Single agency 'could lift focus'

LESS IS MORE: National MP Steven Joyce visits Manawatu Standard.
LESS IS MORE: National MP Steven Joyce visits Manawatu Standard.

Manawatu's economy could benefit from having fewer economic development agencies, says Steven Joyce.

National's Minister for Economic Development was in Palmerston North and Feilding yesterday to meet business leaders.

There was a growing understanding of the food and science opportunities available in Manawatu, he said. Proliant's plan to set up a cow blood plant in Feilding was a shining example of that.

Mr Joyce did not think the region had had any "big wins" since then but NZ Trade and Enterprise was working on an investment attraction package, which would detail the opportunities in Manawatu and other regions.

"As long as the development agencies do the work the opportunities will come. I see that there's a bit of a reshuffle going on at the moment, which I don't have a view on, of course.

"But I think if you can end up with sort of a strong single agency for the region - I don't know if that's what you're chasing or not - or at least a minimum number, then that's probably a good thing in terms of lifting that focus."

Palmerston North City and Manawatu District councils have announced a review of the funding and structure of their development agencies including Destination Manawatu, Vision Manawatu and Feilding Promotion.

Mr Joyce said there had been growth in GDP of above 3 per cent nationally for the past two years but it was still a "challenging environment" for businesses.

"The Manawatu economy is moving in the right direction but its leaders need to keep seeking new business opportunities for the region.

"From what I've seen you continue to have several significant players who are growing and growing strongly," Mr Joyce said.

"My sense is that people overall are feeling cautiously positive and are seeing the same sort of economic conditions that we're seeing around the rest of the country."

Mr Joyce is also the manager of National's election campaign. Labour leader David Cunliffe has named Wairarapa, where John Hayes is retiring, as one of the electorates the party wants to win from National, something Mr Joyce said would be difficult.

"We're confident of getting a strong candidate in Wairarapa," he said. New MP Joanne Hayes, who was until recently chairwoman of National's Palmerston North branch, has put her hand up for the seat.

Mr Joyce also said a National win in Palmerston North was also a possibility.

"We're really keen to work with the people of Palmerston North and see a strong National MP elected, and so, yes, we'll be mounting a strong campaign in the city but ultimately it's the party vote that matters."

National is expected to confirm its candidate for the city in May.

Manawatu Standard