Probe set into North economic health, potential

By Lindy Laird

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Northland Inc chief executive David Wilson says any regional growth study must be followed by action.
Northland Inc chief executive David Wilson says any regional growth study must be followed by action.

The Government has decided the state and potential of Northland's economic health needs some decent investigation.

Yesterday the Ministries of Economic Development, Business, Innovation and Employment and Primary Industries announced a Taitokerau Northland Growth Study to evaluate the region's potential investment, employment and income.

Regional economic unit Northland Inc chief executive David Wilson said the organisation welcomed the study, "but don't bother coming and doing studies if [Northland] can't get some action out of the back of it".

He said the study, paid for by the ministries, would draw on "local intelligence" for local outcomes, but would mine the resources of private and public, central and local government sectors.

After its completion Northland Inc would help develop a 10-year action plan called Northland 2025 that would be overseen, reviewed and paid for in line with the organisation's core business.

The Northland 2025 plan would cost about $50,000 and take three months to develop, but would be money well spent if it gained the necessary buy-in from central government and local stakeholders to implement the plan, Mr Wilson said. It would differ from previous strategies in its focus on gaining buy-in and agreement to act.

"This is always the most difficult part in regional development. Vision statements, strategies and goals without actions are just words."

Northland Inc had worked behind the scenes with the Economic Development and Primary Industries ministries to design the study over the past three months, Mr Wilson said.

An advisory group was being established to oversee an independent consultant group that would do the actual research and data collection.

"The advisory group is intended to bring a wealth of knowledge and understanding of different sectors within Northland and its members' input will be absolutely critical," Mr Wilson said.

Northland MP Mike Sabin said the study was the second big win on the economic development front for Northland, following a Primary Industries initiative trumpeted last October to do a similar job but concentrating on the primary production sector.

The new study was timely in that Northland was now the fastest-growing region in New Zealand, "and the best is yet to come", Mr Sabin said.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said the findings would help attract investment to the region to support development and ultimately provide employment.

The study follows a similar, nearly completed one in the Gisborne/Hawke's Bay region.

- Northern Advocate

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