The ‘Waikato Means Business’ economic development strategy is a finalist in the Local Government New Zealand EXCELLENCE awards, with winners to be announced at the LGNZ conference in Rotorua, from 19-21 July 2015.
The project has been recognised for its collaborative approach. Representatives from iwi, councils, industry and the University of Waikato were involved in its development, with significant industries to be involved in the implementation phase, including Wintec, Fonterra and the Gallagher Group.
The ‘Waikato Means Business’ discussion paper identifies natural resource and labour supply constraints as key challenges to be addressed to improve standards of living in the Waikato region.
The discussion paper identifies the following challenges for the region.
(i) Skill constraints
There is a need to improve the levels of education achievement and skills in the region, and to address the high proportion of youth not in employment, education or training (18% compared to 12% in NZ as a whole). Several Waikato employers have reported they have difficulty attracting, developing and retaining people.
(ii) Environmental limits
Water quality and quantity are both significant issues for the region. Soil quality is also under threat due to subdivision and intensification of land use. Recognising these constraints, growth in existing primary industries needs to come from increasing the value of processed products (manufacturing) and services.
(iii) Perceptions of the business environment and support for innovation
Businesses in the Waikato have identified areas where the regulatory environment could be improved, including improving consistency in consent processing across councils, and pooling of capability when significant developments are being assessed.
In some industries, such as agri-technology and manufacturing, there is potential for research, education and support organisations to do more to help businesses solve their technical issues and be more innovative.
Potential flagship initiatives: