Economic backwaters like Northland and Gisborne should learn from the West Coast, Waikato and Taranaki which have embraced mining and intensive dairying and are now reaping the benefits, says Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce.
Joyce yesterday released the Regional Economic Activity Report which is the first time all the available economic data on the 16 regions had been pulled together for comparison.
"The report is designed to encourage more debate about what it takes for a region to be successful, and to more clearly link the decisions that are made by local stakeholders about resource allocation and usage to the number of jobs available in a region," Joyce said.
"It is my expectation stakeholders will want to use it to compare and contrast the economic fortunes of different regions around the country, and ask themselves what lessons and opportunities there are for growth and jobs in their region."
Unsurprisingly, the urban economies of Auckland and Wellington topped the household income level measure.
However, incomes on the West Coast had grown to the point where they now rivalled those in Auckland and Wellington, and incomes in Taranaki and Waikato were also higher than average thanks to their mining, oil and gas, and dairy industries respectively.
"In each of these regions, the application of technology and capital to their natural resource endowments has yielded high returns because of export earnings."
Northland, Gisborne and the Eastern Bay of Plenty were the regions struggling most, Joyce said.
The way forward for those regions came down to a couple things: "Definitely the skills and lifting up the educational levels of some of the young people in those regions, and also taking advantage of the opportunities so whether its natural resources or a range of other things.
"We do have people in Northland and people on the East Coast who say we should take a whole lot of things off the table in terms of resources for example ... then they turn around and say by the way we're not very happy with people moving off to work in Western Australia.
"The point of this report is to point out the obvious aspect of that, which is if you don't allow opportunities to happen in your region, then that will happen over time."
Joyce said future Treaty settlements could provide an economic base for development in Northland where there were opportunities in the primary sector which would be enhanced by water management reform and improved transport infrastructure.