Opposition Leader Simon Bridges has announced the election by Caucus of National’s three Whips, with Barbara Kuriger today elected Senior Whip, Matt Doocey Junior Whip and Tim van de Molen Third Whip.
“These three MPs have an important role to play in helping ensure the efforts of all 56 National MPs are focused on holding this Government to account and coming up with the plans and policies to take New Zealand forward.
“They have a big job. The National Party caucus is Parliament’s largest and it is brimming with energy and enthusiasm and a willingness to work in the best interests of New Zealand.
“It must also be disciplined and focused and represent our communities effectively.
“Ensuring that strength and talent is taking New Zealand forward is my focus as Leader and I am delighted to have these three strong MPs elected to play an important role in that.
“Our three Whips will help ensure the National Party earns the trust of New Zealanders and the right to govern in their interests in 2020.”
With the Health Minister admitting in Parliament this week that there is $100 million set aside by the previous government for mental health he needs to confirm whether he will take action on the 17 mental health initiatives identified by the previous government, National Party Mental Health Spokesperson Matt Doocey says.
“The 17 initiatives which were part of the $100 million mental health package announced last year should already be providing significant support to vulnerable New Zealanders in regions from Northland to Southland but they are now being parked while the Government buys time with an inquiry,” Mr Doocey says.
“The initiatives were backed by the Government’s Chief Science Advisors and were aimed at expanding primary and community mental health and addiction care, providing wraparound services for people experiencing mental health crises, improving the response to events requiring mental health intervention and beginning to shift our focus towards prevention, early intervention and resilience-building.
“These initiatives would have been making a real difference to peoples’ lives and there is no good reason why they aren’t already.
“A multi-agency co-response for people who rang 111 for events requiring mental health intervention was to be piloted through this fund. This was to respond to the known stress on police and emergency services and would deploy staff from police, ambulance, and mental health services together, as a priority emergency response.
“The Tu Kotahi programme was planned to be piloted by the previous Government and was specifically designed by a Northland local to support school children in Northland and across the country with their mental health and wellbeing, helping them build their resilience and encouraging those who needed help to reach out.
“But now that it is unlikely that we will see any action on mental health for 9 - 12 months these planned initiatives are facing uncertainty and vulnerable New Zealanders are missing out. This inaction is in favour of an inquiry that even the independent Mental Health Commissioner, Kevin Allan, has admitted is unnecessary.
“The inquiry will cost time and money when, as was planned by the previous Government, action needs to be taken now. The work has already been done for the Government but it refuses to pick up these much-needed initiatives.
“New Zealanders were expecting to see action from National’s $100 million mental health package and now all they see is a Government who is putting off the issue.”
The Government has parked $100 million committed to 17 well-thought through initiatives that should be improving lives, while it kicks the can down the road by refusing to act alongside its mental health inquiry, National’s spokesperson for Mental Health Matt Doocey says.
“The Prime Minister has claimed that the $100 million allocated through Budget 2017 for 17 new mental health initiatives doesn’t exist. The fact is it that does and that the initiatives should already be making a real difference to the lives of vulnerable New Zealanders.
“Today in the House Dr Clark was unable to say where the money for the initiatives has gone and what ones will be cancelled. Instead, this money is either sitting idle or has been reallocated – either way, it’s not good enough.
“From expanding and enhancing primary and community mental health and addiction services to further improving the support for people experiencing acute and emergency mental health needs, further support was being made available.
“Health Minister David Clark says some of the initiatives may be progressed but ‘those that were politically expedient we will leave by the wayside’.
“That’s an appalling statement. These projects were identified in concert with Government agencies, the Chief Science Advisor, and the sector as areas we could make a real difference to the lives of people with mental health issues, and they should be underway.
“So far the Government has tried and failed to justify why this money won’t be invested in improving lives while it stalls any real work and carries out yet another inquiry.
“We know what the issues are, we have identified at least some of the solutions and we should be putting them in place. Instead, this Government has parked them while it catches up itself, re-learns the lessons we already understand and tries to stall the spending.
“The Government needs to explain to vulnerable New Zealanders why it is refusing to offer more immediate support while it claims the answers will take another 10 months to find.”
The pending announcement of what’s likely to be a lengthy inquiry into the state of mental health services in New Zealand will delay action for those who need help now, National’s spokesperson for Mental Health Matt Doocey says.
“Everyone agrees that we need to respond to the growing demand for mental health services in New Zealand as well as increasing psychological and emotional resilience of individuals, families and communities, but a prolonged inquiry on its own is not going to help those who need dedicated services right now.
“A Government can't guarantee that an inquiry will fix anything. The risk is that we wait 18-24 months to learn services can be improved while, in the meantime, there are people who need the help now.
“The National government put in an extra $100 million to fund services based on evidence of what would have the most impact for people suffering from mental health issues.
