Prime Minister John Key managed to clear an ''air of
tension'' in the room yesterday when he addressed the Otago
Chamber of Commerce, president Peter McIntyre said.
It became obvious as the questions flowed at the
chamber-organised lunch that Mr Key was well briefed on the
region's economic development strategy and the role Invermay
played in that strategy.
About 50 chamber members were at the lunch, which was closed
to the media.
''There was an air of tension in the room but Dunedin can
only benefit from the visit by Mr Key today. He is happy to
engage with us as a city on regional economic development. It
was good; really good,'' Mr McIntyre said.
The chamber, along with Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull and other
civic leaders, have been pressing for 85 jobs to remain at
AgResearch's Invermay campus rather than moving to either
Christchurch or Palmerston North.
A decision is due on September 26.
Next week, Mr Cull will lead a delegation to Wellington to
talk to Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce to try to
make a case for Invermay to be expanded, not reduced.
Mr Cull said he talked to Mr Key about Invermay and put the
situation in context - it was not just about local job
Invermay played a key role within the region's economic
growth, particularly around the tertiary sector. There were
implications for the city, the region and nationally from any
changes at Invermay.
''We don't want a hand-out but we don't want things taken
away that underpin growth. He got that.''
Mr McIntyre said Mr Key gave the region credit for the work
it was already undertaking around the knowledge economy.
And the Prime Minister recognised the part Invermay played
within the knowledge economy and it was a central part of the
Dunedin economic development strategy.
''There was nothing more we could expect, other than the
Prime Minister to immediately reverse the decision on
Invermay and there was a 1% chance of that happening.''
Mr Key asked the city to talk to the Government about ideas
it had for economic growth.
Mr McIntyre said it was important the economic development
strategy group went to Wellington soon with positive
suggestions about the future of the city.
''I'm feeling far more positive than I was prior to the
luncheon. I said at the end Mr Key was facing a sterner and
grumpier audience than he had previously.''
During question time, Mr Key also talked about the
Christchurch rebuild, acknowledging the amount of money it
The Government felt it had an obligation to contribute to the
rebuild. If an earthquake devastated Dunedin, Mr Key said the
city would expect something of a similar nature, Mr McIntyre
Mr Key expected Christchurch's current GDP of 6.5% to carry
on for the next decade and Dunedin would benefit from that
high economic growth.
''I believe there is more we can do as a city in the next
decade to benefit from the growth in Christchurch.''
Other topics at the lunch included whether new immigrants
could be steered towards to the South in the first instance,
rather than Auckland.
Having Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse living in
Dunedin could help that process, Mr McIntyre said.