OPINION: Recent research highlights the significant contribution Southland is making to the economy, writes Bill English (National) in From the Beehive.
As a Government, we are keen to highlight success in the regions and to more clearly link the decisions that are made by local stakeholders about resource allocation and usage to the number of jobs available.
Our Regional Economic Activity Report gathers together economic data on all our regions. It also provides a breakdown of some of the specific initiatives the Government has under its Business Growth Agenda to support growth. In Southland's case, it highlights several important factors.
Businesses are making the most of the labour force. The region boasts the highest employment rate in New Zealand, with 71 per cent of those aged 15 and over employed. Key drivers of the economy include dairy farming, sheep and beef farming, the Manapouri power station, which generates 20 per cent of New Zealand's hydro-electric power, and the New Zealand Aluminium Smelter, which produces more than 70 per cent of New Zealand's aluminium exports.
According to the report, dairy productivity in Southland is much higher than the national average because of larger property and herd sizes, but the province also has fishing, aquaculture and tourism sectors which show potential for growth.
However, for businesses to succeed, they need to be able to make the most of their resources and they need public institutions that make sound infrastructure investment decisions, administer fit-for-purpose regulation and provide services that improve local circumstances.
Investment in workplace skills and the retention and attraction of workers in Southland are needed to enable the region to capitalise on the opportunities on offer.
Long term, the province's slowed population growth will be our biggest constraint and economic growth will depend on the application of capital and technology to natural sources.
Actions to support Southland, as part of the Business Growth Agenda, include ultrafast and rural broadband, development of the apprenticeship reboot programmes, a refocusing of the polytechnic sector on skills for the region, freshwater and aquaculture reforms and primary growth partnerships to lift private- sector investment in innovation.
Nothing creates jobs and boosts incomes more than business growth.
» Bill English is the electorate MP for Clutha-Southland.
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