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A Call Centre, A Bank, And Three Fire Engines

Hon Jim Anderton Speech Notes
Speech notes for the Electralines Business Breakfast Forum

Jim Anderton's 26th regional visit since 12/99

Good morning.
Judy Keall MP, Mayor McCloy, Councillor Brendan Duffy, John Denton, Warren Theismann, Tony Rush and local business people.

Thank you for the invitation from the Electralines Business Breakfast Forum and Enterprise Horowhenua. I am pleased to be in Levin and Horowhenua today.

One of the benefits of being the Minister of Economic Development is that I don't have to spend all day every day in the Beehive.

I get to visit a region nearly every week and this is my 26th major regional visit since this Labour Alliance Coalition Government was formed.

Without exception I have found a warm welcome in heartland New Zealand and the experience shows me that Kiwis are positive about the future.

I know you are all busy people and you have made your time available. I know you are prepared to be here because you are committed to your region and to New Zealand.

The last time I was in Levin I opened the expanded call centre for Contact Energy. Contact Energy made a commitment to this area and to creating higher skilled jobs for local people here. I understand the centre has added much to the local economy and is proving a great success handling calls nationwide for Contact.

At that time I invited companies to site their call centres in New Zealand rather than overseas, and to site them in smaller communities.

The more facilities that there are in small towns the stronger our communities will be. The more facilities and commercial activities a community has, the stronger its economy. Communities all over New Zealand are working to attract and retain things like call centres, businesses and banks.

This brings me to a subject which I think hasn't had nearly enough media coverage; the kiwi bank.

The kiwi bank is now a reality. On Tuesday the Labour Alliance Coalition Government approved NZ Post's plan to establish the new publicly-owned bank.

New Zealanders want some of our strategic assets to be owned in New Zealand. They are tired of branch closures, rising fees, and the profits from banks going overseas.

This new bank will open early next year. There will be over 300 new branches opening, and fees on average 28% lower than existing bank charges.

The bank will be set up as a wholly-owned subsidiary of New Zealand Post, with its own board. Details of the bank¡¦s operations, including its name and branch locations, will be finalised by the independent board of the new bank.

There is a double benefit; not only will New Zealanders receive better banking services, but over time the bank will significantly enhance the value of New Zealand Post and help it to retain its position as a very successful public enterprise.

The business case for the new bank is strong and it has been supported by independent scrutiny.

The Government will provide New Zealand Post with an immediate cash injection of $72.2 million and forego up to $6 million in dividends this year. Once the bank starts to make profits it will exceed NZ Post's target rate of return on shareholders¡¦ capital of 11.7%. After a decade, the bank could be worth $500 million with an Internal rate of return of 23.6%. Already since 1987 the Government has received dividends of $468 million from NZ Post.

The bank will have a positive effect on the New Zealand economy. It will push down bank fees, meaning millions more dollars more will circulate in the economy. Second, it will help to rebuild regional New Zealand by opening services in areas where previously they were closing.

This is one tangible Government move to help New Zealanders and create stronger communities and regions.

When the Labour Alliance Coalition Government was elected in 1999 we knew there was a lot to be done.

The challenges included:
„h restoring people's faith in Government;
„h addressing a broad range of social issues, such as health, education, social welfare and housing;
„h developing our economy to support all New Zealanders and develop a sustainable future for our children and our land.

We have made economic and regional development, and getting New Zealanders to work, a priority.

Those of you here today are in the front line in getting our economy moving. I want to offer you my commitment in your efforts to help your region.

Helping one area does not mean ignoring another. If we build stronger regions the overall economy is stronger. A win ¡V win, not a win-lose scenario.

Our towns and communities are the backbone of this nation and our economy ¡V and we forget this basic fact at our peril.

I am clear that the future of New Zealand lies in the hands of New Zealanders. If we need to, we can put together international partnerships, attract foreign investment, and work with technology from overseas, but Kiwis are our major asset and building on our skills and advantages will create our future.

The key factor is partnerships. The government will, where appropriate enter partnerships with private sector businesses, as well as local and regional government, local and regional communities.

We now have Industry New Zealand to create these partnerships and provide advice and programmes to help people in business or with business ideas.

Often the value of specialist advice and expertise is not fully appreciated.

Last week I inspected the first of three new locally made fire engines going from Lower Hutt to fight fires in South Australia. The successful company, Fraser Fire and Rescue, received some advice on contracts from Industry New Zealand.

What was significant for this company was that they had all the know-how and capital needed to make them very successful. What they lacked was specialist contract preparation experience. Industry New Zealand was able to provide the necessary advice and this has resulted in export orders from overseas.

This Labour Alliance Coalition Government has made available a range of assistance measures for business and industry.

There is BIZ, the business assistance programme, the Enterprise Awards Scheme providing up to $20,000 for assisting businesses and entrepreneurs to create jobs, there are other programmes such as the Major Investment Service and the Business Growth Service.

In the next weeks Industry New Zealand will announce the results of the second round of the Regional Partnership Programme which provides up to $2 million for major regional initiatives and smaller amounts of up to $100,000 to assist regions with strategy development. The Horowhenua has applied to be part of this scheme.

There are other ways we can get our economy moving.

On Waitangi Day I was able to float some ideas for improving education.

These included suggesting waiving student loans for science and engineering students if they stay in New Zealand, working with industry to make training free and ensuring adequate support or employment is available for students over summer.

Another issue I raised was making it easier for people to move off benefits into paid employment. We can lower the rate at which social welfare benefits are reduced as a person earns money from other work. So we don't penalise beneficiaries who try to get work.

I know the Government is not going to halve abatement rates immediately. So we might think about a trial in a region, or regions.

We could ask regions to nominate themselves. We could say to Northland or the East Coast, or the Horowhenua, 'what are you prepared to do if the Government's contribution is to make it easier for beneficiaries to move back into the workforce?' We could trial something like this in a geographical region and then examine the results.

You may have other ideas and initiatives you wish to discuss. I look forward to hearing them today. Or you can contact my office or the Ministry of Economic Development.

We are listening and your input and solutions is the key to our future.

As a nation we have to realise that change is up to us. We need to work together to create the New Zealand that we want.

We need to make sure that our achievers are encouraged and have a chance to grow.

For many years Government has not been available as a partner for New Zealand communities in their aspirations for economic development. I am now able to bring Government to you to listen and to see how we can help you in a spirit of co-operation and partnership.

For the first time in many years a Minister in a New Zealand Government can say "I'm from the Ministry of Economic, Regional and Industry Development and I'm here to help" with a real chance I'll be believed.


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