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Nelson has got 2019 off to a ripper start. The Bay Dreams Festival had Nelson pumping. The Black Caps win at Saxton Field over the Sri Lankans was impressive. Nelson again won the annual sunshine crown for 2018. The summer events just keep coming with UB40 and the Nelson Buskers Festival this next week, the Aorere Enduro International mountain bike event and Nelson Food and Wine Festival in February and Bryan Adams and the Craft Beer Festival in March. We are a happening region rather than the sleepy hollow of yesteryear.

These events reinforce the value of our community in investing facilities and infrastructure. I have been very supportive of our councils developing facilities like Trafalgar Park, Saxton Field, the Great Taste Cycleway and Nelson Airport including securing millions in Government funding.  

The downside of this scorching weather is the developing drought. The Tasman Council this week ramps up it water restrictions from Stage 1 to Stage 2. The problem for orchardists and farmers is that the soil moisture monitoring by NIWA on the Waimea Plains is already showing drought conditions. There is already signs of dangerous algae growing in the Waimea River caused by low flows and warm water. My greatest achievement last year was getting the legislation through Parliament for the Waimea Community Dam. Construction begins next month. We need nature to treat us kindly with enough rain now and for the next two summers until it is completed in 2021.

I began my political work year with my annual speech to Rotary. I floated five ideas as National’s Electoral Law Spokesperson on how we can strengthen our democracy. Liberal democratic values are being tested throughout the world with the dangerous rise of extremism and increased foreign interference in elections.

I proposed entrenching New Zealand’s full Electoral Act so it requires a 75% majority or referendum to make changes. It is an abuse of power for parties in Government to amend electoral law so as to help them win the next election.

The second change I want is to ban foreign donations. New Zealand’s democracy is ours and should not be open to manipulation by any offshore interference. A third change worth considering is a referendum on a four-year term. The problem with our current short term of three years is that the first year is spent getting a handle on the job, the second doing it and the third trying to get re-elected.

I also propose tasking the Electoral Commission with running Council as well as Parliamentary elections so as to improve the participation rate and integrity of local elections. My final proposition was deferring the electoral boundary changes due to last year’s failed census not counting 400,000 people and bringing the next census forward to 2021.

I love engaging with people on ideas of how we make Nelson and our country a better place. My full Rotary speech is available at Nick4Nelson.nz and I welcome any feedback.

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