Taranaki has led the nation's recovery, says minister

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 08/03/2014

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Taranaki has been at the forefront of New Zealand's economic recovery, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said yesterday.

Joyce, who is also Minister for Small Business and Minister of Science and Innovation, Tertiary Education, and Skills and Employment, and Associate Minister of Finance, was in New Plymouth yesterday for the launch of youth employment programme Taranaki Futures.

The regions had led New Zealand's recovery, he said.

"And Taranaki is one of the leading regions, if not the leading region in the country."

The province had the lowest unemployment rate in North Island and its unemployment rate had been lower than most regions during the global economic crisis, he said.

"That doesn't mean it hasn't been hard at different times. It has, but the region has stood up really well. And part of that is the oil and gas and supporting services, strong dairy as we know, and forestry picking up. The region has a lot going for it."

The Government had helped by having the right regulations around the Resource Management Act and the oil and gas industry, ultra-fast broadband and infrastructure such as the planned road upgrade to the road from Waiwhakaiho into the city.

When he was transport minister, Mr Joyce directed roading funds to roads of national significance, none of which were in Taranaki.

But the Hamilton-to-Auckland stretch of road, which was significant, caused more problems to Taranaki exporters than the leg out of Taranaki, he said.

Over the next few years the focus would be on how to improve the resilience of Mt Messenger, the Awakino Gorge and other parts of the route. "We've been doing a bit of work on that."

Joyce grew up in New Plymouth, attending Woodleigh School, Highlands Intermediate and Francis Douglas Memorial College.

When he returned from university he started radio station Energy FM, which turned into a multimillion-dollar business, Radioworks.

He believes it is still possible, in this economic climate, to grow a small business. It wasn't easy and the "trick" for the Government was to try to ease the path and get the incentives right.

"You can't really make it happen, they have to do it. It takes entrepreneurial spirit, which Taranaki has a lot of."

About 250,000 jobs were created and lost in the New Zealand in any one year, he said. "You can't guarantee the success of every business."

An example was Fitzroy Yachts, which had always struggled to make a lot of money, Mr Joyce said.

"The workers from Fitzroy Yachts are well sought-after."

Some were working in Whanganui and others were being snapped up by engineering firms in Taranaki, he said.

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Joyce, nicknamed Minister of Everything, is also in charge of rectifying the Novopay debacle.

"We have made some really good progress."

The challenge was to simplify the payroll, because of the number of people whose details changed at the start of a new school year. Anyone having problems should contact the Ministry of Education, Joyce's office or New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young, Joyce said.

- Taranaki Daily News

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