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Health and ecology business park announcement

International health and ecology business park announcement in Oamaru tomorrow will help boost the Waitaki

Japanese food technology company Nikken Seil will tomorrow unveil plans for its International Health and Ecology Business Park in Oamaru.

The New Zealand health and ecology project will be driven by Nikken Seil which is an arm of the Nikken Group in Japan which last year announced general plans to develop a world centre for health and ecology in North Otago.

The Japanese company will announce tomorrow when construction will start and reveal more details about their Oamaru business park opposite the racecourse.

Nikken’s presence and investment is playing a part in a growing North Otago economy, which when measured in 2001 had a gross annual domestic product (GDP) of $510 million.

Whitestone Waitaki Tourism sold 290,000 bed-nights last year which is an indication of a fairly healthy tourism industry.

After decades of economic decline, growth is evidenced by statistics which show North Otago is not losing population any more.

``We are becoming more populated again and we have finally broken the downward spiral,’’ Waitaki Development Board general manager Susan Houston said today.

Residential building consents issued in the Waitaki rose 80 percent in the 12 months to April.

This compared highly favourably with Central Otago which rose just 18 percent.

Visitors to the Waitaki were much higher than to Central Otago. For the year ended March Waitaki had 292,000 guest-nights, compared with 256,000 in Central Otago. Even Waitaki’s fledgling film industry is thriving. Films made or underway to date include the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Kidnapped and Perfect Creature.

However, agriculture remains the mainstay of the Waitaki economy and building on that strength makes sense.

Oamaru is becoming known as the organics centre of New Zealand. There is a strong organic grassroots movement in Oamaru, which is also home to the annual New Zealand Organic Wine and Food Festival.

Ms Houston, who plays a key role in injecting life into the Waitaki, said Nikken Seil’s philosophy and huge investment would build on the district’s strength in organics.

``This should cement our drive to become known as the quality food capital of NZ. Nikken Seil has access to the markets in Japan and Japan has an overwhelming demand for quality food.

``If Nikken Seil did nothing more than connect us to those markets it would be a huge incentive for regional and national companies to get involved.’’

Nikken Seil spokesperson Kyoko Nakamura said they were hoping their centre would become a ‘’Japanese beachhead’’ in New Zealand.

They are also on course to open their International College of Health and Ecology in February 2006. The college would have been opened earlier but for a major fire at the ex-Teschemakers school site south of Oamaru in June last year.

Nikken own more than 350ha of fertile farmland south of Oamaru for an organics venture, the third part of their involvement in the district.

Copyright 2004 Word of Mouth Media NZ

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