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Economic growth and child poverty standout issues for web voters

Opinion Piece

There is a message for local and national politicians in the results of the latest Herald web poll, which suggested economic growth is the leading concern of Gisborne people.

The poll asked “What issue/sector would you like to see New Zealand’s politicians place a major new emphasis on in 2016”. Economic growth topped the poll with 23 percent, or 48 of the 207 respondents favouring this, ahead of child poverty on 21 percent.

Other issues in double figures were health (12 percent) and crime (10 percent), while climate change and family violence were both chosen by 9 percent of respondents.

The poll results seem to show a practical viewpoint, with people realising that paid, productive work goes a long way to addressing other issues. It also shows a desire for active political engagement in helping to create economic opportunities.

There is a widespread view in heartland New Zealand that the provinces are being ignored by central government in favour of the large centres, where the votes are.

Despite incentives like extra points for immigrants prepared to come to smaller centres, the Government has yet to take meaningful steps towards changing that perception. However, credit is due for its recent $125,000 grant to local economic development agency Activate Tairawhiti, to create and implement a regional economic development action plan.

Indeed it is apparent that much of the burden of turning around the district’s economic fortunes is going to fall on Activate Tairawhiti, in conjunction with the support of its two funders Eastland Community Trust and Gisborne District Council — and, of course, the business community and entrepreneurs of Gisborne and the East Coast.

This makes it even more important that the present impasse about merging the economic development agency with Tourism Eastland and Heart of Gisborne gets sorted out early this year. That is a job the council is taking on, after an effort by the organisations themselves failed.