What’s the government done for Otago?
This was the question put to Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce.
The development of all of New Zealand’s regions is hugely important to the Government, as it is to New Zealand as a whole.
The New Zealand economy is, of course, the sum of its regional economies and that is why the Government is placing huge emphasis on assisting each region to maximise the opportunities they have to encourage businesses to invest in their region and employ more people.
The reality is nothing creates jobs for New Zealanders and their families better than competitive, growing businesses.
As part of our Business Growth Agenda, the Government is involved in a broad range of economic development initiatives in the Otago region and throughout New Zealand to encourage new investment, jobs and growth. . .
It’s not just direct funding which helps regions. Policy changes such as the RMA reforms make doing business easier, and less expensive.
Our big increases in science and innovation expenditure are designed to encourage businesses to develop more world-leading products and services; our skills policies are designed to provide more of the skills that industry needs, in areas like engineering, ICT, and construction trades; and our capital market reforms are designed to encourage more people to invest in productive businesses.
There are more than 360 initiatives across our business growth agenda, and a large number of them relate generally and specifically to Otago.
He then provided a list of government initiatives which are helping Otago:
• Providing $9 million in R&D grants to companies in Dunedin over the last three years through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and now Callaghan Innovation.
• Supporting 200 Dunedin and Otago companies with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise services.
• Directly investing in 10 fast-growing Dunedin companies through the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund Ltd (NZVIF) and the Seed Co-investment Fund (SCIF).
• Funding and supporting the Upstart Incubator in Dunedin.
• Providing Capability Development Vouchers for Dunedin businesses through the Otago Chamber of Commerce.
• Building the ultra-fast broadband upgrade in Dunedin, Queenstown and Oamaru.
• Building the rural broadband initiative throughout Otago.
• Otago projects on the National Cycle Trail.
• Dunedin cycle projects.
• Completing the Caversham State Highway 1 upgrade.
• State Highway 88 bypass
• Supporting the development and investment plans of the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic.
• We’re providing $277 million in funding to the university this year and $33 million to the Otago Polytechnic and this is helping to fund some $400 million of capital investment by the two institutions.
• Assisting with the international marketing of both the university and the polytechnic through Education New Zealand.
•$15 million for Forsyth Barr Stadium.
• Encouraging petroleum exploration around the region.
• Supporting a number of Primary Growth Partnership programmes a number of regional companies are involved in.
• Encouraging the development of irrigation projects in the region.
Then there’s the many millions of dollars put into tertiary education in Dunedin.
. . . The University of Otago is a crucial part of the Dunedin landscape. Because of its standing and success, more taxpayer university funding flows to Dunedin than any other centre in New Zealand, except Auckland. . .
He added that Otago has weathered tough financial times relatively well.
It grew 16% in the four years from 2007 to 2010. Its GDP is higher per person than Nelson-Tasman, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay, Manawatu-Wanganui, Gisborne, and Northland; and is just behind Canterbury and Marlborough.
Finance Minister Bill English also accentuated the positive.
Deputy Prime Minister Bill English says he is concerned the ”Stand Up Otago” campaign is ”a bit too negative about the South” when it has been performing better economically than the North.
The Finance Minister and Clutha-Southland MP told the Otago Daily Times in Queenstown yesterday if there is a two-speed economy, then Dunedin is on the fast track, not the slow track.
”Employment growth is faster than all of the North Island, except Taranaki,” Mr English said.
”Per capita GDP is up there ahead of most parts of New Zealand, so they just need to be careful they’re not talking the South down.
”It’s actually been doing pretty well. There’s job creation going on, unemployment is significantly lower than it is up North, which tells you that even if there’s been job losses, there’s also been new jobs and they need to take account of the new jobs.
”If you want to attract business, investment and jobs, then you want to be telling a positive story, not a negative one.” . . .
The South has a lot going for it and is doing well.
Those behind the Stand Up Otago campaign should be focussing on the positives.
That includes many innovative and successful businesses which have weathered the recession, are providing jobs and making a significant contribution to the regional and national economies.