The people of the Rangitikei electorate are looking forward to this year with nervous optimism. There is a sense that the economy is on the move, that the tourism and food production sectors will have a sound year - and that a John Key-led government will continue to give the people of the Rangitikei the best possible opportunity to prosper.
Items that are of particular interest to my electorate are stimulated by the target set by the business growth agenda to lift the value of exports to the economy from 30 per cent to 40 per cent of GDP by 2025. Given that the Primary Production sector accounts for 72 per cent of all merchandise exports, this target is significant.
As I mentioned last week the Government, through the Ministry for Primary Industries, has invested more than $650 million in Primary Growth Partnerships (PGPs) to boost the export sector. And in the past week we have had an exciting initiative announced by Beef and Lamb NZ, whereby the Ministry will invest $30 million over seven years on a dollar-for-dollar basis, with the major players in the red meat industry. This has great potential to refocus this industry's attention on the future.
The irrigation fund will also make a huge contribution to our increased productivity and a potential $400 million investment here will be seeded by $80 million in this year's budget.
The Prime Minister has re-emphasised the Government's determination to make haste with the reforms so badly needed to encourage economic recovery. He has confirmed our commitment to a better result from our education sector, he has made a very strong statement around our housing requirements and of the need to continue the reform of the RMA to enable developers and councils to better deal with section prices and the availability of land.
The Government has prioritised manufacturing sector in its planning and training for the future. In the Rangitikei we have some outstanding performers in this sector, many of them in agriculture. They are doing well because they have embraced the new era, technology and skills, they have cut their costs and upped their efficiency.
Many of these companies are manufacturing and designing with the environment and sustainability to the fore. They are competing on the international market with great success. However, that market has changed forever, and manufacturing will never be the mass employer it was as new methods are adopted and technology takes over.
The sector has great potential as an employer but, I suspect, in much smaller modules. That is why the Government has put the emphasis on other sectors that will, as the economy gets moving, take up the employment slack.
One last thing: the Wellington Rugby Sevens have been and gone for another year. What a great event to have in our capital city, which comes alive for the whole weekend.