Lower North Island Conference

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I'm back in Wellington after a great weekend -- I joined about 150 other National Party members in Palmerston North for the 2016 Lower North Island conference.

Highlights included the post-Budget speeches by Prime Minister John Key and

Finance Minister Bill English, who took the time to elaborate on its steady-as-she-goes theme, as well as explain why the health, education, and science portfolios were awarded the bulk of the $1.6 billion in extra spending.

They reinforced the message that this year's financial plan continues to be all about investing in a growing economy while ensuring that the Government also supports families and the country's most vulnerable.

The PM and Bill were typically realistic about not spending money the country doesn't have but were, at the same time, upbeat about the way the economy is faring. And we all know that it's faring particularly well in a troubled international context, especially when it's compared with that of our neighbours across the Tasman.

Regional chair Bernard Cleary deserves praise for the conference agenda, which was very interactive, allowing delegates to ask questions across a broad spectrum of issues.

Time was set aside, for example, for debate on regional remits, which ranged from a Young Nats' bid to have less discriminatory adoption law reform (passed) to a Rangitikei attempt to have the Government influence the exchange rate (lost).

This year, too, ministers and senior MPs who had been asked to talk about their portfolios, parliamentary or party responsibilities, were joined by several outside panelists who saw the world in a slightly different light.

Duncan Small, from Air New Zealand's sustainability team, for example, said the airline faced several challenges, including its use of carbon. He said it was focused on keeping that within check, given climate change, and that Air NZ intended to swap its, albeit small, vehicle fleet to electric vehicles before too long.

Dr Shakim Shakur, whose expertise is in international trade deals and who lectures on the subject at Massey University, told the conference that this country had no option other than to be part of the TTPA. He said it risked being left behind trade-wise had it not signed up, which is what Labour continues to advocate.

In a session on regional economic and business development, Rob Morrison from Infratil, which has a two-thirds slice of Wellington International Airport Ltd, butted heads with Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce over the airport company's intention to lengthen its runway. Theirs was an interesting exchange ...

Party business took up some time on Day 2, including the uncontested re-election of Bernard as regional chair and reminders from fundraising manager James Austin and party general secretary Greg Hamilton about the importance of fundraising, building party membership and preparing for election year 2017.

We talked, too, about using digital media, such as Facebook, for connecting with our members and other Kiwis who share our vision and our values, in conjunction with more traditional methods, such as leaflet drops and and door-knocking.

My thanks to all those party members and supporters who attended the LNI conferenced from Ohariu and took part in the debates and other functions. Next on my agenda, apart from important work in the House and around Wellington for National, is the party's 80th birthday celebration at the annual conference, this year in Christchurch next month.

I hope to see you there.

In the meantime, if I can help in any way, feel free to contact me at brett.hudsonMP@parliament.govt.nz, phone me on (04) 817-9239 or visit either my Johnsonville office (Level 2, 29 Broderick Rd) or weekly clinic in Tawa (Tawa Community

Centre, 5 Cambridge St).

Brett Hudson,

List MP based in Ohariu