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Opinion: Where will we be in ten years?

5 November 2001
Opinion article
By Hon. Jim Anderton

Where will we be in ten years?
Regional Development – a springboard for growth

November’s Regional Development Conference has the potential to be a watershed for New Zealand.

At this Conference there is the opportunity to put regional development at the forefront of New Zealand’s economic agenda.

The chance this Conference presents is to develop an economy with dynamic regions which are regarded by all New Zealanders as an essential ingredient to a strong national economy. Every region can capitalise on local strengths and advantages to create jobs and build stronger communities.

I am inviting regional representatives from all over New Zealand to the Conference on 28 and 29 November to consider what our economy could look like in ten years if we realise our full potential. Most regional leaders already have a head start as many are already starting to develop regional partnership plans.

If we do not look ahead, and actively develop our regions, then we are missing out on the chance to create employment and secure an even stronger and sustainable future.

There are a number of strengths that we can build on; our people, our size, and our natural environment.

Firstly we need to make the most of our people and their strengths.

New Zealand has been the home of Richard Pearse and CWF Hamilton, aeroplane and jet boat innovation.

Without question New Zealanders are innovative and creative.

New Zealanders have the ability to be creative like no other nation on earth.

When I met the Prime Minister of Singapore recently he told me he envied New Zealand. He envied us because of our ability to innovate.

This is so important to our future that this Government is organising an innovation conference in Christchurch in March 2002.

I am constantly reminded that New Zealand is not a large country.

There is probably no other nation in the world where politicians and key government advisers are so close to the people we serve.

No other country has business leaders who are so accessible to the staff they work with.

Because there are so few levels of management, our size and our ability to change and adapt are huge strengths.

The second advantage we have is, where we are; our land.

We frequently talk about the beauty of New Zealand.

We all know that New Zealand and our location are unique.

We have rain, soil and land that other countries envy. We have a world beating primary industry.

This gives us advantages in a range of areas such as agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, tourism, leisure products (such as superyacht facilities from Invercargill to Whangarei, land yachts in Tauranga and mountaineering goods).

We have a wall of wood because pine trees grow faster here than almost anywhere else.

Our challenge is to harness our innovative talent and our natural advantages in order to create an even stronger economy.

From my visits around New Zealand I know that we need to work together.

When I first went into the regions to hear what they had to say I found that not only were key organisations in some areas not working together, they weren’t even talking to each other.

The Tairawhiti Development Taskforce, the working group to develop the economy in the East Coast, has been a success primarily because all the major interests are now sitting around the same table and working together in the same direction.

We have Tariawhiti iwi and the local councils, the Ministry of Economic Development, Industry New Zealand, Te Puni Kokiri, DWI, the Department of Labour, the Ministry of Transport, MAF, the Army and all other Government agencies working together with the local people to get results.

We have made good progress in the wood processing industry because we have all of the major companies, the relevant local authorities, union representation and all the relevant Government agencies working together for the first time.

Underlying the success of any of these initiatives is the concept and reality of partnership.

For industries and regions partnership is vital to in order to develop shared goals and work out steps towards achieving those goals.

This is very different from the Asian command economy management and also a long way from the hands-off approach of past New Zealand Governments.

This Labour Alliance Coalition Government has restored balance to our economic management.

We know that we need to work at creating a sustainable environment which supports business, while protecting the land and our people.

My vision for New Zealand over the next ten years is a country where all young New Zealanders are constructively in training or employment – not on the dole.

Where we have an economy with a larger proportion of high paying, high skilled jobs than we have today.

I would like to see innovative individuals encouraged through business incubators, mentoring programmes and strong advisory assistance similar to that beginning to be provided by Industry New Zealand.

An economy with powerful regions specialising in industries in which each has a natural advantage.

In ten years time Nelson could have a stronger international arts and creative tourism industry.

The West Coast could offer a broader range of nature tourism opportunities.

Otago and Manawatu could be promoted around the globe as places of internationally recognised applied education and research facilities.

Gisborne and the central North Island with international centres of excellence with their innovative wood processing facilities.

Canterbury could be more widely recognised as Australasia’s Silicon Valley, and all other regions will be building on their strengths.

Finally I see an economy where we work together. Government, business, industry groups, iwi, unions, and communities all co-operating to develop enterprise and jobs.

This is my vision.

We need to hear what each region sees as its future.

This Labour/Alliance Coalition Government is working to play our part towards creating stronger regions and a stronger economy.

I look forward to the conference and I look forward to the opportunities it presents.

Jim Anderton
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Industry and Regional Development

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