Wanganui Chronicle

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Last week Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Minister for Maori Development Te Ururoa Flavell were in our region to announce a detailed Economic Action Plan.

This initiative marks a significant milestone for Manawatu-Whanganui, and one that will certainly boost our economy.

The Manawatu-Whanganui Economic Action Plan has been developed by the region with central government support. It forms part of the Government's Regional Growth Programme, and is focused on increasing jobs, incomes and investment in regional New Zealand.

The action plan came about following the earlier "growth study", which enabled us to take an in-depth look at the economic development opportunities in our region. It marks a clear pathway for us to follow, while at the same time it defines the specific activities we need to undertake to achieve a new level of prosperity across our great region.

Right now ManawatuWhanganui is showing encouraging signs of job growth with the latest Jobs Online report demonstrating a 24.7 per cent increase in jobs advertised in the Manawatu-WhanganuiTaranaki area over the year to June 2016. The action plan will build on this growth, and the region's strengths in primary production and food innovation.

It will also take advantage of opportunities in fields such as tourism, aged care and business process outsourcing. These opportunities were identified in the Manawatu-Whanganui Growth Study released last year.

The plan contains a set of tangible actions in these areas.

They are all underpinned by strategies to grow business and improve transport, digital connectivity and skills training.

Other focus areas that have been identified include sheep and beef, land and water use, manuka honey, realising Maori potential, fresh vegetables and poultry.

There are significant economic gains to be made if the opportunities outlined in the plan are realised. Benefit modelling carried out by NZIER has estimated that the primary sector opportunities alone have the potential to increase regional GDP by around $580 million by 2025.

Local and central government, businesses and iwi worked together to develop the plan. It's all about increasing job opportunities and quality of life in the Manawatu-RangitikeiWhanganui region and connecting people, business, iwi and our environment.

The implementation work programme, known as Accelerate 25, will be led by the Horizons Regional Council with continued central government support. Individual actions will be co-ordinated and funded by various groups and government agencies.

The Manawatu-Whanganui Economic Action Plan aligns with He Kai Kei Aku Ringa The Crown-Maori Economic Growth Partnership - and complements the wider work of the Government's Business Growth Agenda. These are exciting times. Certainly there is so much potential in our region, and I am delighted we have now taken real steps to understand and appreciate what we have here - and to plan for how to capitalise on it for the future.

"This initiative marks a significant milestone for ManawatuWhanganui, and one that will certainly boost our economy."