My focus, as Hamilton List MP, is to develop the Waikato region back to its fullest potential.

On a recent visit to Huntly, a wise kuia reminded me that the last time state assets were sold, it was very bad for employment in Huntly.

Just a few weeks later, Solid Energy said it was shedding 120 miners' jobs in Huntly, as it prepares to be sold off by the National Government.

If the Chiefs can do it, as a region, we can too. Our provincial pride bolstered by their achievement was evident in the thousands of people who turned up to show their support at the recent ticket parade.


However, it's a big job.

Unemployment has almost doubled from 4.4 per cent in December, 2008 to 8.6 per cent in March.

We've seen 4810 people leave the Waikato region looking for opportunities across the Tasman.

The lack of opportunity for Kiwis in our towns and small communities is hurting heartland New Zealand.

Hamilton can't afford to lose 1742 people to Australia. Small towns are suffering - Otorohanga lost 86 of its community as they left for better prospects across the ditch.

Job loss is being masked by the trans-Tasman exodus. If you add the people leaving the Waikato with the total number of unemployed, the job deficit figure would read a lot higher than forecast.

There have been job losses in public and private sectors; Inland Revenue shaved 54 positions in the past couple of years while the Department of Conservation lost 10.

Industry is hurting with 140 jobs lost at SCA Hygiene, 63 at THL Motors, 27 at Pacific Aerospace and 25 at a bottling plant in Paeroa. All companies are significant employers within the Waikato.


"New Zealand cannot succeed if our regions are struggling. Labour is promoting an approach where central government aligns in partnership with our regions to create opportunity and growth," says Labour leader David Shearer.

Education and job creation are on the agenda this week as Grant Robertson, Labour's tertiary education, skills and training spokesperson visits the Waikato.

"National Government has cut more than $30 million of funding for regional polytechnics - further evidence that the Government is neglecting provincial New Zealand," Robertson says.

Waikato residents want to work. We know that because 1000 people queued for 140 jobs at the new Countdown supermarket in Hamilton last year. What our people need is opportunity and an economy that supports businesses and helps them to grow.

Labour will actively pursue news ideas for growth and find innovative ways to support developments that encourage local industry to grow. We will invest in education so regional residents are highly skilled.

The future, otherwise, looks bleak for our regions. National sees them as a cost rather than an opportunity. Labour believes we should pull together and work in partnership because if our regions don't succeed, New Zealand won't succeed.

We will stand up for heartland New Zealand and invest in education to create the opportunity and growth to give our people a future to succeed.