September 14, 2017
by Libby Wilson, Stuff
Waikato isn't getting its share of government money for economy-boosting projects, a local businessman says.
The suggested solution is a regional economic development agency to be a voice for projects, such as making Te Aroha a spa capital.
Waikato Means Business chair Dallas Fisher presented the idea to Hamilton city councillors at a Thursday briefing - and asked for a yearly $140,000 contribution to the new body.
Waikato Means Business chair Dallas Fisher asked Hamilton city councillors for $140,000 a year for the agency.
But several councillors were sceptical, wanting to know why this would work when previous versions hadn't.
Economic development in the Waikato is fragmented, Fisher said. It needs to speak with one voice.
"We need to give government the signals so they will release their purse strings to the Waikato because, compared to every other region, we're just not getting our share," Fisher said.
Once the Waikato has the figures and the right projects, it can go to Government and ask for help.
"This is about turning your dollar into four, so your dollar matches the regional council, matches business, matches Government."
Fisher chairs the steering group behind Waikato Means Business, the region's economic development strategy.
The proposed development agency would ideally span nine councils and costs would be shared between them - based on population.
Taupo and Rotorua are not currently part of the plan, as they come under the Bay of Plenty programme.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment gave the Waikato $85,000 for economic development projects in 2016, Fisher said said.
This year, requests for $580,000 are in front of the ministry and they're getting traction.
Hamilton hasn't had much success with economic development agencies in the past, Councillor Angela O'Leary said, before asking what would make this one different.
Past groups were Hamilton-focused, council general manager of venues, tourism, and major events group Sean Murray said.
In some cases, the groups did not have the right leadership, funding, or any business involvement.
Fisher said a positive sign is the formation of Agenda Waikato - "business, for the first time, coming together at what I'll call a senior level".
Cr Paula Southgate asked what would happen if not all councils wanted to fund the development agency.
It would probably mean doing fewer co-funded projects, Fisher said, but councils which weren't part of the group wouldn't get the benefits from them.
Mayor Andrew King proposed that a report be brought back to council's next growth and infrastructure committee meeting.
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