Growth, innovation and partnership between central and local government
Thank you for the invitation to join with you today at the start of a meeting which, by the look of the programme, will only serve to build on the considerable progress that the Mayors’ Taskforce has made since its inception. I am delighted to see so many Mayors here today, and I would particularly like to welcome those that are new to the Taskforce, either by virtue of last year’s local body elections, or by a decision to become a member of the group.
Today we see the Mayors Taskforce take a further significant step forward with the announcement of a partnership with the NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development and joint stewardship of an exciting project.
Growing an Innovative New Zealand
This week has been an auspicious one for the Labour Alliance Government, and I firmly believe will be seen, in retrospect, as a significant milestone in the economic and social development of this nation.
On Tuesday the Prime Minister released Growing an Innovative New Zealand. As Helen says in the foreword to that document, it provides a framework for a number of strategies that the Government has put in place to lift our economic performance.
In the words of James Carville – “it is the economy …”, and in Growing an Innovative New Zealand we see detailed a very clear economic objective:
“to return New Zealand’s per capita income to the top half of the OECD and to maintain that standing”
That means growing the economy at a rate that is consistently above the OECD average growth rate for a number of years.
That means a rate of economic growth in excess of our historical economic performance.
In short it means finding the speed limits of economic growth and ensuring that the economy runs at that level.
The economic objective is in turn informed by a vision for the development of the New Zealand economy.
It is a vision for a future in which New Zealanders:
* Celebrate those who succeed in all walks of life and encourage those who fail to try again
* Are full of optimism and confidence about ourselves, our country, our culture and our place in the world, and our ability to succeed
* Are a nation that gains strength from its foundation in the Treaty of Waitangi and in which we work in harmony to achieve our separate and collective goals
* Are excellent at responding to global opportunities and creating competitive advantage
* Are rich in well-founded and well-run companies and enterprises characterized by a common sense of purpose and achievement. They are global I outlook, competitive and growing in value
* Derive considerable value from our natural advantages in terms of resources, climate, human capital, infrastructure and sense of community
* Cherish our natural environment, are committed to protecting it for future generations and eager to share our achievements in that respect with others
* Know our individual success contributes to stronger families and communities and that all of us have fair access to education, housing, health care and fulfilling employment
In the best traditions of primacy and recency I want to focus on the first and last of these elements of the vision.
The Government’s Employment Strategy
Let’s start with the last two words of the final, but by no means least important of these elements of the vision – ‘fulfilling employment’.
It is that objective that brings us all together today – it is that objective that provided the point of departure for your Task Force, and it is that objective that is at the core of so much of what the Labour Alliance is about.
The document that Helen released on Tuesday is a ‘framework’ document. As she notes it draws on the recommendations of the various reports received by the Government, and it provides a context for a number of the strategies that the Government already has in place.
One of those is the Government’s Employment Strategy.
It wasn’t that long ago that we were being told by politicians and other ‘experts’ that a rate of unemployment of 6 or 7 percent was ‘natural’, and that we should all accept that a rate that ‘low’ was as good as it was ever going to get.
Unemployment is destructive of individual self esteem and pride; it is destructive of those communities that bear the brunt of it; and it is associated with poor physical and mental health. In economic terms it is inefficient to have significant numbers of this country’s most precious resource – its people – unemployed. It is this reality that underpins our shared commitment to zero waste of New Zealanders.
In simple terms there is clear economic trade-off – unemployment means economic growth foregone – and this Government’s commitment is to economic growth and social development. There is a positive relationship between a productive economy and a society that enjoys high levels of participation, connection and cohesion and their combined impact on people’s well-being.
That is why, on becoming Government, we quickly moved to develop an Employment Strategy.
The Employment Strategy establishes an integrated framework in which the Government’s employment priorities and policies are developed and implemented.
It has six goals which range from objectives for macroeconomic management – ensuring those policies generate sustained economic growth and its accompanying job creation – through to objectives targeting skills development and the reduction of long term unemployment.
Since the Employment Strategy was approved by the Cabinet some 18 months ago, New Zealand has made significant progress on economic and employment growth, developing a more skilled workforce and increasing labour force participation.
There has been sound economic growth and an increase of 39,000 – people in employment (and the figures for the December quarter last year, released last Friday, show that employment growth continued in the December quarter).
The number of people unemployed has not been lower since March 1988.
The participation rate is at its highest level since the March 1987 quarter.
The number of long term unemployed has dropped by approximately 10,000.
Most regions of the country have experienced employment growth over this period; all ethnic groups have experienced employment growth, with above average growth for Maori and Pacific peoples; and most age groups also experienced employment growth in the past year.
Government can set the policy framework and provide the right environment, but in the final analysis economic and employment growth results from a partnership between Government and the other key actors in the real economy – farmers, business, local government, unions and employees, and the community sector.
The considerable progress that has been made attests to the quality of the partnerships that have produced economic and employment growth.
The considerable progress that has been made attests to the quality of the partnership that we – local and central government – have, and in particular to the leadership that you are giving to local and regional economic development projects and the focus on jobs.
