Northland's natural assets, rich cultural heritage and youthful population are keys to growth in the region's tourism, forestry, dairy, aquaculture and horticulture sectors, a comprehensive study has found.
The Northland Regional Growth Study, released by Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy in Kerikeri on Wednesday, says Northland has significant untapped economic potential and its industries could grow substantially thanks to its resource-based advantages.
The study found Northland's economy is underperforming - having 3.6 per cent of the population, but contributing 2.9 per cent of employment and 2.6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
"This is the most comprehensive report written on the Northland economy in many years," Mr Joyce said.
"It clearly lays out the investment opportunities available in the region, the significant employment opportunities, and the crucial role that Maori, iwi and hapu can play in its growth."
Improving economic outcomes in Northland will in turn play a key role in improving the health and social outcomes for Northlanders, he says.
"This Government is committed to working with business, local government, Maori and iwi to take action and provide better opportunities for Northland. Realising the growth opportunities that are set out in the Northland Regional Growth Study will require a strong Maori contribution," Mr Joyce said.
"I therefore commend the Tai Tokerau iwi chairs and chief executives for their report (also released on Thursday) on the economic growth strategy for the Tai Tokerau economy."
For a copy of the Northland study, click here.
The Northland study shows that the region's natural assets, rich cultural heritage and youthful population present distinctive and significant opportunities for growth in the tourism, forestry, dairy, aquaculture and horticulture sectors, Mr Guy says.
The study says despite the region's attractions and amenities, Northland's visitor economy has not performed well over several years, with declining guest nights and limited growth in visitor expenditure.
But, it says there are some major attractions possibly coming up, including the proposed Waitangi Museum and Education Centre, Kupe Waka Centre at Aurere, a proposed visitor facility and art installation at Cape Reinga; the Hundertwasser and Wairau Maori Art Centre or Harbourside development in Whangarei, and the Manea - Footprints of Kupe Heritage Centre at Opononi, to name only a few.
Education focus of sea change for future Maori
Northland's economy - and the Maori one in particular - is on the brink of a sea change, Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell says.
The Maori Party co-leader was speaking at the launch of the first independently developed, iwi-led economic growth strategy at the Kerikeri RSA on Wednesday.
Called He Tangata, He Whenua, He Oranga, its goals include a doubling of the Maori contribution to Northland's economy. Just lifting the average Maori income to the Northland average would inject another $415million a year into the region, its authors found.
The brainchild of the Taitokerau Iwi Chief Executives Consortium, the strategy sets out a pathway for developing the Maori economy without compromising people's mana or Papatuanuku (the Earth).
Mr Flavell said Maori were becoming the key drivers of Northland's economy, and he would do all he could to help make the plan happen.
Kevin Robinson, chief executive of Te Runanga o Te Rarawa, said Northland's Maori asset base was estimated at $2.4billion with Maori businesses contributing $730million a year, or 13 per cent, of the region's total gross domestic product (GDP). However, Taitokerau remained a developing economy within a developed economy, with higher population growth, lower incomes and greater poverty.
Education was one of the keys to turning that around, he said. Whanau needed affordable and equitable access to future-focused education, and Maori could not have a productive economy if 60 per cent of school leavers had little or no qualifications.
Mr Robinson said iwi needed to take "a good hard look" at their leadership and structures.
Growth opportunities identified in the strategy included aquaculture, ecotourism, geothermal energy, horticulture and under-used land.
Northland iwi leaders and representatives of Northland Inc, the Far North District Council, the Northland Regional Council and Far North Holdings attended the launch.
Later in the day, at Kerikeri's Turner Centre, Economic Development Minister Stephen Joyce launched the Northland Regional Growth Study.