A Word with . . . Joseph Mooney, Southland MP

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My last column focused on our electorate’s need for equitable access to health services and
or the most part that means a significant upgrade in hospital and maternity services in Central Otago.

Because of our incredible landscape and weather extremes in this part of the world, access also refers to physically getting people in need to those services.

Snow hitting our region earlier this week highlighted just how challenging it can be for our community, especially those in rural and more remote areas, to get where they need to be, whether they are in an emergency situation or just in daily life.

The Government can’t control the snow and we wouldn’t want them to, given how much the Central Otago economy relies on its skifields.

But it can control where hospitals and healthcare facilities are built and the country’s transport budget.

It is not just our community’s health and wellbeing that relies on a well-established roading
network, it is vital for the entire Central Otago economy.

Transport and roading is an issue the Labour Government simply doesn’t understand.
Several recent announcements demonstrate this.
The first is the Government’s underfunding of Waka Kotahi-NZ Transport Agency.

The Central Otago District Council already runs an efficient roading budget but it is facing a roading budget shortfall alongside several other councils in the Southland electorate.

At the same time, the Labour Government has promised to build a cycle bridge across the Auckland Harbour with a price tag of $785million, which is simply staggering.

I am sure I am not the first person in our region to wonder how far that money would go to make our roads safer and more efficient.

Of course it would mean hundreds of kilometres of gravel roads could be sealed and major safety upgrades to highways across Central Otago.

To make matters even worse, the shortfall has come at the same time the Government is questioning the legitimacy of the vehicles we need.

Petrol and diesel-powered four-wheel-drive utes are not just essential for getting workers around the farm and to and from trade sites, they are vital for those in remote areas to navigate snow-coated roads, like we have had this week.

The taxing of these vehicles and the subsidising of EVs has come without consideration for the current vehicle market and for New Zealand’s landscape.Electric vehicles undoubtedly have a big future in this country but the Government should wait until practical EV alternatives are freely available in the market instead of penalising families, farmers, tradies and businesses across New Zealand.

Whether readers have an EV or a legitimate ute, they will soon be able to drive to my new Alexandra office, opening in just a matter of days. The official date is subject to final interior work being completed.