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Good progress with Bay of Connections

Friday, 6 May 2011 9:00 a.m.

Regionally significant projects have been completed in the two and a half years since Bay of Plenty economic development organisation Bay of Connections was launched.

This week's Bay of Plenty Regional Council Strategy, Policy and Planning Committee heard that food and beverage and aquaculture strategies have been developed, a background report completed for an energy strategy and a feasibility study conducted for the proposed Tauranga Harbour Central Marine precinct.

Group Manager Technology and Economic Development Miles McConway said the Regional Council continued to play a key role in implementing the region's economic development strategy in partnership with the Bay of Connections Governance Group, three development agencies (Toi-EDA, Priority One and Destination Rotorua Economic Development), New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and local authorities.

"All those involved in the Bay of Connections implementation have maintained this strong collaborative base and built on it," he said.

Since the beginning of this year, further progress had been made in energy, aquaculture, forestry and wood processing, supply chain and logistics and updating the Bay of Connections strategy.

A range of other regionally significant initiatives had been supported, especially in facilitation and providing advice, and partnering key players together. These included assisting the Te Kaha (Maungaroa) irrigation scheme, promoting the region as ready for broadband investment through the Government's Ultra Fast Broadband and Rural Broadband investment funds and development of a governance model to promote the significant Māori land and business asset base within the Bay of Plenty.

The Committee heard from Governance Group member Lockwood Chief Executive Bryce Heard, who leads the forestry strategy. He said a regional forestry industry forum had been held to canvas stakeholders on how to move forward, with a strategy and action plan to be launched in September.

A regional energy forum was held last month, an important step in developing an energy strategy and action plan to be completed in August.

Eastpack Chief Executive Tony Hawkens, who leads the Governance Group's logistics area, said a supply chain and logistics advisory group was established in February with membership from across the Bay of Plenty, Auckland, Waikato and Hawkes Bay.

Good progress had also been made on the aquaculture strategy launched in late 2009, with a stocktake of the region's infrastructure to support the emerging industry and what it would need to reach a goal of $250 million in exports by 2025, Mr McConway said. Funding has been applied for to carry out open ocean aquaculture research off Ōpōtiki.

A review of Bay of Connections was also underway.

"We have achieved much in the past two and a half years, and the strategy has given us a clear path forward that is already delivering results. But as with any piece of work, it will need to continue to evolve to meet the changing environment.

"Our world has changed significantly in the past few years so it's vital that our regional economic strategy changes and evolves with it."

The second iteration would have a greater degree of economic analysis behind it, with measureable targets, and more quantitative analysis to ensure any future funding and resource allocation is targeted to sectors where there is a high degree of confidence in the delivery of significant and positive results, Mr McConway said.

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