The past couple of years have been difficult for many businesses as the effects of the recession and global financial crisis have impacted on the NZ economy. For many it's been a matter of consolidation as the Government has worked hard to take the sharp edges off the downturn.
Compared with other countries, and in particular the US and the EU, New Zealand has weathered the financial storm fairly well. Levels of government debt and unemployment in Greece, Italy, Spain, the UK, Ireland, the USA and many other countries have increased significantly compared to ours.
Having said this, the level of unemployment in New Zealand is of concern and it was pleasing to see it fall last month. In Rotorua we have seen the rate drop over the last little while, but history shows that even in good times it has always been far too high here.
Over the past few months I have started to sense optimism among a growing number of local businesses from a diverse range of sectors; 2013 has kicked off with a bang, with important events like the Rotorua Bike Festival, Raggamuffin and Te Matatini already bringing in thousands of tourists, pumping millions of dollars into the economy.
Te Matatini alone was attended by 40,000 people over four days and it's estimated they spent around $20 million in our city in one week.
Rotorua businesses in the engineering sector tell me that many have a larger workforce today than before the recession hit. With continued strength in the forestry and farming industries again, there is reason for optimism that this trend will continue.
Recently I hosted Prime Minister John Key in Rotorua where he opened two new developments in support of the local economy. The opening of the new Quest Hotel in Hinemoa Street is particularly exciting.
This multimillion-dollar investment by building owners Ray and Barbara Cook, and franchisees Colin and Lisa MacPhee, is further proof that Rotorua is a standout visitor destination. I congratulate them for their hard work and commitment to investing in Rotorua and creating local jobs for local people.
Red Stag Timber is New Zealand's largest saw mill. It is a significant employer of people in the wider Rotorua area, with many businesses dependent upon it for work. Red Stag owner Marty Verry and general manager Tim Ritger have shown great confidence in Rotorua as a world-class manufacturing base.
Their investment of $9 million into a new remanufacturing plant is significant for the New Zealand manufacturing and wood processing industry and increases their workforce by around 10 per cent.
It's great to see local investment and growth, although it does seem like it's been a long time coming. Rotorua has a huge amount to offer and it's now time to refocus our efforts to show more people in all parts of the country that this is a great place to live, work and play.
From central government to all aspects of local government we need to make sure that we are doing everything possible to make investment in our local economy easier.
We need to show current and future businesses that they are wanted, that they are welcome and that we will do everything reasonable to make sure they succeed. We need to do this because it will mean more local jobs.
We also need to reduce unnecessary compliance and red tape at a local level so that tiresome bureaucracy doesn't get in the way of good decision-making.
The Government has a strong plan to encourage investment, strengthen our economy, and boost jobs for New Zealanders.
Ultimately we want New Zealand to become a magnet for investment. The more investment we get, the more jobs will be created for hard-working Kiwis in our communities. Rotorua must play its part in this.