A United Approach to Regional Development
By Dougal McGowan, OCCI, CEO | Posted: Thursday April 25, 2019
Otago and its districts continue to flourish as an economic region, when looking at all the stats produced through Infometrics, Government and the various surveys that run on a monthly basis.
The primary sector has had a particularly good run of late, with markets overseas shorter than average on supply. The other factor is that the rest of New Zealand, and indeed the world, is discovering all that is great about our region. All this though is not coming without its own pressures. Continual reports of a slowdown in the economy, rising compliance costs, wages, local government rates and the possible change in capital gains taxes have all caused business sentiment to be well below its norm. In the primary sector, where prices can fluctuate massively within a year, there is still some pessimism when looking forward 12 months, especially with the Brexit disaster unfolding, and our ongoing tenuous relationship with China.
Thus it was great to hear our councils are working together to try to put together a regional approach to economic development. It demonstrates the need to work together as a larger region to support our economy and try to future proof ourselves by planning together. Now, to think we are all going to hold hands and skip into the future together is a nice thought, it will not come without its difficulties. With each region having identified and currently working on its own strengths and new developments – like Geo Park North Otago, and the Centre of Digital Excellence in Dunedin – there has been considerable time and discussion on what can be worked on together.
These plans must agree on mutually beneficial outcomes that are vital for the region. To have a strategy and work plan which is innovative and agile moving forward gives the region, its businesses and its people confidence for when changes come in the New Zealand or global economy, which they surely will.
It tells us we are prepared and that we will not experience the extent of the peaks and lows that other areas may experience. With the amount of horizontal and vertical infrastructure build required throughout the region, we need to use this to stimulate the economy for the next 20 years.
Our difficulties as highlighted over these years are well recognised. Housing and skilled labour are needed to make these opportunities into realities. I hope both these elements are enshrined in the plan.