Economic expenditure report raises questions
A rosy Otago showing in yesterday's regional development expenditure report has still left questions for Dunedin business leaders.
Finance Minister Bill English and Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said yesterday their regional Government Expenditure Report – a ''first-ever snapshot of central government spending by region'' – showed taxpayer dollars were being evenly spread around the country.
The report comes after widespread concern about the Government's support for growth in the provinces.
In Otago, a string of closures and resultant job losses, resulted in the Otago Chamber of Commerce and the Dunedin City Council calling a southern regional development summit in August, followed by a delegation to Mr Joyce on the pending downsizing of AgResearch Invermay facility near Dunedin.
That would result in the loss of 82 scientist positions to the region.
However, yesterday's report showed Otago was faring well in core Crown regional spending across services.
Otago had the highest capital expenditure per person per year ($1993) of any region in the country, Mr Joyce said.
Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said the report showed the Government was listening to a groundswell of concern and there was no question the Government's funding of services in Otago like education and health were significant.
However, he said there was concern, especially from local government, that too much development funding was going into large cities like Auckland and Christchurch at the cost of regional New Zealand.
Labour leader David Cunliffe, in Dunedin on a retreat with his new caucus, last night described the document as a panic report.
Mr Cunliffe said the numbers were ''old and meaningless'' because they were figures from the first half of last year.
He said the report did not reflect Government's spending in the regions but simply outlined Government spending for its civil servants to run its departments.
''It's just everyday core business,'' Mr Cunliffe said.
''That's vastly different from regional development funding.''
Mr Cunliffe described Dunedin as a regional development disaster, saying other government data showed 1500 people had left the city and moved to Australia in the past year and house prices in the city were down 11 per cent.
''Median incomes only rose 10 per cent in the past four years, which is nothing,'' he said.
Dunedin business leaders, even those close to the Government, were ''absolutely scathing in their assessment of the Government's attitude towards Dunedin'', Mr Cunliffe said.
''They feel like they're being punished.''He said Government had ripped the heart out of Otago's manufacturing sector with moves like the closure of the city's Hillside Engineering railway workshops which interacted with 75 other local supplier companies.''Now we're looking at the downgrading of Invermay,'' he said.
Prime Minister John Key last month intimated the release of the report, denying Government's role in any decline and saying economic indicators for the city were healthy.
Mr Joyce said yesterday development of all new Zealand regions was "hugely important" to Government.
"This report shows the Government is investing in all our regions helping to support families, business growth, jobs and higher incomes."
- © Fairfax NZ News
Check out what's on in your community or post an upcoming event.
Subscribe to a digital replica of The Southland Times.
Southland Times subscriber news and information.
Click here for information about advertising with The Southland Times.