Weekend Sun column
New Zealand is on the right track. It's a great place to live, work and raise a family.
We're making good progress at a time when many other countries are grappling with big economic challenges and deep-seated political uncertainty. This puts us in a position to achieve things we wouldn't have thought possible eight years ago.
The recent South Island earthquakes are the latest challenges to come our way. But working together, we'll overcome them – just as we have with a number of others in recent years.
Our economy is growing – supporting tens of thousands of new jobs and helping reduce unemployment. We're back in surplus and getting better results from important public services like hospitals, schools and social programmes.
Households and businesses across the country remain upbeat, confident in the knowledge they're backed by the Government's clear plan for New Zealand's future.
The strong economy is delivering real benefits. For example, 250,000 extra jobs have been created during the last three years and the average annual wage is now $58,400 – up $12,000 since we were elected in 2008 and more than double the rate of inflation.
Wages are growing faster than inflation, leaving more money in people's pockets, and interest rates are at 50-year lows.
We're in New Zealand's biggest building boom – in the last five years annual residential building consents have more than doubled. In Auckland, they have almost tripled.
Despite lower dairy prices in recent years, other sectors are growing strongly, such as tourism, ICT, construction and high-tech manufacturing.
They're the result of New Zealanders' hard work, alongside the National-led Government's careful and responsible economic management. Our growing economy and surpluses provide us with choices going into 2017; and into the future.
But in a turbulent world, we can't rest on our laurels. We need to press on if we're to build on the good momentum we're now seeing in communities around New Zealand.
That's why Government ministers and MPs are heading into 2017 – and what will be a hard-fought election – energised and with a busy agenda for the next few years. During coming months, we'll announce the next steps in that agenda.
I hope you all enjoy a well-deserved break during the Christmas and New Year period with your families. It's a time for us reflect on the events and our achievements this year. I'll be reflecting on the growth of our region as the Bay goes from strength to strength, which I know will continue in 2017.
I wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year.