Re­gional ap­proaches gather speed

Cambridge Edition - - WHAT’S ON - ALAN LIV­INGSTON

‘‘Due in part to a lack of co-or­di­nated ef­fort, the Waikato is un­der­in­vest­ing in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.’’

Cre­at­ing a Waikato-wide re­gional eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment agency, and a fresh ap­proach to shar­ing the load on build­ing new fa­cil­i­ties, have just been en­dorsed by the Waikato May­oral Fo­rum.

Once fi­nalised, these mea­sures will pro­vide an even more solid foun­da­tion to make sig­nif­i­cant progress on eco­nomic, so­cial, cul­tural and en­vi­ron­men­tal fronts.

The new Waikato Re­gional De­vel­op­ment Agency – out­lined by Waikato Means Busi­ness un­der chair­man Dal­las Fisher – is due to be­come op­er­a­tional mid2018.

To be based at the In­no­va­tion Park in Hamil­ton – with a pro­posed bud­get of $2 mil­lion – the agency will also have ser­vice cen­tres around the Waikato to en­sure it is de­liv­er­ing value to busi­nesses across the re­gion and is not just big city fo­cused.

Such an agency – in line with the di­rec­tion set by the Waikato Plan - will help us bet­ter ac­cess a share of the Govern­ment’s $60 mil­lion-plus re­gional growth pro­gramme fund­ing, and at­tract na­tional and in­ter­na­tional in­vest­ment.

Due in part to a lack of co­or­di­nated ef­fort, the Waikato is un­der­in­vest­ing in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. We’re cur­rently the only re­gion with­out such a co­or­di­nated de­vel­op­ment agency.

We’re not get­ting a fair share of that Govern­ment re­gional growth fund­ing and not do­ing enough to at­tract in­vest­ment. We’re also not do­ing enough to de­velop skills and work readi­ness of our peo­ple and en­sure they are in ed­u­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment or train­ing.

So the agency, as pro­posed, will bring the Waikato Story to life and be a much needed ‘‘front door’’ for lo­cal Waikato busi­nesses to get de­vel­op­ment help, and for in­vestors from out­side the re­gion to find their feet here to mu­tual ad­van­tage. And it’s def­i­nitely de­signed to be a ‘‘do­ing it’’ en­tity.

Waikato Means Busi­ness may have been ini­ti­ated by coun­cils but is now very much led and driven by busi­ness. So it’s great to see the fo­rum unan­i­mously swing­ing in be­hind the sig­nif­i­cant ef­fort put in by Dal­las and his team to get things crack­ing.

A pro­posed fund­ing model for the agency will see coun­cils, busi­ness and other sources all con­trib­ute its bud­get.

There’s also unan­i­mous fo­rum sup­port for a new com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties fund­ing frame­work which out­lines how coun­cils will work to­gether to iden­tify how re­gional and sub-re­gional fa­cil­i­ties should be col­lec­tively and eq­ui­tably funded.

Just as im­por­tantly, it helps lo­cal govern­ment work with oth­ers to take a col­lab­o­ra­tive, strate­gic ap­proach to in­vest­ing in com­mu­nity sports, leisure, cul­tural and arts fa­cil­i­ties.

It is nei­ther ef­fi­cient nor ef­fec­tive for each coun­cil, school, and com­mu­nity group to de­velop and main­tain their own sports, leisure, arts and cul­tural as­sets.

The frame­work is an op­por­tu­nity for a par­a­digm shift in the way that we plan for and fund com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties so that com­mu­ni­ties ben­e­fit from these in­vest­ments now and into the fu­ture, and we avoid un­nec­es­sary du­pli­ca­tion of re­sources.

It will now be up to all coun­cils to con­sider for­mally whether they ac­cept the fo­rum’s rec­om­men­da­tions.

But I’m con­fi­dent the steps we’re sug­gest­ing are im­por­tant mile­stones on the jour­ney to greater re­gional pros­per­ity.

* Alan Liv­ingston chairs the may­oral fo­rum and the re­gional coun­cil. The views are his own.

In­side the Waikato In­no­va­tion Park where the new Waikato Re­gional De­vel­op­ment Agency will op­er­ate from.

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