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Collaboration and partnership to underpin Te Waka

Te Waka, Waikato’s new economic development agency, has a role to play in the economic development agenda while also recognizing local aspirations and diversity, says its new CEO Michael Bassett-Foss.

Bassett-Foss was appointed Te Waka’s chief executive officer in early September, alongside new chief operating officer Harvey Brookes.

He says a partnership model will underpin Te Waka and support areas in the region that have their own plans and agendas.

“It makes sense for Te Waka to lead some projects or collaborate or partner with others, or hand them over and empower another organisation to lead the charge.”

In his new role as CEO Bassett-Foss says his immediate focus is on three priorities.

“The first is supporting our team of five advisors in the Business Growth Services team that sits within Te Waka. They help businesses by providing capability through the Regional Business Partner Network, assist with Callaghan Innovation grants, and putting people in touch with business mentors.

“Then there are the Waikato Means Business projects that were underway before Te Waka launched, such as the Southern Waikato Action Plan. We need to finish those and have the outputs fed back into the agenda or progress from elsewhere.”

Finally, the priority project ideas and data that came from Te Waka’s economic development summit in August are being collated for reporting by COO Harvey Brookes. The priorities and data from the summit will become the foundations of an economic development action plan for the Waikato region, which will be presented to the region and the Government later this year.

Bassett-Foss says while there are several opportunities for economic growth in Waikato, there are also challenges.

“It’s relatively easy to do business here, but there are some constraints due to growth because of our geographical proximity in the golden triangle, such as housing, transport, key infrastructure growth, three waters, and ensuring we have enough capable people.”

He says while Te Waka can’t address all of the region’s priorities, it will lend support for those who can enable change, including supporting several significant applications to the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund in locations around the region.

“We’ll certainly be helping groups align so they can progress their areas of need and help them align to the Government’s PGF criteria. We’re mindful that time is of the essence.”

Coming home

Bassett-Foss is pleased to return to Hamilton, having spent his early school years at Hukanui Primary School, Bankwood Intermediate and a year at Fairfield College before moving to Otaki in the Kapiti Coast.

His late teens and early 20s were spent on sporting circuits, with four months in Europe and the US each year competing in surf lifesaving and triathlons and as a top ranked kayaker.

More recently Bassett-Foss spent 17 years in Napier with his wife and three children and was the project director for the multi-million dollar Water Wairarapa project.