Southland has always been rightly proud of its economic reputation.  We produce around 10 per cent of the country’s exports with less than three per cent of the population.  That is just great when the market is strong, but when we are in a position like the current world recession we get our share of the reduced demand and prices.  The current woes of the meat industry with the reported multi-million dollar losses and the well publicised parlous state of the smelter are examples of our exposure in global markets.

It is interesting many of those who demand some Governmental response are also beating a door to Government about no mining or drilling in the South or in any way developing our vast resources in the South.  Many also turn a blind eye to our labour shortage in Southland.  Each year we have to bring in over 1,500 migrant workers, many from the Philippines, to fill the shortage in the dairy industry.

NZ has learned to our cost that Governments trying to pick winners and tip the advantage in their direction, either through subsidy or preferential treatment is folly.  Not only does it distort the market, it raises the ire of the WTO and then there is the matter of paying for it.

But Government does have a role and essentially this National Government is acknowledged has having a very good plan,

We have worked hard to get the cost of business down.  Reforms to the RMA give a better resolution without compromising outcomes to the environment.

We have grandfathered GHG emissions for major industries – Tiwai is a major beneficiary.

Labour laws have assisted business – such as the 90 day trial – and we are investing heavily in infrastructure.  The fibre optic cable roll out is a good example.

With the Hon Tim Groser as Minister of Trade we have worked effectively to give NZ better access to markets.  We now have more Free Trade Agreements in place than any other country in the World.

We are investing in research with NZ companies. Primary Growth Partnerships are now in place worth over $700 million.

We have just seen an annual increase in household wages and salaries of 2.3% – nearly half the cumulative total of the last five years.  Governments set the right conditions, but it is up to all of us to work hard to maximize them.