The Waikato has great wealth and economic power but also communities in dire need of focus and fiscal attention, said Economic Development Minister Shane Jones, launching a business summit in the region.

The two-day summit at Lake Karapiro is being attended by 250 business leaders and is the first outing for Waikato's new regional economic development agency.

The agency's new name was announced. It is Te Waka: Anga Whakamua Waikato, which means "Waikato moving forward".

Jones, who calls himself "steward" of the Government's $3 billion, three year economic development fund, told the crowd some pockets within the region were neglected.


The Coromandel was one area where economic potential could be unleashed with a new marine precinct, he said.

"Meet me halfway - you know your communities better than the Dalmatian-Maori from Kaitaia does. But I give you my word if you serve the projects that enjoy support ... we'll meet you half-way and we'll do what we are doing in other rohe, which is funding projects that have their genesis in the community and the economy and the willingness of leadership to take part."

Jones encouraged the region to determine its priorities quickly.

"We need to move at pace - I don't know if future governments will continue this kaupapa but we need to move on."

Te Waka chairman Dallas Fisher said the agency would not just be focusing on big projects, but on the innovation and idea generation that sparked new ways of thinking.