North Taranaki Midweek

Working together for Taranaki’s future


Disclaimer: This article is sponsored by Glen Bennett MP, funded by Parliament­ary Service.

New Plymouth MP Glen Bennett says he never planned to become a politician, but supporters persuaded him he could make a difference.

“In fact, I was asked several times and said no each time, partly because as a community champion I felt I didn’t fit the mould of a lawyer or a business person. But then I realised it is the House of Representa­tives, and therefore having representa­tion in parliament is really important, so I finally said yes to putting myself forward.”

Bennett became Labour MP for New Plymouth in 2020, at the age of 45. He sees his role as an extension of the work he has already done in the community sector.

“It’s being a champion for people, and it’s ensuring that those who often don’t have a voice are actually heard. I’m really passionate about social cohesion, ensuring that our communitie­s are stronger together.”

Bicultural­ism and supporting iwi are important pillars for the community, and he sees a big future for the

Maori economy. Bennett has worked alongside Ngati Te Whiti, one of the hapu in New Plymouth, to build a new marae at Nga Motu beach. “For the first time since the 19th Century, we will have a marae in New Plymouth, which we don’t currently have.”

Bennett is also a strong advocate for WITT, the Western Institute of Technology Taranaki. “When the future of work is constantly changing, I believe WITT plays a crucial role in our region to ensure that people have the skills, the qualificat­ions needed,” he says.

Recently, the Ministry of Social Developmen­t partnered with WITT and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, to help build the

workforce needed for the onstructio­n of Project Maunga, a new six-story wing at Taranaki Base Hospital housing many of the acute services.

The collaborat­ion will involve recruiting, training and upskilling local workers along with local education and training organisati­ons, providing support for site workers and connecting with iwi groups and industries.

“The project leaves behind not only a hospital but a trained community of apprentice­s. In some ways this is going to be the biggest legacy of all,” says WITT CEO John Snook.

Shovels in the ground

Another area Bennett believes is vital is building better infrastruc­ture. Shovels are in the ground to improve the road between Bell Block and Waitara and make it safer. “Even though there’s been big investment, there’s still a lot of challenges around our roading network and ensuring it’s up to scratch.”

He is also proud of “the blue highway”, a joint initiative between Port Taranaki and Port Nelson to move freight by sea.

“We are working with those in industry to ensure that the key skills we have, and have created over many years in our energy sector, remain in Taranaki as the clean energy centre – going into the future.”

This means working alongside science and innovation with partners such as

Ara Ake, New Plymouth’s very own energy centre, and innovative initiative­s such as Venture Taranaki ‘Branching out’ program which is diversifyi­ng the region’s existing food and fibre offerings.

Investing in the health sector is another critical spend. “The biggest investment we have ever put into health was in this year’s budget. The good news is we already have money committed to the new wing of the hospital being built, but it’s realizing how do we keep investing in the health service, particular­ly mental health.

“We had a careers expo, and thousands of students from around Taranaki came. Mental health definitely was the top issue for young people when we were asking them what are the challenges they were facing. So, it was making sure we have money there but it’s making sure that we get the money to the right places and right people, I think that’s a big challenge for us.”

Bennett enjoys being part of the government and the Labour team, and is determined to keep making a positive difference.

“I love being able to take the local voice down to Wellington and to share it with my colleagues, being able to get the ear of ministers, and give them on-theground grassroots perspectiv­e of what is going on for us, being able to continue championin­g the causes of Taranaki, to be as loud a voice as possible for the people of our region.”

For more informatio­n, see:­tlabour

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