Wagner: Let’s encourage the growth of Canterbury

MP Nicky Wagner

OPINION: One benefit of being in Opposition is that you have more time to spend out in the community.

I have been visiting businesses and community organisations, and hosting National MPs in Christchurch. And while it has been informative, it has also been unsettling.

We have seen headline after headline about slower projected economic growth, and survey after survey showing falling business confidence. It is one thing to read about it in the paper, it is another to hear it from the businesses and their employees directly.

I wrote about the employment reforms in an earlier column. But aside from employment law changes comes the changes to immigration.

The Government is pulling levers to limit immigration in Auckland, alter their local housing market and change usage patterns. While their efforts are having little impact in Auckland, the consequences of such broad, untargeted policies are being felt hard in the South Island.

With Canterbury unemployment around 4 per cent, and jobs listed double that of 2007, Canterbury is in need of more workers. We cannot fill vacancies and we need more people whether they are domestic or international migrants.

It a good proposition for New Zealanders to move to Canterbury where we have the capacity, a lower cost of living, limited congestion and house prices that are half that of Auckland.

But there is a genuine concern among businesses that we will lose skilled people overseas as these policies set in.

If our economy continues to slow and younger generations look abroad for employment, we all lose out in the end – employer and employee alike.

Let’s not do this. Let’s encourage the growth of Canterbury with adaptability and innovation, and remember that what is good for Auckland may not be good for the rest of the country.

•Wagner is a National list MP for Christchurch Central and spokeswoman for Greater Christchurch Regeneration