Stand up on own feet

The Otago Daily Times devoted the front page of Saturday’s paper to a campaign Stand Up Otago with its editorial saying its time for the South to fight:

Today, the ODT is calling on the people of the South to try to save jobs and services that are shifting out of regional New Zealand – and in many cases being transferred to two main centres.

We believe it is time residents of the South stood up and made a statement to the Government and others that stripping jobs out of the regional economies of New Zealand is not in the country’s best interests.

The paper has been covering growing concern over job losses in Dunedin and its hinterland and the last straw has been the announcement AgResearch is to cut 85 jobs from Invermay.

The concern is understandable but the ODT is aiming at the wrong target.

The Invermay decision was AgResearch’s, not the government’s and looking to the government for jobs in the city is short-term thinking.

The government does fund plenty of jobs in Dunedin through the university and hospital but iIf governments give they can also take away.

The city and province should be looking to the private sector not the government for long-term sustainable businesses and jobs.

There is a very good example of this in the same edition of the ODT in an interview with Tony Allison, CEO of Night ‘n’ Day Foodstore Ltd.

The company was ranked fourth in the country in the Deloitte Fast 50 companies last year, with 952% growth. It was also Otago’s fastest-growing retail or consumer products business. Its CEO was winner of this year’s Otago Southland branch of the Institute of Directors’ aspiring director award.

The interview concludes:

. . .Mr Allison could not understand why more companies were not based in Dunedin, saying there were ”really smart people” in the city, along with the resources and infrastructure.

The city, and province, have lots going for them including good people, good infrastructure, good services and relatively inexpensive real estate.

There are plenty of examples of people running successful international businesses in Otago, including Ian Taylor who is calling for the formation of a  political party to be the voice of the south.

Mr Taylor told the ODT public dissatisfaction meant any new party could snap up seats in Dunedin, Southland and Waitaki and ”bowl in” to Parliament.

Once there, it could be a voice for regional development in the corridors of power.

”Now is the time to take our future in our own hands and do something about it … [to] come together and force the politicians to take notice. No-one else will.

”It is up to us to stand up and be counted and the best way to do that is from the inside,” he said.

He is a very good businessman but doesn’t know much about politics.

A south of the south party would have even less chance of success than a South Island one. This has been attempted but never made traction for very good reasons among which is that there aren’t enough people to make a big enough difference.

Sustainable development and growth in the south won’t come from the government directing agencies to locate down here.

It will come from policies which enable businesses to prosper and grow.

The south should be advocating for these policies at local, regional and national levels.

The south won’t be strong if it’s beholden to government. It’s strength will come from standing on its own feet.

The paper has a role to play here by highlighting, as it often does, the good news stories about successful businesses and business people.

They’re the ones who depend not on governments but their own ability and hard work.

The south does need to stand up – but on its own feet, not leaning on the government.

2 Responses to Stand up on own feet

  1. TraceyS says:

    In Saturday’s article the ODT conveniently left off recent and substantial job losses from Dunedin City Council-owned Company Delta Utility Services. These cuts Mayor Cull has strenuously supported arguing the case for business efficiency etc.

    “Any suggestion the council was to blame for Delta’s job losses was ”clearly rubbish”, Mr Cull said.”

    ”I reject the idea that it is the responsibility of the ratepayer to preferentially subsidise any business, even if council owns it.”

    People are asking, which CoC will be next?

    I don’t disagree with the Mayor. If any activity (profit-making or not) can be done more efficiently, then it should be. Council (and subsidiary companies) owe this duty to ratepayers. He is quite correct.

    The question I have for Mr Cull is why any lesser duty is owed to taxpayers?

    There have been other redundancies of reasonable number in Otago very recently and yet the ODT has not reported them. They are in the private sector. It begs a question; do people in Dunedin value public sector jobs more than private sector ones? God help us if we do.


  2. Mr E says:

    I am sure AgResearch has not made this decision lightly. 85 jobs cut from Invermay is a lot. I wonder what that it is as a percentage?

    I believe AgResearch is beholden to the Government to make a profit as it has been for a long time (at least 10 years from my information). In my view it is silly to ask a profit of a government research department. New Zealand is built on it’s ingenuity and we need to take research risks to make big gains. These research risks mean that ideas will not always pay off or work and a return from research is not always possible. Genuine research profits tend to come from research when it is commercialised. I wonder how much of profit comes from commercialised science. If it is a small proportion how are profits achieved from public funds like those from MRST, FRST, and SFF. Is it possible that the profits are identified prior to research taking place to deliver a profit to the Government? If we do that aren’t we simply weakening our research and inevitably expecting the demise of our research organisations?

    Some underlying issues exist and these need tackled. AgResearch has been shrinking in staff and campuses over time. In my view NZ’s competitive edge has been it’s clever ideas and I think we are slowly but surely undermining it.

    The concept by Agresearch is to Centralise research. It is not a new idea. Sometime ago Invermay was boosted in staff to create research centres. It is not a bad idea, reducing overheads, increasing the potential for research collaboration and idea sharing. But is detracts from innovation in the regions and the potential for technology transfer. These are big fears for me.

    If we lose our regional research centres we should not simply blame the government for expecting too much from research. We should not simply blame management for pushing centralisation. We should ask the question, what have we done to support local research. It is easy to like the idea of local research. It is harder pay for it.

    My personal view is that too many people accept products, services and concepts that have not been properly tested. This needs to change.


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