My values are Labour values.

I want to help build a stronger, more caring society. I am passionate about Dunedin, and I bring considerable energy and wide experience to the task of representing this electorate.

My diverse work background has given me an understanding of the economic and social levers that can be pulled to achieve meaningful change.

Please read some of the discussions included here. I welcome your comments.

- David Clark

Stand Up Otago

DC in Tiger MothDunedin North Labour MP David Clark at Signal Hill yesterday as a Tiger Moth towing a stand up Otago banner flies past yesterday afternoon.Collecting for Victim SupportGeorge Street Normal School FairSouthern Sinfonia does Mozart and DvorakSextet at Big Sing launch Dunedin Town HallWith friends at McGlashan FetePirates at Port Chalmers Seafood Festival

Stand Up Otago: Together we’re stronger!  I’ve had some fun spreading the message via an aeroplane banner, and in my everyday – supporting events like the George Street Normal School Fair, the McGlashan Fete, the Southern Sinfonia’s Mozart and Dvorak concert, and the Port Chalmers Seafood Festival.

On the Invermay front, Agresearch and Minister Joyce must now respond to the clear message sent from the Otago community.  The Minister has been presented with a well researched case, outlining what’s at stake for New Zealand as a whole.  Let’s hope in the meantime that no news – is good news.

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Government rethinking Invermay

With luck the Government is rethinking its decisions on the AgResearch proposal to remove 85 jobs from its Invermay site at Mosgiel.

In AgResearch’s last Corporate Statement of Intent, Bill English as Shareholding Minister signed off on a new footprint for AgResearch that clearly foreshadowed the subsequent announcement on Dunedin job cuts.  On the face of it, either English was happy to sacrifice rural productivity in the South for other Cabinet wins, or he was simply outmaneuvered by Steven Joyce.

Whatever the case, I would be first in line to congratulate the Government if it had a serious rethink.

The proposed shift to Lincoln represents a phenomenal waste of taxpayer money.  Not only would a highly productive local hub of students, researchers and successful companies be destroyed, but the costs of building a new one (north of the $17 million to build the current facility which was built to state of the art specifications just 5 years ago) will be borne (all over again!) by the taxpayer.

Invermay photo

We need high value, high wage jobs in regional New Zealand.  Dunedin needs *more* of the type of research and industry clustered around Invermay, not less.

Last time AgResearch went down a similar path, it expected 25 scientists to shift from Wallaceville to Invermay.  In the end just 7/25 made the move: a trifling 28%.  Those close to the action this time around are predicting similar outcomes if the new proposal goes ahead.  Around 70% of staff say they won’t shift.  Top scientists will head overseas, or will cast about for jobs in top-ranked research universities like Otago.

If this hub is dismantled, not only Dunedin, but NZ as a whole will be the poorer.

 

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School buses from bad to worse

School bus services North of Dunedin have taken another blow.

This Government’s arbitrary decision to reverse its understanding of rules governing access to a free bus service, is producing perverse outcomes and creating financial stress for families.

Teenage years can be challenging. No parent who has settled a student into a school wants to disrupt the friendships and support networks their child draws on to ensure a positive learning environment.

Natural justice would dictate that at very least, those currently enrolled will be supported with the same service throughout their schooling. But the Government is ignoring these concerns.

Blueskin Bay community families with children settled in Dunedin Schools are facing a tough choice: financial stress caused by an approximately $2000 per student transport bill, or costs and relationship stresses caused by forcing their children to change schools.

For none or minimal savings, the Government is reducing school choices. It is picking winners and losers on the basis of the colour of their school uniform.

The Government has ignored the concerns raised in the public meeting I hosted in Waitati in March this year. It needs to come to the party and listen to the needs of the community.

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Servants Health Centre

Free Dunedin GP service Servants Health Centre is running a $1000 to $1500 monthly deficit.  This is unsustainable. The practice on Princes Street caters to some of the neediest people in Dunedin.

In a recently published article, I have asked what the Government is doing to support services like Servants Health Centre who practise holistic care and meet the needs of lower socio-economic groups who can’t pay for care?  See: Plea for funds to sustain Servants Health Centre.

Servants Health Centre GP Dr Lik Loh (second from right) chats to Labour List MP Steve Chadwick (left) and Dunedin North candidate Dr David Clark, with practice nurse Sandy Gorman. Photo by Peter McIntosh.

The centre has always faced funding challenges. This was true when I visited the centre in 2011 with then MP Steve Chadwick. But the practice can no longer afford to take new patients, and many who need the service are missing out.

Doctors and nurses at the centre are all volunteers. So they can’t take salary cuts.  The medical staff at Servants make every taxpayer dollar stretch further than you would think possible.  Surely you would think funding the modest cost of their practice would be a priority in our health system.  It seems not.  The centre is threatened with closure due to a gap between costs and current funding.

The Government can, and must, do better.

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Join Up, Join Up

The Dunedin leg of the Labour leadership contest has been scheduled for this coming Sunday 8 September, 3:30pm at Kings/Queens auditorium.

