Help needed to boost regional development

CASSANDRA POKONEY
Last updated 05:00 01/09/2014
Sarah Hannan
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
Sarah Hannan, Southland Chamber of Commerce

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Resources that support regional economic development, a more equitable division of funds for areas such as roading, and support to help young people into meaningful careers, are what Southland needs from its elected representatives, industry and business heads say.

Southland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sarah Hannan said it was important the government provided resources to help regional development.

"The main thing is, we need resources that will support regional economic development," Hannan said.

"To ensure that the region continues to grow and prosper, they need that support from the government."

Southland was unique in that while it contributed heftily to the national economy, its population was relatively small and government funding sometimes did not match its contribution.

Roading was one example, and the Government needed to look at a fairer and more equitable funding mechanism, she said.

Venture Southland enterprise and strategic projects group manager Steve Canny said one of the major challenges facing the south was the "relatively large" numbers of young people not in employment, education, or training.

The region would have about 4500 jobs on offer this year, many, but not all, of which were in the primary, trades, and service sectors and it was a "huge waste of human capital" not to have young people involved in what were very good, long-term career choices, Canny said.

Assistance from central government was needed to address that , he said.

"If there was some alignment of government policy in this area and if there was some assistance to support local efforts in regard to young people, I think that would be a wonderful step forward for the region," he said.

Assistance with mapping natural resources, such as water, was also needed, "so that there's clarity long-term around potable water supplies for communities, that there's water available for value-added processing of our primary products, and that there's water available for normal agricultural activities".

Canny echoed Hannan's call for a more equitable distribution of funding in areas such as roading.

Southland was at the point where it needed to make another major investment in its roads, bridges and in the connections between roads, bridges and rail, but ratepayers were already paying, in some cases, more for their roads than some urban ratepayers in Auckland, he said.

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"Some assistance [for roading] would be very beneficial," he said.

- The Southland Times

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