The Story Then
Our very first front page story for 2021 featured Labour MPs Jamie Strange (Hamilton East) and Gaurav Sharma (Hamilton West). This electoral term marked the first time since 2005 that a Labour Government has held both Hamilton seats. We asked the pair what can Waikato business people expect? The train link to Auckland was top of mind, but they also talked about goals to invest in transport, housing, and health.
The Story Now
It’s been a big year – and a challenging one for many. Across 2021, the Government has focused on protecting lives and livelihoods as the pandemic has evolved, while also making progress on some of the long-term issues facing New Zealand. We’ve been working hard to ensure that the everyday concerns of Hamiltonians are part of the conversation.
In January, we spoke with the Waikato Business News about our goals to deliver a more liveable Hamilton – by investing in transport, housing, and health. Since then, progress has been made across each of these areas. There’s more work to do, but it’s great to see initiatives underway to keep our beautiful city a wonderful place to live.
At the start of the year, getting the new commuter rail service to Auckland up and running was one of the biggest things on our radar. So, we were really stoked when Te Huia – which has the potential to replace up to 73,000 return car trips each year – launched in March, with further changes to the service announced recently.
We’ve also made progress in housing. New Zealand’s housing crisis has been decades in the making, and it will take time to turn around – but our Government has taken steps this year to ease pressures in our market and tilt the balance in favour of whānau and first home buyers. We’ve extended the bright-line test and we are phasing out a long-standing loophole that benefits property speculators over first home buyers. We’re funding infrastructure like pipes and roads to get housing developments built faster through our Housing Acceleration Fund, and we’re cutting red tape so more homes can be built, faster.
We’re also building a record number of public and transitional houses. Hamilton is set to get up to 640 new public homes and up to 320 transitional housing places, which will ensure more people have a safe, dry place to call home, and will also create local jobs.
Youth mental health support in the region has received a boost, and the health reforms the Government has kicked off will enable more Hamiltonians to access the care they need, when and where they need it. Te Whare Whakapiki Wairua, a new alcohol and drug treatment court, has opened in the city, and is providing wraparound services to address the reasons for offending.
COVID-19 has made 2021 a difficult year for many in Hamilton, but the Government has worked hard to provide wage subsidies and other business support to protect jobs and boost our economic resilience. We heard a lot of positive feedback on the COVID response at the roundtable with businesses that the Prime Minister attended recently.
Thank you to everyone who have done their bit to keep everyone safe. We have worked closely with organisations in Hamilton to help with Super Saturday and the ongoing vaccination efforts.
It’s awesome that Waikato DHB has flown past the 90 percent first dose milestone, and that our community has transitioned so seamlessly into the traffic light system. This new way of managing COVID-19 allows us to look forward to a summer with fewer disruptions, and to look ahead to a new year with greater opportunities.
by Labour MPs Jamie Strange (Hamilton East) and Gaurav Sharma (Hamilton West)