Waikato Regional Council this week outlined a new strategic direction for regional development aimed at protecting the environment and boosting regional export growth and income.
Representatives from government, iwi, business and education attended a function at the Waikato Museum to hear about the strategic direction and to start conversations on regional collaboration to achieve the vision of the “Waikato – competing globally; caring locally”.
Chairman Peter Buckley said those at the launch were in a position to influence regional development.
“Strong relationships between all tiers of government, business and the community are keys to harnessing the ability of our region to compete in the global marketplace,” he said.
The new strategy guides the council’s business for the current council term and sets the context for the Long Term Plan 2012-2022. It has three major goals – sustaining land and water values, achieving co-governance requirements with iwi and facilitating regional development.
Regional development played a significant role in promoting New Zealand’s economic competitiveness, Cr Buckley said.
The government’s goal, set out in the Economic Growth Agenda, is to catch up with Australia’s productivity per person by 2025 and increase exports to 40 per cent of our gross domestic product (GDP). The export target requires New Zealand to nearly treble the value of exports, from $57 billion to nearer $150 billion over 15 years.
From the early 1900s to 1970, New Zealand had a standard of living above the OECD average and on par with Australia. However, since then the gap in GDP per capita between New Zealand and Australia has widened. Average incomes in New Zealand are now 30 per cent lower than in Australia, despite New Zealanders working longer hours.
The Waikato GDP per capita dropped below the national level for the first time in 2007 and the gap is projected to widen over time.
“One major challenge for the region is to determine the best ways to contribute to the national goal of lifting New Zealand’s standards of living,” Cr Buckley said.
He invited iwi, territorial authorities, neighbouring regions, government agencies, research and academic institutions and others to work with the council to help unlock potential opportunities for growth.
The contribution of the regional council to development initiatives has included helping develop strategic partnerships and alliances, increasing local government efficiencies,
strengthening linkages among stakeholders and the effective coordination of planning, management and service delivery of services and support across the region.
Waikato Regional Council is currently completing an economic profile of the Waikato region. This work draws on previous studies and will be used as a basis for discussion with stakeholders about the potential economic development opportunities for the region.