Rotorua is in a pretty good position when it comes to regional economic growth compared to the rest of the country, according to Labour MP Jacinda Ardern.
She said Rotorua was in a better economic position than most regions due to its diversification of business interests, but should not be complacent.
Ms Ardern spoke to about 20 people at a Pukeroa Oruawhata Focus on Business speaker series, hosted by the Rotorua Chamber of Commerce, at the Novotel hotel yesterday.
She was accompanied by Labour MP for Te Tai Hauauru Adrian Rurawhe and Rotorua Labour Party spokesman Tamati Coffey.
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She said her experiences living in Murupara in the mid-1980s when the forestry industry was being privatised and the effect unemployment had on the town helped shape her world view.
"The fact that you have forestry and tourism in such different areas of the economy helps. But, I see national business confidence has dipped to the lowest point since the Global Financial Crisis ... but it's good to hear the local economy here has not seen that drop as much."
But, she said the district had not taken advantage of some opportunities in forestry and dairy. "The lack of value-add is a real missed opportunity and shipping raw unprocessed logs out of our ports is such a waste. "I think the same opportunities exist in dairy with value-add. We can't get growth in dairy just through expansion - which has flow-on effects for the environment ... it will be around the incentivisation of research and development and the mitigation some of those environmental factors around agriculture. We keep looking at it like a burden, whereas I see it as a massive opportunity for New Zealand to innovate and lead the way to reduce the environmental impacts of dairy and agriculture generally. There are a lot of other countries that need those solutions too and I can't see why we can't be the ones producing them."
Ms Ardern said the Government was also not doing enough for the small business community and that it could help a lot more by providing capital assistance for new businesses, alongside local councils that could help by removing red tape and being more positive, rather than rule-bound and hard to deal with.
Keys to regional economic growth
* Investment in small business
* Less red tape from local government
* More assistance from central government