Whanganui leaders should be screaming for international students for the New Zealand International Commercial Pilot Academy, National Party shadow treasurer Andrew Bayly says.
Bayly was in Whanganui on Thursday and Friday, visiting businesses and talking to groups of businesspeople, as part of a national tour.
"Whanganui is driven by a great network of locally owned, established businesses that work together," Bayly said.
Bayly's late mother was a Matthews matriarch from Waitōtara. He and his identical twin brother Paul went to Whanganui Collegiate School and together owned 14 businesses that employed 150 people, including Cranleigh, a merchant bank named after a Maxwell farm that bred race horses.
Bayly is in his third term as a National Party MP. His electorate is Port Waikato, which is centred around Pukekohe. He shares National's finance portfolio with Michael Woodhouse and is ranked third in the party.
His visit to Whanganui was "like coming home", he said.
As he roams the country, Bayly is taking an interest in provincial infrastructure and business, and he's finding common themes. Businesspeople at his two Q and A sessions in Whanganui asked about New Zealand's economy.
He's okay with Labour borrowing $45 billion since Covid-19 hit in March last year. What he's not comfortable with is its intention to run a deficit for the next five years.
"As a result of this we are borrowing $110 million a day, every day. One hour of that would be enough to fix the Parapara," he said.
He was comfortable with borrowing to support the community or pay for infrastructure, but he said spending half a billion dollars to restructure the health system at this time was "unfair and uncalled for".
Businesses were telling him they had skills shortages, and since March 50,000 more people were on unemployment benefits. They needed to be in work for themselves, and for business, he said. In the Manawatū Whanganui region 12.8 per cent of people who had jobs would like more or better paid work.
"There should be more focus on getting people work ready."
The Whanganui District Council and Whanganui's MP Steph Lewis should be "screaming madly" to get international pilot students into the country, Bayly said. Whanganui risked losing $10m to $20m a year if the New Zealand International Commercial Pilot Academy closed or moved out.
"Sometimes local and central government need to act decisively and quickly, and this would appear to be the moment for Whanganui."
He did not believe protecting the public from Covid-19 was a good enough reason for the current border restrictions. New Zealand's immigration policy was "brutal" and should be more strategic, he said.
He spends 80 per cent of his time as an electorate MP dealing with immigration, and that started before Covid-19 arrived.
National would spend more money on infrastructure - road, rail, schools and hospitals, he said. He said he had been told Whanganui District Council would have $4m less for road maintenance this year, and asked why the slip on Anzac Pde/SH4 hadn't been fixed.
Infrastructure projects that were to have started within 12 months have not started, he said, and the $785m the Government had promised for an Auckland cycle bridge would come out of the road maintenance budget.
National would give projects more certainty, Bayly said.
"You can't stop and start. Large construction companies need to plan and invest."
National wouldn't sock businesses with additional costs, and it wanted fewer people on benefits, he said. Bayly would like to grow the technology sector of the economy.
"It attracts our younger people into good paying jobs and it's an industry that Māori, Pasifika, anyone can be involved in."
Having people living in cars and buses because they could not afford houses was "offensive", Bayly said. The Government should be building modular homes with composting toilets and solar power and moving them around on trucks.
"As a Government, we should just clear the decks from any consenting so that that can happen."
He said rising property prices and rents, and the rising cost of energy, were creating huge intergenerational issues.
"My strong personal view is we have got to protect the most vulnerable. The only way we are ever going to get out of this problem is to grow the economy."