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Unlocking regional potential - Anderton Speech

Hon Jim Anderton
6 April 2001 Speech Notes

Unlocking regional potential
31st Regional Visit

Speech notes for the Ruapehu District

Taumarunui Memorial Hall
Corner of Hakiaha and Turaki Streets
Taumarunui

It is a pleasure to be in the Ruapehu District again.

In the last day I have again seen some of the sights and met the people that make this area special.

This is my 31st regional visit as Minister of Regional Development and my second to this district.

This region, including Wanganui and Rangitikei, has recently qualified for Regional Partnership Funding.

This region is an example for other regions and has been one of the first partnerships to receive funding under the Regional Partnership Programme.

I am pleased to see that you are already well underway in the strategic planning process and are identifying ways to move forward together.

Having visited nearly all the regions in the country I am starting to draw some conclusions about the keys to unlocking the potential of our regions.

In the last 30 years the New Zealand economy, and indeed the world economy has changed rapidly.

We have been moving from relying on exporting unprocessed primary products to an economy that uses high-skill, job-rich, and high-income commodities.

Although we are good at producing raw commodities, the real price of those commodities is falling.

It has been 27 years since this country paid its way. The last time we had a balance of payments surplus was in 1973.

While the main centres have struggled to try and turn the economic tide, we have neglected our provinces and our rural communities.

As I have travelled around New Zealand it is clear that we have left our regions behind. You here have paid that cost.

The last 20 years have seen regions lose jobs, hospitals, schools, banks, post offices and people.

This is something that all of you here already know.

I am convinced that we need to know that for this country is to pay our way in the world, and build a future for all New Zealanders, we cannot continue to ignore our regions. We need to work together.

For our All Black team to be the best it can, we need strong Super 12 teams, strong NPC teams and strong club teams.

Regional Development is like creating strong Super 12 regional economies.

This means developing our industries and our businesses and most importantly encouraging the innovation and creativity of our people.

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.

One of the dangers is that too often in this country we don't listen to our own people. It seems we need to hear things from people overseas.

At the end of last year I met with the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore. Singapore is a country to which we used to provide overseas aid. However in the last 30 years, with very little in the way of natural resources, Singapore has targeted and addressed the barriers to economic growth to the point that it has huge cash reserves.

Yet the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore told me that he envied New Zealand. And if we have something they envy then we need to take note. I asked him what it was that he envied about New Zealand. His reply was it is the ability of kiwis to be innovative and creative.

When we want people who are creative and innovative, he said, we go to New Zealand.

This brings me to another observation I made during the intensive work of the Tairawhiti Development Taskforce.

The East Coast is an area where there are significant economic challenges.

But as the Taskforce met and we listened to more local people it became clearer that people had answers.

Meeting after meeting local people came and told us the nature of the problem and proposed innovative and useful solutions.

Many of these people had been saying these things for years.

Some had never been asked.

Up till the Taskforce, made up of local Councils, iwi and central government, there was no one to listen.

In all our regions and across our economy we need to have processes, as in the Ruapehu, Rangitikei and Wanganui partnership, that captures ideas and uses them.

We are trying to do our part as well to assist regions and individuals with ideas.

As well as the Regional Partnerships Programme Industry New Zealand has a number of programmes available to develop bright ideas from the regions:

The Enterprise Awards Scheme offers small businesses and entrepreneurs the chance to apply for an award of up to $20,000 to expand and create jobs.

Two Enterprise Awards have already been granted to the Manawatu-Wanganui region but I would like to see more;

The Industry NZ Investment Ready Scheme gives innovative small businesses and entrepreneurs a better chance of raising finance in the early stages of development.

The Business Growth Service assists businesses and sectors to realise their high growth potential through accessing advice, expertise and information from Industry NZ.

The objective of the Business Growth Service and Fund is to make specialist expertise, information and other selected inputs available as an integrated package to firms and groups of firms in order to improve their key competencies and accelerate their growth.
There are other ways government can assist.

For many years, Government has not been available as a partner for New Zealand communities in economic development. I am here as the representative of this Government to assist you to work through your issues in the 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 of being believed.

However Government commitment is not enough. As a community we need to change the way we view success.

We've all heard of the tall poppy syndrome, or the kiwi clobbering machine.

We need to overcome this.

When I have finished this speech we will be recognising the successes of some local businesses with some local awards.

These businesses and others like them are a key to our future.

Awards are ways of recognising our achievements and encouraging others to achieve as well. We need to believe in ourselves.

And it's not necessarily about money.

In February 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 signficant 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 that and this has resulted in export orders from overseas.

Much of the support that Industry New Zealand and the Ministry of Economic Development provide is simply advice. Some people just need to hear that their ideas are good ones, or that they have what it takes.

If we are going to have a country that is confident in its own unique culture. We need to encourage business and individuals.

We need to celebrate and reward our successes.

We need to be proud of what we do and the unique, distinctive way we do things.

We need to unlock the potential of our regions, our businesses and our people.

Thank you for inviting me here today.

Ends

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