Regional prosperity at forefront for economic development agency

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The recent economic development summit left those attending with an overwhelming sense of optimism and collective agreement to get started on projects and initiatives that will deliver economic growth and prosperity for the region.

Te Waka is tasked with lifting the economic performance of the region; attracting, retaining, and growing investment and business; and championing needs and opportunities across the region.

Among the discussions at the summit, held over the last two days of August, were topics such as infrastructure, value chains, innovation, education, collaboration, and intergenerational poverty and prosperity. Debates ranged from how to attract more skilled labour to the region to how to address the region’s under-performing productivity rates.

There were calls from several business leaders at the summit to put forward ideas that could not only tap into the Provincial Growth Fund, but would have an intergenerational impact.

The Te Waka audience listens to a speaker at the high-powered meeting.

The Te Waka audience listens to a speaker at the high-powered meeting.

“We need to be making decisions around projects that will have an impact on generations to come,” said an IT business leader. “We need to be thinking in decades, not days.”

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones attended the first day of the summit along with Minister of Maori Development Nanaia Mahuta, Minister of Employment Willie Jackson, Hamilton-based Labour list MP Jamie Strange and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau.

Minister Jones said he wanted to “direct Crown attention so that in 2020 we can point with clarity and honesty and say here is the concrete evidence of what we’ve achieved”.

He encouraged leaders to “serve up the projects that deserve support and we will meet you halfway… as we are doing with other rohe, we will fund your projects”.

“We’ve got two years. I don’t know if a future government will continue this kaupapa so we need projects that are capable of going the distance.”

After his opening address, Minister Jones carved the first chips out of a ceremonial waka that was being created at the summit to symbolise Te Waka’s newly launched journey.

The morning of day one of the summit saw four TED-style talks including one from Minister Nanaia Mahuta who asked the audience what value they place on our story and how they think about the region.

Day two saw participants work on ideas that will make a difference to the region that will build community well-being through economic development.

Attendees get down to business.

Attendees get down to business.

Te Waka’s board will spend the coming three to four weeks working through the ideas, considering which need business cases working up, and then prepare the list of ideas and projects that the economic development agency can enable.

At the end of the summit, Te Waka chair Dallas Fisher pledged to have all attendees back together in the coming weeks, as architects of the ideas. “Te Waka can do a lot, but it’s everyone’s challenge to follow through now.” Attendees also signed a wall denoting their commitment to the work of the EDA, signed first by Dallas.

The agency’s full name – Te Waka, Anga Whakamua Waikato – was announced at the summit. Anga Whakamua Waikato means Waikato moving forward.

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