Opening of the Twin Coast Discovery HighwayTourism
Thanks for the opportunity to be here to share this special day for Rodney and Northland.
In less than two decades the focus of tourism has shifted from visiting icons, to travelling to gain new experiences.
When I went to University, New Zealanders travelling abroad talked fondly of their visit to London, and seeing Buckingham Palace and Big Ben.
Today, with regular television exposure those icons no longer have quite the same mystique. We no longer go just to "London" - we go to Europe.
We may well take an interest when the London cabby points out Big Ben, but we may no longer stop to take a photograph.
We no longer visit to just look.
The global demand is for experiences - we demand a quick fix of others' culture, food, wine and their raison d'être - we want to know what they're about, and why they are that way.
We want to immerse ourselves in the places we visit.
The physical icons are still there - and Tane Mahuta is just as impressive as Big Ben. But the tourism industry is now required to develop sophisticated brands that promote the concept of participation.
And these brands have to be aggressively promoted.
Our own "100 % Pure New Zealand" branding is an example.
Country branding is supported by regional brands - Auckland: City of Sails; Northland: Birthplace of a Nation; Taupo: Think Fresh.
The smart money then goes into developing sub-brands - the modern icons - that guide visitors to where they can participate.
We are here today to celebrate just such a development: The Twin Coast Discovery Highway.
Just a couple of weeks ago I was here at Gulf Harbour to address the Rodney District Council's annual tourism seminar which focused on maximising tourism opportunities.
I made the point that last year tourism earned New Zealand $4.4 billion in foreign exchange.
That's more than any other single industry in New Zealand, including the highly successful dairy industry, of which I'm a great admirer.
I talked then, as I had a few days before at the 1999 Tourism Conference in Queenstown, about the tourism industry setting itself some aggressive targets - to consider setting a date by which it could double the $4.4 billion it currently earns in foreign exchange.
To do this - to encourage ongoing growth in the tourism industry - we have to think smart. We have to be innovative and, building on our existing strengths and resources, create new attractions and activities.
The Twin Coast Discovery Highway fits perfectly within my own vision for the future development of the tourism industry.
It's a smart development because it has not required tens-of-millions-of-dollars for new infrastructure.
Instead Tourism Auckland and Destination Northland, in collaboration with Transit New Zealand and local councils, have taken existing infrastructure - roads - and breathed life into them.
The Twin Coast Discovery Highway will provide visitors with the very structure they need to access the experiences this region has to offer.
The Twin Coast Discovery Highway will provide a focus for local communities to build on.
Put simply, in terms of risk and reward, and capital invested, this has to be among the best and smartest developments ever made in the Northland tourism industry.
The only costs will be for marketing and some minor additional road maintenance, and provided that it's properly promoted, it will produce very substantial income and valuable jobs to participating communities.
There is a message here for the local communities involved and the local body politicians who represent these communities.
The benefits of this development will not be limited to the tourism industry.
Supermarkets and petrol stations will benefit as much as moteliers and tourism operators.
In addition, this development is not just about Northland. The Highway begins and ends in Auckland, and runs through the Waitakeres. Auckland City and West Auckland will have new opportunities as a result of this development.
It's now up to local communities - and this includes Auckland - to ensure that Tourism Auckland and Destination Northland have the support they need to continue effective promotion of the Twin Coast Discovery Highway.
The development of the Twin Coast Discovery Highway also sends a message to Wellington, where many politicians are talking about the need for regional development.
Well, here it is.
The Twin Coast Discovery Highway hasn't cost millions of tax-payer dollars, and it hasn't required a bureaucracy to oversee the development of touring routes.
The Twin Coast Discover Highway is the product of local communities working together. Using roads that have already been built, and smart thinking, this development will go on to capture a greater share of the tourist dollar for the Northland region. This means new opportunities, and new jobs.
If you want another example of what is being achieved now in regard to regional economic development, look at Destination Northland.
As I mentioned earlier, I was recently in Queenstown to help launch the Tourism Board's Global Marketing Strategy for New Zealand.
I also had the pleasure of attending the 1999 New Zealand Tourism Awards.
A record 200-plus entries and nominations - a quarter of them from Auckland and Northland - sought recognition for excellence.
I was absolutely delighted to see Brian Roberts called to the stage in front of 650 of New Zealand's most important tourism industry representatives to accept an award for Destination Northland.
It won the regional development award.
And in part it won because, like any successful private sector company, it has formed commercially sustainable partnerships with local businesses and the communities it serves.
Brian Roberts and chairman Eric Stephens don't need to go to Wellington once a month asking for favours or money.
Regional development is about people - because Governments can't create or drive growth. It takes people, local businesses and communities to work together - to identify local strengths, and then develop and promote these advantages to the region's benefit.
That's what you've done here, and as your local Member of Parliament, I'm very proud of what you've achieved.
I should also mention that Destination Northland won a second award in Queenstown.
The second was an Air New Zealand travel prize that will be used to market the Twin Coast Discovery Highway internationally.
The New Zealand Herald's Travel Editor, Colin Moore, this week wrote a column in which he referred back to that memorable advertising campaign encouraging New Zealanders not to leave home until they have seen the country.
He said the Bay of Islands should be an even bigger magnet for New Zealanders.
True, but then the whole region from Auckland north is magnetic.
It's all here. Your community has pulled together and developed a superb marketed route - a highway to take New Zealanders and international visitors into the winterless north, and to give them a taste of our birthplace, New Zealand's beginnings, and so much of our heritage and culture.
It's now up to you - the local communities. The success of this development will be determined by the degree to which you exploit the opportunities already growing from the Twin Coast Discovery Highway.
Go for it.