Regional centres such as Dunedin are suffering, and
Labour is taking their plight seriously and will revitalise
them, Labour leader and regional development spokesman David
The party's caucus held a day-long meeting in Dunedin on
Monday, and split into groups to visit organisations and
Mr Cunliffe was impressed by the city's burgeoning ''little
Silicon Valley'', citing ADInstruments, Animation Research,
and AbacusBio, and he visited all three businesses yesterday.
By combining Dunedin's manufacturing and education strengths
they exemplified the city's ''new economy'' of high-value
products, which was a model for the wider regional economy.
''What can the next Labour government do to help that grow
faster?''Ask yourself what the current Government has ever
done for Dunedin? It hasn't had any real infrastructure
investment since the last Labour government.
''They've presided over the destruction of Hillside
workshops, now they're destroying Invermay, and I don't blame
Dunedinites for feeling like they are a lost tribe wandering
in the wilderness, because the current Government is doing
nothing for them.''
Regional development had risen on the party's policy agenda,
although Labour had not neglected it previously. Regional
growth rates were ''much'' higher under the last Labour
''You can safely assume [regional development is] more
central to our manifesto because it's being led at leader
level,'' he said.
Mr Cunliffe is determined to win back the Dunedin South party
vote next year, which in a ''very unusual'' result was taken
by National in the 2011 general election. He also wanted to
improve the party's showing in rural Otago and Invercargill.
''I think this is a new springtime for the Labour Party. This
is a new beginning.''
He did not accept areas like Dunedin should be subject to the
Reserve Bank mortgage restrictions brought in to try to
control the housing market.
This was despite Dunedin being deemed ''severely
unaffordable'' in the last annual Annual Demographia
International Housing Affordability Survey. Dunedin house
prices were 5.1 times the annual gross household income.
Mr Cunliffe said Otago's ''affordability problem'' should be
addressed through higher wages, but house price inflation -
3.9% in Otago last year - indicated it did not have an
Some wage rises would come from his desire to introduce a
living wage of $18.40 an hour for all Government employees,
and Labour's $15 minimum wage promise.
Asked about the health sector, where many workers were
outsourced to private providers and paid little more than the
current minimum wage of $13.75, Mr Cunliffe said he would
like to see a living wage across the whole health sector, but
it would be introduced gradually.
He would like to see living wage employers favoured for
government contracts, and acknowledged this could mean
funding increases for district health boards and the like.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement was a potential risk
to the regional development that Mr Cunliffe would like to
foster. However, Labour might support the deal, depending on
its detail, which was being kept secret.
''We are challenging the Government to put more information
into the public domain so that New Zealanders can make a
He said Dunedin company Donaghys Industries was potentially
affected by any changes to patent law that favoured
''That intellectual property area is one that we need to
watch very closely in the TPP negotiations. The grave risk is
by the time we all get to know about it, we may not have any
real choice to change it.''
Labour planned to lift the top rate of personal tax, which is
33c in the dollar at present, but was ''unlikely'' to match
Australia's rate of 45c.