Rt Hon Bill English
Canterbury is a region that all New Zealanders can be proud of – it has made a positive contribution to this country’s success in the face of many challenges.
We have stood by Canterbury as it has rebuilt and regenerated. Since the first earthquake, we’ve spent more than $14 billion rebuilding Canterbury – and the progress is tangible.
Today, Canterbury’s population has topped its pre-earthquake numbers; the economy here is growing faster than in many other parts of the country and its unemployment rate is below the national average.
But there is still work to do.
That’s why in June we launched the refreshed Canterbury Regional Economic Development Strategy. This is designed to promote continued economic growth off the back of the earthquake recovery and rebuild, and help create more jobs for the region.
The Strategy sets targets to drive the region’s growth as activity around the rebuild starts to level off. It includes work on regional transport planning and infrastructure, improving digital connectivity, managing the region’s fresh waterways, as well as support around education, immigrant settlements, production and tourism.
Natural disasters have highlighted vulnerabilities in Canterbury’s transport system, so this strategy moves people and freight more efficiently around the region, supports visitors and improves road safety.
Getting more homes and businesses connected to ultra-fast broadband is also critical to economic growth in Canterbury, and we are especially focused on reducing the digital divide between town and country. So we will invest $1.6 million to promote the uptake of digital technology across Canterbury, with a goal of having 95 percent of farms accessing broadband by 2019.
Over 177,400 homes and businesses in Canterbury can already connect to Ultra-Fast Broadband, and we recently announced another 25 towns, like Temuka and Geraldine, will be receiving it too. This will help Canterbury’s highly productive agriculture sector and support our goal of doubling the value of primary sector exports by 2025.
In the past year, thousands of jobs were created in Canterbury. We want to keep that momentum going, especially for our young New Zealanders. That’s why we are investing in a Canterbury initiative that connects students with businesses, and supports them into training and employment opportunities to help them get ahead.
We are also investing an additional $160,000 to support tourism strategy projects in Canterbury – on top of the $2 million awarded for tourism infrastructure projects in Canterbury.