OPINION: I remember spending quite a bit of time at Fieldays in my earlier years.
In fact I recall so many local kids going to Fieldays that schools tried to coincide teacher only days to avoid us all skipping school.
While it's quite different now, much less mud than back in the day, it remains a real highlight in the calendar for people from both town and country and that's the real magic of Fieldays.
Today I have the honour of officially opening Fieldays and will join thousands of New Zealanders from around the country in a celebration of our rural communities over the next few days.
This year I look forward to seeing more, a bit more quickly, and with a lot less front-loading than last year. Although I can confirm Fieldays is very easy to get around while heavily pregnant.
This is an opportunity for me to listen to what matters to our productive sector, to see the innovations that we are rightly proud of, and share in the celebration of exceptional value growth ($5.7bn export record in March!) that ultimately helps all New Zealanders.
It's also a time to demonstrate the Government's backing for our country's primary sectors.
New Zealand's food and fibre is renowned around the world. People are willing to pay more for New Zealand made because they expect environmental, animal welfare and labour credentials that are second to none. We will protect and build on that.
Pushing ahead with our progressive trade agenda has and will continue to open doors to new markets for our exporters.
At home, in the Wellbeing Budget we invested $229 million into a productive and sustainable land package that acknowledges there is a big ask on our primary sector and rural communities to manage some big environmental challenges. We believe the biggest issues are on the table now and this is about putting practical advice and support out there for our rural communities.
We're also investing in global research alliance work to find ways to get on top of our long-term climate changes challenges and the impacts of that on our productive sectors.
This work sits alongside other efforts to deal with long-term environmental challenges, such as enhancing fisheries management, legislation to tackle greenhouse gases, phasing out single-use plastics, greater funding for predator and pest control, and support for sustainable tourism growth.
Mycoplasma bovis has also showed us we have to bolster our biosecurity system and we are – with an extra $12.3 million plus an extra $21m directly to stop the spread of wilding conifers.
The government's backing extends across our rural communities.
Last time I spoke with a group of rural women they singled out mental healthcare as the key issue for their community. That was not an unfamiliar story.
So top of mind for me, when working up the Budget's billion dollar mental health package, was how our new, frontline mental health service would work for rural communities.
That's why one of biggest parts of that package is putting mental health services into GP and medical centres so it is accessible, with an extra $20 million into tele health so phoneline services and digital appointments are amped up because we know people are isolated from those services.
I know this will make a difference to people's lives.
Just like so many New Zealanders, we're focused on leaving the country in great shape for the next generation, and the one after that.
It's good to be visiting home. See you at Fieldays.
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister