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Anderton Address To Local Govt Forum

Hon Jim Anderton Speech Notes

Partners In Economic Development

Address to local government economic forum

9.20AM, Thursday, 5 April 2001
Duxton Hotel,
Wellington.


In early February, the Prime Minister and I went to the Hobsonville Air base in West Auckland to announce a new super yacht facility.

It will generate up to 400 high-skill jobs and as much as $650 million in new export earnings for New Zealand.

The project came about because this Government is taking a new approach to economic development.

Last year an expat New Zealander, Bill Lloyd, told us that he had a full order book for his company.

He could expand his operation in Canada, but he wanted to bring the project home to New Zealand.

Hobsonville was the only viable site: It had vacant land, access to deep water, proximity to supply firms and a supply of skilled labour.

But he faced a series of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

He needed a quick decision from the Government on the future of the air base.

There were issues with the Public Works Act, involving the rights of former owners.

There were resource consent and planning issues associated with the local council, and there was much more.

It would normally take at least five years to resolve all of these issues.

But these super yachts are in demand because we won the America’s Cup.

The next America’s Cup will be long gone in five years.

So he asked if there was anything we could do to bring the project to New Zealand.

The Ministry of Economic Development went to work.

It co-ordinated activity across nine different government departments.

We had to ensure that the rights of other potential users were preserved, and we had to be careful to follow due process.

But we also had to ensure that the project went ahead without delay.

We managed to pull it off.

It will mean a significant economic boost for West Auckland and for New Zealand.

The project is a significant example of the Jobs Machine in action.

It’s what we mean by the government’s commitment to partnership with industry and with local government.

We are working together across the public and private sectors , as well as getting the various arms of government working together better.

It’s been a quarter of a century since we last had a developmental dimension in economic policy at the central government level.

For much of that time, local government, regions and businesses have been working on strategies and plans for development.

Central Government has been the missing player.

The success of economies like Ireland, Finland, Scotland and Taiwan have been driven by hands-on economic development policies.

Thirty years ago, New Zealand and Taiwan both exported about a billion dollars a year of agricultural commodities.

Today we have grown that thirty-fold.

Taiwan has grown its exports 125 times in the same period.

They have become a significant developed economy exporting mainly high value manufactured products.

New Zealand is the lowest exporter of complex manufactured goods of any developed country.

I don’t want to go into party politics, particularly.

But when you look at the facts it is amazing that the Opposition parties remain implacably opposed to economic development.

Partnership between central and local government and the business community is mainstream common-sense in successful economies.

This government is not copying the approach of Taiwan, or Ireland or Singapore.

But we are learning from them.

We have established the Ministry of Economic Development and set up Industry New Zealand with a budget rising to $100 million a year.

The Scottish Development Agency, Scottish Enterprise, in contrast, spends $1600 million a year on industry, regional development and skills training for high-tech industries.

I had dinner last Sunday with the Singapore Economic Development Board.

They have some $180-billion of cash reserves available.

Our industry and regional development programmes are comparatively very modest.

We are starting out small and therefore we can’t do it all, or even most of the work that needs to be done.

Instead, the Government’s contribution has to be a catalyst for others to lever off.

It means we need a partnership between central and local government, and with communities and industry to transform the economy.

As was said at the first local government forum, never have there been more former local body politicians in the Cabinet.

I’m one of them.

The significance of the heavy local body representations is that never has there been more commitment to partnership between central and local government.

The government at all levels needs to work together to ensure that the new opportunities for regional development are maximised with urgency.

This Government is committed to strong vibrant regions.

New Zealand won’t have a strong national economy unless the regions are strong.

We are committing to regional development through a Regional Partnerships Programme.

Regional development is about developing a shared and inclusive vision for a region.

One that is owned by the community, business, iwi and local government.

Local government is in a unique position to help to guide this process.

It can facilitate links between the public and private sector and ensure their activities are co-ordinated.

Local government has lengthy experience – especially compared to central government.

The regional partnership programme looks to local government to set out on a mission to identify opportunities in regional priorities.

I was in Dargaville a few weeks ago, opening the field days there.

There were excellent examples on display of a genuinely inclusive regional development process.

There was a stall where people could find out more about the programme.

They were able to make their own comments right there about proposed regional development priorities.

The Northland region is well down the path of developing a strategic economic development plan.

It has agreement between local government, local iwi and local business.

Northland recognised the value of co-operating to develop a consistent regional economic strategy even before the Government announced its Regional Partnerships Programme.

The Mayoral Forum sponsored the project and the Community Trust put up $100,000.

A specially formed Maori Task Group is helping with the kaupapa of the
process.

Consultants have been working since December, and a sustainable economic development strategy is now well under way.

This is a strong regional development process, and it is a true partnership of local government, business, iwi and community groups.

They’re pulling together to work in the same direction, rather than competing with each other to make use of the same public resources.

I want to see Northland’s inclusive process repeated around New Zealand.

There should be robust public debate under way in every region about priorities for development.

That isn’t happening in enough places yet.

I want to encourage regions to take the debate out to the community.

The approach has to be ground-up.

Solutions need to come up from the community, rather than being imposed from the top down.

A ground-up approach allows regions the greatest freedom to develop ideas that work for them.

There is no shortage of innovative ideas and we should be prepared to consider them.

In my own party’s election policy, we envisaged a huge range of possibilities, including development parks and even enterprise zones.

Regions should be looking at these sorts of initiatives, and bringing them forward for consideration.

If regions can get whole communities to buy into proposals, then the Government will look at the part we can play.

Industry New Zealand will work with you in developing strategic plans and putting them into practice.

Industry New Zealand is there to facilitate, to provide leadership and co-ordination where it’s needed, to provide advice and – where necessary and appropriate – to provide funds.

We want local and national programmes to complement one another.

I have visited thirty regions around New Zealand now.

I have made a commitment to each of them: That if you come across obstacles where the Government can play a part, then I am available to help.

The aim is to find priorities for sustainable employment and economic development, and local government has the potential to be a leader in the partnership management process.

If local government is going to carry out its responsibilities in capitalising on the new regional development opportunities, then legislative change is required.

The old prescriptive ‘Thou shalt not’ mode will not be inadequate.

My colleague Sandra Lee has an ambitious legislative review work programme under way to modernise and further democratise local government.

Key aspects of the review include an examination of the functions that local government should be able to undertake in the 21st century.

A detailed discussion document on proposals for reform of the Local Government Act has been timetabled for release in late May or early June.

The government proposes to allow 3-4 months for consultation on the review.

A new Local Government Bill will be introduced into Parliament in late November or early December.

The Bill will be referred to a select committee before Parliament rises at the end of this year.

The select committee will then hear public submissions on the Bill's provisions.

The review of the Local Government Act was always going to be demanding.

The old Act is one of the largest on the statute books.

It allows local authorities to undertake only specifically stated activities.

It often goes further in laying down exactly how these activities must be actioned.

That approach is Dickensian.

It is no basis for the local government sector to build a modern economy in partnership with central government.

I welcome the recent publication by Local Government New Zealand entitled Unleashing the Economic Development Potential of Our Communities.

It examines the role of local government in economic development.

And it describes what is needed in order to achieve the potential of local government.

The ideas behind it are similar to those that the Government is promoting.

We want councils to be empowered to be able to engage in regional development.

We want a restoration of trust in governance and in those who hold the reigns of democracy, both at central and local government level.

The future is in our own hands.

I am fond of saying that no one but New Zealanders will have the responsibility for the well-being of New Zealand.

The same is true of local communities.

I was in Moerewa last year, and I was humbled by the approach of the local community.

That is a small town which has been devastated economically over the years.

The freezing works went, shops and services disappeared.

It is a story all too familiar to so many towns and even regions around New Zealand.

Moerewa has been through as much as anywhere.

And when I went there, they said to me ‘Mr Anderton, if you can help us then we will welcome that. But even if you can’t we are committed to Moerewa. This is where we are from. We are going to build a future for ourselves and for our kids here.’

I went to Te Kaha, which is a very small community on the northern side of the East Cape of the North Island.

One of the old kaumatua got up and pointed out the window to the ocean.

He said, ‘our ancestors waved to Captain Cook as he sailed past there. One day our mokopuna will wave to the astronauts as they head off into outer space. This is our home. This is where we are from and we are committed to this community.’

For me that summarises the spirit of regional development. That's about as good as it gets.

It is about the sense of identity that New Zealanders have with their own communities and their commitment to achieving it.

It is about working together to create security and opportunity.

Economic development is about realising the vision that New Zealanders have for the future of their own communities.

It is a journey, and it is one that is never over. There will never be a time when we can say that we have done enough. But it is a journey that we can now say we have begun, and it is one that we are undertaking in partnership.

Ends

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