Like many regions it is creating first class export wealth, but getting second class treatment from a Government with an outdated ideology and an obsession with a ‘rogue state’ called Auckland.
Amongst the enterprises Hawke’s Bay is recognised for internationally are its horticulture, wine, and sheep and cattle farming. The climate in the province is dry and temperate and creates excellent conditions for growing grapes that create some of the best wines in the world. Tourism, unique cultural traditions, a picturesque landscape, fishing and untapped resources offer more avenues of economic activity.
The question we then have to ask is why this region, like many others, has hit bottom-level socio-economic status? Where is the plan? Where are the ideas that produce jobs and prosperity? How are you being empowered (or at least not hindered) in creating a deserved future for the region?
Northland voters recently rattled the cage called the Beehive and shocked some parrots off their perches. It’s a strong first step towards regions holding governments to account and demanding a fair go, to take back your future.
Our House of Representatives is supposed to represent all New Zealanders, but that simply does not happen now. Parliament is becoming like some corporate body that exists for itself with little connection to the people outside who exist in the ‘real’ New Zealand.
One of the biggest falsehoods being spread internationally is that New Zealand is some sort of ‘economic rock star’! The truth is the economy is resting uneasily between a booming immigration and housing market in Auckland and the necessary Christchurch earthquake rebuild.
Under National, Auckland has turned into what seems like a separate country that is detaching from the rest of the economy. The Reserve Bank is running a monetary policy to manage Auckland, not New Zealand. The distortions caused by addressing Auckland problems means the whole country suffers, and export provinces in particular, through rising interest rates and an alarmingly overvalued dollar pushed up by currency speculators.
This obsession with Auckland threatens the future of many regional communities. New Zealand is being steadily assetstripped with a steady decline of services across a wide range of government departments. Throughout the rest of the country, health facilities, police stations, courthouses and other community connections are being shut down.
The lack of an effective regional policy also means that cities such as Napier and Hastings do not get their fair share of infrastructure investment. It means fewer well-maintained state highways and the loss of a functioning railways system.
Confused and centralised policymaking and huge spending blunders by KiwiRail on the Cook Strait ferries have damaged the whole rail system. And the Napier-Wairoa- Gisborne line has been a casualty of these mistakes. This is unacceptable. The roads are not capable of carrying big increases in the number of heavy truck and trailer units. It will be more expensive in the long run than restoring the rail links.
New Zealand First has a strong commitment to regional development and our view is that the country is more prosperous when the regions are thriving. Local outcomes are nearly always the best. Too many decisions are made in an office at central government level. A blanket policy that might be good for Southland might not fit in Hawke’s Bay. The present viewpoint that ‘one size fits all’ really means that one size fits no one.
Our economic policy is that all New Zealanders should share in a wellbalanced and thriving economy and that no region should be left behind. For example we have a long standing ‘Royalties for the Regions policy’, that will help the development of regional communities and economies.
Under this policy, no less than 25% of the royalties paid on extraction of minerals or other resources – whether it be coal, limestone, lignite, gold or others – will be placed in a fund for use in regional development in the region of extraction. With this policy, hundreds of millions of dollars that now go straight into central government coffers will stay in the regions to fund local infrastructure and build stronger communities.
We also want to get some breathing space in Auckland so it fits in with an overall economic plan that benefits all New Zealanders. That means drastically cutting immigration numbers to sensible levels and curbing the huge speculation in houses from within and outside New Zealand. Our immigration policy puts the priority on the skills New Zealand needs – not on just having record numbers of people arrive to prop up consumption.
The issue of foreign ownership of our resources must also be tackled head on. We will put the brakes on foreign ownership by imposing strict controls over foreign ownership in the areas of land, housing and strategic business assets. That will require that we start collecting comprehensive information on foreign ownership of land and houses for the first time in New Zealand.
National has deliberately avoided collecting information on foreign ownership. That is totally irresponsible and must end. No country has ever prospered by being exploited by foreign ownership and control. The profits pouring out of New Zealand are desperately needed here for new investment and development.
Too many decisions are made by that toothless poodle called the Overseas Investment Commission. It must be replaced with a new and powerful agency with real power to stop the sell-off. Only purchases with proven benefits to New Zealand in terms of jobs and real new investment will be allowed. This can only benefit the regions.
One of the aspects the new agency will consider, that is not covered by the OIO, is tax. Currently foreign investors have access to tax advantages that do not apply to residents. This tax advantage is another way foreign owners are fleecing Kiwis.
A report published late last year made disturbing reading. Although Hawke’s Bay had the second highest rate of innovative business growth of all 17 regions, the economic, social, health, unemployment and crime statistics had been sliding for ten years. On a more positive note, people are happy to be living in the area.
Something else needs to happen to help Hawke’s Bay make better progress to use its resources and help its people. There is a song with the line “united we stand, divided we fall” and it could be that some community leaders might start thinking about the people they represent rather than their territorial ambitions. They could also try to put petty differences aside and present some common principles for progress to the government.
Changes to local government structures are being imposed from above and what a wonderful diversion this is creating in Hawke’s Bay.