“We took a Social Investment approach to design and fund 17 new initiatives aimed at helping New Zealanders suffering from mental health issues, as well as focusing on improving services and earlier intervention.
“This fund was to be part of a $224 million boost to mental health services we announced in last year’s Budget.
“The Government is playing for time. Because of the big-ticket items it has already committed to funding, it is running out of cash. By the time it runs its inquiry, received the recommendations, had officials work on the recommendations, designed some policy, it’ll be a couple of years before anything is implemented.
“The Minister of Health has been pretty clear he intends to set targets around suicide prevention and to meet them.
“I look forward to him identifying the issues and outlining his plan to deal with them – but I don’t think a lengthy inquiry will be acceptable to the public – the Government should pick up the working programmes we had developed and just get on with it.,” Mr Doocey says.
MP for Waimakariri Matt Doocey says the Christchurch Northern Motorway from Belfast to Pegasus should not be put at risk while the Government attempts to divert billions of dollars to pet projects like the trams in Auckland.
“Waimakariri commuters were excited to hear that a new Christchurch Northern Motorway from Belfast to Pegasus would complement the major roading projects that are already being delivered,” Mr Doocey says.
“However, Labour’s review of the project has cast doubt on the completion date of the Woodend Bypass which was to be included in the works.
“In my first term as MP for Waimakariri, the need for a commitment to a Woodend Bypass was highlighted by a range of community groups and locals. Many people want to see heavy freight and traffic volumes moved out of the centre of the Woodend township.
“The project addressed congestion issues arising from the Waimakariri electorate’s rapid growth.
“Every day I receive positive feedback on how the Western Belfast Bypass is shortening travel time for our commuters. The Belfast to Pegasus motorway completes the package of roading solutions to deliver reliable travel times and increased safety for our commuters.
“I think Waimakariri residents would find it hard to understand why their needs for safer roads are not being prioritised when these projects were already planned under National.
“This is an important project that the Government has wrongly thrown into uncertainty. I will continue to push the Government to include the project in their plan and I encourage the public to show their support.”
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The new Minister responsible for Christchurch’s anchor projects is cynically misrepresenting official information, National’s Spokesperson for Greater Christchurch Regeneration Matt Doocey says.
“Megan Woods’ announcement today proclaiming she is getting the Metro Sports Facility ‘back on track’ is nothing more than hot air and spin, and is clearly designed to mask the new Government’s decision to scale back the facility.
“It is inaccurate of the Minister to say the project is expected to exceed its budget by $75 million.
“In actual fact, much of the $75 million is an estimate to cover the estimated risk and given the ground conditions in Christchurch and the experience gained by contractors working in these conditions on the Justice Precinct, this is not surprising,” Mr Doocey says.
“She is deliberately misrepresenting the facts. The risk-sharing component may never need to be paid if the contract goes well, but public sector financing rules require it to be entered on the books.
“Megan Woods has seized upon this to scale back - what would have been - a world class facility.”
Mr Doocey says this cynical political move will actually add further delays to completing the project.
“Great things do take time and the challenges familiar to any property developer in Christchurch – such as site decontamination and earthquake resilient designs – have all been completed for the Metro Facility.
“Thanks to the new Minister’s apparent need to stop progress in its tracks, sadly it looks like Christchurch is going to get nothing more than a suburban swimming complex with only average facilities.”
The Metro Sports facility announced by the National Government was to include a 50m competition swimming pool, recreational pools and a diving pool alongside eight netball courts, a movement centre (gymnastics) and associated sports and health facilities including the high performance sports unit.
Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey has welcomed today’s announcement that additional areas of the Waimak are to benefit from ultra-fast broadband as being right on target for the continued development of the region.
Doocey attended this morning’s announcement by Prime Minister Bill English and Communications Minister Simon Bridges in Amberley.
“I’ve advocated strongly for Waimakariri to be part of the extended roll-out and I congratulate the Waimakariri District Council and Enterprise North Canterbury for their work in putting forward a strong case for our area,” Doocey said.
Oxford, Waikuku Beach and fringe areas outside Rangiora and Woodend are included in this second phase of Government’s UFB programme as part of a national $300 million package.
Doocey said Waimak’s rapid growth and mix of peri-urban and rural areas, as well as the opportunities presented by the vibrant regeneration of its town centres, made ultra-fast connectivity essential in continuing to build on the success of the region’s profile.
“As local MP, I’ve been working hard to drive forward connectivity in Waimakariri, whether it be advocating for constituents individually in the electorate, securing cabinet upgrades in Ohoka or a whole infrastructure upgrade in the town of Pegasus,” Doocey said.
“Waimak enjoys many cottage businesses in areas that are outside our urban centres but for which connectivity is essential. This is great news for business productivity,” Doocey said.