Nothing winds us up more in Tai Tokerau than those outside our region calling us things we're not. If you want to see us unite, then go ahead and poke the taniwha!
We will rise up and collectively move mountains and part seas – it's what we do as proud and passionate Northlanders.
In recent years our region has been viewed by our relations further south as a basket case, unable to help ourselves, disparate and a gaggle of ghost towns and communities at the end of a holiday highway.
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Well, New Zealand, turn your taringa (ears) on because Northland is on the move.
During this era of name calling and finger pointing, our region led a study (the Tai Tokerau Growth Study), supported by government, which identified economic opportunities to grow investment, jobs and incomes from key sectors in the region.
These were narrowed down in the development of the Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Action Plan 2016, to coalesce limited resources around the projects that would make the greatest short-to-medium-term difference.
They range from transport to logistics, digital, skills and employment, land and water, tourism and high-value manufacturing, bringing projects together that contribute to transforming Northland's economy and social development. The plan is facilitated and supported by Northland Inc, the region's economic development agency.
There is no doubt that the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) has significantly accelerated many of the Action Plan projects, but our regional strength is in the delivery via Tai Tokerau-tanga. This is about the way we are working together to implement and support projects to enable our whānau and communities to prosper.
The high-trust collaborative relationships developed over the past four years have ensured that the recently refreshed Action Plan 2019 of more than 80 region-wide projects has hapu, iwi, multiple local and central government agencies, sectors, organisations and communities involved.
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Together we are working towards priority outcomes that ultimately ensure Tai Tokerau communities are prosperous and resilient.
Those outcomes are: a thriving Māori economy, an equitable environment for whānau wellbeing, a safe resilient, efficient multi-modal transport system, a state of the art technology ecosystem, a top regional visitor destination, better use of water, and a skilled local workforce.
To achieve this is no mean feat but the Action Plan provides a strategic cross-sector region-wide view of development, links proposals for economic activity with related proposals including capability-building and enhancements to infrastructure and seeks to be enduring.
The joined-up effort by Northlanders for Northlanders is beginning to move mountains. Our reo/language is different to our out-of-region doubters – we are not a basket case, we are a bread basket; we are not helpless, we are able to help ourselves and are self-determined; we are not disparate, we are joined-up; and our communities are far from ghosts, they are proud, full of passion, action-focused and on the move.
Poke the taniwha at your own risk!
• Jude Thompson is portfolio manager, Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Action Plan.