NZ First Speech: Dunedin South
NZ First Speech: Dunedin South
Speech - Dunedin
9 The Octagon, Dunedin
Friday 9 August, 5.30pm
Good evening ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for your attendance and your invitation to come to Dunedin and Otago.
Tonight’s meeting is an opportunity to focus on the importance of regional New Zealand.
A fundamental part of the New Zealand First philosophy is the belief that the wealth of a nation is built on local jobs, local resources and local spirit.
Unfortunately, this is not a belief shared by many of those in power.
The plain fact is this: regional New Zealand has been abandoned by central government.
We see evidence of this on an almost daily basis.
Take, for example, the recent focus on Auckland’s transport and housing problems.
We are constantly reminded that Auckland is our largest city and “the economic capital” of the nation.
In fact, it is home to just one third of the nation’s people and employs about a quarter of the workforce.
In other words, most New Zealanders live and work outside the biggest city.
It’s easy to forget that Otago, for example, is New Zealand’s second largest region in terms of land area and is home to more than two hundred thousand people.
As you know, Port Chalmers is the nation’s third largest port – something that reflects the high value of goods produced here.
For the benefit of the national commentariat and ivory-tower politicians in Wellington, let’s run through some of your contributions to the national economy:
- Sheep and beef farming
- Gold and silver mining
- Graduates in academic excellence
This is more than just a university town. Dunedin should still be considered a major economic hub. Sadly it is not.
Under this National Government “Regional Development” are nothing more than buzzwords.
LOCAL JOBS AND LOCAL SPIRIT
In the last year we’ve seen 100 jobs lost at the KiwiRail Hillside workshop; 192 at Summit Wool; 73 at the Dunedin mail centre; and many more.
That is why the decision to downsize or close the famous Invermay Research Facility is most concerning.
Research at Invermay has given birth to a number of local and national agribusinesses and scientific businesses over the years.
The spin-offs have been huge, not just in terms of employment, but export revenue as well.
We believe the decision to move research facilities to Lincoln or Palmerston North will have dire consequences for Otago and Southland.
We appeal to the Minister for Economic Development, Steven Joyce, to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to regional development.
If National is able to give a $30 million subsidy to the big multi-national Rio Tinto, how about an enduring hand-up for local industry here?
Such an investment would last for decades.
$30 million to Rio Tinto will last for three years.
New Zealand First does not oppose the support for Tiwai Point but there are far more preferable alternatives than the option the National Party has fallen for and which has as its dubious objective the sale of Meridian Energy.
Don’t forget that your tax is also paying for the multi-billion dollar upgrade of Auckland’s transport infrastructure and roads of national significance, not one metre of which
will be built for you, even though you’re going to be paying for it.
That’s right. The Government is spending billions on transport and a rail loop for Auckland.
You’ll remember that somebody leaked the Government’s belated support for the Auckland rail loop. Mr Key two days later at a business meeting in Auckland where the rail loop support was going to be the big story was caught short.
However, to ensure that he had a big news item on that Friday in Auckland anyway, he let go that the Government was now supporting a Harbour Tunnel.
How’s that for policy on the hoof.
No financial calculations.
No background policy papers.
Just an off the top of the Prime Minister’s head grandiose announcement.
But he can’t find the money to save 85 high-value jobs for research at Invermay here in the south.
So much for this Government’s view of regional development.
Under this Government, individuals and businesses are struggling to survive.
Where they are focusing on jobs and infrastructure, there is a shortage of affordable accommodation.
Where there is infrastructure and affordable housing, there is a shortage of jobs.
Look at cities and towns in the South.
Timaru, Oamaru, Dunedin.
Adequate infrastructure and housing, yet in terms of regional development just benign neglect.
DIGNITY IN WORK
As a party, New Zealand First recognises that there is dignity in work.
We understand that unemployment is accompanied by social ills.
It puts stress on families financially and erodes feelings of individual and familial self-worth.
Family violence, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and other criminal activity go hand-in-hand with unemployment.
That does not mean that unemployment is an explanation or excuse. It means, however, that the condition of unemployment and social ills are a fact.
In these still-uncertain economic times, unemployment and serious underemployment is cause for hundreds of thousands of people in New Zealand today.
Roy Morgan’s latest survey has unemployment at 8.8 per cent, not 6.2, and in excess of 9 per cent above that seriously underemployed.
What is truly disturbing is seeing the impact it’s having on our young people.
Up and down the country there are young people – many of whom have qualifications – that have quite simply given up or left New Zealand.
They’ve given up because central government is unwilling to give them a fair go.
And so these young, aspirational, New Zealanders are sitting at home, or on a plane to Australia, feeling defeated.
Feeling completely disillusioned with the system.
For these people, in their twenties and thirties, this should be the best time of their lives.
And the inherent dignity in work should be fuelling their ambition and self-worth.
We all crave that sense of accomplishment, whether it’s putting away some of your paycheque for a big ticket item, looking after self and family or affording a well-earned rest at the weekend.
