I’m an elected Health Board member, Safe Food campaigner, former MP and Chair of Parliament’s Health select committee and an experienced director, on the boards of Consumer New Zealand and UN Women NZ.
As a long-term champion of good health, I’ve led successful campaigns for healthy hospital and school food, improved aged care and the over-use of antibiotics and consumer and clinical input into decision-making.
Our DHB faces big challenges –financial pressures, increasing demands for health services, ageing infrastructure. To tackle these we need to;
- Ensure everyone can access affordable healthcare when they need it, especially Maori and Pacifica, residents in Porirua and Kapiti;
- Focus on keeping people well and tackling the root causes of ill-health such as poverty, poor housing, poor diet;
- Deliver more innovative healthcare in the community; Invest in public, community, mental health and addiction services;
- Ensure staff are well paid and well supported; Improve patient safety and reduce the spread of superbugs;
- Provide better support for our ageing population, and high quality aged, home care;
- Create world-class children’s hospital and a new home-like birthing unit;
- Ensure equity for Maori, Pacifika, the disability community and other vulnerable groups;
- Reduce hospital’s carbon footprint and increase the resilience of our hospital.
Imported supplements threat to tropical rainforests and a concern for consumers and export trade. News that New Zealand cows are being fed genetically modified soy and cottonseed meal has come as a shock to many consumers who imagined our dairy cows were happily chomping away on an exclusive diet of lush green grass.
The Lord Mayor of Wellington. It has a certain ring to it - of gold chains, status, sexism and ancient privilege. But why would we want to import an ancient English title that originates in medieval England, into Wellington? Does Sir Geoffrey Palmer imagine this title would make people think our Mayor was more important than Auckland's Mayor? There are other facets of Sir Geoffrey's report on the review of local government in Wellington that are questionable as well.
Under food industry pressure, the Government is dragging its feet over mandatory 'traffic light' labelling. All around the world a fierce debate is raging about whether food manufacturers should be required to display a symbol on a food label that would indicate to consumers, at a glance, whether food is healthy or not.
The worst-kept secret in Parliament is that the present Speaker, Dr Lockwood Smith, is retiring at the end of the year and heading to London to become our high commissioner there. The assumption is that the new Speaker will be a National Party MP, because for some odd reason it has been an accepted convention that the Speaker should come from the ranks of the party that is in government. And so far all the names mentioned as possible candidates for the next Speaker are National Party MPs - Tau Henare, David Carter and Maurice Williamson.
It always pays to read a Cabinet paper if you want to work out the real agenda behind a new government initiative. The Government's recently released animal welfare strategy, and proposed changes to the Animal Welfare Act, are a case in point. The strategy is full of phrases such as "it matters how animals are treated – it matters to the animals and it matters to us". So it would be easy to assume that the Government has had a change of heart around animal welfare.
Women in Parliament have to endure a torrent of abuse. Australia is always being held up as an example for New Zealand to follow. But who could admire the toxic way they do politics in Australia, or the way politics is covered in the Australian media? Australian politicians have to put up with a level of abuse and vitriol in their media that is fortunately not yet common over here - such as radio personality Alan Jones saying on air that Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard should be put in a chaff bag and taken out to sea.
I seldom watch Question Time in Parliament these days. I sometimes wonder who does, other than the press gallery, parliamentary staff, lobbyists and those with a masochistic streak. It's supposed to be the high point of the parliamentary day - a time when the opposition can grill the government and hold it to account. But more often than not it's a low point - an hour when MPs let off steam by shouting, jeering, point scoring, hurling abuse and bickering with each other.
The decision by supermarket giant Foodstuffs New Zealand to force its suppliers in the Wellington region to pay a 3 per cent "promotions rebate" on every product they sell in a supermarket highlights the need for some transparency and scrutiny over the way supermarkets do business in New Zealand.
Some of the leading figures in the global campaign to get genetically modified crops accepted around the world, have been in New Zealand this week. They were keynote speakers at the International Conference for Agricultural Biotechnology, which Dr William Rolleston, Vice President of Federated Farmers, claims is the 'biotechnology equivalent of the Rugby World Cup.' I am sure they all took the opportunity, while here in New Zealand, to lobby the government and key industry and farming figures, about GM technology, and why New Zealand should embrace it.
So the Government has capitulated to lobbying by the alcohol industry, and will no longer set limits on the amount of alcohol in alcopops or Ready to Drinks, as they are called in the trade. I feared this would happen when, 18 months ago, a smooth talking Australian lawyer representing Independent Liquor flew in from Sydney to speak to the select committee that was hearing submissions on the Alcohol Reform Bill.