No election year lolly scramble

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 22/03/2014

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Deputy Prime Minister Bill English was in New Plymouth talking about roads, but for the first time he wasn't asked what he was going to do about SH3.

Mr English, Labour leader David Cunliffe and Labour MP Annette King all spoke to about 200 delegates at the annual national conference of the Automobile Association yesterday.

This was the first time Mr English had visited Taranaki without the province's northern route being mentioned, he said.

But he pointed out there was another round of discussion coming up about funding for regional roads.

Later, Mr English put his Minister of Finance hat on and spoke at a business growth forum looking at the New Zealand economy in a global context.

Taranaki's economic growth was based on the energy and dairy industries, and he was looking at policy initiatives for growth so businesses would invest another dollar and employ another person, he said.

He told the Taranaki Daily News New Zealand's economy was growing steadily, and to ensure the growth continued, the government needed to make sure interest rates didn't go up too far, too fast.

"And make sure we keep going with the kind of policy changes encouraging growth like we've encouraged the oil and gas industry and regulated it properly."

But he wouldn't be offering any lollies during the year to entice voters, he said.

"Lolly scrambles push interest rates up faster and slow down new jobs, so make wage increases harder for everybody. We have to get that balance right of sustaining growth in the long run so people on low incomes can get jobs, which is the best step out of poverty, but also meeting some of their short-term needs."

The government had been working on initiatives to help the most consistently poor families, Mr English said.

"Anyone can have a low income at one time, but the mixture of poor health, poor housing and long-term welfare dependency has been where our initiatives have been. And we'll continue those initiatives to help families who are really hard up."

Interest rates were the lowest they had been in 50 years, Mr English said. In 2008, they were at 10 per cent for first mortgages.

"And a lot of households worry if they're going to go to 10 per cent. We have to make sure it doesn't happen again."

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