Recently, I met with trustees of the Whanganui velodrome, local business leaders, Whanganui District Council representatives and potential investors to discuss the future of the cycling track.Re-roofing the complex has been talked about for some years now, and the focus remains on securing funding to rejuvenate this notable local facility. A roofed velodrome, renewed track and facility expansion will reinvigorate Whanganui city and region with a multi-event centre as an asset to New Zealand's cycling and attracting use for multiple sports including rowing, in-line skating, tennis, netball and many other community initiatives - concerts, performances, both private and public functions. It is a project of massive potential for our city, particularly as Whanganui undergoes exponential growth and development. It sits hillside adjacent to the Sarjeant on Pukenamu/Queens Park - both fantastic community assets. The two facility projects complementary, interlinking and connecting sports, culture, heritage, community and economic opportunity exponentially. And standing soon to receive the flow on from Whanganui's presence at the World Expo in Dubai 2020.
I ended 2019 with celebrations, notably marking the arrival of Air Whanganui's third air ambulance and acknowledging Taranaki and Whanganui's sporting stars - past, present and future. It was a privilege to meet and toast our top athletes who represent our districts and New Zealand in their disciplines. I know well – from the many years of my own attendances as a former student and adult athlete (netball, tennis, athletics, basketball and touch rugby) and then as a coach and manager – the time, effort, focus, discipline, strategy and training required. Congratulations to the nominees, inductees and winners. All winners in my view.
The addition of the third vessel to the Air Ambulance fleet will aid the growing demand and pressure on the service and continue to save lives. Last year Air Wanganui transported 1100 patients around the country, more than double the number three years ago. Congratulations and gratitude to CEO Dean Martin and the Air Wanganui directors, management, crew, staff and WDHB emergency team. To Whanganui's Air Ambulance Trust and donors who contribute to and enable the services – your value is valued as invaluable. As MP for Whanganui – over a lifetime of local community engagement and service, also inter-generationally – it was special to be a conduit of shared enduring Whanganui family associations and relationships.
Whanganui played host to the Labour Party conference in November. Regrettably I was in Australia on Parliamentary service, advocating and carrying Whanganui's interests also. I expressed to a few of my Parliamentary Labour colleagues, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (while we two were at the U2 concert in November), that I had intended to welcome them to my rohe/tribal and electorate region as National Party MP and as rangatira mana whenua of Whanganui with local and national interests and relationships to the fore. Although not agreeing with many of the policies of this Government, I still afford and accord courtesies and tikanga, especially at my place of Whanganui where generations of my ancestors stood before me in kind and like – my papakainga, my turangawaewae, my electorate, my community and my people, all of which and whom I value greatly. My husband Dean (also mana whenua) attended the powhiri in my absence.
My billboards in Turakina, at the Whangaehu Hill, in Eltham, at the Fields Track/Parapara juncture and on the back of several local buses greet and acknowledge you all – "Ko koe he iti kahurangi" – I value you.