The political landscape of the West Coast Tasman region in New Zealand has always been one to watch, with its unique blend of economic and environmental challenges. Maureen Pugh, the National Party candidate for the region, recently spoke about these challenges with REX host, Dominic George.
Pugh spoke about the impact of the high cost of electricity in the region. As she explained, the price of electricity is around 25% higher in the West Coast than the rest of the country. This not only burdens the residents but also poses a significant obstacle to attracting big industries and businesses, which would bring much-needed job opportunities for the local youth.
"We have very, very high electricity prices, so anything that any of those big industries need energy. And because we're so far from any of the big generation, we pay about 25% more for electricity," Pugh revealed.
Pugh also highlighted the closure of the polytech, resulting in a decline in extra education and training opportunities for young people. The loss of this educational institution has also triggered an exodus of youth from the region, contributing to a regional decline.
"We lost a lot of great staff because of the unsettled environment they were in, and so now for extra work and training. You know, the kids have got to leave the coast," she noted.
While the West Coast faces several challenges, Pugh is optimistic about the future, especially with the talent influx into the National Party. She spoke about the 23 new MPs joining the party, describing them as having "real-world experience" and "real-life skills" that will be a great support to the party and the region going forward.
"We've got 23 on-site at the moment and I can tell you, Dominic, the capability of some of those people is outstanding," Pugh stated.
With the special votes yet to be counted, Pugh is cautious but hopeful about her role as a potential caretaker for the West Coast Tasman region. However, the challenges she has outlined – and her determination to address them – offer an insightful perspective into the future of this captivating part of New Zealand. As she put it, "We've got some reality checks coming."
Listen to the full chat between Maureen Pugh and Dominic George above.