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Leading economists share thinking for a changing NZ

Leading economists share new economic thinking for a changing New Zealand

Whether we like it or not New Zealand’s social landscape is changing as the population ages, becomes more diverse and increasingly urbanised.

Today, BERL’s Chief Economist Dr Ganesh Nana and Lincoln University’s Prof Caroline Saunders teamed up to address the annual Local Government New Zealand Conference in Nelson.

Dr Nana and Prof Saunders told the local government delegates that understanding the uncertainties governing our future development, and the local implications of these trends, is essential for councils as they begin planning for the 2015 – 25 long term plans and infrastructure strategies. They discussed the nature of the social and economic factors driving change and reflected on the likely impact these pressures will have on New Zealand's future development path.

As our economic landscape reorients in the face of major demand for commodities from the growing economies of Asia, the presenters asked the question – what will this mean for our future development patterns? How will it impact on transport links, investment and governance at the local and regional levels? The session considered ways in which councils can deal with uncertainty so that planning helps prepare communities to face the future.

Prof Saunders said that the strengths of regions are important to regional development.

“We need to think about value-added activities and what regions are good at, what they’re passionate about, and how to assess how that fits with the global environment and economy. We need to bring these different parts together to facilitate the necessary growth of skills in our communities.”

Dr Nana said that the world is changing fast and New Zealand needs to think about its vision for the next 20, 30 and 40 years ahead.

“We’ve got to broaden the conversation about return on investment. I don’t think New Zealand is poor, our bucket of resources is much better off than it was for my parents’ generation. We need to think today about how much resources we use and how much we put away or invest in resources for the future, to make sure they continue to be productive for the next generation,” Dr Nana says.

“We need to move past this idea of ‘Auckland vs the regions’. We need to think about where market services, business services, manufacturing services and primary services are located and work together, because regions cannot exist in isolation.”

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) President Lawrence Yule says it is vital the sector respond to changing community demographics and prepare for the future.

“We need to find ways to develop our regional centres into environments which offer opportunities in education, employment and business, as places where skilled locals want to stay and set up business, and where skilled migrants want to settle,” Mr Yule says.

The 2014 LGNZ Conference takes place 20-22 July at Nelson, with more than 550 local government delegates attending to take part in master class sessions, hear presentations from high profile speakers about significant issues and opportunities facing the sector. The theme of the conference is Powering Local Economies, Building Vibrant Communities.


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