Boost to region from meeting

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 12:58 23/07/2014

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Nelson's hosting of the Local Government NZ conference has been hailed as a success, boosting business and the city's reputation.

The annual three-day conference wrapped up yesterday at the Rutherford Hotel.

It attracted around 540 mayors, councillors, government officials and chief executives, as well as partners and family.

Local Government NZ president Lawrence Yule said the long weekend had been highly successful and he had heard only good feedback.

"This is the first time we have come to a place the size of Nelson. People have loved it," he said. "Nelson should be very proud.

"We understand this is one of the largest conferences you've had here - it's worked a treat."

He said the highlights had been the enthusiastic and energetic speech by Ipswich city mayor Paul Pisasale who, despite recently being referred to Queensland's corruption watchdog over election donations, entertained and inspired attendees.

Yule said the commentary by economists regarding uneven growth across the country had also been a highlight - and a wake-up call.

He said it was good that local government was being better heard by National and Labour compared to 10 years ago, when the sector felt ignored.

"We've lifted our game, Local Government NZ has lifted its game, the local-government sector is lifting its game, and I'm really keen to improve the performance across the sector," he said.

His focus for his final three years as president of Local Government NZ was to get authorities closer to ratepayers, more efficient, with better value for money, and showing leadership.

Conference co-host Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne said it was excellent to have so many people involved in local government together in one place.

"It's gone really well," he said. "There's been a lot of positive feedback about how good a place it is to have a conference."

The discussions at the conference had reinforced the importance of focusing on economic growth and jobs, he said.

"I want to see, for our young people who want to stay and work in the region, how can we set them up with good jobs and make that easy and possible for both employers and young people looking for work?" heasked.

Nelson mayor and co-host Rachel Reese said the event had been "very positive" for the city.

"It's been an outstanding conference, the speakers have been excellent, the opportunity to engage with other members of local government is always positive.

"It has been a great mood and everybody has been extremely complimentary about visiting Nelson," she said.

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Since the conference, she had become enthusiastic about thriving regional economies contributing to the economic success of the country.

For Nelson, this meant thinking of itself in a global context, and making it the best place to raise children in an effort to attract people in their 30s and 40s, with offspring to come to the city bringing their businesses and expertise to grow the local economy and create new jobs.

"It's thinking in a world context of our relevance to the rest of the world and actually getting out there and marketing who we are to other countries, whether that's digitally or by people immigrating," she said.

Reese said it was also about taking a creative approach to develop Nelson's industries.

Labour leader David Cunliffe and Prime Minister John Key spoke at the conference yesterday about the need to support regional economies.

The mayors and Yule congratulated the Rutherford Hotel and its staff for hosting the event successfully.

First time conference-goers Nelson councillors Brian McGurk and Gaile Noonan said it had been a chance to meet other elected members and exchange ideas.

"It's been great networking, because a lot of issues facing our city are being confronted by other cities and districts around the country, so it's been an opportunity to share some of those experiences," McGurk said.

- The Nelson Mail

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