It was easy to talk down the local economy, but the evidence
did not back it up, Prime Minister John Key told Scott
Technology workers in Dunedin yesterday.
He remained optimistic about Dunedin's future.
''It would be quite easy to talk this part of the world down,
when actually there's not a lot of evidence to support that
would be the right thing to do.''
He said Scott Technology was at the cutting edge of product
advances that changed the employment market.
Products such as its meat processing automation technology -
which Mr Key was shown before talking to the workers - would
see fewer people engaged in manual tasks, although not
necessarily fewer jobs overall.
Along with IT, promising areas for the South were education,
agriculture, tourism, oil, gas and mining.
Unemployment of 6.3% in Otago was slightly lower than the
6.4% national rate.
He expected unemployment nationally to reduce to 5.5% next
year, while New Zealand's ''structural full employment''
level was 5% unemployed. He recently spoke to ANZ chief
executive Mike Smith, who described the bank's Dunedin
customers as ''flying'', he said.
''The ANZ's not sitting there as probably the largest bank in
the country saying there's a problem in Dunedin.''
Asked for questions, workers were initially silent, but
eventually asked about the snapper fishing quota, Syria and
whether he would buy Scott Technology shares after his visit.
''I'm not allowed to trade my own shares ... I have a blind
trust, but I was walking around [the business] thinking `I
hope the blind trust owns some'.
''When you kick me out I'll buy some - that's not a reason to
not vote [for us],'' he said, to much laughter from workers.
Rapid changes in technology meant New Zealand must have a
decent education system, he said.
Asked at his press conference afterwards how possible cuts to
second-chance learning places in Dunedin assisted the goal of
improving the education system, Mr Key said the Government's
investment in second-chance learners remained ''huge'', but
would be streamlined.
''What we'd love to see is less need for that because less
youngsters are coming out of our schools with the need for
catch-up foundation classes, but we have been spending huge
amounts of money on that.''
Earlier, Mr Key visited oat mill Harraways, where he chatted
with individual staff members while they worked, and had a
He even took a quick turn at sweeping the floor, at miller
Leale Peterson's request.
''I said `you can do a bit too','' Mr Peterson told the
Otago Daily Times.
Mr Key started his visit to the South yesterday with a visit
to technology firm TracMap, in Mosgiel.