CENTRAL government can and should play a role in regional initiatives that support both business and the community, says National Party MP for the East Coast, Anne Tolley.
On the day that voting in the 2017 New Zealand general election opened, Mrs Tolley had a packed schedule of visits around Gisborne . . . and, of course, she planned to vote.
Before that, however, she took time to tour the operations at Eastland Port to see the challenges the organisation faced, and what it planned to do to meet them.
From a power point display of the proposed new Twin Berth development to a visit to see the new wastewater disposal unit at the Upper Log Yard, Mrs Tolley learned what the Port is doing to manage current log volumes, and how it plans to wrangle the massive increase in through-put expected in the next few years.
Mrs Tolley was particularly interested in the projected job growth in the regional forestry industry and the subsequent flow-on to other operations, like the Port.
And while she was keen to see government support for infrastructure like roading, she said it was also vital to support people into getting work – and keeping it – so everybody could be a part of future growth.
Port general manager Andrew Gaddum told Mrs Tolley that the Port could handle today’s 2.9 million tonnes of wood per year, “but with a predicted 5 million tonnes of wood coming by 2024 we need to make some changes.”
The Port is doing its part with projects like the proposed Twin Berth development, which it is currently consulting on.
But to make sure it works for everybody it is also keen to see tweaks to roading to help manage the around 800 daily truck movements, while ensuring the public has free access to the nearby Wainui Road and Titirangi/Kaiti Hill areas.
“The problem for government is deciding which road projects to fund, but I can see this one (Wainui Road) would have benefits for both the regional economy and for the public,” Mrs Tolley said.
Chatting to half a dozen staff members over smoko, Mrs Tolley fielded questions from how a National-led government would support youth into work, to how it would improve the lot of low-to-middle income earners.
“The economy is on a roll,” Mrs Tolley said. “But it is very important that businesses like Eastland Port contribute to the Regional Economic Study to ensure we have a 30-year plan that will take us into the future.”