New Zealand

I'm writing this from the far side of the world.  Parliament has prorogued this week, ahead of the Queen's Speech, and I've travelled - not at the taxpayers' expense! - to New Zealand.

I've been meeting ministers and officials, visiting farms, attending the Royal Show, and discussing environmental policy.

In case anyone thinks this is a junket, do glance at the diary on my website.  Going almost straight to a briefing on your arrival in a foreign country after more than 24 hours on four planes, followed by an entire day of official meetings, definitely isn't a holiday.

There is much to learn from this small country.  New Zealand led the world with its economic liberalisation in the 1980s.  It pioneered the central bank independence which we adopted.

It has also championed the environment.  In a speech to Canterbury University, I argued that this 'clean and green' approach is needed globally to tackle climate change.

It's surprising to discover that New Zealand, which we think of as being lush and fertile, is short of water in some places.  Dealing with this problem while also maintaining the nation's lifeblood as an agricultural exporter will be a major challenge.

So, too, will be reducing carbon emissions from New Zealand's farming, which account for over half of the nation's total.

I announced that if there's a Conservative Government, we would join a new global alliance, launched by Prime Minister John Key, to share research into how to reduce farm emissions while improving productivity - essential if we are to feed the world in future.

Everywhere I go here, I'm reminded of New Zealand's historic links with our country.  On Tuesday we drove past Arundel - pronounced 'A - run - del' by the Kiwis.  Today we've been looking at South Downs sheep.

Our countries are similar in so many ways.  So could another parallel be imminent?  A year ago, after nine years of Labour rule, New Zealand elected a young and charismatic new conservative Prime Minister.  The British people will soon decide.

Michelle Taylor