OPINION: Labour has a plan for regional development. The party's leader and regional development spokesman, David Cunliffe, announced on Tuesday that Labour would create a regional infrastructure fund. It would receive $200 million over four years - $50m a year, to be shared out between a dozen or so provinces.
The Government is neglecting the regions, he says. They're suffering. And Labour is here with $50m to rescue you.
That might not be much but at least it's a start - and a commitment.
Coincidentally, the Labour announcement comes three weeks after National's promised extra $212m for 14 regional roading projects, funded by the asset sales, which Labour denounced as an insulting bribe. Labour's money would be cleaner because it would come from taxpayers.
Regional economies have mostly been doing pretty well compared with Auckland. They have cheaper houses, better scenery, lower unemployment and less traffic congestion. Also, the Highlanders did better than the Blues this year.
You have to accept, however, regions have fewer opportunities. So we'll take the extra investment, thank you very much.
We may need it, since the hostility of Labour and the Greens to mining, oil exploration, aquaculture, dairy farming, irrigation and even collecting timber from trees that have blown over are all policies unlikely to be helpful to regional economies. Living in the regions, we recognise we are somewhat neglected. Labour has promised $1.4 billion to half-fund Auckland's central city rail loop, and that leaves less for other places.
There is also the reality of centralising government services and focusing resources into areas with larger populations. If you merge into head office for budget reasons, that's fewer jobs on the local front. Simple maths.
You only need to look at the neurosurgery proposal to shift services from Dunedin to Christchurch - which The Southland Times campaigned successfully against, forcing a backtrack - to see how the public views that way of thinking.
But that doesn't mean that we should be forgotten. Especially after an election is decided.
- The Southland Times
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