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Region’s wishlist lengthens

Wairarapa already stands to gain from such pre-Budget commitments as funding for the long-awaited upgrade to the rail network, and cyclone relief.

But as Budget Day dawns, there’s also hope there’ll be further announcements of government beneficence that will benefit the region.

Wairarapa Secondary School Principals Association chairperson Simon Fuller said the promise to build 300 extra classrooms is one thing, but the state of the current buildings – which “are ageing and have leaks” – needs to be remedied “in a timely manner”.

It is also imperative the government invests in teacher recruitment, a robust strategy for teacher training, and better mental health support in schools.

“Teachers are trained to be teachers of a subject in secondary schools but more and more they’re supporting kids to be resilient,” Fuller said.

With the global GP shortage adding pressure to general practice, Tu Ora Compass Health’s chief executive Justine Thorpe is unequivocal about the need for a funding uplift to combat inflation – in line with an independent review that found a 9 per cent increase is needed to maintain services – as well as “promote affordable and equitable access to general practice” and to “train, recruit, and retain the general practice workforce”.

Wellington Free Ambulance [WFA] chief executive Dave Robinson said, like any essential health service, the organisation is hoping for increased funding.

Although government currently funds 82 per cent of WFA operations, increased demand means increased costs. Last year was the busiest on record, with more than 250,000 calls, and “2023 has shown no signs of slowing down”, Robinson said.

Meanwhile, Business Wairarapa general manager Nicola Belsham said the cost of living needs to be addressed, and noted the region’s high number of small and medium-sized businesses means it is “highly impacted” by increased costs compared to bigger businesses in metropolitan areas.

“We would also hope to see a move on marginal tax rates,” Belsham said.

Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell said he hopes to see health spending prioritised, as well as specific support in the form of Waka Kotahi subsidies for road reconstruction following Cyclone Gabrielle, given current council estimates that $17.1 million is required to repair the network.

South Wairarapa District Council’s mayor Martin Connelly and interim chief executive Paul Gardner and Martin Connelly agreed, adding that a continuation of the Mayor’s Taskforce for Jobs scheme would also be welcome.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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