiful environment for the generations to come.
Year of Progress
We have delivered considerable progress on this in the past twelve months.
Let me run through some of the specific things we have done:
Education: When we came into office we were faced with a teacher supply crisis, including a 40% decline in initial teacher enrolments and no plan to get on top of the situation.
We introduced a comprehensive set of teacher supply initiatives to improve supply in the short to medium term and we have also given most teachers an average pay rise of $12,000.
This has resulted in 2000 additional teachers in classrooms in the past two years, compared to an average of 350 per year in the previous three years.
Transport: When we came into office, the road toll had been increasing every year.
That’s why we made safety our top transport priority and are investing $1.4 billion in safety upgrades on our most dangerous highways.
The result is that we have already made safety improvements to 2406 kilometres of state highways and we are rolling out another 900 kms.
Finance: When we came into office, Budgets measured the wealth and success of New Zealand on just the narrow metric of economic growth – GDP.
We have fundamentally changed the way budgets are put together and how they are delivered.
The result is that Budgets now reflect what New Zealanders value including how many children have been lifted out of poverty, how much cleaner our environment is and how we are future proofing the economy.
Environment: Since we came into Government, we have done more to help solve climate change and make our communities are cleaner and healthier, than previous administrations.
The progress we have made includes passing the Zero Carbon Act – a comprehensive framework to ensure we are all playing our part; reform of the Emissions Trading Scheme, to ensure major polluters are paying their fair share and taking action to reduce emissions; more clean and renewable energy; and support for electric cars so the journeys we make are cleaner and more affordable.
It is an approach that has not been seen in New Zealand before – one that works for people and the environment.
Policing and Community Safety: In November, we delivered the Government’s commitment of adding 1800 new Police officers to frontline policing meaning that, after nine years of neglect, we had turned around the decline in numbers of frontline police who help keep our communities safe. Officers work to remove unlawful firearms from our communities, fight the threat from organised crime, gangs and extremist networks, reduce harm from methamphetamine, and disrupt transnational crime, child sex exploitation, and cyber-crime.
They are also committed to reducing family harm, cutting the road toll, and responding to mental health callouts which have now grown to around 33,000 a year.
That is just a taste of the work that we have done this year that builds towards the vision for New Zealand that I outlined.
Obviously there is more to do so bring on 2020.
Engagement with India
New Zealand’s future is also increasingly as part of the global community.
As a small, trading nation at the bottom of the South Pacific (where else would you rather be!), it is vital that we engage with the rest of the world. Including, and especially, India.
The Government’s vision for our future with India involves increasing trade that benefits both countries, making it easier for Kiwis to engage with India and vice versa, and strengthening our important cultural connections.
Your community will be vital in helping us make this a reality and I look forward to working with you.
For now, I wish you all a very happy 20th anniversary and note, with sadness, the recent death of the Indian Newslink founder Ravin Lal. His legacy in shaping the voice of the Indian Community is important and strong.
Jacinda Ardern is Prime Minister of New Zealand.
World hails Ardern as humane, genuine leader
Leaders and people across the world paid tributes to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for her compassion and leadership in handling the tragedy in Christchurch on March 15, 2019.
A terrorist attack on March 15, 2019 at two Mosques in the Garden City killed 51 men, women and children and injured more than 50 others.
‘They are Us’
Ms Ardern was acclaimed for reaching out to the Muslim community and mourning with them in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. Her speeches were noted for their love and care, offering solace and comfort to the victims of the families affected by the massacre and by the Muslim community in general.
Soon after the shootings occurred, she said that there was no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme violence.
“This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days. Clearly, what has happened is an extraordinary and unprecedented acts of violence. Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting will be migrants, they will be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home. They are us. The person who perpetuated this violence against us is not; they have no place in New Zealand,” she said.
Solidarity and hospitality
Ms Ardern said that the Muslim community showed its hospitality towards all New Zealanders by opening the Mosques throughout the country ‘and allowing us to be with them,’ at a time when it would be completely justified to close the doors and lock the gates.
“You did the exact opposite and on behalf of New Zealand, we thank you for that. We are a Nation of 220 ethnicities speaking 160 languages, from all walks of life, from different religions, different ages; you are a reflection of who we are as a Nation. And so, I am incredibly humbled to stand before you and see the act of solidarity from so many New Zealanders here,” she said.
Another tragedy grips New Zealanders
On December 9, 2019, Whakaari (White Island) erupted. There were two explosions, one after the other in quick succession.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “I want to acknowledge the courageous decision made by first responders and those pilots who, in the immediate rescue effort, made an incredibly brave decision under extraordinarily dangerous circumstances in an attempt to get people out. As a result of their efforts a number of people were rescued from the island. However, it is now clear that there were two groups on the island – those who were able to be evacuated and those who were close to the eruption.
“To those who have lost or are missing family and friends, we share in your unfathomable grief at this moment in time, and in your sorrow. Your loved ones stood alongside kiwis who were hosting you here. We grieve with you, and we grieve with them. For now, our duty is to return loved ones. As the Police have pointed out, there is much more work there to be done.
- Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at her office (Picture Supplied)
- Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern comforting a Muslim woman in Christchurch on March 16, 2019 (Picture Supplied)