Politicians take message to the street

By Lindy Laird

Young people were happy to chew the fat with Labour Party finance spokesman David Parker and list MP Shane Jones about jobs and prospects when they were in Whangarei to talk about the regional economy.

But while yesterday's impromptu meet-and-greet in Cameron St proved a frank and friendly exchange, the politicians weren't prepared to make any announcements in the street about how Labour's economic policy might impact on Northland.

As far as regional economy and growth were concerned, Northland was similar to many other regions in New Zealand "but may even be slightly worse," Mr Parker told the Northern Advocate. Labour had regional development policies "but I'm not about to talk about them here," he said.

That conversation was kept for meetings with Northland Chamber of Commerce and Whangarei District Council representatives later in the afternoon.

Among young people who chatted with the two politicians, some were in work while others talked about joining their family members in Australia.

Northland needed to be able to offer incentives to stem the flood of people leaving to find work in Australia - 2,800 last year from this region alone, Mr Parker said.

He said fundamental changes were needed in New Zealand to allow the regions to thrive.

"The most important is the exchange rate setting, it needs to be 10 or 25 per cent lower to reflect its real value. At the moment we're suffering the effects of other countries adjusting their own percentage rates."

Mr Jones said his home region had good prospects "but, first, we need to amplify in the North a communal vision".

Opportunities lay in tourism, aquaculture and developing native forestry on marginal land, he said.

- Northern Advocate

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