There are many reasons that people get involved in politics. One is the chance to advocate on behalf of a local area, as I’ve been fortunate enough to do for the Helensville and then “Kaipara ki Mahurangi” electorates these past 6 years.
Another is the chance to influence policy at a national level. Mostly this happens in Wellington through a series of select committee hearings, speeches in Parliament and discussions in caucus rooms. The government of the day has earned the right to put its policies into law, which is currently the other side of the aisle from where I sit.
Every now and again the planets of local advocacy and national level policy align.
I’ve recently been given such an opportunity with appointment as the National Party spokesperson for Cyclone Recovery.
The government response to flooding and other storm-related damage in areas like Helensville will be crucial to the long-term prospects of this area. When I say “government”, of course I mean local government as well as central government. It probably goes without saying that liaising with other key players – such as insurers and banks – will be vital too.
My advocacy for northwest Auckland and my other areas will focus on getting a fair deal for those affected by recent extreme weather events, along with decision making for the future that avoids similar pain.
The key challenge for those affected by the extreme weather will be compensation for loss, where this isn’t available via private insurance. Part of the issue is that policy terms usually don’t compensate where there hasn’t been property damage but the property as a whole isn’t usable. That’s the situation facing my constituents in areas like Muriwai and frequently flooded areas.
The rural lens will be important as well. Farmers in the Kaipara Hills area and elsewhere have been telling me about huge additional costs incurred where stock feed has been needed to replace grazing land. And then you have the EQC focus on land damage within a certain short distance from a dwelling, ignoring the rural reality that land owned by the farmer away from the house is just as valuable as that nearby.
We have our work cut out for us. We can only hope to succeed by facing these challenges together, staying in touch about what’s needed and speaking clearly and loudly with one voice.
Let’s make sure the North-West and surrounding areas are heard.