Value-added exports targeted

CATHIE BELL AND ELENA MCPHEE
Last updated 09:39 24/06/2014
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SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

PREMIUM PRODUCT: Labour leader David Cunliffe looks at the Kono Seafoods mussel line, with mussel opener David Auld, at the company’s Blenheim plant.

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Regional New Zealand needs a government prepared to work with industries to grow exports of value-added premium products, Labour leader David Cunliffe says.

He visited Kono Seafood's processing plant in the Riverlands Industrial Estate yesterday, meeting with workers, before speaking to a Marlborough Chamber of Commerce lunch event and visiting the Redwood Lifestyle Care Village in the afternoon.

Kono's mussels were an example of a high-value, branded, premium natural product, he said.

"A lot of our economic strategy is to partner with industry to add that value."

He and Labour's Kaikoura candidate Janette Walker encouraged workers at Kono to enrol to vote and to make sure they cast their vote on election day to ensure they got the government they wanted.

Labour would protect workers, he said, citing shelved National Party plans to remove workers' smoko breaks.

Workers asked him about the Recognised Seasonal Employment scheme, support for West Coast mines, and legalising cannabis.

Cunliffe said Labour wanted Kiwis to have jobs, mines would be supported to be safe, and cannabis would not be legalised. "There is lots of other stuff we can grow other than weed."

He told the chamber of commerce audience that Labour wanted to "grow business and good jobs in Blenheim and every other region in the country".

The policy focused on three i's: investment, innovation, and industry development.

"It's the Marlborough story really. We have fantastic natural resources, which are turned into high-value products, largely exported. It's great for New Zealand and for the region."

How to turn that production into high-value products selling for a premium was the challenge, Cunliffe said.

That needed more than "business as usual" from the Government. It needed a game-changer, which Labour offered, he said.

A hands-off "see how the bike rides itself" approach was not an economic strategy, he said.

A Labour-led government would look to work with regions to see how their industries could be developed further down the high-value premium product road, Cunliffe said.

He was questioned about the party's capital gains tax, Labour's support for the defence industry, Christchurch and insurance, and his views on MMP.

Cunliffe said Labour's most likely coalition arrangements would be with the Green party and NZ First.

"Under my leadership, we have not signalled a coalition option with the Greens, though we have been invited to."

The two parties had different policies, he said, and his job was "really clear".

"I'm campaigning for the Labour vote. I'm not kicking them [the Greens], but I'm campaigning for us."

When the votes were counted, then Labour would negotiate. He thought the Greens would want to be part of a progressive government and would want to be around the Cabinet table.

NZ First were a big unknown, and he could not see Mana-Internet around the Cabinet table.

"I don't think New Zealanders would want that. But then again, I can't see them giving their vote to John Key anyway. I just don't see that happening."

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Cunliffe said Labour would keep its distance. It would see what the election result was and then negotiate.

- The Marlborough Express

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