Te Waka is an economic development agency which will deliver on some high-level objectives for our region:


Lift economic performance across the Waikato region


Attract, retain and grow investment, talent and business across the region


Champion and provide one voice for economic and business needs and opportunities across the region

He aha te mea nui o te ao…he tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

What is the most important thing in the world?

It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.

We’ll help build confidence in the region, bring a cohesive approach to “getting things done” and tell our region’s economic growth story with one voice and agreed priorities. We’ll also bring a kotahitanga approach to how we do things because we understand great connections and relationships are what makes this region great.

If we can improve business, services, skills and infrastructure, we should easily attract more investment and business and convey a cohesive message. We believe we are at a tipping point for economic growth in the region; we cannot hang up our boots on this now.

And during all this, we’ll be building on the work of the previous entity, Waikato Means Business, and utilising and leveraging the existing talents of the Business Growth Services team at Innovation Park. We also fund and operate the Waikato Story.

In considering the range of organisations and services already across the region, we believe there is a need for us to add value and fill gaps here:

  • Telling the Waikato’s story
  • Regional investment facilitation and coordination
  • Regional sector and industry development
  • Business growth, advice and mentoring (through partners such as NZTE and Callaghan Innovation)
  • Co-ordinating a strategic approach and actions for a regional labour market 
  • Regional economic intelligence and knowledge-sharing
  • Maori economic development
  • Major project support including funding and delivery 

In August 2018 we hosted a summit for key people in the region who we believe can help drive Te Waka and the region itself forward. The summit developed the pipeline of major projects for the Waikato region for the next 2-5 years, and in doing so will drive the agenda for Te Waka.

How did we come about?

In 2016-17 a review of the Waikato’s economic development landscape found that despite our enviable location, people, history and industries, we were not doing as well as most other regions in New Zealand. Among a range of other findings, the review concluded that:

  • The Waikato had a confusing range of economic development strategies and frameworks with limited alignment
  • There was limited buy-in to the Waikato Means Business strategy/plan and process
  • The business community was seeking a stronger voice and ambition for the region
  • There were fragmented and uneven economic development services, many with limited reach 
  • There was considerable demand for improved investment attraction and facilitation, innovation and industry/major project support
  • Relative to the rest of New Zealand there was limited local government resourcing - $20 per capita (vs $36 for the rest of New Zealand) as well as limited scope to increase this significantly 
  • There is considerable opportunity to leverage resources from other sources (e.g. private sector, WEL Energy Trust, SWIF Trust, central government)

Based on these findings the Waikato Mayoral Forum agreed that a new regional economic development entity should be formed -  focused on business development, innovation, industry development, and investment attraction services. They said it should:

  • Build upon and replace Waikato Means Business
  • Be built off Waikato Innovation Park’s business development services
  • Use the hub and spoke delivery model to ensure reach
  • Ensure that destination marketing activities remain with existing Regional Tourism Organisations, but with clear linkages with new entity
  • Be an independent entity – business-led and focused
  • Seek additional funding from private sector and local government to be effective
  • Connect to the wider well-being strategy of the Waikato region through the Waikato Plan Leadership Group and the Waikato Mayoral Forum

We’re about helping the wider Waikato region

What we’re not going to be

We’re not Hamilton-focused – while Hamilton is an important part of the region, we’re about helping the wider region, including Hamilton.

We aren’t council-run. We have great support and some funding from the councils in the region, but we are a business-led organisation.

We aren’t a silver bullet! We’re not going to be able to solve all problems and boost economic development straightaway.  We are going to move on several fronts and work with lots of organisations on that journey.

We aren’t a charity. We’re going to need ongoing funding and we’ll be proving we’re worthy of that support. And while we’ll help the region, we won’t give hand-outs.

We’re not going to ‘eat anyone’s lunch.’ We’re really clear about what we’re here to do and we won’t re-invent wheels or cut across other organisations’ work. The Waikato is tracking reasonably well, but we can’t hang up our boots.  It’s vital we have a cohesive approach to economic development.

We’re not here to boss people around.  We’re here to help people be cohesive, consistent and collaborative so we can improve the lives of Waikato people.