The Bay of Plenty has significant untapped economic potential and key ingredients for growth, according to the Government-led Bay of Plenty Regional Growth Study, launched by Ministers Steven Joyce, Nathan Guy and Te Ururoa Flavell in Tauranga yesterday.
The study identifies a range of short to mid-term opportunities, which could assist in increasing investment, employment, and incomes across the region. But despite the region's "enviable range of economic and industry strategies and projects" the economy had lagged behind other regions over recent years in GDP and employment growth, and there were significant economic disparities across the sub-regions, the study said.
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said the study outlined the potential of the primary sector, manufacturing and tourism industries in particular to grow the region.
"It is an independent report that was produced after extensive discussions with stakeholders in the Bay of Plenty community," he said.
"The report highlights how the Bay of Plenty can build from an already strong platform of collaboration between industry, research organisations, iwi and local and central government."
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said the study showed the region's natural assets, climate, and increasingly innovative population offered growth opportunities in the forestry, dairy, aquaculture and horticulture sectors.
"It underscores the importance of water management, and that a better range of quality training programmes and pathways to work will see the region retain and attract more young people," he said.
The study said economic performance varied across the region. However, the region as a whole had a solid base, including its central location and infrastructure, sustainable natural resources, access to productive land, significant untapped Maori asset base, and collaborative partnerships such as the region's economic development framework, Bay of Connections.
Doug Leeder, chair of the Bay of Connections, said the region had a strong and proven platform of collaboration across industry, Maori and economic development agencies through the Bay of Connections framework.
"The launch of the Bay of Plenty Regional Growth Study marks a significant development for our wider region," he said.
The study identified six key growth opportunity sectors for the region, including forestry, horticulture, agriculture, aquaculture, visitor economy and specialised manufacturing.
The next step would involve working with key players across the region to develop the action plan to define the steps needed to grow the region (see the story below).
Mr Leeder said, "The Regional Growth Study and the Government's investment in it - and interest in us - provides us with our single biggest opportunity to create the growth we all seek and need for a prosperous and sustainable future."
Findings to guide regional growth plans
A regional action plan for the Regional Growth Study will be developed by industry, iwi, local and central government stakeholders across the region and is expected to be completed by September, according to the Bay of Plenty's economic development framework, the Bay of Connections.
The Regional Growth Study identified six key growth opportunity areas for the region, which include:¦Forestry - recognising Maori-owned land assets, developing export markets.
* Horticulture - kiwifruit, avocado and apiculture (honey).
* Agriculture - improving farm productivity and related processing.
* Aquaculture - Opotiki Harbour development and mussel farm, and fresh water farming opportunities such as trout.
* Visitor economy - tourism, health and wellness, and events.
* Specialised manufacturing - research and development around titanium powder 3D printing technologies and alloy products.
To support these direct opportunities, the Regional Growth Study identified enabling opportunities, which it said included improving water management, use of geothermal energy, transport infrastructure, digital technology uptake, education and skills, public agency support for the business sector and increasing the productivity of Maori land.
"Economic development in the region is being built off a strong platform of collaboration between industry, research and tertiary organisations, Maori/iwi/hapu, and local and central government," the study said.
"The region has developed an enviable range of economic and industry strategies and project proposals through private and public partnerships. Those involved need to take the next steps and jointly commit resources to implement those strategies and proposals."
The Bay of Connections said the government was committed to working with the region and to raising Maori economic develop-ment performance, which made up a significant part of the Bay of Plenty's economic potential.
"The opportunities posed by the study are ours to grasp and it is absolutely critical that we work together to achieve them," said Bay of Connections chairman Doug Leeder.