Spread development more evenly, mayor says

Dave Cull.
Dave Cull.
There was more to regional development than just putting money into particular projects, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said yesterday.

'Sustainable' regional revival needed

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times from the Local Government New Zealand conference, Mr Cull said he had listened to speeches by Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader David Cunliffe on their perspectives for regional help.

Mr Key, in his speech, talked about the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act, a joint initiative between central and local government to fast-track special housing areas for new developments.

Christchurch City was working with central government to address issues related to the supply of affordable and social housing following the earthquakes.

Queenstown Lakes, Western Bay of Plenty and Tauranga City were also negotiating accords.

Mr Key also talked about the Government's investment in regional roads to get more efficient freight movement and faster, safer journeys.

The Government spent more than $3 billion from the National Land Transport Fund in the 2013-14 year.

About $2 billion was spent on state highways and other central government responsibilities and more than $1 billion for local roads and other co-funded activities.

Over the same period, local government put $913 million into local roads and co-funded activities.

''So it's roughly a 50-50 split when it comes to local projects and 100% taxpayers' money on all highway improvements and maintenance. We're looking to spend more,'' Mr Key said.

Mr Cunliffe announced Labour would establish a $200 million fund over four years to co-invest in infrastructure and industry projects in the regions.

Mr Cull said said there had been talk at the conference of a two-speed economy but it was not either Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch or the regions.

It was the regions and Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

There was talk about local government spending more on roading but Mr Cull warned there could be a squeeze on ratepayers if they had to pay for total upkeep of local roads and more co-funded activities.

Clutha district spent the majority of its budget on roading and as ratepayer numbers fell and populations aged, would find it harder to meet those roading costs.

Milk tankers and logging trucks travelled those roads, while contributing to overall economic growth, he said.

Central government had to recognise the contribution regions made to the New Zealand economy and the dangers of not optimising that effect, Mr Cull said.

Local Government NZ president Lawrence Yule said economic growth across all of New Zealand was one of the single biggest priorities for the sector but it was not just an issue for local government.

Local and central government needed to work together to reduce regional inequalities across the country.

''We need to find ways to develop our regional centres into environments which offer opportunities in education, employment and business as places where skilled locals want to stay and set up business and where skilled migrants want to settle.''

Local Government NZ would launch a series of roadshows in coming months to explore how local government could enable and support economic growth across the whole country, he said.

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