Two years and 10 months is a very short period of time, and yet a remarkable amount can happen.
We started as three parties campaigning in the 2017 election, often on very separate issues but often on areas for which we could all agree, and from the moment that we emerged from negotiations with our confidence and supply agreement and our coalition agreement, it was clear to New Zealand where those issues were, where the consensus was, for this Government.
We believed in regional economic development. We believed in addressing the housing crisis. We believed in swimmable rivers and turning them around within a generation.
We believed in tackling child poverty, decades worth of issues that compound inequality, and we believed that we could be world leaders on the issue of climate change.
This Government was formed because we believed that New Zealand could be and should be better and kinder, and two years and 10 months later, here we are having passed, I understand, close to 190 pieces of legislation. If there's proof of considerable consensus in a Government, it's the fact that we've passed more legislation than comparable Governments over the last four terms, as I understand, and, along the way, prompting a lot of interest from the Opposition given they asked us 111,600 questions—and I understand about 100,000 of them went to Shane Jones alone.
Despite being one of the purest forms of MMP Government that New Zealand has seen for some time, we have made landmark decisions. We passed the zero carbon Act and set up a framework for the future, carbon budgets that I know will make a difference for generations to come.
Early on, we made a decision to look forward, to set a path around fossil fuel extraction in New Zealand that said there would be no further offshore oil and gas exploration. We invested in Taranaki and their transition plan, opening a new energy research centre and investing in a hydrogen roadmap for the future of New Zealand.
We came to a landmark agreement with primary producers over dealing with some of the biggest contributors to our emissions profile in New Zealand.
No one else in the world has been able to do what New Zealand has done.
We passed child poverty legislation, and much more than that: of the nine child poverty indicators in New Zealand, seven out of them are now improving under this Government. We know material deprivation is one of the hardest to turn around, which is why we're investing in things like food in schools to make a direct difference to those families. We passed essential freshwater reforms, and I acknowledge the efforts of David Parker, because that has been an intensive, generation-changing piece of work that will make a significant difference for those many, many years to come.
We are building more houses than any Government since the 1970s, and not only were we on track and are on track to meet our goal of 6,400 public housing places; we've now extended ourselves and said with the COVID recovery and rebuild, we want to build another 8,000 houses to house our families.
We are investing in regional infrastructure up and down the country. You will find projects that are making a difference to communities. Whether it's the pool in Naenae, the surf club in Tai Rāwhiti, or the rugby club for Poverty Bay, these are projects that create jobs and contribute to community wellbeing. We have made the most significant changes to mental health this country has ever seen.
We not only have invested over a billion dollars in mental health; we've started the rollout of new front-line services and training those individuals who will make a difference to make sure that people, when they need that help, can get it at their iwi provider, at their GP, wherever and whenever they need.
We've increased paid parental leave. We brought in the winter energy payment. We have indexed benefits to wage increases. The Children's Commissioner said some of these changes would make the biggest difference to child poverty that we have seen in decades.
Even alongside that, we've seen in this House abortion law reform, changes to make sure that every single child in New Zealand will learn New Zealand history—the things that make a difference to people's lives. We have done all of that whilst also, pre-COVID, getting our debt down to under 20 percent relative to GDP, getting our unemployment levels down to some of the lowest levels in a decade, and some of the highest private sector wage growth we had seen in a decade. All of that had prepared us for what was to come.
In many, many ways, this term will be remembered for what was unplanned as much as what was planned, and in acknowledging that, I actually want to acknowledge, first and foremost, the community of Christchurch and, of course, our Muslim community across Aotearoa New Zealand; I want to acknowledge the community of Whakatāne, because those tragedies, 15 March and Whakaari / White Island, first and foremost, were tragedies that happened in those places to those communities, and we will never forget that.
Through all of this, though, has been our coalition partner and our confidence and supply partners.
We would not be here without you. Of course, during this campaign, there will be lots of sprinkling of dust and glitter and whatever else we may choose to call it. There'll be lots of shovelling of other figurative things. None of that, for me personally, will ever diminish what this Government and these three parties and these leaders have achieved, and so I say to the Deputy Prime Minister, I say to Marama and to James, thank you. Thank you to New Zealand First, and thank you to the Greens.
I'm immensely proud of what we have collectively done for Aotearoa New Zealand. I also want to pay special tribute to those members of those parties who have not been Ministers but MPs. I know sometimes your positions have been amongst the hardest, and I want to acknowledge that your contribution has been as important in this Parliament as any of ours.
I now wish to finish with words of thanks. I start with my own team. They are exceptionally hard-working, they are grounded, they are here because of their community, and they are strong. I acknowledge all of you, my Labour team. To the people who work in this place—to the Speaker; to the Clerk's Office; to those who work in our parliamentary offices, from Hansard to libraries to Bellamy's; we'll have a chance to come back and say thank you, but for all of this term and keeping this place powered and your democracy working, you have our thanks.
Finally, this election is not what we had planned. It is fair to say this campaign that we're about to embark on is not the campaign that we planned and prepared for six months ago, nor will our manifesto be the same as it would've been had we released it in January of this year, but that is the reality of politics and the reality of this world that we're living in right now.
But I can tell you this: the values that we campaigned on in 2017, the aspirations that we had coming into this place, remain unchanged. Our plans to keep creating high-wage jobs are as important now as they ever were.
On supporting our job creators; on ridding this country of child poverty; on making a transition to a clean, green, carbon-neutral economy; we've started that journey, and now we want to finish it. Let's keep moving.