The making of Waikato REDA – the region’s economic development agency

The Waikato Regional Economic Development Agency stands on the shoulders of many great organisations and some intensive work over many years.

The new agency, which came into being on 1 July, is a limited liability company owned by the Waikato Regional Economic Development Trust and takes a strong lead from the Waikato Plan and Waikato Means Business.

Waikato Means Business is the region’s 20-year economic development strategy, created with input from civic, business and Māori leaders. As well as taking strong direction from Waikato Means Business, Waikato REDA has also taken a lead from the Waikato Plan, an overarching strategic plan developed by the region’s leaders that has targeted investment and economic development as two of its priorities.

Local territorial authorities are funding Waikato REDA, as is WEL Energy Trust which has been a strong backer of Waikato Means Business.

Waikato Means Business Programme Manager Harvey Brookes says the formation of Waikato REDA is an important step in moving the region to the next level. “Our funders and friends understand that we have probably suffered in terms of accessing government funding and investment and they also appreciate that the solution for remedying this lies in a cohesive approach from the Waikato.”

All the territorial authorities in the wider Waikato region have committed to funding Waikato REDA through their Long Term Plans, Mr Brookes says. “We’re grateful to them all as this funding gives us the mandate to represent the many voices in our region and deliver a strong message to the country about the Waikato.”

Other major funders include NZTE and Callaghan Innovation who are long-term partners of the Business Growth Services team, formerly of Waikato Innovation Park Ltd who will now be part of Waikato REDA. 

Stuart Gordon is the CEO of Waikato Innovation Park Ltd and the establishment CEO of Waikato REDA while a permanent CEO is recruited. He says the Business Growth Services team will be vital to the success of the new agency. “This team has proved to be an integral part of boosting businesses in the Waikato. And if you combine that approach with the high-level initiatives the REDA will undertake, it’ll be a recipe for success.”

Waikato REDA’s first major activity is hosting an invitation-only summit for 250 key leaders in late August to determine major economic development initiatives. At the end of the summit, the agency will have a list of economic development initiatives that will have the greatest impact on the Waikato and its people and it will then work with government and funders to make those happen.

The organisation has an establishment board headed by Waikato businessman Dallas Fisher who has been chairing Waikato Means Business. The current board has representatives from local government among others, and expressions of interest in a skills-based, permanent board will be sought before the end of the year.

Mr Fisher says the agency aims to be the front door for the region. That means “Wellington” and investors keen to understand and talk to the Waikato should use the Waikato REDA and local businesses and organisations wanting to help tell the region’s story should talk to the agency.

“This is an important time for the Waikato – we need to take a strategic approach to getting the region up to the next level. We do relatively well, but let’s face it, we’ve suffered from a low profile and subsequent under-funding.”

The new agency acknowledges all the research and hard work that’s been done in the past few years, Mr Fisher says, and is proud to be standing on the shoulders of some great people and organisations. “We’re ready to take on that challenge of bringing everything together and acting as the lead voice for the region.”