As a country, we can often be divided in our passionate opinions about everything from sport to politics.

But there is one thing that most New Zealanders will join together and agree on. Northland has not had its fair share of central government support in years gone by.

For too long, we have been the shabby sister of the regions. We have suffered a level of deprivation in this region that no community should have to deal with. But as we stand on the threshold of change in the region, there is relative silence in Northland.

This week, I had the privilege of speaking with the members of the Provincial Growth Fund's Independent Advisory Panel as we travelled on a bus to various locations across the region.

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Vaughan Cooper, acting CEO of Northland Inc. Photo/Supplied
Vaughan Cooper, acting CEO of Northland Inc. Photo/Supplied

While their visit was without fanfare, it marked a massive opportunity and a huge gesture of confidence and faith in the region from central government.

We looked at projects and opportunities that will position Northland as one of the most successful regions in the country. The Panel witnessed first-hand how Kaikohe will be able to stand proud again – through innovation and enterprise, training and employment and civic opportunities.

The Panel heard about the momentum being built as part of the joint Te Hiku work programme. We showed the panel how our marine sector can be developed to be the best in the Southern Hemisphere, how we'll be value adding to every part of our radiata logs and the region's future with cleaner, greener forms of energy production.

This is core business for an economic development agency. Northland Inc drives, supports and facilitates our region's economic development aspirations. But I bet many of you still wonder what we do. We hope to use this column to highlight our activities and give voice to our talented team.

We have the Tai Tokerau Economic Action Plan which is a co-ordinated approach with local governance, industry and iwi partnerships along with central government stakeholders, which aims to transform the region's economy through identifying opportunities and encouraging investment, boosting jobs and building capability to empower our communities.

So far, we have had around $150 million worth of Provincial Growth Fund money allocated to us as one of six surge regions. This is a phenomenal amount of money and we welcome it with open arms. We called on Wellington to help. And they have answered. And it's not over yet either.

Clearly regional economic development is front and centre right now.

Has the cat got our tongues? Why are we not shouting from the rooftops about our region's capability, our opportunities, our businesses and our successes?

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Our former CEO, Dr David Wilson, was a leader with a voice and a champion for the region.

Northland Inc will continue to tell its story, and the story of our region and of its people.

But we need more voices, more business leaders with a voice, and champions on the region's behalf.

Sure, it's 'Lights! Camera! Action!' when PGF announcements come to town.

But let's not take sit back and think that the work is done.

It is now that the real hard work begins and you can make a real difference.

* Vaughan Cooper is acting CEO of Northland Inc, the regional economic development agency.