Regions decline under National’s watchSpecial article by David Shearer, MP, Leader of the NZ Labour Party
Labour is commited to heartland New Zealand: We believe very strongly that our regions are vital to our success. If they don’t succeed, our country doesn’t succeed.
But under National’s watch, our regions are in decline. People living in heartland New Zealand are losing their jobs. Nationwide unemployment has risen from 4.5% to 6.7 since John Key came to power.
But the regions are being hit particularly hard. In the Manawatu-Wanganui region unemployment has more than doubled from 3.7% in December 2008 to 8.9% in March this year. In the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, the unemployment rate has almost doubled from 4.4% to 8.6% and 4.5% to 8.5%.
In those three regions alone, more than 11,000 people have left for Australia in the past year looking for better incomes and opportunities.
Funding and services to our regions are also being stripped away. Education funding has been slashed at regional polytechs by 11% compared to a cut of just 1% at metropolitan polytechs. That amounts to $32 million less going towards increasing the skills and knowledge of young New Zealanders in regional communities.
Funds diverted to motorways
Money for local roads is also declining as National diverts funding to its Roads of National Significance.
This can’t continue. It’s time for the Government to value and support our regions.
That’s why Labour will take a hands-on approach to helping our regions unleash their potential. We will work in active partnership with their industries and community leaders to support local development, create jobs and economic growth.
‘Labour to stand up for regions
Labour will stand up for our regions. We’ll modernise our economy so that the heartland prospers again through our skills, our innovation, our investment in higher productivity and high-value exports.
My speech follows on from a series of visits I have made to cities and towns throughout the country, listening to the concerns, the hopes and dreams of New Zealanders living in heartland New Zealand.
What I’m hearing deeply concerns me. People feel let down, they feel like National isn’t listening to them, that it is out-of-touch with their lives and isn’t giving them a fair go. They tell me they’re working harder than ever but just can’t seem to get ahead.
I want to give them hope. I want us all to look ahead at the kind of country we want New Zealand to be. And under Labour it will be one where our regional cities and towns are supported so they help power our economy and deliver benefits to all New Zealanders.