Budget 2019 has been the focus for many of us over the past fortnight, and it certainly delivered from a wellbeing perspective – with significant new investments across mental health, child welfare and support of Māori and Pasifika.
In addition, throw in a strong, positive capital-spend programme – with hospitals, schools, apprenticeships, KiwiRail and a mix of investments designed to improve land use – and there was, on the face of it, much to welcome.
But will Budget 2019 prove immediately transformative for Northland's economy? No, not really. Equally, the investments that are included in the budget will take time to generate visible benefits. This last point is a really key challenge facing the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF). While it is certainly true that "good things take time", I suspect that we'll need to genuinely have patience for these visible benefits to arrive.
The desire for economic growth to benefit everyone – the concept of inclusive growth, in other words – has become the driving factor behind the thoughts of those who dabble in the dark arts of economic development. There is a growing concern within the global economic development community that our economic strategies are failing to deliver the kind of societies in which people thrive.
Inclusive growth is a cross-cutting agenda that requires co-ordinated, long-term action. It introduces the notion that isolated silos can be broken open; that growth and investment can be configured to be inclusive; and that decision-making is open and based on long-term principles. To many this will sound like good, common sense but to achieve it, in practice, will require a concerted effort from all involved.
Much like the PGF, good things will take time and we need to have the patience – and, indeed, the stamina – to be in this for the long haul, to make decisions based on long-term principles.
There have been a lot of wins lately, with funding announcements for projects and packages and initiatives all over Northland. Will they create wealth, change livelihoods and impact on our futures? Absolutely they will. The question that frequently gets asked, however, is: how many jobs have been created by all this investment? The answer is: we don't know, yet.
What we do know, though, is that if we continue to make decisions with an inclusive, long-term approach, those benefits will happen and they will be inter-generational.
Now is not the time to sit back, rest on our laurels, relax and wait for things to happen.
Northland has never had such a wealth of opportunities at its disposal. Work is under way but we must keep going, keep up the momentum and keep the pressure on. It requires us all to get on board for the undoubtedly long, but ultimately fulfilling journey to transformation.
• Vaughan Cooper is acting chief executive of Northland Inc, the regional economic development agency.