Te Waka launches regional economic development programme

Waikato's regional economic development agency Te Waka has announced an ambitious four-year economic development programme. 

At an event at Claudelands Event Centre attended by many of the region’s key business, Māori, community and government leaders, Te Waka chair Dallas Fisher says the programme provides a pathway for the region to build on its strengths and address those areas which need a hand to thrive. 

“The Waikato’s prime location and diverse economy are at the heart of the region’s competitive advantage. We want to help the region grab those advantages and make them even greater.” 

Fisher says the programme is about assisting communities and parts of the region that are yet to benefit from growth.

“While the region on average is prospering, we know that some communities aren’t doing quite so well, and in some places deprivation levels are above the New Zealand average. It’s our job to make sure everybody in the mighty Waikato has the same opportunity to grow and succeed.”

The programme builds on the work of Te Waka’s predecessor Waikato Means Business and the region’s economic and community development organisations. It also is based on a strong relationship with the New Zealand Government, especially its provincial development programme. 

It represents the culmination of a process that began at the Waikato Economic Summit, held in late August at Lake Karapiro, which was attended by 250 of the region’s leaders.  

Te Waka chief executive Michael Bassett-Foss said the programme starts with a narrative which captures the spirit of the summit and the wider direction of travel for Te Waka. 

“The summit produced some outstanding ideas which were much bigger than any individual project. These have provided us with a broader context for our programme, as well as recognising that every day new ideas will emerge which will help to further deliver on the narrative,” Bassett-Foss says. 

The projects themselves cover a wide range of economic development factors, with the balance between them informed by the results of the summit.

Areas covered include Māori economic development; skills, education and talent; transport; housing; primary production and agri-technology; tourism and cultural assets; manufacturing and energy; high performance sport; aviation; digital and ICT; freight and logistics, and construction. 

“We listened carefully to the messages which came out from the summit, and by continuing to engage and work with our key partners, we have identified and refined 53 priority areas and projects which we think will help to lift and accelerate the region’s economic performance and prosperity,” Bassett-Foss says. 

The programme also sets out a series of economic leadership initiatives which Te Waka will lead, support and facilitate. This includes working with industry sectors and clusters to enhance business leadership, supporting the Hamilton to Auckland corridor project and the Southern Waikato Economic Action Plan.

Te Waka will also take a major role in further developing the Waikato Story, extending the reach of its business growth and support services though a hub and spoke network, and developing a regional investment facilitation programme. 

“It’s an ambitious programme which will require everybody working together in kotahitanga, but that’s what Te Waka is all about,” says Fisher. 

“Our job is to help turn ideas into reality – especially in ways which result in more jobs, greater prosperity and overall wellbeing for the people of the mighty Waikato. It really is the Waikato’s time to shine.”