Talking business with Anthony Haas

Business investment, attraction and retention summit


The case for an early 2017 Wairarapa business summit becomes more compelling as we look beyond the 7.8 strong earthquake that shook Wellington. 

The Masterton district economic development programme was developed to further enable industry lead activity focused on strengthening Masterton’s economy.   A key driver of the programme is to strengthen the “culture of collaboration” between industry representatives, councils and other key stakeholders in creating more prosperity.

Local government and business leaders discussed a summit after Waitangi weekend 2017 to build on the Masterton district economic development programme. The activity aims to further enable industry lead activity focused on strengthening Masterton’s economy.

The Wellington regional economic development agency (WREDA) advocates a regional approach, targeting food and beverage, Chinese supermarkets, aviation and water business partnerships. WREDA’s Masterton based Geoff Copps emphasises “what’s good for Wairarapa is good for Wellington” – more leaders said the regional economic programme should focus on Wairarapa, not just Masterton”.

At a business investment, attraction and retention workshop on 31 October 2016 in Masterton, leaders identified opportunities with iwi participation, the investment arm of local councils and trusts, commitment to innovation and transparent communication. The leaders say the region needs a focus on technology and mobile talent – “people who can live anywhere and do what they do”.

Masterton mayor Lynn Patterson was to connect with other councils in anticipation of the summit. Masterton’s CEO Pim Borren and economic development adviser Kieran McAnulty see three prongs to the development thrust – education, agri-business and business attraction. Among the contributions Masterton offer to foster a “can do culture” are “pre-development conversations” and “delivering innovative solutions” – illustrated by the establishment of a call centre. MDC wishes to meet with the Iwi commercial board and determine how they want to be engage.

What’s good for Wairarapa is good for Wellington

Leaders identified opportunities with the investment arm of local councils and trusts. There are opportunities in commitment to innovation and transparent communication. The leaders say the region needs a focus on technology and mobile talent – people who can live anywhere and do what they do. One of the workshop’s tangible ideas was to attract foreign students. Another idea was contacting Wellington firms who could potentially relocate to Wairarapa.

Next steps were to include decision making on how to establish the right governance support for the programme overall, understanding the potential cost of the structure and for individual initiatives such as the development of a strategy. And then the big earthquake struck!

Coping with the earthquake

The development of the Wairarapa economic development strategy, summit, cooperation and action could be applied to help cope with the earthquake and aftermath that made some Wellington buildings unsafe.

Town, country, transport and other infrastructure to complement Wellington’s recovery could be developed in the Wairarapa. Central government and other interested parties could discuss a recovery option that capitalised on the complementarities of Wellington and the Wairarapa.

There are typically six trains and buses a day linking Wellington Wairarapa railway stations and homes and offices – some only an hour away. Commuters go from Wairarapa urban and rural lifestyle blocks to the many Wellington offices that meet their needs. Commuters could come from Wellington to use the Wairarapa services they need.

There is Wairarapa land close to rail stations and roads, capable of being zoned and developed for offices, educational institutions, houses and other services. Local and central government officers, developers, builders, financiers and other key players could confer about building to meet the needs of central government as well as the other purposes identified in the 31 October workshop, and relevant to post earthquake policy making that could be explored at the summit 2017 after Waitangi weekend. Some of the thinking could be short term, some could be reflected in the Masterton, South Wairarapa, Carterton, Wellington and relevant other long term community council ten year plans – and policies for central government.

The DecisionMaker Talking Business column has been researching opportunities for the economic development of the Wairarapa, supports the summit thinking and offers the idea of a post earthquake development strategy.



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