THE last few days of the parliamentary recess were interesting, enjoyable and inspiring.
The interesting bit came about with a visit to Tauranga last week where I spent a day learning all about our burgeoning kiwifruit industry.
New Zealand exports 400,000 tonnes of kiwifruit a year, which equates to 132 million trays, each containing 33 fruit.
We began our day with a most interesting visit to Bruntwood Farms' kiwifruit orchard, and from there we went to one of two Apata pack houses in the region. The Apata Group is a fully integrated post-harvest operator with the capacity to pack and store both kiwifruit and avocados.
The Government has contributed $25 million to support the kiwifruit industry in their successful recovery from the PSA virus. While we are by no means the only country producing kiwifruit, we do it best, and this is most definitely a promising industry with a bright future.
On Thursday I attended a truly inspiring farewell function for our delegation of 36 Special Olympics athletes who were on their way to this year's World Games in Los Angeles, which are on from today until next Monday.
Each of our athletes was presented with their special Games cap at a ceremony attended by the athletes, coaches, support staff, and friends and family. As chair of Special Olympics New Zealand, it was my privilege to be a part of this occasion.
I am especially delighted that Sue and I will be travelling to Los Angeles at the end of the week to watch some of the competition. The Games will host 7000 athletes from 177 countries across 27 different sports.
The Special Olympics movement was launched more than 40 years ago by Eunice Kennedy Shriver who was a pioneer for the rights and acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities. It continues to go from strength to strength, changing lives along the way.
Over the weekend I spent some time at the Home Show in Palmerston North, which this year drew record crowds of people whom I am sure were happy to escape the wintry blast of weather and lose themselves among the many and various exhibits. It was a most enjoyable couple of days. I also had occasion to spend a couple of hours in the accident and emergency department at Palmerston North Hospital on Saturday evening. There were anywhere between 60 and 80 people there and I must commend the staff who were simply outstanding despite everything that was going on.
This week MPs return to Parliament following the two week recess. Over the weekend I'll be at the National Party annual conference, after which Sue and I head to the States to watch our athletes in action.
You can follow our team on Twitter at @SpecolympicsNZ, or on Facebook. They are an inspiring group who deserve our respect and our support.
" As chair of Special Olympics New Zealand, it was my privilege to be a part of this occasion."