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Ground-breaking economic growth strategy ready for adoption

9 September 2011

Ground-breaking economic growth strategy ready for adoption

Rotorua - A ground-breaking economic growth strategy for Rotorua, developed with local business leaders, is ready to go before Rotorua District Council for adoption.

The draft Rotorua Sustainable Economic Growth Strategy is expected to set the direction for Rotorua’s future economic progress and is a response to the need to lift Rotorua’s overall economic performance. The strategy provides for more effective collaboration among Rotorua businesses, key agencies and the council.

Rotorua District Council chief executive Peter Guerin
said the council remained one of the district’s key economic development entities with sustainable development embedded right across all council operations and strategic planning.

He emphasised that the new strategy was guided by Rotorua’s four main economic drivers - forestry and wood processing, tourism, geothermal and agriculture.

“Preparation of the plan involved a high level review of Rotorua’s current economic position and a series of workshops with Rotorua stakeholders over several months.

“The consultation and planning process has been guided by an independent project reference group including a number of prominent Rotorua business leaders, while the project has been funded and managed by the council. “

Mr Guerin said Rotorua’s Sustainable Economic Growth Strategy aims to realise the district’s vision - ROTORUA: living the dream - world class in every way - and identified three key objectives for the next five years:

1. Change the reputation of Rotorua to be:

• acknowledged as a leader in tourism, forestry & wood processing, and geothermal industries,
• a preferred choice as a lifestyle destination;
• known as an innovative and sustainable district across all industry sectors, with a focus on primary industries such as agriculture (including dairy farming);
• known as a place where it is attractive to invest and easy to do business; and
• a district with an enabling regulatory environment.

2. Lift the performance of the local economy by:
• increasing the number of start-up companies ahead of the national average growth rate;
• developing and implementing an active strategy around business retention;
• increasing employment annually by 0.1 percentage points ahead of NZ average growth rate;
• generating greater demand in the economy by increasing population annually by 0.1 percentage points ahead of the New Zealand average growth rate; and
• increasing average room nights and spend to at least equal the national average annual rate of growth from both domestic and international visitors.

3. Raise living and skills standards by:
• increasing average household income faster than national average growth rate;
• reducing the percentage of households in the bottom quartile of national income; and
• increasing the level of skills in the workforce relative to the national average.

Mr Guerin pointed out that the strategy focused on allocating resources where they would actually influence outcomes rather than concentrating on wider macro-economic issues. He said it identified a clear direction for sustainable economic growth including immediate priorities that focus on adding value to the district’s main economic drivers.

“Implementation of the strategy would see a focus not just on RDC’s role, but also on the roles of various agencies involved in the district’s economic development, such as the Chamber of Commerce, Waiariki Institute of Technology and key government departments.

The twelve focus areas of the strategy are:

1. alignment with local initiatives & central/regional government economic goals, focussing on upper North Island economic driver links to Auckland, Northland, Waikato and BoP regions;
2. attracting investment, industry and new residents;
3. business development;
4. business start-ups
5. commercialisation of IP (intellectual property), linked to initial research outcomes and commercial opportunities that would follow;
6. a go-ahead district council with a business friendly and ‘can do’ attitude evidenced by:
- development of infrastructure to support growth,
- a District Plan with a major focus on sustainable economic growth,
- enabling regulatory functions including alignment of planning and policy documents to create investor certainty,
- integration of the economic growth strategy into council annual and long term planning processes and structures, and
- provision of effective, efficient and friendly services.
7. industry development including availability of land and provision of targeted interventions to support specific industry activity, with a priority focus on the CBD;
8. industry retention;
9. land use change;
10. leadership and strategy implementation;
11. provision of high quality economic research and information to inform both public and private sector investment in the region, and
12. post-school education and skills development

Mr Guerin says the strategy is a living document that has been crafted as a ‘report in progress.’

“It will be incorporated into the council’s long-term planning processes and key elements will be reviewed annually to assess relevance and performance. It’s hoped that it will be embraced by other organisations interested in achieving sustainable growth for the Rotorua economy."

IMPLEMENTATION

Project Reference Group chair Dr Pim Borren said his group would be formally submitting their recommendations to the council’s Economic and Regulatory Services Committee on Tuesday (13 September).

“Our recommendations comprise the draft Rotorua Sustainable Economic Growth Strategy and a structure for implementing the strategy.

“In considering how best to make the strategy happen the Project Reference Group researched current economic development models around the country. We also looked at international best practice models, consulted with iwi, business and regional economic development representatives, and assessed the strengths and weaknesses of various options.

“Our preferred option for implementation is a Council Controlled Organisation (CCO). A CCO structure would have clear accountability to the council and business community, with strong clarity of roles. It would be well-positioned to bring together a small, unencumbered team that could act strategically to achieve better economic outcomes for Rotorua.

“Our second preference is an initial hybrid standing committee of the council to be reviewed in 2014 with a view to establishing a CCO in 2015. This option would allow greater influence over council operations in the early years of the strategy’s implementation. It would be more cost-effective in the short term and likely to be more acceptable to the council. We expect it would also get a tick from the business community, would lessen duplication of resources, and develop a path for a strong transition to a CCO in 2015.

“Regardless of which option is selected, all stakeholders who have worked on developing this strategy are in agreement that both the governance and executive should comprise high-calibre individuals with clear accountability and oversight of operations,” said Dr Borren.

The draft Rotorua Sustainable Economic Growth Strategy will be considered on Tuesday (13 September) by the council's Economic & Regulatory Services Committee which is then expected to recommend formal adoption of the strategy to the next meeting of the full council.

ENDS

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