Last Thursday I joined Waitangi Day celebrations in the Far North. Waitangi Day means different things to many New Zealanders, but for most it is seen as a special day historically and a time to celebrate our Nation’s history. I also think it is a time to look forward to New Zealand’s future as a multi-cultural and ethnically diverse country with so much opportunity. This Waitangi day I gave a speech emphasising this Government’s focus on building opportunities for New Zealanders as we move forward as a country. In particular, I spoke about the National-led Government’s success in accelerating settlements between iwi and the Crown. This is an important part of redressing past wrongs and empowering iwi to look forward and seize future opportunities. Last week we also welcomed some great news on the economy, while I visited Waitangi before departing for Australia to meet with Prime Minister Tony Abbott. The latest employment figures released show this Government’s plan for the economy is working and the benefits are becoming evident.
Unemployment dropped to 6 per cent and is now lower than in most OECD countries, there were an extra 24,000 people in work over the last quarter alone and there is now a record number of women participating in the workforce. Our welfare reforms of the benefit system are also working. Around 1,500 people each week have been supported off welfare and into work since the reforms began. National has a clear focus on helping New Zealanders move off welfare and into independence and it’s great to see this making a difference. Over the last few years, this Government has responded quickly to major events like the global financial crisis and the Christchurch earthquakes and carefully managed the economy so that New Zealand families can look to the future with optimism. While we are moving in the right direction, as a country we need to remain focused on encouraging investment, jobs, and growth to ensure a better future for all New Zealanders.