The Bay of Plenty is one of the strongest examples of regional collaboration the Government sees across the country, says Paul Stocks, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment point man for the region.

He was speaking in Tauranga ahead of today's launch of the annual report of Bay of Connections, the region's economic growth strategy. Bay of Connections has been the focal point for government engagement with the region on the regional growth study action plan, approved last year.

"The region has been collaborating for many, many years," said Mr Stocks, the ministry's deputy chief executive for labour, science and enterprise.

Mr Stocks said the Bay had been easy to work with because of the established level of collaboration across the region.

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"Every community is different, and they all respond differently. But it is fair to say the Bay had its act together and that's why, while it wasn't the first region to go into the regional growth study programme, it was the first to launch.

"The traction the region has made over the past nine years, and in the last two years of the regional growth study, has been great. When I look at the region - the economic agencies, the councils, the iwi groups and the businesses - there is a level of commitment that is really positive."

Mr Stocks said sometimes officials in Wellington had underestimated how hard it could be to penetrate the different arms of the Government.

"My job is to help the region by making sure there is a single point of contact."

Senior officials have been given similar roles for each of the 10 regions taking part in the programme.

Bay of Connections portfolio manager Cheryl Lewis said the relationship with central government was really strong through the regional growth study.

"Paul Stocks is our point man and having him sitting around the governance group table adds a huge amount of credibility to what we're doing in the region. He really ensures that the communication about the region is good at all levels of government."

Mr Stocks said progress had been made in a number of areas on the action plan, including the Opotiki aquaculture and harbour development project, a project to assess developing new kiwifruit land through a project in Omaio in the Eastern Bay, and new developments in supporting laminated timber technology, amongst other ongoing issues.

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The visitor industry was also a major focus, he said.

Mr Stocks said that ministers met monthly to track the progress of the regional growth plan. He noted that the wider Bay of Plenty region was well represented in the meetings with Transport Minister Simon Bridges, Trade Minister Todd McClay, Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley amongst those taking part.

The Regional Growth Programme
-There are now 10 active regional growth programmes across the country.
-The Bay of Plenty was the second region to launch a Regional Growth Study, and the first to launch an Economic Action Plan.