Re­think urged over Hori­zons’ ‘top-down’ eco­nomic ac­tion plan

Wanganui Chronicle - - News - By Lau­rel Stow­ell

It’s time to pause and as­sess the ef­fec­tive­ness of the Manawatu¯Whanganui Eco­nomic Ac­tion Plan, Lyn Cheyne says.

For four years she mar­keted Whanganui as a des­ti­na­tion, for the Whanganui Dis­trict Coun­cil but now has her own busi­ness, Strat­egy Works, which does des­ti­na­tion mar­ket­ing, tourism and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

Cheyne sub­mit­ted to Hori­zons Re­gional Coun­cil’s longterm plan call­ing for a re-think of the re­gion-wide eco­nomic strat­egy.

The plan, Ac­cel­er­ate25, was launched in 2016 and came out of t he Manawatu- Wan­ganui Re­gional Growth Study.

It found nine eco­nomic op­por- tu­ni­ties for the Hori­zons Re­gion, and four fac­tors nec­es­sary to make them hap­pen.

The four are busi­ness growth, skills growth, dis­tri­bu­tion/trans­port and dig­i­tal con­nec­tiv­ity.

Ac­cel­er­ate25 has a lead team of 10, headed up by Hori­zons Re­gional Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Michael McCart­ney.

Hori­zons has put $230,000 and staff time into fa­cil­i­tat­ing the plan, a to­tal of nearly $6900 so far.

As part of sub­mis­sions on Hori­zons’ Long-term Plan, ratepay­ers were asked whether this should be funded from rates only, or from rates and coun­cil re­serves.

“They weren’t asked whether it should be funded at all, or whether it was head­ing in the right di­rec­tion,” Cheyne told the Chron­i­cle. She’s been hear­ing peo­ple ex­press “s i gnif i c ant frus­tra­tions” with as­pects of it.

The cost is high for fa­cil­i­ta­tion, which could be con­sid­ered busi­ness as usual.

The plan failed to fo­cus first on the fac­tors needed to en­able de­vel­op­ment. It took an out­dated, “top-down”, pick­ing win­ners type of ap­proach.

It made s ome wrong as­sump­tions, s uch as t hat in­creased tourism in Ruapehu Dis­trict will flow south into Whanganui and Manawatu.

It put em­pha­sis on at­tract­ing in­ter­na­tional stu­dents, whereas in Cheyne’s opin­ion it’s more im­por­tant to get lo­cal school leavers on to train­ing path­ways.

It headed off in new di­rec­tions from the orig­i­nal doc­u­ment, t oward de­vel­op­ing Whanganui’s port and get­ting in­volved in forestry. The out­come has been doc­u­ments — with lit­tle r eporti ng grass­roots en­gage­ment.

The re­gion needs eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment be­cause 62 per cent have an an­nual in­come of less than $50,000, and be­cause 6 per cent fewer than the na­tional av­er­age have any kind of qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

Any drive to­wards eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment can get blurred and muddy and needs con­tin­ual assessment. Ac­cel­er­ate25 needs it, and Cheyne told Hori­zons coun­cil­lors she was will­ing to dis­cuss this fur­ther, out­side the sub­mis­sion process.

“Can we just stop for a sec­ond and l ook at t he ori gi nal obj ect i ves, what has been achieved, how much progress has been made, what’s work­ing, what isn’t and re­assess the pri­or­i­ties?”

on

Lyn Cheyne

PHOTO / FILE

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