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March 2021 News Update

Kia ora koutou,

It’s been another busy month for the region since our last update.

Our Leadership Group met for the first time this year recently to have a robust discussion about our key focuses for 2021 and our Work Plan.

In short, our Leadership Group reaffirmed that our role should be focused on adding value to existing activities across the region, and connecting and facilitating discussions to advance wider opportunities or challenges that impact us all. You can read more about this below.

In case you missed it – we are currently seeking Expressions of Interest for a business leader to be appointed to our Leadership Group. To learn more about the role, responsibilities and function of Bay of Connections and the Leadership Group, please read the Expression of Interest here - this is open until 5:00pm Wednesday 31 March.

Late last month Infometrics released their Quarterly Economic Monitor for the Bay of Plenty region, reporting that the Bay (as a whole) is indicating economic activity resilience – although the picture looks slightly different in certain parts of the region. The report provides data updates on both the 2020 calendar year, and the final quarter ending December 2020. The Bay of Plenty report covers Eastern Bay of Plenty, Rotorua and Western Bay of Plenty.

We pulled together some key points from the report and you can read more here.

We have some exciting and practical projects to work on this year and we look forward to working alongside you all as we connect the dots across the region to add real value.

Ngā mihi,
Dean Howie.

Regional Round Up

This month’s Regional Round Up shares a snapshot of what’s happening across the board. If you have some news or updates to share, please get in touch at


- Priority One’s latest newsletter features an interesting article on New Zealand’s first military flight simulator company, based in Tauranga, and an update on the WBOP secondary school students who were selected for the 2021 Instep Young Leaders Forum. Read more here.

- Earlier this month we were introduced to Amplify - the new name for Enterprise Great Lake Taupō. Check out their rebrand here and the four themes that underpin their mahi.

- Toi EDA’s March pānui featured some key highlights, such as an increase in the EBOP annual consumer spending, an update on the Whakatāne Mill and how its closure will impact the local economy and an overview of how their “Discover Our Local” campaign is tracking. More here.

- In recent news, land has been opened up for residential development in Pukehangi, Rotorua with the rezoning allowing up to 790 homes. The fast-tracked rezoning from the government is a step foward to address the city’s critical housing shortage. Read more here.

- Toi Kai Rawa recently hosted its annual He Rangatahi He Anamata Māori Youth Leadership Summit at Te Kura Whare in Tāneatua. Students from over 23 Bay of Plenty High Schools were treated to inspiring kōrero from a range of speakers and engaged in Design Thinking Workshops. He Rangatahi He Anamata seeks to build the next generation of leaders by mobilising rangatahi Māori in the Bay of Plenty, empowering them to lead and unlocking the potential of the emerging Māori workforce.

Leadership Group Update

The latest Bay of Connections Leadership Group hui saw us come together in person in Tauranga for the first time in 2021 – despite the localised tsunami warnings that day.

A key focus of our recent mahi has been shaping our 2021 Work Plan. It’s clear from our stakeholders that Bay of Connections activities need to be clear and intentional, support local kaupapa and priorities, and look across the region to identify challenges and opportunities.

Our Leadership Group reaffirmed that our role should be entirely focused on adding value to existing activities across the region, and connecting and facilitating discussions to advance wider opportunities or challenges that impact us all.

An obvious regional example is climate change and our transition to a low carbon economy, but there are a number of other kaupapa that have also been identified, including the potential “linking up” of cycle trails across the motu.

We’re putting the finer details into our workplan now, and look forward to getting your thoughts on it in the near future.

In the meantime, COVID alert levels permitting, “connecting” is going to be something that we already know we’ll be doing a lot more of this year, on a range of different topics and in a range of different places.

We’ve always talked about “connecting the dots” and that is inherent in our name. Whether that be businesses, Māori organisations, councils or EDAs, and whether that is within our region, in neighbouring areas or relevant sectors, bringing people together is where we believe we can add real value to stakeholders across the region and beyond.

Our latest meeting in Tauranga included an update from Priority One, and as our quarterly meetings move around the rohe, we will be extending an invitation for the local EDA to join us for an update and discussion. You can read the latest update from Priority One by clicking on their link in the story above.

The “four wellbeings” are often talked about in Government, community and council circles to ensure that mandated activities provide environmental, social, cultural and economic benefits. This slide from Priority One particularly resonated with us as it clearly outlines how economic development activity ensures positive outcomes in each of these areas, and how these four areas are inextricably linked.

Priority One wellbeings slide
Skyline Rotorua 5 (6)

Tourism Snapshot

Its a hot news topic at the moment, and for good reason. New Zealand’s tourism sector has undoubtedly taken one of the biggest hits from our country’s response to COVID-19.

As we mentioned in last month’s pānui, on the face of it, New Zealanders seem to have made the most of enjoying their own backyard over the summer. And the provisional numbers from January appear to back that up when it comes to domestic spend – but the impact of the lack of international visitors is starting to become even more obvious.

The Bay of Connections area includes the wider Bay of Plenty region, which has three Regional Tourism Operators (RTOs) – Destination Rotorua, Destination Great Lake Taupō, and Tourism Bay of Plenty (coastal Bay of Plenty).

Coastal Bay of Plenty, Rotorua and Taupō all saw an increase in domestic spend in January 2021, compared with January 2020, while both the Bay of Plenty and Taupō saw a small increase in total spend for the same periods. Rotorua, however, saw a 15% decrease in total spend between January 2020 and 2021.

The change in annual spend between the two years paints a much starker picture. The Bay of Plenty saw a 2% increase in annual domestic spend, while Taupō had a 12% increase. Rotorua had a 1% decrease in the annual domestic spend in the same period, but a significant 23% decrease in the total spend. Bay of Plenty and Taupō saw a 3% and 5% decrease in total spend respectively. All a reflection of the impact of ongoing border closures on international visitation.

This impact is no surprise given Aotearoa saw a 98.7% decrease in international arrivals in January 2021 compared to January 2020, with just 5,448 internationals arriving in January 2021.


January is traditionally the high domestic visitor season, so while the summer holidays have helped offset some of the impact, it hasn’t been at a level that has fully replaced international visitors – and certainly not in relation to the level of spend.

As a Rotorua visitor operator recently described it, “if farmers were told that the world would no longer take their meat, milk or produce, that is effectively what has happened with New Zealand inbound tourism – everything is closed!”

With kiwis back to work and school in February, we will be able to get a greater understanding over the next few months of the true impact of the lack of international manuhiri during the peak tourism season.

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Thursday, March 25, 2021

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