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In need of common-sense thinking

Opinion Piece

The revelation before Christmas of negotiations with a Chinese wood processor to build a huge plant in Gisborne provide the basis for an important discussion on whether this is the right type of thinking, given the possibilities for achieving the same objectives without the foreign input.

Digressing for a moment, I was thrilled to see my old mate John Chemis recognised in the New Year's Honours and was equally impressed with his humble response, describing his lifetime of service as “really just about common sense”.

Hurrah! How true!

In fact, we could reflect on the relevance of this simple truth to our current challenges — particularly amongst those who are formulating the region's Spatial Plan 2050.

I find it difficult to understand why our local authorities are either unable or unwilling to take advantage of opportunities that are there for the taking.

Why are we apparently so reluctant to accept the offer, currently on hold, from our favourite Cabinet Minister to declare the northern part of Tairawhiti a special economic zone? He has also discussed bringing a new transmission line around the Coast. Such developments would have huge implications for the proposal mentioned in my opening comments, allowing it to proceed without foreign help.

Are we so dumb as to not see the relative merit of this proposal for a special economic zone, compared to the energy we are wasting on an as yet unproven railway rehabilitation?

I believe it is just common sense that our leaders should secure an alternative use of these valuable government dollars.

Let's consider the pros and cons of the new Spatial Plan adopting parts of the current proposal to build a large wood processing plant, and providing the power to run it.

There are so many advantages in changing our strategic plans so they will benefit numerous areas of economic development needing attention, and at the same time remove any chance of a potential threat to our survival as a sovereign entity.

Let's list them:

1) If we are sensible and take up the Minister's offer of creating a special economic zone in the northern Tairawhiti, funding for a wood processing plant of the size being considered is a viable option without foreign help.

2) Presumably, bringing power to the region from Eastland Group's energy plants in the Bay of Plenty via the East Coast would dovetail effectively with a wood processing plant built at Ruatoria or nearby. Again, establishing a special economic zone up there would no doubt facilitate funding for the transmission line as well.

3) A resetting of priorities for economic development in Gisborne that includes, at the top of the list, feasibility studies of all aspects necessary for development of the Flats as a food-producing hub rivalling any in this country. This should take the place of, but not necessarily to the exclusion of, current consideration being given to fresh water sources such as the aquifer replenishment scheme or refurbishment of other established but unreliable fresh water sources.

4) With regards to the proposal to expand the existing wood processing plant in Gisborne, in the above version of rejigging our Spatial Plan it would seem sensible to drop its ranking as a priority for seeking state assistance, in favour of a northern development of the same thing.

5) The transfer of the first wood processing plant proposal to Ruatoria and adoption of other log export ideas that have been shelved in capitulation to local objections would, in one hit, solve many of that area's and the region's current export and roading infrastructure problems.

A win/win! Just common sense really!