Main points of John Key's speech

The government is going to boost apprenticeship training with 14,000 new places over the next five years and cut through red tape that is holding up housing development.

In an upbeat state of the nation speech on Friday, Prime Minister John Key said the economy would be "front and centre" during 2013 with new investment initiatives, more funding for research and measures to cut business costs.

Ministers will work with councils to deal with housing affordability - but if they don't change their planning process the government will step in.

Mr Key is forecasting a drop in unemployment this year and says high commodity prices are likely to hold up.

"New Zealand faces some big opportunities," he said in his speech to the North Harbour Club in Auckland.

"Trade and investment links are increasingly with Asia, which is the fastest growing region in the world.

"A domestic construction boom will be centred on Christchurch, where the spend is estimated at $30 billion."

But Mr Key says New Zealand isn't planning well enough for its future.

"The Resource Management Act is constantly cited as a source of frustration," he said.

"It's ridiculous that developers can wait six to 18 months for a resource consent.

"It's ridiculous that we allow councils to charge whatever fees they want and it's ridiculous that we allow them to demand almost anything as a condition for a consent."

Changes to the legislation will be introduced over the next few months.

The new apprenticeship scheme will combine current programmes into a new, single structure.

Mr Key says the previous government's scheme listed up to 100,000 apprenticeships a year but many were "phantom trainees" who didn't achieve anything.

The age limit of between 16 and 21 will be removed, subsidies for employers will cost an extra $12 million in the first year and the first 10,000 apprentices who enrol after April this year will be given $1000 for their tools.


* Apprenticeship training boost with 14,000 new places over the next five years

* Resource Management Act changes to speed up housing development

* Unemployment forecast to fall this year and high commodity prices to continue

* Government will step in if councils don't change their planning processes

* Economy will be "front and centre" of the government's agenda during 2013

* More funding for research and development

* Government aims to make New Zealand "a magnet for investment" and cut business costs

* Plan to partially sell two state-owned energy companies this year

* Domestic construction boom to be centred on the $30 billion Christchurch rebuild.


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