Govt doing plenty: Joyce

The Government was doing plenty to encourage economic growth in Dunedin, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said in Parliament yesterday.

Mr Joyce and Labour economic development spokesman and Dunedin North MP David Clark clashed in Parliament yesterday over how much economic support was provided to Dunedin and Otago.

Dr Clark asked Mr Joyce whether he agreed with Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull that ''Central Government needs to understand we can't have a two-speed economy where Christchurch and Auckland are ripping ahead and the rest of the regions are withering.''

Mr Joyce, who had already faced similar questions from Labour regional development spokesman Shane Jones, said he did not agree with Mr Cull, and the facts did not support that hypothesis.

The most recent data on the fastest-growing regions showed they included Taranaki, West Coast, Otago and Southland, Mr Joyce said.

Several regions, including Southland, had lower unemployment than Auckland.

Dr Clark pressed on with his questions, causing the minister to explain the ''excellent'' University of Otago received the second-largest funding each year of New Zealand tertiary institutions. It received $277 million a year of taxpayers' funding.

''It's important to invest in Otago and that's what this Government is doing.''

After Dr Clark read out a list of redundancies in the city in recent times, Mr Joyce read out a list of investments the Government was making into Otago.

That included: Providing $9 million in research and development grants in Dunedin over the past three years; supporting 200 Dunedin and Otago companies with New Zealand Trade and Enterprises services; funding and supporting the Upstart incubator, in Dunedin; Otago projects on the national cycle trail, completing the Caversham State Highway 1 upgrade; encouraging petroleum exploration around the region; encouraging the development of irrigation projects in the region.

''I don't know why [Dr Clark] is busy talking down his own economy when there are any number of companies growing in the city,'' he said.

Dr Clark later told the Otago Daily Times Otago now had the largest number of unemployed people since 1991. Given the figures, Mr Joyce was living in ''dreamland'' by claiming he was positive about Dunedin's future.

The number of unemployed in Otago was now 7800, the highest number since 1991.

''It comes off the back of hundreds of recent job losses in Otago. National is creating a two-speed economy where the regions are struggling.

''Everyone in Otago knows the economy is facing serious difficulties. Business leaders, local MPs, unions and the mayor are all deeply concerned about the future of Otago and Dunedin,'' he said.


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