Regional action plan close to release

By John Maslin

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The first report underpinning plans to boost the Whanganui-Manawatu region's economy is about a month away from being released.

Key partners and consultants have been working on the action plan since the Government launched the regional growth strategy this time last year. The next step will see Government ministers officially launching the action plan next month.

Horizons Regional Council has had the lead role in getting the growth strategy moving, and Dr Nic Peet, strategy and regulation group manager, said while a date and venue for the release was still, to be decided it would probably take place in Whanganui.

The plan has been produced under the banner of Accelerate25 - the number 25 because the goal is to grow regional agribusiness exports from $1.9 billion to $3.8 billion by 2025.

Dr Peet said business, local government and iwi had been driving production of the action plan over the last 10 months with consultants drawing much of the plan together.

"They've been across the region pulling various strands together in that time. The point is that it has been driven from the business end rather than from local government," he said.

"It's been a very productive process and has drawn together lots of really valuable information. Our next challenge will be to get the action plan under way in the coming year. But the level of engagement has been brilliant."

Dr Peet said over the last six he and Horizons CEO Michael McCartney had spoken to every district council, had meetings with iwi, business groups and chambers of commerce across the Horizons region outlining progress with the action plan.

"What we've noticed is there has been an amazing level of unity about the growth strategy and what it means for the region," he said.

When the strategy was launched this time last year, regional leaders committed to producing the action plant which was expanding the eight "opportunities" identified across the region. They include tourism, sheep and beef farming and processing, land-use intensification, manuka honey, fresh vegetables, poultry and grain, affordable aged-care, and business process outsourcing

When he launched the growth strategy, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said initial reports showed that the region had not kept pace with others.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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