PM mobbed in Motueka as local economy's success stories revealed
While meeting the heroes of Tasman's economy, Prime Minister Bill English was given a rock star reception during a brief visit to the region on Friday.
English and West Coast-Tasman candidate List MP Maureen Pugh spent the morning at Talley's Motueka factory and at the nearby Golden Bay Fruit and Birdhurst's packing sheds.
English also travelled to Golden Bay for engagements at the Community Health Centre and Collingwood-based online natural health supplier, Health Post.
In visiting Collingwood, English was the first National prime minister to visit the township since Jim Bolger in the 1990s.
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As well as meeting with Talley's management and walking through the factory floor, English spoke with staff in the cafeteria, where he emphasised their' contribution to the local and national economy.
"When we talk about the economy what we mean is you, because your work - in this case a successful export industry - means there is a lot of income here in Motueka and this wouldn't happen if you didn't do your job well."
He also stressed his government's commitment to ensure workers and their families would be better off by around $25 a week thanks to next year's tax cuts.
"We think it's important that given the work that you do, with your eight to 10 hour shifts, that you should take home a little more - some of you who I've spoken to have grandchildren here in Motueka, so we think that's pretty important as well.
"When we're spending money on our schools, we want to make sure we're getting good results for those kids – because when you go into that factory you can see how hard you guys work for that."
When asked what he thought of the latest polls English said it was "not as good as we'd like", but stated that he was currently one of the longest serving leaders in the current NZ political climate "and I've only been there for about six months".
He then made himself available to speak with employees, although most of his time was taken up by those seeking a selfie with the country's leader.
"It's a bit like that at the moment, but it's great when things are less formal," he said.
"I just enjoy getting in the workplaces and they work hard here."
At the Golden Bay Fruit and Birdhurst site, English and Pugh were given an overview of the horticultural company's development, which had been helped along by the 260 Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers employed each year.
"Basically RSE has given us a business," managing director Health Wilkins said.
Golden Bay Fruit general manager Mike Perrett invited English back to open Golden Bay Fruit Packers' proposed $25 million packhouse development in February 2019.
"I hope I haven't given you the commentator's kiss of death there," Perrett said.
"There's only one way to find out," English replied.
Pugh said one of the main reasons for the visit was to showcase the success stories of the West Coast and Tasman regions which were often forgotten at a national level.
"It's important our colleagues – especially the PM – understand that these are some of the most productive parts of the country and it's easy to be distracted by the loud noise of the cities."