Jim Anderton
    Minister of Economic Development
    Speech to Mayors Taskforce for Jobs 7 March 2003


    I want to congratulate you all for your work in creating jobs for New Zealanders.

    Sustainable, high paying jobs are the major priority of the Progressive Party. I know from working with you that they are your aim as well.

    I personally believe the single most important way that we can help people and New Zealand is to have full employment.

    Work gives people confidence and independence which make for a stronger, safer and happier community.

    In the early days of this government we faced some opposition from some local authorities, and others, that jobs and economic development were not roles that local government had any responsibility for.

    In part because of the creation of the Mayor's Taskforce this has now changed.

    Many of you here realised that if it wasn't your role jobs might never get created.

    Your prioritisation of youth employment is also one shared by the Labour Progressive Government, and we have been proud to work in partnership with you. However there is much to do.

    The unemployment rate for people under 25 is still around 11 per cent. This is at the same time that we have unemployment at a 15 year low and we face skills shortages up and down New Zealand in a range of industries.

    We need to work to upskill and train our young people. This Government aims to have 6,000 new apprentices by the end of this year.

    I note that Allied Telesyn here in Christchurch recruited 30 top computer science graduates this year to boost their innovation and development.

    Population projections indicate that increasingly, the workforce will consist of Maori and Pacific Island people, who have traditionally been over-represented in negative economic and social statistics.

    2001 census shows Maori and Pacific people make up 18.6% of the working age population (15-64 years). This is projected to rise to about 30% in 2051.

    The challenge is to ensure we are giving young Maori and pacific island people the opportunity to make a contribution to our economy.

    If we can harness the potential that these young people have then we will have a much stronger future.

    Full employment will mean we are generating more income and will be able to fund health, education and other social services for all our citizens.

    In 1970, New Zealand had roughly the same per capita income as Australia. Since then we have we have fallen significantly behind.
    If we had achieved just 1 per cent additional annual per capita growth over that 30 year period (corresponding to 3.1 per cent real GDP growth), we would have been now on a par with Australia (which ranks 12th in the OECD).

    Stronger economic growth would have increased the incomes of all New Zealanders and allowed us to provide the world-class government services that New Zealanders want.

    Growth is not an end in itself. An average of 1 per cent greater growth over the last 30 years would mean that $4.2 billion extra could be spent on education ($3500 per student) each year as well as an extra $3.7 billion on health. Extra 1 per cent would mean the average worker would now get $175 per week extra.

    The goal of returning to the top half of the OECD rankings is an ambitious one. Over the 30 years from 1970, NZ dropped from 9th place to 20th place (out of 30) - between Spain and Portugal. It will take NZ a decade of 4 per cent growth to get to where Australia is now.

    The key for NZ to achieve this ambitious goal is for our innovation processes to improve. Because of our history of isolation and lack of resources, as a nation we have developed a reputation for finding unusual, but effective, solutions to problems.

    We must build on this strength of ideas and become a nation known internationally for our innovative products, our creativity, our skills and our lifestyle. GIF is not solely about achieving a level of per capita growth, it's about achieving the best we can as a nation.

    The government is committed to working with all parts of the economy to make this happen. But, ultimately, achieving the growth target will require dedication and passion at the local level, as well as nationally.

    As leaders in their communities, Mayors have a vital role to play in building localised support for economic growth.

    The new Local Government Act seeks to provide for greater flexibility and certainty, and allows councils to respond effectively to the changing needs of their communities.

    The government's Regional Partnerships Programme aims to help regions set their economic development goals and work to bring these to fruition. Mayors have the local knowledge of businesses and the people - what they want and how they want to achieve it - to make this process work.

    Growth is continuing though it is slowing in some regions as businesses confront barriers such as:

    a lack of skilled workers; a need for better infrastructure including transport and communications technology, a shortage of skilled workers, and access to investment and venture capital.

    This Government is committed to working in partnership with regions to address barriers to further economic development.

    Last week I asked officials from the Ministry of Economic Development and Industry New Zealand to report on the Wellington region's economic performance and outlook. I have also asked them to assess the impact and effectiveness of current central government infrastructure, business and development programmes in the region.

    Another region I am planning to work with is Northland.

    As Minister for Economic Industry and Regional Development I am here to work with you for the common goal of having vibrant communities which have sustainable growth.

    I am here to work with you to create jobs. Our communities expect nothing less.

    Thank you.