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As local MP I was impressed by the turn-out of hundreds of volunteers from the Student Volunteer Army (SVA) to plant native trees and clear weeds at the Styx River Catchment in Belfast recently. Congratulations to SVA president Sati and his team for co-ordinating such a successful event in support of the local community. I enjoyed chatting to volunteers and having a closer look at the work they undertake, and acknowledging what they do when I spoke at the event. Thirty-five species of native birds live in the fragile Styx Catchment and it was great to see everyone making such a positive impact on this area.

I enjoyed attending the Rare Breeds and Heritage Lifestyle Day at Willowbank on Sunday. It was a great opportunity to have a look at New Zealand’s rare breeds and to hear about the work undertaken by the Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand.

I’m inviting our principals and school communities from across the electorate to a public meeting to look at proposed changes to schools under Government’s Tomorrow’s Schools programme on Wednesday 3 April at 7pm in the Ruataniwha Kaiapoi Civic Centre in Kaiapoi, so please do attend to hear what the proposals will mean for your school. We’ve raised some serious concerns about the potential transfer of power from parents to officials.

Changes to apprenticeship and trades training are causing concerns that polytechnics in the regions will be short-changed. From next year, trades-training apprenticeships will be managed by polytechnics as they were almost 30 years ago. I believe this is a step backwards as today we recognise industry is best at training industry. Regional polytechnics like Ara will be centralised into one large national polytechnic in Wellington and all decision-making for Ara will come from Wellington. We are consulting New Zealanders on their views and I would love to hear from you.

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