That is what Regional Development minister Shane Jones says Taranaki is “transitioning to”.
And yet of the $20 million of government giveaways (your money and mine) designed
to help future-proof the Taranaki region by diversifying its economy, creating additional jobs and leveraging off the strong base the region has established through its oil, gas and agricultural sectors.
$5 million is going towards earthquake-strengthening a rather attractive provincial Anglican church, recently raised in status to a cathedral (more cathedrals as there are fewer Anglicans), and $13.3 million is going to build walking tracks on Mt Egmont.
It has more of a feel of a museum – built, and natural – than building or enhancing a “modern, high value economy” (such things rarely being built – or enhanced – by governments splashing cash around).
Perhaps there is a good case for more walking tracks in Taranaki. I’m not, in principle, opposed. It is crown land, and needs managing. Nonetheless, it is hard to think of any country that has got to the global productivity or income frontiers with an emphasis on tourism.
As for the church building, I like it and I’ve worshipped there. But what about it makes the earthquake strengthening of a private building a matter for national taxpayers to support? Again, perhaps at least there is an element of consistency – better perhaps than a government prohibiting demolition and yet not putting any money in. But how it is consistent with lifting the longer-term economic performance of the economy – regional or national – is quite beyond me.
Then again, this seems to be a government that on the one hand isn’t keen on oil and gas, or dairy – the two biggest outward-focused industries in Taranaki – and on the other isn’t interested in doing anything serious about getting the real exchange rate down. So perhaps the hope isn’t really that today’s package will do anything much of substance – certainly not to lift medium-term regional economic performance – but perhaps it might placate the natives for a month or two?