Recent past members who update their membership by end of 5 September will be able to vote. New members will be able to attend hustings regardless of whether they qualify for the vote.

To join or update membership online, click through to the Labour website.

For those unable to make the Dunedin meeting, the Labour leadership competition has gone “virtual”. Candidates will answer questions submitted by party members in an online hustings meeting. Check out Labour MPs blog Red Alert from 10-13 September.  If you’re a party member you can submit questions by emailing: LabourGenSec@scoop.co.nz

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Dunedin Flats – Best and Worst

I enjoyed judging Dunedin’s best and worst flats competition again this year.  As I say on the TV clip, there is no excuse for cold, damp housing in this day and age. In my post last week, I explained how a regulatory rule to make renting such flats illegal would sort the issue out once and for all.

Dunedin's worst flats

 

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Otago Jobs

The National Government’s neglect for Otago and lack of a jobs plan have combined to exact a frightening toll.

Our local unemployment rate is up 37% on a year ago. The last time there were this many people unemployed in Otago was in Ruth Richardson’s era – 22 years ago. I took the fight for credible regional development to Parliament and asked Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce some hard questions about the challenges facing Dunedin and Otago.  See what you think about his responses…

Joyce’s dismissive tone has not gone unnoticed in the South.

I’m pleased our jobs challenge is getting a wider airing and that Dave Cull is gathering city leaders to take a combined voice to Parliament on proposed cuts at AgResearch’s Invermay campus.

Labour leader David Shearer will also have something to say about the lack of a jobs-plan when he visits Dunedin on Monday to address the 5:15pm public meeting at Knox Church Halls on our NZ Power policy.

 

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Stars aligning on housing

Despite more than a decade of generous Government incentives for insulation, there is still rental housing in Dunedin that is cold and damp. Some landlords have been slow to bring rentals up to a modern standard. This is bad for families that live in them, and bad for the taxpayer.  Preventable illness stops people working and it is a drag on our health system.

Fortunately, appetites for tolerating poor housing are dwindling.  A majority of responsible landlords have already insulated; others plan to. And members of landlords associations are getting sick of slum-landlords giving their industry a bad name.

This has bothered me for a long time. During my time on the Otago Community Trust, I pushed for increased support for home insulation schemes.

Last year, Labour announced that when in Government, we will introduce a rule requiring all landlords to meet minimum insulation, heating and ventillation standards. The rule gives landlords five years to get up to scratch. No bureaucracy required. Thereafter, a house that doesn’t meet healthy housing standards will be illegal to rent. Simple.

Now Mayor Cull has indicated enthusiasm for a local bill to address poor housing – along similar lines. Local student bodies are behind the push. It looks like the stars are aligning.

Update: Campbell Live has now broadcast an excellent report on Dunedin housing and the local bill.

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Government contempt for Dunedin

The National Government needs to explain why our region is not seeing a fair return on its taxpayer investment.

health region_otago

Recent cuts at Invermay will have a chilling effect on the local economy as investors in research partnerships and plant, eye the dead-end ahead.  Skilled researchers will look for opportunities abroad and agriculturally-based or interested businesses will reconsider whether Otago is for them.

Nearly 10% of New Zealand’s economic output comes from South of Christchurch, with a corresponding burden of tax sent North to Wellington.

But the benefits due Dunedin taxpayers are not flowing back from Wellington. Government and State Owned agencies have made deliberate decisions to make cuts at each of Hillside, Department of Conservation, CYF, Fisheries, Immigration, Housing, IRD, Police and New Zealand Post.  How could this be seen as anything but a deliberate and cynical programme of service-removal from Dunedin?

Investment in infrastructure was one response to the Global Financial Crisis, but none was brought forward in the South.  Further North taxpayers have received funding for roads of so-called national significance, schools, hospitals and the like.

The Government is treating the region with contempt. The shifting of CRI funding away from Invermay is at best neglect of Otago and at worst deliberate policy to further downgrade services in the South. It is a sad irony that it follows so hot on the heels of Government messages about the importance of support for skills and economic development outside the big cities.

Many deliberate choices this Government has made have been bad for Dunedin.

Over the past 18 months, I’ve written a fair bit on the topic [May 2012].  National have treated the regions as a cost [October 2012] and refused to consider the opportunities presented by exploiting their under-utilised infrastructure. Like others, I’m angry at National’s disdain for Dunedin [Jan 2013].

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Driving Wrong Way on the Motorway

Kiwi families are doing it hard. I hear many stories about those who are struggling to pay power bills and meet rent – and that is just from those who are are fortunate enough to have a job. The National Government’s bad economic management – and view that cuts should hit those at the bottom of the heap – is having disasterous consequences in Dunedin, as it is around the country.

I’ve had plenty of feedback on a speech I gave today.  It ranges from compliments about my analogy, to concerns about the creases in my tie.  Someone suggested the Honda Motor Company wouldn’t be happy. But my beef is still with Bill English and the Key Government’s poor economic management. It is hurting everyday people.

 

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