20 May 2015

Slim pickings for the South Island

6:42 am on 20 May 2015

The South Island could be largely left out of this week's Budget, with infrastructure and regional development not expected to be the focus of new spending.

The country will again record a deficit, despite the Government's promises of a surplus this financial year, but whether the books are back in the black does not appear to be the most important issue for many parts of the country.

Dry hills in the South Island (file photo)

Dry hills in the South Island (file photo) Photo: 123rf

Radio New Zealand spoke to regional experts around the South Island who said targeted funding, not a one-size-fits-all approach, was needed.

Housing, infrastructure and boosting regional economies - especially on the West Coast - seemed to be the common issues in the South Island.


The chief executive of the Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce, Dot Kettle, said regions could not be ignored.

She wanted the budget to help hard-working families get ahead.

Ms Kettle said while Auckland's housing issues were in the spotlight, growing regions such as Marlborough had their own issues.

She said the region needed more housing stock to be able to attract new workers.


The funding for the city's rebuild is already locked in, but housing remains a significant issue.

People have been told it will take up to 30 years to repair or replace the infrastructure damaged in the earthquakes, which has caused some frustration.

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Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend was not expecting much for Christchurch from the Budget, but hoped the wider region would receive further research and development funding.

"I would also hope the Government reinforces its commitment to the future of the sustainable harvesting and farming of water in our region, which is fundamental."

The West Coast

The West Coast is looking to diversify its economy because mining can no longer be relied on.

Locals spoken to by Radio New Zealand suggested government funding of new infrastructure projects - such as a power plant - to create jobs.

Workers attend today's meeting at the Stockton mine.

Workers attend a meeting to discuss job cuts at Solid Energy's Stockton Mine near Westport. Photo: RNZ / Georgina Stylianou

Buller Mayor Garry Howard recently said that the Government should be funding more regional development because the nation's wealth was created in the regions.

Central Otago

Central Otago Mayor Tony Lepper was concerned about the way healthcare was funded, after major cuts were proposed in Clyde.

Road maintenance was also an issue, he said, because more and more dairy tankers were using roads that were not built to cope with them.

Mr Lepper said capped funding for expanding regions was not working.


There are two main concerns for Southland, according to their Chamber of Commerce vice-president, Neil McAra.

He said there was a shortage of skilled labour, and that he was hoping for policies that make employing migrant workers easier.

Mr McAra said the high exchange rate was hurting Southland, and that he wanted the Budget to recognise the area's contribution to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), despite its small population.

Disappointment ahead for the regions

An economics teaching fellow from the University of Canterbury, Stephen Hickson, said there could be some localised initiatives but overall he thought the Budget would be disappointing for the South Island.

"I don't think you're likely to see huge amount of cash injection to try and boost their economy," Mr Hickson said.

"New Zealanders by their own actions are choosing not to live in a lot of those regions."

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