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    Mayors sign pact in hunt for work
    19 OCTOBER 2000


    Mayors from the country's northern and southern extremities, and one locality in between, signed a pact yesterday to trade ideas on how to pump development and jobs back into rural New Zealand.

    Although they chose Wellington to sign the regional partnership agreement, there is nothing big-city about the initiative of the mayors of the Far North, Southland and New Plymouth districts.

    For Yvonne Sharp, Frano Cardno and Claire Stewart are determined not to let the main centres monopolise the hunt for new industries. They seek economic diversification throughout New Zealand, and hope to use new communications technologies to help to overcome their isolation while providing a model for other rural areas to gain city-strength lobbying "clout" by joining forces.

    Yvonne Sharp, of the Far North, says geographic partnerships remain crucial in isolated rural districts such as Northland, with her council participating in a separate regional strategy with its neighbours, Whangarei and Kaipara.

    Improving communications infrastructure and clustering small businesses and existing industries together to boost productivity and sorely needed jobs were among opportunities worthy of joint exploration. The three districts would start by getting their respective economic development agencies working on common rural strategies.

    Claire Stewart, of New Plymouth, said her council's associated Venture Taranaki Trust had worked hard to attract new investment and support existing businesses, but there was much that could be learned from the other two districts.

    She cited Southland's extensive microclimate mapping work and Northland's organic food production.

    Frano Cardno, her Southland counterpart, said the mapping project had proven a boon for the many small but self-contained communities knocked about by depopulation.