Te Tai Tokerau is growing. We can all see it. There are more cars on the road, new businesses popping up and property developments seemingly everywhere. Traffic delays aside, what does Economic Development mean for you and me?
There is a common notion among Northlanders that we must protect our region from growth to preserve our way of life. There is some credibility to this fear of change; our prized beaches will become busier, parking will cause more headaches, and there will be longer waits at the boat ramp.
While for some, I'm sure, nothing is worth these pains, the benefits we will see should far outweigh them.
Economic Development (ED) is often viewed in a negative light, I suspect because the first word that springs to mind is money. In fact, ED is about studying, supporting, and improving the well-being and livelihoods of the people within a nation, region, or community.
Without doubt money plays its part, but at the risk of sounding clichéd, the focus is on he tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.
Almost 15 per cent of inquiries to Northland Inc's Business Innovation and Growth team in the past 12 months have been from new or ideas-stage businesses. This is good news for Tai Tokerau.
More variety in our business landscape leads to a greater number and range of higher-skilled and paying jobs. It may mean that work can be found where previously there was none, or that a job only available in the city can now be worked from your hometown. It helps us to keep our talent and our loved ones busy and closer to home.
Regional growth also attracts Government funding and investment. Tai Tokerau has seen this in effect with more than $400 million injected into more than 200 completed or active projects by the Provincial Growth Fund and Crown Infrastructure Partners.
These are supporting long-awaited infrastructure upgrades, major tourism drawcards and education and training projects.
More jobs also mean more tax paid to government, which should be returned in the form of better education, health systems and social services.
I believe that when seized, opportunity breeds opportunity. Our growing population creates opportunity for new and existing businesses.
Their success and growth in turn creates opportunities for employment, training, and investment. It also means there are more goods and services available to us – think fewer trips to Auckland, bigger brands, and better bands.
I think back to Israel Adesanya's iconic speech at the Halberg Awards in 2020 about our inherent Tall Poppy Syndrome; we have a misguided habit of assuming that successful business owners are somehow bad people (in most cases they are not), but we fail to see the wins that their successes bring to all of us.
Of course, there are implications of population growth and ED that need to be managed, such as environmental impact, accommodation and infrastructure requirements, and the potential for rises in inequality and inflation.
Government funding and investment is largely responsible for controlling these by supporting environmental, social and community projects, but the private sector plays its part too through sponsorship, mentoring and knowledge-sharing.
Innovation is a massive driver of change for the better, and it is our businesses that are innovating. New, novel and creative solutions to problems are what innovation is all about.
For you and me, innovation can result in products and services that are cheaper, higher quality and more environmentally friendly.
For businesses and organisations to undergo research and development, they need capital and expertise – both of which are made more readily available by ED.
Callaghan Innovation, New Zealand's innovation agency, can provide capability, expert and financial support for research and development.
If you have an idea and want to explore its potential, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our innovation specialists will be in touch.
Who knows, perhaps we can discover creative systems of parking in the city, or novel ways to launch boats more efficiently?
• Sam Mather is a growth adviser in the Business Innovation and Growth team at Northland Inc, the regional economic development agency.