THE year has got off to a busy start and by all accounts the Rangitikei is in good heart despite a particularly dry summer.
In February I visited every town in this extensive electorate, which makes for a lot of driving. I spent some time in Taumarunui and Ohakune meeting with constituents and talking about all sorts of things. I really enjoy seeing and hearing first hand what's happening in our region and I'm always heartened by the innovation, resourcefulness and sense of community spirit that's out there.
Parliament resumed in early February and I seized an opportunity to talk about matters affecting rural and provincial New Zealand and in particular the Rangitikei, during the debate following the prime minister's statement.
A couple of other highlights for me over the last few weeks were the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfield Park and being a spectator at a World Cup Cricket match.
The grand prix was held at Manfeild Park a few weeks ago. It was won by young Canadian driver Lance Stroll from a field of 16 overseas drivers and three New Zealanders.
This event is one of only two grand prix events that are not part of the formula one calendar the other is the Macau Grand Prix so it is a very special occasion. It is run entirely in Toyota race cars and is the signature race of the Toyota Racing Series. It attracts many millions of dollars into our regional economy. Toyota New Zealand have both promoted and sponsored the New Zealand Grand Prix over the past ten years and it has now become a renowned spectacle in its own right. Our region has worked very hard to retain this event and at this stage we have the hosting rights until 2017.
My congratulations to everyone involved in the planning and organisation. It is a fantastic day of action that is now paying a very real local dividend. It's definitely well worth the trip south if you're keen to be in on the action next year.
I went to the Scotland v England World Cup Cricket match in Christchurch. A great atmosphere, a fantastic group of volunteers running the show, a superb ground and everything was very well organised. The undoubted highlight for me however, was the opportunity to spend five minutes talking with the New Zealand cricket captain Brendan McCullum, along with his wife and children.
McCullum is an outstanding New Zealander who feels excited and privileged to be leading our amazing team in this world cup. I was especially delighted to be able to tell him that he hit 50 runs while I drove the 14km from Feilding to Palmerston North an amazing feat in itself! On a more serious note last week the prime minister made a statement to Parliament regarding the Government's decision to deploy a noncombat military training mission to Iraq to contribute to the international fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis).
I have no doubt that this is the best decision.
To do nothing to try and stop this brutal and inhumane group was definitely not an option.