Regions doing all right, thanks

By Chester Borrows

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Chester Borrows PHOTO/FILE
Chester Borrows PHOTO/FILE

Census data released recently has caused a few headlines - particularly in the regions.

Fresh from Labour leader David Cunliffe writing his own stats and telling the world that Kiwis are abandoning the regions in droves, we find the facts tell a different story. Some regions have grown, and Taranaki is at the front. While Wanganui has seen a small decline - about 150 people since 2006 - that's nothing near what was expected, so I think we can hold off on the tales of woe for our regions.

Bear in mind that much government funding is tagged to population. So the larger the population we have in South Taranaki and Wanganui, the more money for schools, hospitals, government support initiatives, roading and the like.

The economy of provincial centres such as Wanganui and Taranaki is what makes the country solid and successful. It means we can provide the infrastructure of a modern society by producing what other countries want, such as high-quality, nutritious food. The proof of how important our regional agriculture is can be seen by the weather having a bigger impact on our gross domestic product than the vagary of other macro-economic pressures.

We in the provinces need to know we have clout.

It also means he provinces will become a bigger target for political parties looking for support.

The local body elections are over and already the sabres are rattling and schmoozing started ahead of next year's general election. Winston Peters has started drawing lines in the sand for his support and that of his party, which is a very unusual place to start any negotiation.

That said, if history is anything to go by, bottom lines for New Zealand First tend to be a movable feast, depending on what baubles are offered. It leaves one wondering what will happen to Mr Peters' other bottom lines - to not be part of a government with the Greens, or to only ever support the biggest party in Parliament into government.

MMP always requires a coalition agreement of some strength, and that support comes with strings attached, in policies that don't always sit squarely with the other party's manifesto promises. So the formation of any government under MMP requires the movement of bottom lines. But, just as a seller never reveals their bottom price or a buyer their highest offer in the first blush of the haggle, politicians tend to keep their powder dry until election results.

So, by this time next year we will be about to vote or have just voted for the next government. In the intervening period we'll all be visited, smiled at, promised, poked and prodded.

Yet while this smiling and sweet-talking is going on, we should have in the back of our mind that our country's past and future is built on what we produce in the provinces - food, forestry, energy and associated manufacturing. It means we have political currency, and we should spend it wisely.

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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