National party representative Erica Stanford’s recent visit to Ashburton covered the party’s proposed policies surrounding immigration and education.
More than 70 people attended, including members of local health and education sectors.
‘‘Immigration reset’’ and an education curriculum that ‘‘supports teachers’’ were among the topics talked about by Mrs Stanford claiming she would be pushing to swing the pendulum back should National become the governing body in next year’s elections.
She said she felt people were not happy with the direction in which the country was heading.
‘‘This was supposed to be the year that we would see a light at the end of the tunnel,’’ she said, in reference to the lifestyle and economic challenges inflicted by Covid-19.
She talked about the massive pressure being put on local businesses, stemming from inflation, costs of living, and a nationwide labour shortage. ‘‘People are not choosing New Zealand,’’ she said, in reference to both native and migrant workers.
She talked about how New Zealand should be rolling out the red carpet for migrant workers, but instead is making it it difficult for them to want to come here due to restrictive immigration policies and tedious visa application processes.
‘‘We have the biggest labour shortage in 50 years,’’ Mrs Stanford said. ‘‘Why would we care about giving the partners of skilled migrant workers residency?’’ she said, reacting after members of the public queried how National planned to improve the likelihood of visa approval for the families of migrant workers.
It was something National would advocate for, she said.
Another focus was redeveloping education policies, saying an evidencebased approach with a focus on numeracy and literacy was needed to tackle the decline in educational achievement rates and leave nothing to chance.
She said she had been talking to rural school principals to establish what their needs were, and that going forward it was important to have a rural schools focus.
When asked how her initiatives would benefit rural communities, she said the issues the country was facing were being felt across the board.
‘‘This massive skills shortage that we have is in every sector, it’s in every region and it’s at every skill level as well,’’ she said.
‘‘The anxiety and the exhaustion that business owners are facing is the same everywhere I go.’’
Mrs Stanford said the proposals will be supported by a five step plan to control inflation, which would include controlled government spending and investing in areas that guaranteed a return.
She said National intends to ‘‘take some of that back room spend that doesn’t achieve any outcomes at the moment and direct it at frontline need’’.
‘‘For the first time in five years the mood is feeling really positive out there for change,’’ she said.
‘‘I think the fact that we had a full house today is a testament to the fact that people are interested in politics, that they’re concerned about the direction of the country … they are now out to hear what different parties have to say.’’
The public meeting, last month, was hosted by James Meager, National representative candidate for Rangitata, and held at the Hotel Ashburton.
He said it was important to have Mrs Stanford visiting the community because ‘‘there’s actually some aspects to it and that’s making sure that our local community voice is heard within the caucus of the party and hopefully within the Government.’