PM enjoys action packed visit

By Katie Holland

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Prime Minister John Key has enjoyed an action-packed day in Rotorua - complete with ribbon cutting, kapa haka and upbeat messages on the economy.

Yesterday morning, Mr Key joined the thousands at Rotorua International Stadium for Te Matatini, the national kapa haka festival.

After watching a performance from the VIP section, he ventured out among the crowd where he posed for photographs, talked to festival-goers and grabbed an ice-cream.

Later, Mr Key said Te Matatini had been magnificent.

"It shows great New Zealand Maori culture on display, there's fantastic competition - every year the standard rises and it's a great way of showcasing New Zealand."

Displaying true diplomacy, Mr Key declined to pick a winner.

"That could be dangerous."

Mr Key was then guest of honour at a Chamber of Commerce-hosted lunch at Distinction Hotel, where he told 180 local business people and community leaders New Zealand's economy was looking "quite good", with the latest employment figures encouraging, a growth in manufacturing and business and consumer confidence up.

He said in a global sense New Zealand was well placed but now had to strive for greater efficiency to maintain and improve that position.

Mr Key, who is also the Minister of Tourism and enjoys fishing on the region's lakes, spoke of the need for Rotorua and New Zealand to tap further into the "massive" Chinese tourist market.

"It will be the largest growth tourism market in the world for as long as we're on this planet."

Mr Key told the audience his responsibility was to leave New Zealand "in better shape than he found it" and that sometimes meant making unpopular decisions.

"We don't make them [decisions] for you to like us more."

On the agenda for 2013 were asset sales, resource management reform and welfare reforms aimed at getting people into jobs and children out of poverty, he said.

In response to an audience question, Mr Key confirmed the Government was looking to re-assess Maori land laws, saying about 92 per cent of the 28,000 Maori land blocks were unproductive. He acknowledged there would be issues with developing collectively owned land, but said it was something his government was looking at.

There were several lighter moments during Mr Key's speech, although Rotorua MP Todd McClay may not have appreciated his boss letting slip he was known as "Toddles" in Cabinet.

Mr Key also managed to fit in visits to two local businesses - cutting the ribbon at the new Quest Apartments on Hinemoa St and unveiling a plaque at the opening of a new remanufacturing plant at Red Stag Timber.

Despite the tight itinerary, the laid-back Prime Minister and his security team made an unscheduled visit to the Waipa mountain bike car park where he chatted with some starstruck young riders.

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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