Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The government is here to help

Leave a Comment

While Auckland expands and the regions stagnate the government has a grand scheme to encourage more migrants settle in the outer reaches of New Zealand. Like so many government initiatives this one is bound to fail. The problem is people like vibrant cities and the diverse culture they provide.

The Third Labour Government once came up with a plan to “decentralise” New Zealand. One of the first benefactors of this strategy was Masterton. In 1976 the Government Printing Office was relocated to a huge purpose-built structure in Ngaumutawa Road. It was initially to employ 150 workers which would be gradually increased to 600. The extra employment never occurred; the precious politicians wanted instant access to print and the operation inevitably went back to Wellington. This allowed Auckland tow-truck driver and panel beater Graham Hart to buy the building for a song which launched him on his journey to becoming New Zealand’s richest man.

Today the imposing building houses privately-owned company Webstar who employ 135 staff and operate 24 hour days, seven days a week printing telephone books and unaddressed mail.

So the outcome wasn’t all bad.

Assuming the influx of print workers to Masterton the government also purchased land in Manaia Road with an entrance off South Road to cope with the extra housing needed. No housing was required - or built - and the bare entrance land eventually became the site for Central School.

Another Third Labour Government initiative was suspensory loans, offered to overseas companies to locate here and export their products. In 1974 Phillip Morris took up the offer and built a huge cigarette manufacturing plant, again in Ngaumutawa Road. If the company stayed for ten years the loan didn’t have to be paid back. Phillip Morris upped sticks and went back to Australia not long after the ten years was up.

In 1980 the Masterton Rotary Club sponsored a Vietnamese refugee family to Masterton. I employed the hard-working couple for a decade, but they missed the opportunity to fraternise with people of their own culture so they shifted first to Melbourne and now reside in Austin in Texas.

When Ian Buchanan and I represented Wairarapa on the Greater Wellington Regional Council we frivolously suggested the council should relocate its head office to Greytown, which we calculated to be the dead centre of the region. Our colleagues laughed off our suggestion, though they agreed it was the dead centre, emphasising the word “dead.”

The regional council operated out of a shonkily-built multi-story mirror-glass edifice in the heart of Wellington which they had bought brand-new for $13 million in 1987 just prior to the sharemarket crash. It was valued at $9 million a year after the crash. It has since been assessed as a severe earthquake risk so the council have shifted to converted sheds on the Wellington waterfront and the glittering tower stands idle.

The moral of the story I guess is that you can’t force people to relocate where they don’t want to live. If we want Syrian refugees to come here then there will have to be lots of them so they can create their own community.

I know where there’s some bare land in Manaia Road.

“A simple way to take measure of a country is to look at how many want in, and how many want out.” - Tony Blair


Post a Comment