Region's growth 'no surprises'

MATHEW GROCOTT AND KELSEY WILKIE
Last updated 12:00 09/07/2014

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The Government has released a report on Manawatu's economic strengths in an effort to encourage overseas investment in the region.

But the eight-page document has not won praise from everyone, with Labour's MP for Palmerston North Iain Lees-Galloway saying more could be done to encourage regional development.

The report, released by Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, identified agribusiness, food innovation and contact centres as the economic strengths in the Manawatu/Whanganui region.

It will be used by the likes of NZ Trade and Enterprise to sell the region to businesses looking to invest in New Zealand and is one of 14 reports planned for the country.

"We're pleased with the support NZ Trade and Enterprise is giving us to help market our region to the world and we look forward to the increased leads and opportunities it will provide," said Craig Nash, director of economic development agency Spearhead Manawatu.

Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor said the report would help bring investment into the region.

"I think one of the hurdles that we've faced in the past when trying to attract external investment into the city is trying to get overseas investors to understand there is a New Zealand outside of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch."

Naylor, National's candidate in Palmerston North for September's general election, said the report did more than just highlight three areas, it also gave investors information such as that the average cost of housing in Palmerston North was well below the national figure.

Lees-Galloway was less enthusiastic in his praise, calling the report "nice". The report was reprinting information the Government and Manawatu's economic development agencies already knew, he said, just in a glossy form. "This is stuff we already knew, so it's nice to be reminded what our strengths are."

Lees-Galloway said an eight-page document online did not constitute a regional development strategy and money spent on it could have been better directed at working with economic development agencies in the region.

"It really isn't going to do a lot to deal with the high unemployment rate we have here and the missed opportunities that are still passing by."

His pessimism was shared somewhat by Bulls farmer Hew Dalrymple, who said the report sounded fantastic but he would like to see more hard plans put in place to support any expansion.

"My take is that we've got to look at these other industries, we've got to keep our options open . . . there's opportunities that can come out of sheep and beef; they need industries that can support them.

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"I'd like to see more hard plans put together over irrigation opportunities . . . water grows food, it's that simple. When people have got a guaranteed availability of water, new opportunities rise from that."

Federated Farmers Manawatu-Rangitikei president James Stewart said there were no surprises in the report.

"I think it just basically reinforces that what we're doing is of real value, that encourages farmers to keep trucking on.

"Once it becomes recognised as a business-friendly region, that encourages more growth".

The full report can be found at nzte.govt.nz.

- Manawatu Standard

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