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Talking business

by Anthony Haas


Marlborough participation in the Key government

November 19, 2008

Kaikoura MP Colin King is one of those members of Parliament with ideas about economic growth for their electorate – and effective participation in the business of our nation. Local MPs could play significant roles in connecting Marlborough to portfolios in the Key government.

This second term backbench National MP hopes the new government will help develop local tourism, viticulture and pastoral industries. He also wants a “more sophisticated, multi-layered economy” in which companies like Safe Air can grow. Ms Rahui Katene, the new Maori Party MP representing the Te Tai Tonga electorate is another Parliamentarian with a wish list of local significance, informed by party policy and her experience in treaty negotiations.

The formation of the Key National led minority government at a time of financial threats to people, their jobs, investments, businesses and markets, forces economic issues, including as the new PM says “growth”, high on Parliament’s and the government’s agenda. Prime Minister Key is central to local as well as national and international efforts needed to navigate through the threats and opportunities. The navigation is made all the more challenging by the diversity of interests and attitudes involved. The participation of the Act Party and the Maori Party in the new government established by Mr Key under the MMP – mixed member proportional - electoral system can help make the diverse economic policy preferences more transparent.

The confidence and supply agreements Prime Minister Key has entered into with Act, Maori and United First parties provides for collective responsibility but also allow for them to agree to disagree. This will help achieve transparency in economic policy debate – but there is no guarantee that one sided economic policy views will not sneak past into policy decisions.

National and its support parties went to the election with some policies they want to implement – and evidence of some of these with a direct bearing on Marlborough are on view in the confidence and supply agreements and cabinet minister appointments.

John Key takes the tourism portfolio, “given its importance to the New Zealand economy”. He has heard both Destination Marlborough and Air New Zealand’s call for more resources for tourism – and the need for coordination through other ministers who impact tourism. Despite initial impresions he had not named an associate tourism minister, who might be needed when Prime Ministerial duties take him elsewhere, Dr Jonathan Coleman is the associate. A cabinet committee with a continuing focus on tourism could supply some of the coordination needed.

Bill English’s finance and infrastructure, Tim Groser’s Conservation, Chris Finlayson’s arts, Murray McCully’s sport and recreation, Phil Heatley’s fisheries, Pita Sharples’ Maori affairs and Maurice Williamson’s small business portfolios can make differences to local tourism. Nick Smith and Gerry Brownlee are ministers with an above average awareness of Marlborough, its economy and environment. New National MP Steven Joyce, with his tourism publishing background, may influence tourism in general, and in particular through his responsibilities in transport and broadband. Act leader Rodney Hide, as Minister of Local Government, is a minister to ask to address funding gaps affecting Marlborough District Council programmes such as recycling, identified by Destination Marlborough.

The wine industry has more than passing interest in what the new immigration minister, Dr Jonathan Coleman and labour minister Kate Williamson will do to improve seasonal worker arrangements for the 2009 season. Pacific Islands Affairs minister Georgina Te Heuheu could help.

The depth of the economic challenges, the echoes we can expect from the past, the expectations electors will have, mean that competing interests – locally and nationally -will be searching for effective participation. Local MPs Colin King and Rahui Katene, with supportive local advocates, can help take cases for Marlborough to the Key government. Local considerations need to be effectively articulated by local interests.

As former Governor-general Dame Silvia Cartwright says “Just as we expect our democracy to work for us, we have to work for our democracy. This means taking part in the decision-making process. This means voting, participating in public life and contributing to the business of our nation.”



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