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Final forum validates regional direction

Regional leadership and agility were the focus of a final workshop on the draft Bay of Plenty action plan for economic development, as part of the Government’s Regional Growth Programme, with more than 120 regional leaders and stakeholders in attendance.

Late last year, an independent study on the region’s economic opportunities was commissioned by the Ministries of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and Primary Industries (MPI), in partnership with the Bay of Connections. The Regional Growth Study (RGS) identified a range of short to mid-term opportunities (0-10 years) that could assist in increasing investment, employment, and incomes across the region.

The RGS was launched by Ministers in May, with an action plan under development since then to identify how key opportunities can be realised, who is responsible and by when. As part of that, five workshops were held across the region, asking stakeholders to prioritise the opportunities in the RGS. They were asked to help establish the logical order of focus, identify the people and organisations that need to be involved and the specific actions required.

As a result, nine key areas were prioritised for development, including agribusiness, aquaculture, education and skills, forestry and wood processing, geothermal, horticulture, Māori land utilisation, visitor economy and water management. The action plans for each, which include barriers for success, resources required and those involved, were presented at the final workshop in Taneatua yesterday, for validation by the region.

Bay of Connections and RGS Governance Group chair Doug Leeder says it was important the region had the chance to validate the action plan, particularly the partnerships for implementation.

“The RGS Action Group has worked closely with relevant stakeholders throughout this phase to identify key actions for each of the nine opportunity areas. The key to successful implementation will come down to the agreed partnerships for each action – who will be doing what, when and how.

“This will require true regional ownership and leadership, including the need to be agile as things progress and change. Central government has played an important role in developing the RGS, but it is up to us, the region, to implement and affect real change through this action plan.

“It is not a job for any one individual, group, council, government or private company. It is a job for us all – councils, EDAs, the Bay of Connections, industry, Māori and government working together collaboratively to make these opportunities a reality. Central government will continue to be involved in a facilitation role to help with that growth.”

Mr Leeder says the action plan is not about finding ‘quick fixes’, rather it is about long-term sustainable growth and equipping existing resources within the region in order for that growth to occur.

“The RGS is a revolutionary platform on which to sustainably develop our region. I cannot over-estimate its importance, and the critical role this work will play in our future. I think the attendance at the forum reinforced this level of importance.

“The RGS is a unique economic development partnership between government and the region, facilitated through the Bay of Connections, and will be a game changer for the wider Bay of Plenty.”

Once the action plan has been finalised and submitted to government in September, it will then be launched in the region by Ministers in October. The final phase – the implementation phase – will begin early 2016.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

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