A strategy is nothing without outcomes that can be measured and reported on, and the Labour Alliance Government has just released a report which does just that. It outlines the employment outcomes being achieved, and progress on Government actions and initiatives that influence those outcomes.
I won’t rehearse the detail that is in that report here today, but I commend the report to you, and I would value your comments on it.
I would like to see a similar report – by which I mean an outcomes report – produced to monitor the progress that we are making through our partnership.
Our challenge is to ensure that over the medium term we continue to build on the progress we have made. Much has been achieved, but there is still much more to be done.
Now let me move to a very concrete example that illustrates the nexus between vision, framework, strategy, policy, programme, and outcomes.
You will be aware that last year, as Minister of Social Services and Employment I approved a strategy to advance the Ministry of Social Development’s relationship with the Mayors Taskforce.
In early October least year a meeting was held between senior officials of the Ministry of Social Development and representatives of the Mayors Taskforce.
Arising out of that meeting it was agreed that:
* Both parties would work in partnership to advance the Taskforce’s Mission of ‘working towards the zero waste of New Zealanders
* The establishment of Community Coalitions led by mayors and supported by Regional Commissioners would generate ‘action plans’
* A national strategic coalition would be established to ensure that a ‘whole of government’ approach is taken to support local initiatives
Subsequently Regional Employment Commissioners wrote to their Mayors inviting them to lead Community Coalitions, and I understand that considerable progress has already been made in a number of areas.
Let me cite but one example:
This is an example of a cooperative venture involving the economic development arm of a City Council, Work and Income of the Ministry of Social Development, Skill New Zealand – a crown entity that punches well above its weight and which will provide much of the operational grunt to the new Tertiary Education Commission when it comes into existence on 1 July this year – and Industry New Zealand.
The sponsor is the Mayor of the City, and his name is Sir Barry Curtis.
This project has involved Work and Income Auckland South working in conjunction with Enterprising Manukau to put together a package of assistance for a US company called Jack Links Ltd. They intend making beef jerky for export to the US market. The new venture will employ around 450 people over the next 12 months, of which approximately 300 jobs will be for work and Income clients - most of whom will come from priority groups such as Maori and Pacific youth.
As an adjunct to this, the Mayor and Regional Commissioner decided to look at what additional employment opportunities might be generated out of a significant industry like this being established in Manukau.
Approval was given for work and income to fund Enterprising Manukau to undertake some value chain research, that is researching what employment opportunities might be generated in associated industries such as waste management, transportation, packaging etc. A work broker is tied to the project and when opportunities are identified, the work broker will attempt to secure those opportunities through targeted assistance for Work and income clients. For the most part it is intended that it will be Work and Income’s youth clients that benefit.
The project has just got underway with a researcher appointed by Enterprising Manukau. He is currently developing a relationship with Jack Links so that the associated industry opportunities can be identified quickly.
This is an exceptional outcome – a process based in partnership between central and local government (with some whole of government coordination on the part of the former), and in terms of substantive outcomes, a new enterprise creating real jobs.
It is but one of a number of exciting projects now underway, and there are others that I could comment on, for example;
* A partnership between the Ministry of Social Development and Waitakere City, lead by the Mayor and focused on the development and integration of an Economic and an Employment Skills Strategy
* The Destinations and Tracking Pilot involving a partnership between Skill New Zealand and the Careers Service, on the one hand, and on the other Jenny Brash and Garry Moore representing the Porirua and Christchurch City Councils respectively, and a number of secondary schools from both those cities
I am confident that there will be many other projects, and that these projects will grow the relationship between central and local government, and the economic development agencies of each, and – in the final analysis – grow the number of sustainable jobs.
And now let me turn, in conclusion, to the first of the elements of our vision for the future of New Zealand that I referred to earlier. The need to:
“Celebrate those who succeed in all works of life and encourage those who fail to try again”
In Growing an Innovative New Zealand the Government has this to say:
“… this government does not believe we can put on hold social and environmental progress, and concentrate solely on economic growth. Implicit in the quality of the growth we are seeking will be the integration of the economic, environmental and social pillars of sustainable development …”
In other words, for the Labour Alliance Government there is a triple bottom line with emphasis on the economic, the social, and the environmental, and with sustainability being a paramount and common consideration for all three.
The segue through to the new partnership between the Mayors Taskforce and the NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development is an obvious one, and I want to add my congratulations and best wishes as you formally launch that new partnership here today.
This week the Prime Minister released a framework that illuminates both where we have come from, and where we are heading.
My sense is that Growing an Innovative New Zealand is the kind of framework that those gathered here today will be comfortable with. The partnership between central government and the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs clearly predated the work, but is absolutely consistent with it.
Together we have achieved a great deal over the past two years – because we are both impatient and ambitious for our communities and our nation we tend to discount our past achievements against our future challenges. There is much to be done, but we should take pride in what we have achieved thus far, and in so doing recommit to the project that brings us together at this time.