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Local Government NZ Conference

Hon. Jim Anderton

28 July 2003 Speech notes

Local Government NZ conference

2.00PM Monday, 28 July 2003.

- Basil Morrison, President of LGNZ
- Clive Geddes, Mayor of Queenstown Lakes District Council
- Cabinet and Parliamentary Colleagues
- Delegates

It’s been over three years since I first set to work with the regions of New Zealand.

I know when we first started out that many of you were sceptical.

It’s worth looking back at how far we have come.

But not everything in New Zealand has changed.

I was in Europe recently.

I asked many of the Government and private representatives I met: ‘who is against government partnership with industry and the regions?’ They didn’t understand the question. I explained that in New Zealand, it is controversial for the Government to get involved. Everyone I spoke to was incredulous; they found such opposition hard to believe.

We need to finally bury the failed the policies of the past.

Many European countries are poorly placed to meet the challenges ahead of them.

But in my view New Zealand stands at the threshold of magnificent opportunities.

This is not a remote job for the government to do while you cheer us on.

If we want New Zealand’s new economy to emerge, we need to continue to change.

New Zealand needs to become more tolerant of risk-taking.

Ministers don’t usually like to say that.

The real failure is complacency in the face of poor performance.

The economic performance of Maori and Pacific New Zealanders is one example.

I heard the opposition finance spokesperson say something about this recently.
He said that the increasing numbers of Maori and PI New Zealanders means we will have more low income New Zealanders.
He accepted poor economic performance among those communities as a given.
I say we have to see this as an opportunity – our secret economic weapon – and do better.

This is a crucial issue for every local body too.

Acceptance or complacency about the performance of Maori and Pacific populations is a barrier to New Zealand’s social and economic development.

Why do we accept that some schools provide children with better opportunities than others?

Drugs and alcohol are another barrier to our development.

Next month I will launch two key reports from the Ministry of Economic Development.
One highlights all the steps the government has taken in the last two budgets to increase growth and innovation in our economy.
The other is a report about New Zealand’s economic performance from a growth and innovation perspective.

Both reports have an unsurprising overall message.

Lifting the performance of the economy as a whole means lifting the performance of individual regions.

I want to stress the importance of the Regional Partnerships Programme.
It is designed to help each region to build on its most competitive resource-based advantages.
Many regions have developed major regional projects aligned with their comparative advantages.

Northland’s major regional initiative in tourism is a good example, as are:
* Waikato’s innovation park.
* The Central North Island’s centre of wood processing excellence in Rotorua.
* Hawke’s Bay’s food processing centre of excellence.
* Commercialisation of biotechnology research in the Manawatu.
* Marlborough’s international winemaking centre of excellence.
* Taranaki’s applied engineering centre of excellence.
* And Southland’s soil and climate research and development.

All are different and all are complementary.

The Regional Development Conference in Timaru in September is another important opportunity for the Government and regions to talk about opportunities.

Regional development is working much better.

The government is also focusing on building the conditions for long-term economic growth

Our infrastructure is one major element.
In the last three years the problems of under investment and neglect in infrastructure from the previous 30 years have come home to roost.

New Zealand invested only a fraction of what was needed in infrastructure in the 1980s and 90s.

Current forecasts are that the Crown will invest about $14 billion in social and economic infrastructure over the next four years.

Government departments will spend about $3 billion on defence equipment, corrections facilities, new school buildings and maintenance.

* And around $4 billion will be spent by State owned enterprises such as Meridian, Genesis and Transpower on additional energy generation and communication networks.

* $6 billion will be invested through Crown entities like hospitals, Housing New Zealand, and, of course, on new road construction by Transfund.

Investment in roads is a priority issue.

Project probe is extending high-speed Internet to every school, so that all regions will have access to modern telecommunication networks.

In the last Budget I announced a stock-take of New Zealand’s infrastructure.

The Government needs to work in partnership with industry and regional New Zealand to get our infrastructure priorities right.

We also need to get the regulatory conditions right.

We need to ensure best-practice consistency in the application of the Resource Management Act.

There also needs to be some realism about the need for development.
* This issue sprang to mind this year when I heard it being seriously argued that New Zealand doesn’t really need more power stations.
* We will need them all right if we want our economy to develop.

Almost every day we hear in the news people who are opposing some form of development or another.
In too many cases they are actually opposing jobs and opportunities for our young people.
Too often it is a case of the comfortable sitting on existing privilege.

Local Govt has a crucial role in all this.
Local government has a role in leading development that works for the whole community.
But central government must also give a lead to local and regional communities about our most urgent national priorities, such as energy generation.

Many councils are now involved in writing economic development into your long term council community plans.
I would like to congratulate those Councils playing a strong role.

Many others are working hard through initiatives such as the Mayor’s Taskforce for Jobs.

Everyone has a role in developing our economy.
Partnership between government and communities and industry is crucial.
An economic performance just one per cent better than it was for each of the last thirty years would now have provided this Coalition Government with:
- A fully employed economy;
- $4.5 billion a year in extra investment in the health system;
- $3.5 billion in education;
- 100% more funding for our road and transport systems; and
- Savings of up to $2 billion a year in unemployment benefits.
- (Just like you heard Paul Keating say this morning that Australia has achieved.)

You have been entrusted with power to provide leadership in your communities.
The government will work constructively and co-operatively at your side.

I said earlier that we have a magnificent opportunity to seize the day.

New Zealand needs to accept our most challenging goal: to push our country up into the first rank of nations, and take every New Zealander with us as we travel there.

I have stood many times with most of the local body leaders in this room. No time is more important than now.
The possibilities stretching before us offer hope for the future of New Zealand.

We are more than political leaders.

Our duty is to awaken every corner of New Zealand and focus it on where we can go and what we can achieve.

We have common and enduring values in New Zealand.

These are values that can steer us confidently into the future.

Martin Luther King Jr once told us:
'We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today.”
“We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now, in the unfolding of life and history.”
“There is such a thing as being too late.”

Delegates…it is not yet too late for New Zealand, but our time for a clear vision, and hard work to realise it, is now.


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