Stand up on own feet

05/08/2013

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.


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