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October 2020 News Update

Tēnā koutou,

It’s pleasing to see the arrival of warmer weather and the region bustling as people head out on boats, boards and bikes to enjoy the final week of the school holidays and the extra hour of daylight in the evenings.

It’s hard to believe we’re already in October, and as we enter the final quarter of the year we welcome news of no active community cases of COVID-19 and Auckland returning to level one, while eagerly anticipating the outcome of the General Election.

On that note, please have your say by voting for the parties and candidates you want to represent you in Parliament next term. Voting for the 2020 General Election, along with the End of Life Choice and Cannabis Legislation and Control referendums, is open until Election Day on 17 October.

It’s a pleasure to share what has been happening behind the scenes since our last update. We’ve had several valuable meetings over the past few weeks, including the continued discussion on the role data can play in supporting decision making to improve community outcomes across the region.

Our role as a connector is not only in our name, it runs through everything we do as we collaborate to advance tactical projects that deliver transformational and long-term benefits across the wider Bay of Plenty region. With so many visionary people championing incredible projects, we have established some parameters to guide how we prioritise our work. You can read more about some of the key projects we are embarking on, below.

Our next Leadership Group meeting will be held on 30 October, and we look forward to sharing the key outcomes of this with you next month. You can read more on our Leadership Group members here.

In the meantime, please continue to get in touch with me to share your thoughts, ideas and questions.

Ngā mihi,

Dean Howie

Current Projects

A goal of Bay of Connections (BOC) is to manage a balanced portfolio of short, medium and long-term projects that meet our current capacity.

The Leadership Group has developed a matrix to help us prioritise our work, aligned to our key focus areas: Māori economy development, infrastructure, workforce and supporting the transition toward a low carbon, circular economy.

We are currently progressing work on three projects: Sustainability and Waste Minimisation, Facilitating Capital Investment and supporting the ongoing development of Cycle Trails in the region.

Sustainability and Waste Minimisation: Developing a regionally-coordinated approach to waste management will help us progress the region’s transition towards a low carbon economy, as well as achieving wider economic and environmental objectives.

Facilitating Capital Investment: Investigating a ‘clearing house’ or ‘exchange’ model that would help us partner up capital and investment opportunities. There are many potential projects in the region that would improve our core infrastructure and lift productivity. By unlocking investment, we can help initiatives to get off the ground.

Supporting the ongoing development of Cycle Trails in the region: Investigating the role BOC could play in facilitating completion of the cycle network across the Bay of Plenty. The development of cycle way corridors and infrastructure across the region will create jobs, boost domestic tourism, and unlock business opportunities for the rural communities that sit on the trail.

These projects are all at an early stage and we’re busy refining their scope and planning the engagement with stakeholders that is essential to progress these focused initiatives.


Data Project Update

A successful Regional Data Group hui was held on Friday 2nd October to explore a collaborative framework for sharing data and insights, and building capability.

The hui was facilitated by Nic Newman of BOPRC, and attended by representatives from Enterprise Great Lake Taupō, Rotorua Lakes Council, Destination Rotorua, Toi Kai Rawa, Tauranga City Council, SociaLink, Tourism BOP, Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, BOPRC, and Bay of Connections. Members from local and central government agencies that were unable to attend communicated their desire for ongoing collaboration through the Regional Data Group.

Discussion points included the development of an ecosystem that makes it easier for group members to discover and share data, and how we can use this to align actions, utilising the skillsets of group members, developing subgroups to work on specific topics and bringing in an expert to advise on data sovereignty. The group also recognised their capability to advocate for access to local and sub-regional level data from existing central government datasets.

Outcomes of the hui were an agreement to formalise the group by drafting Terms of Reference and creating a strawman to identify the common economic indicators group members require access to, at a region and sub-region level.

The Group plans to meet quarterly to progress this work, and looks forward to capitalising on the efficiencies gained by a collective approach to improve community outcomes in the wake of COVID-19.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Jacqui Rolleston-Steed if you’d like to learn more about the Regional Data Group and how you can get involved - email Jacqui on


Thoughts From Our Leaders

This is the first part of what we hope will become a regular spot in our newsletter where we hear from one of the members of the Bay of Connections Leadership Group.

This month Simon Clarke shares his thoughts on the opportunity COVID-19 has presented us to pause, reflect and reset.


Reflecting on how we can grow our economy better

If we use the silver lining exercise, 2020 has been a year of disruption and uncertainty, but it has also given many of us something we don’t normally get – the luxury of time to reflect.

The various alert levels have seen most of us spend more time at home with our whānau, more time exploring our beautiful region, more time in our local neighbourhoods and more time than we’ve ever had to just…think.

All this reflection time has acted as a giant magnifying glass, highlighting what is truly important. Health, family and friends, our environment, our planet, our economic sustainability and how important it is to have a well-functioning democracy.

We’ve also realised that parts of our economy are more fragile than we previously thought. No one would have ever imagined a situation where our borders would be closed and international tourism would stop overnight. Our tourism and hospitality sectors that rely on international visitors have been doing it very tough.

But with disruptive change always comes opportunity, and we need to make sure we take it.

The Bay of Plenty has definitely been one of the best places in the world to be stuck in 2020, and it is a fantastic place to be as the country recovers from everything that this year has thrown at us.

It has been pleasing to see some indications of strong infrastructure investment from the Government in the BOP and our economy is already showing early signs that our recovery has begun.

As a region, we need to make sure we leverage this momentum, and most importantly, that we leverage our competitive advantage. The time is now for a step change in BOP Regional Economic Development.

The BOP has a long list of attributes that give us a competitive advantage to attract talent and to grow. Our port, our horticultural and aquaculture industries, our emerging technology sector, our beautiful beaches, harbours, lakes, rivers, mountains, forests, our enviable climate, our Māori heritage and culture … I could write a list as long as my arm.

But, our most competitive advantage is our people and we need to continue to invest in growing our existing capability, as well as attracting new talent to the region. Bay of Connections' collaboration with regional EDAs and Toi Kai Rawa are significantly important to ensuring that the region’s economic prosperity lifts everyone across the BOP and in particular, our Māori communities.

Here at the Bay of Connections we are lucky to meet so many people working so hard to ensure our incredible region is prosperous, that it maintains and improves its natural environment and that it provides opportunity and growth for all members of society.

Our mission is to connect these wonderful people to the organisations and funding that can help accelerate their projects, and to make sure we are all working effectively and efficiently to achieve goals we all agree upon.

A lot of what we have been doing this year, and particularly these past few months at Bay of Connections, has been about reflecting on what is important to us, then setting the frameworks that allow us to efficiently prioritise the work we take on, and the ways we can work with our partners to create long-lasting, sustainable and positive change.

It is an exciting time for economic development in the Bay of Plenty and it’s also time for a step change.



Orokawa Scenic Reserve Track - Photo Credit: Department of Conservation.

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Monday, October 12, 2020

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