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Rail role for NZ forestry

Restoration of the Gisborne to Napier rail line is an “idea project” for Labour’s $200 million regional growth policy, party leader David Cunliffe said when he was in Gisborne. Source: The Gisborne Herald

The policy would see NZ$200m spent over four years and consist of contestable projects of NZ$10m to NZ$20m, with advice taken from local government, iwi and regional business leaders.

Cabinet would make the final decision but Labour had previously announced its support of the rail line, said Mr Cunliffe.

The Labour leader said he had family in Tairawhiti, which was ‘‘such a great place”, and its resources of forestry, fishing and farming would make the district an even better place with Labour’s regional economic policies.

Labour pledged to lower unemployment to 4% (currently 6%), run budget surpluses, and, by the end of its second term, pay off debt.

New Zealand needed to journey from a raw commodity economy to an added-value one. Fisheries, dairy and forestry would all benefit from Labour policies.

Mr Cunliffe said 60% of logs left the country unprocessed.

“We are basically exporting jobs and exporting money,” he said. “There is a huge future for Tairawhiti in taking forestry to the next level.

“That is why rail is so important.”

Labour had a ‘‘huge agenda” for getting investment into the regions. This included a capital gains tax to move investment to the productive sector, tax breaks for farm equipment and for research and development, and a pro-wood policy of using wood in government buildings (of less than four storeys).

Labour would work with wood growers to secure supply for processors.

A Labour-led Government would also create jobs with its KiwiBuild plan to build 100,000 affordable homes over 10 years.

Unemployment had increased in every district under the National-led Government except post-earthquake Christchurch, said Mr Cunliffe. Medium and real incomes had fallen.

“The Global Financial Crisis had knocked unemployment — fair enough — but the Government can’t have it both ways and take credit about a rock star economy.”

Labour needed a quarter of the “missing million” who did not vote in 2011 and “that will bring us home”, said Mr Cunliffe.

Labour believed it knew where those voters were. Many of them did not have land lines, worked at night or otherwise declined to take part in polls. Immigrants and young voters were other parts of the electorate that Labour would target.

Mr Cunliffe said he was looking forward to the election.

“I don’t want to build it up because you don’t know until the day.”

Labour’s membership had doubled from the last election and the level of door-knocking and ringing of voters had increased threefold from 2011, he said.

Labour would benefit from the “precursor” by-elections of Ikaroa- Rawhiti and Christchurch East and use similar campaign tactics, said Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri. Mr Cunliffe said local list MP Moana Mackey was at Cabinet level and would play a part in the next government.

Advance and overseas voting starts on September 3, with September 20 being the official election day. Mr Cunliffe said he would be voting on September 3 and encouraged others to vote early.

“It’s party vote Labour.” Mr Cunliffe was in Gisborne to attend the powhiri of the national secondary school kapa haka championship and to witness the return of Te Kooti’s Ringatu flag to the district.