THE JOBS ROADMAP
As with anything there is no silver bullet to cure unemployment.
However, Dunedin is compelling evidence of how the much vaunted ideological free market economy works.
In the middle of this year, economic development minister Steven Joyce gave his usual long lecture of how business could succeed.
He said that businesses needed to make the best of their local resources and people and that public institutions making sound infrastructure investment decisions, and fit for purpose regulations would provide services that improve local circumstances.
Now if you have difficulty following that it is because it is a tiresome repeat of economic psychobabble.
At the recent Local Government New Zealand conference, the Prime Minister exhorted attendees to work together with central government for that would lead to future economic success.
Dunedin and Otago are an example of how those words are not worth the air they pass on.
New Zealand First has come up with numerous policy initiatives to save and create jobs in the provinces.
Our driving ambition, since the party’s formation twenty years ago, has been putting New Zealand and New Zealanders first.
And these job-creating initiatives would do just that.
First of all, we know that export industries in the provinces have been struggling with a seriously over-valued dollar.
That’s why our changes to the Reserve Bank Act would see our dollar at a lower real value, not a high artificial value.
We understand why the Reserve Bank Act is written the way it is.
It is designed to prop up the currency and financial speculators both in New Zealand and abroad who have driven our currency to being one of the most traded in the world.
The massive disconnect between currency trading for exports and imports, as opposed to currency trading for speculation is testimony to that.
All of this currency speculation is not designed to help real exporters or you, but simply the favoured few and it is long since time that the provinces woke up to that.
Second, New Zealand First has a policy of serious export tax breaks to drive provincial business and employment.
We were the party that first came up with employer direct credits to take on the unemployed to train and employ them.
We were the party that came up with student debt write downs to keep graduates in critical provincial jobs.
We are the party that says the responsibility of the New Zealand government is to train and employ our own people first, not waste three years doing nothing to prepare for the Christchurch rebuild then plead that we have to bring in thousands of workers from overseas to complete the job.
Our Government Procurement Policy will ensure that wherever economically competitive, New Zealand businesses will be used to fulfil government contracts.
The economists, BERL, have constantly and wisely argued that if one factors in all of the aspects of employment, tax and welfare, then many New Zealand businesses are more than competitive against those outsiders gaining New Zealand central and local government contracts.
New Zealand First has long agreed.
Other leading world economies take that position.
For the last 28 years New Zealand has not, and it is one reason for our permanent slide against countries we long ago outranked and outperformed.
We have already seen the devastating effects at Hillside of a Government which cares not for the welfare of the skilled, gainfully employed.
This Government cares only for cutting corners and costs and rest assured when the Fonterra scandal further unfolds the hollowing out of sound regulations and public oversight of New Zealand production will be exposed.
Fonterra is not a stand-alone operation.
The dairy industry has had enormous support from New Zealand taxpayers over the years and we do not criticise that.
However, that support comes with an obligation not to tarnish our national reputation and Fonterra’s management and ownership needs to understand that.
The government’s method for awarding contracts is an undoubtedly unsound one.
New Zealand First, in contrast, would ensure that the local jobs, tax and GST-take, should also be factored in when awarding contracts.
That is what we mean by the words ‘economically competitive’.
In this way we will shift the balance towards New Zealand firms and create and save more New Zealand jobs.
You may well ask yourself as to why it is that a foreign owned bank does all the Government’s banking and wages.
Every time a public servant is paid, this foreign bank clips the ticket.
How obsequiously, subservient and stupid is that?
Throughout New Zealand there is an abundance of natural wealth.
Many regional economies are supplemented by mineral extraction – including the Otago region.
Our policy would see 25% of the royalties generated from this extraction in the regions go towards funding regional projects such as medical centres, important roads, and water filtration systems in the region where those profits originated.
These community orientated projects would provide quality infrastructure for individuals and encourage business investment in the region.
The tragic list of closures or relocations from the Otago region in recent times is ample evidence of how central government simply does not care for this part of the country.
Fisher and Paykel, NZ Post mail centre, Southern DHB, KiwiRail Hillside workshops, AgResearch Invermay, the list will go on unless you send central government a message.
Let them know that you’ve had enough of their policy of ignore and patronisingly explanations of how their lofty understanding of economics works.
If New Zealand is to get out of its current economic malaise, its greatest hope is exporting.
Dunedin is a centre of an export province and it is being taken for granted that you’ll go on doing your bit while central government goes on taking the benefit and effectively relocating your wealth elsewhere.
In short, it is long since time for the province of the highlanders to adopt the highlanders spirit and start a political revolt.
New Zealand First has a positive vision for Otago and New Zealand.
Better still, we understand the critical elements of a sound provincial and national economy.
We believe that our business and job creation strategies are what is needed to propel the Otago economy back up where it once belonged when we were a world-leading nation.
We trust that you will join us in making these policies a priority for the next election, and a reality after it.
We trust that you will see it as our shared mission.