From the Beehive with MP for Southland Joseph Mooney

OPINION: It is incredible how large and truly diverse the Southland electorate is.
Over the past month, Ive attended 12 National Party branch AGMs across the electorate, from Te Anau to South Otago right over to Queenstown and Alexandra.

As the largest general electorate in New Zealand, no two days are the same and issues are often very different.

Two major concerns which have been a high focus for me since being the elected MP for Southland has been the primary sector being inundated with draconian rules and regulations and the struggle some of our communities are in due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In particular, Te Anau and Queenstown, which many of you will be aware are in dire situations due to our closed borders.

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Some of the latest figures released from the Ministry for Business and Employment show tourism electronic spending was down 35 per cent in January this year from 2020 and a hefty 52 per cent down in Te Anau.

I know of 11 businesses in Te Anau which have already been forced to shut their doors due to not being able to survive any longer financially.

Almost a third of businesses in Queenstowns CBD dont expect to survive until winter.

Last week, I hosted Nationals Spokesperson for Tourism Todd McClay in both Te Anau and Queenstown to listen to the concerns of our community.

What was clear from these meetings is our community needs clarity and transparency from the Government.

Any direction given at this stage would be better than the current situation, where businesses associated with the tourism industry in Southland are being left to fend for themselves with no answers.

National is calling for the Government to open the trans-Tasman bubble with Australia and provide much-needed relief for our desperate tourism sector.

National leader Judith Collins said last week New Zealand and Australia have both done well to reduce the threat of Covid-19 and we should now take the logical next step and get the travel bubble up and running.

Australia has proven a bubble can work.

Its time New Zealand took urgent action to save our tourism sector.

For our primary sector, there is also uncertainty surrounding the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater.

Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger, who is Nationals Spokesperson for Rural Communities, and I recently met with members of Groundswell and Southland Federated Farmers.

We talked about the work of the Pomahaka Water Care Group.

It is a prime example of the work farmers have been doing to improve water quality in the south.

Recent data shows how the efforts of farmers in this catchment have been paying off, with fantastic water quality recorded at the vast majority of monitoring sites along the river.

To support farmers like those in the Pomahaka catchment, Invercargill MP Penny Simmonds and I wrote to the Environment Minister highlighting some concerns raised by southern farmers.

We have asked the Minister for clarification on when a decision will be made about the recommendations put forward by the Southland Intensive Winter Grazing Advisory Group.

These recommendations relate to re-sowing dates, pugging, slope and farm plans.

There is although further uncertainty surrounding bills like the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill and reports such as the Climate Change report.

Our farmers are our caretakers of the land and our true conservationists working incredibly hard to do better by the environment and to improve water quality.

Its about time they were treated as such.

* Joseph Mooney is the MP for Southland


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