The region’s five councils have unanimously agreed to support the establishment of a new regional development agency.
Here’s how their joint media statement describes it so far:
“This will see a joint annual investment of $1.7 million to an independent entity governed equally between business, iwi/hapū and local government.
“The decision follows a comprehensive review of local government investment in business and industry support across Hawke’s Bay …
“The review highlighted a range of inefficiencies with the current system and a clear opportunity to do better to meet the region’s needs and potential.
“The entity will support businesses and sectors in the region, focusing on priority areas or issues and ultimately supporting growth and productivity across the regional economy.
“The platform will also present a strong and united voice and vision to external investors, talent and Central Government.”
From BayBuzz’s perspective, this is a long-overdue development that – if not undercut by lingering patch protection by individual councils – will eliminate duplicative expenditure of both council money and bureaucratic energy.
But this announcement is just a pre-Xmas teaser from our favourite politicians – a verbal ribbon-cutting. The devil will be in the details of governance, funding, division of labour, and day-to-day decision-making regarding priorities.
Questions like these remain and will be pursued by BayBuzz:
- What is the actual governance structure and representation?
- Does this $1.7 million (termed a 400% increase by Mayor Hazlehurst) annually replace what councils already spend on ‘economic development’? And if not – as is likely – what related spending and ‘ED’ programmes remain at the discretion of individual councils?
As it stands, the funding allocation is 29% from each of HBRC, HDC and NCC, 8% from CHBDC and 4% from WDC. According to regional development manager Sarah Tully, “The existing joint economic development funding across the five councils (totalling circa $500k) will be going towards the entity. Each council’s individual economic development funding or activity will be an area for each council to address and comment on further.” Uh huh!
- Related to that, what will the agency itself actually do? The media statement is long on ‘one voice’ and collaborative rhetoric, but notably devoid of any programmatic detail.
- Will the other ‘partners’ – iwi and business – ever put any cash up? Or are they just on board to spend ratepayer money?
- Who will drive the establishment process forward? And when can we expect to meet the agency’s first CEO or general manager?