Local politicians support stronger regional government offices

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Winston Peters says moving government offices to the regions would "breathe life" into local economies. Photo /  File
Winston Peters says moving government offices to the regions would "breathe life" into local economies. Photo / File

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters' suggestion that government should relocate government departments into regional centres is good in theory, but unlikely to be practical, say some Tauranga business leaders and politicians.

According to Mr Peters, his policy would "breathe life into the regions" after years of neglect by successive governments. "Service industries and shops will flourish with more residents spending their money locally," he said.

"Currently we have a country with the majority of jobs concentrated in overloaded cities. There is no reason in this age of advanced technology that government office jobs cannot be in smaller cities and towns."

Former Tauranga mayor and new Bay of Plenty Regional Council member Stuart Crosby said the philosophy of relocating departments to the regions had been around for a while, and had also had been looked at by Local Government New Zealand.

However, he said, there were a number of dynamics that would be involved in shifting a major government department to a regional city, including taking into account the views of skilled people already working for the departments who may not wish to relocate.

Instead, Mr Crosby said he was a strong believer in government departments setting up well-resourced autonomous offices in regions, as the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) had done in Tauranga.

"NZTA set up regional offices, but more importantly they gave the regional manager significant delegated authority," he said.

"And then things happened a lot quicker. I think that's a very good model to follow. Put good people in the regions who are well-resourced, and give them delegated authority to do stuff and make it happen quickly."

Tauranga's former deputy mayor and city councillor Kelvin Clout said Mr Peters' overall concept sounded good in theory, but he suggested it was unlikely to work in practice.

And while relocating an entire government office to a smaller regional city could benefit it, "in reality you could struggle to get staff to relocate to smaller provincial towns," he said.

However, Mr Clout also supported the idea of government departments having strong regional offices, and argued that it made good sense for Tauranga, as the biggest city in the Bay of Plenty, to be the base for regional central government offices.

Priority One communications manager Annie Hill said it would be great for the Bay of Plenty - and particularly Tauranga - to have more government departments represented in the regions.

"They tend to pay good salaries and it shows the government's support of the regions as well as the main centres," she said.

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