I was lucky to be an observer at the last Northland Economic Advisory Group meeting in Whangarei on February 15.
We are all familiar with the negatives such as high unemployment, low income, lowest GDP in NZ plus associated health, crime and other deprivation issues.
Heartening to see the different business and manufacturing sectors working together to find sustainable growth options for our region, providing coherent leadership and direction to "Northland Inc", the region's economic development body.
Some of the issues have not changed, alignment between the resource of young people and the appropriate education is still one of the great opportunities, as we do have plenty of jobs, but cannot fill the vacancies!
Also attracting young families with children and keeping skilled people in the region is another challenge.
Phil O'Reilly, CEO of business NZ, recently emphasised the issues around Northland's image and the need to build a better, positive and innovative image.
We are lucky with a lot of "Points of Difference", however, we need to do more and seize more opportunities to lift our image, performance and social outcomes.
Upgrading our walkways, the marina precinct, emphasising our true sub-tropical environment are all great plusses, but we can do with a strong branded catalyst that lifts us to a new level of maturity as a destination and place to live.
Most cities would bend over backwards to seize an opportunity that is currently before us, the Hundertwasser project. Great thing is, it is an opportunity only offered to Whangarei.
Last time we missed this opportunity was through a reluctance of the NRC to make the building available. Now we have the building available. Question is, are we able to seize it and move forward, work together as a region with a positive vision for better outcomes, or are we firmly with our gumboots in the mud.
Are old political scorecards going to stop progress in Northland, or are we witnessing the development of a new kind of maturity in leadership with positive innovation that will see us all working and moving forward together ... watch this space!