Southland 'in good shape'

How do you think we're doing?

COLLETTE DEVLIN IN INVERCARGILL
Last updated 11:58 03/09/2012
Tim Shadbolt
NICOLE GOURLEY/Fairfax NZ

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt.

John Prendergast.
NICOLE GOURLEY/Fairfax NZ
Community Trust of Southland chief executive John Prendergast.
Sutherland family
DOUG FIELD/Fairfax NZ
The Sutherland family of Louise, Rosie, 6, and Geoff.
Ryan family
DOUG FIELD/Fairfax NZ
The Ryan family of Sharron, Ryan, 16, and Philip.

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Fairfax NZ has aked Kiwis from all parts of the country how they feel about the state of the nation. Here is a taste of the southern response.

Although the streets of Southland are not paved with gold, it certainly feels like it.

However, the export-led region did not escape the global financial crisis and continues to grapple with the high value of the dollar, unemployment and a lack of consumer spending.

Despite the economic turndown, there is an air of optimism in the region.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt believes Southland has come through the worst and is in good shape.

He attributed this to the stability of the agriculture industry, particularly the dairy industry, which meant it had not been hit as hard.

Event tourism also boosted the region, and international acts, competitions and filmmakers were attracted to the province, he said.

''Southlanders are proud of achievement within the region. It installs a mood of optimism and success that keeps morale up,'' he said.

Community Trust of Southland chief executive John Prendergast believes the Southland mood is still quite positive.

Dairying was still propelling the Southland economy to a good level, but there was still a challenge in the region of striking the balance between the benefit to the economy and environmental consequences of dairying, he said.

The recession was having an affect on community organisations, who found it difficult to get funding, he said.

While people had an optimistic, glass half full mindset they still recognised times would be difficult for a period.

''In a recession there are worse places to be than Southland,'' he said.

South Port chief executive Mark O'Connor said Southlanders were aware of the economic troubles faced by economies around the globe and they were cautious and concerned about the effects on businesses.

He expected a lot of economic activity would be created in the region with the development of the lignite resource, potential exploration of the great south basin and the growth in primary industry, particularly dairy.

There was still a warm buzz coming out of the region after its seven olympians returned and people were gearing up for the start of the Stags season in the national provincial championship, he said.

''I'd say the broad population are proud to be from Southland, we just get on and do stuff here,'' he said.

POSITIVES

Dairying

Export based businesses

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Southern Institute of Technology Zero Fees education

Natural resources

Innovation

NEGATIVES

Dairying

Potential resistance to development of energy resources

Government's prudent firm fiscal approach, which makes regional funding for infrastructure more difficult.

Static Population - funding is determined by size of population

The cloud of doubt hanging over the NZAS smelter at Tiwai near Bluff

Optimism but still struggling

Geoff Sutherland enjoys living in a small community because everyone looks after each other.

An Invercargill police sergeant, he believed Southlanders were resilient and upbeat because the province was doing reasonably well, particularly with farming.

''Generally people here are optimistic about the way things are going,'' he said.

Mr Sutherland said he would not buy shares in the state-owned assets.

He did not usually buy shares and was not convinced enough by asset sales to change that.

''I am not entirely certain that some of those companies are doing well enough to sell shares,'' he said.

Although the New Zealand economy was better off than some other countries, he believed it was still struggling.

''I see a lot of empty shops in Invercargill, which is indicative the retail market is not flash and the cost of living is high, it's a lot harder for families to get by,'' he said.

Families who planned for the future would get by but those who lived week-to-week would struggle, he said.

''Southlanders have a 'can do' attitude and I think because of that, we will come out of [the recession] looking quite well,'' he said.

A father of four, he was worried how the troubled economy would affect his children's futures.

His son was trying to find work and it was proving difficult, he said.

''I worry about their job prospects and how they will get into the job market,'' he said.

CONCERN FOR CHILDREN'S FUTURE
Philip Ryan, of Invercargill, was also concerned about the future for his children in the current economic situation.

He was worried about the high costs associated with the education of his children, who may come out of University with huge student loans and no guarantee of jobs.

Mr Ryan, a director of Southern Wide Rural Real Estate, said his feeling about the economy was if farming does well, then so does Southland.

It was a bit up and down at the moment but still holding in there, he said.

Although the retail sector was struggling because people were still cautious about spending, the economy was recovering, he said.

He would probably buy shares in the state owned assets and believed they would be a fair price and a good long-term hold.

''In my opinion, the government have to run a business and if they need to sell assets to generate cash, I think it's a good thing,'' he said.

He felt optimistic about the future of the country because interest rates were low and it was a good opportunity to look forward and capitalise on that.

However, red tape was a major pull back for everyone in the country and in Southland.

''If you want anything done it is a nightmare with compliance issues and people just give up, which had an impact on growth,'' he said.

Mr Ryan, who takes his family on adventures, the most recent to Everest Base Camp, enjoyed the outdoor pursuits in Southland.

''It's a great place to live,'' he said.

- The Southland Times

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