Rethink urged over Horizons’ ‘top-down’ economic action plan
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 It took an outdated, “top-down”, picking winners type of approach.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?”
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