17 Mar 2015

National claims credit for Northland jobs

5:40 am on 17 March 2015

The National Party is claiming credit for new jobs created in Northland last year but statistics also reveal the region has experienced the second lowest growth rate in the country since 2009.

John Key at Post Cab Conference today.

John Key has defended National's performance in Northland while conceding the region faces some very real issues. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Political parties contesting the Northland by-election are trading accusations about just how well or badly its economy has fared under the National-led Government.

National has rightly claimed that last year about 7500 new jobs were created in Northland.

But the New Zealand First leader and candidate Winston Peters said he did not believe it.

"This is an absolute exercise in deceit. One hour a week gets you on to that claim of 7500. Meanwhile, unemployment numbers are static. So one has to be a lie. Either the unemployment numbers are static is true or the so-called 7500 jobs is a total falsity," Mr Peters said.

Mr Peters has a point. Not all the jobs are full-time and Northland's unemployment numbers still do not look good.

Winston Peters on the campaign trail in Northland

Winston Peters on the campaign trail in Northland Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

But according to Statistics New Zealand, about 7500 new jobs were added to the Northland economy last year.

Despite that job growth, though, its unemployment rate is 8 percent, well above the national average of 5.7 percent and the second highest of any region in the country.

It had been 7.5 percent in June 2013 although it had gone as high as 10 percent a little earlier.

Prime Minister, John Key, defended National's record.

"I think over the last, you know, seven years that we've been in Government we've made significant investments in Northland and a fair bit of progress has been made. But it's really obvious to see some areas where greater, you know, economic growth could occur. I mean for instance we have been pro the concept of some mining exploration in Northland. We're actively trying to get the Treaty settlement with Nga Puhi completed in Northland," Mr Key said.

Grant Robertson

Grant Robertson Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Labour Party finance spokesperson Grant Robertson said National had done nothing for the region.

"Northland has not prospered under National. We've got very high levels of unemployment, second highest in the country at the moment, often it's the highest. We've seen a lot of young people outside of education, employment and training, up to 15 percent of people there.

"This is a region who, you know, is blessed with some great natural resources, very good people up there. They just need a Government that's prepared to get alongside them and support them, not biff around bribes at by-election time," Mr Robertson said.

Mr Peters said he was also worried about the incomes people in Northland earned.

"This electorate is in the top half of electorates that export, for export wealth, yet they are down the very bottom, almost the very bottom when it comes to incomes. On all the indices that should be up they're down and on all the ones that should be down they're up," Mr Peters said.

According to Statistics New Zealand between 2009 and 2014 Northland's economy grew just 13.9 percent. Only Taranaki grew at a slower rate but it is much wealthier.

Northland's annual economic output per person rose to $34,825, slightly higher than Gisborne's but well below every other region.

Mr Key conceded the region faced some real challenges.

"There's a variety of very long-term issues there and they're not, they're not easy ones to resolve overnight. There's been some great investment there. I mean Marsden Point was upgraded under our watch. You've seen some pretty good things happen in Northland but I accept more things can be done."

Mr Key said that was more likely to happen if Northland elected National's candidate Mark Osborne as its next MP.

Eleven candidates are contesting the Northland seat:

  • Adrian Paul Bonner, Independent
  • Joe Carr , Focus New Zealand
  • Robin Grieve, ACT New Zealand
  • Maki Herbert, Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party
  • Adam Holland, Independent
  • Mark Osborne, National Party
  • Rob Painting, Climate Party
  • Winston Peters, New Zealand First Party
  • Reuben Porter, MANA Movement
  • Willow-Jean Prime, Labour Party
  • Bruce Rogan, Independent