It was depressing reading Rex Graham's amateurish economic assessment of Hawke's Bay (HB Today Talking Point, June 11).

He is the leader of the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, a region with a population of about 150,000 people and a sizeable economy to boot and yet he manages only a simplistic and defensive view that because there are good international prices for apples, all is well.

Clearly it is not. When one looks down from Te Mata Peak and sees all the "competitive and profitable" orchards and vineyards, ones sees industries that pay some of the lowest rates in the western world.

And then many of the jobs are not even permanent but only seasonal.

So bad are the rates that NZers won't even work for them! No wonder they are so profitable. How is that all good for HB?

It's good for the orchard owners, like Graham is or was, but not the workers and therefore the wider HB economy and society.

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There are few to no $100,000-plus jobs in the apple industry, whereas there are few under $100,000 jobs in Auckland and Wellington.

What about getting a few of those here, Mr Graham, rather than promoting the poor-paying orcharding sector?

Further, I understand that well over half of all orchards are owned by businesses or people who live outside HB (and many of those are foreign), so all the profits go out of HB.

Orcharding is a major industry for HB but few in our regional economy materially benefit.
As a result HB is largely a hand-to-mouth economy.

Taranaki, by contrast has - or had - one of the highest average wage economies in NZ. It of course has an energy sector, something which Rex Graham has actively canvassed against because it could potentially disturb his beloved orcharding sector.

In attacking the energy sector he seems to conveniently forget that it was the orchard industry (perhaps like ones he was involved with in the past?) who burned their prunings and only a few years ago burned raw oil no less to keep frosts at bay.

So it is they who generally helped to create this whole climate-change mess in the first place; and they use/used sprays which kill/killed all the natural bugs and insects and which not only affects our environment but in turn runs off into the waterways and rivers like the Karamu stream and affects the aquatic life.

This is the industry which promotes Rex Graham with advertising favours at times of election to help him win his seat on the council.

And its rich of Rex Graham to highlight how well beef and dairying are doing when it was he who was actively against assisting them with the Ruataniwha Fresh Water & Ecological River Improvement Lake Project.

He said Fonterra didn't have a plant in HB so we wouldn't benefit from the lake. He of course failed to advise the good people of HB that there are several milk bottlers in HB and I understand even Fonterra has recently invested in one.

Dairy is a major income generator for NZ and while the rest of NZ benefit from it and are still able to clean up their river ways, HB is deprived of it. All because of Rex Graham and his old-school views.

He even takes a dig at our higher property prices. But that on balance is a good thing because it creates substantial wealth for people and finally allows others in HB rather than just large land owners like orchardists to invest in businesses and their ideas even though I acknowledge the difficulties faced by first-time home owners.

In short, Graham paints a rosy picture of HB but comparatively the rest of the world and in particular many parts of NZ continue to improve and the facts are that HB continues to lag.

Graham may be happy for others in HB to live hand to mouth and not have the great advantages that other regions do but many of us aren't and would rather have a progressive and developing HB, not just a booming apple industry.

John Thompson is a Hawke's Bay businessman
All opinions are the writer's and not those of Hawke's Bay Today.