Provinces should unite, says mayor

New Zealand's provincial cities should work together to enhance their prosperity rather than compete for growth, mayor Jono Naylor has told the Palmerston North Lunch Club.

In the rehearsal yesterday for Monday's state-of-the-city address to Palmerston North Rotary and Chamber of Commerce members, he said New Zealand should learn to behave more like one big city.

He cited the 2011 bidding process to host the New Zealand Cycling Centre of Excellence as an example of pointless competition.

"I estimate between the 10 centres that put in bids, probably $2 million was spent by local authorities bidding for $7 million of government money just to spend another $9 million of our own if we won." Palmerston North was shortlisted for the velodrome project, along with Auckland and the eventually successful Waikato-Bay of Plenty.

"It would have been far more sensible if someone had just said, we want this to be close to Auckland, not in the South Island, and not in the lower North Island, and we could have saved a lot of effort."

Mr Naylor said by working together, provincial New Zealand had a better chance of attracting overseas investment in business and job opportunities.

The first challenge was to get international companies to consider New Zealand at all.

The second was to get the message across that there was more to New Zealand than the main centres.

"We need to work with other provincial cities to attract business to provincial New Zealand."

Mr Naylor said different centres had their different strengths.

Manawatu was unlikely to rival Hawke's Bay's climate for growing fruit, or Taranaki's potential for energy production, or the seaport facilities of either.

But other centres did not have the university-backed, world-class food research facilities, the logistics hub and international education opportunities that were based in Manawatu.

Mr Naylor said everyone could be better off, if everyone was doing better.

"We have got to get a collaborative model working that will help us get our share."

He said the three things he believed made Palmerston North a great place to live, and a place where children who grew up here would want to stay or return to, were its opportunities, accessibility and affordability. Those features needed to be protected and enhanced as the city grew, he said.

Manawatu Standard