From the desk of Helen Wilson - Research and Innovation Manager
Amongst economic development professionals it is accepted that the most successful projects take time to realise measurable benefits. Sixteen years ago, DWC in its very early years became a financial supporter of one such project.
The ‘Reefton Shop Front’ project had its beginnings in 2003 when a delegation from Inangahua Tourism Promotions (ITP) in Reefton came to the then West Coast Development Trust with a proposal to 'do-up' some of the shop fronts in Reefton’s main street, Broadway, to make the town more attractive to, and I quote, “shoppers and stoppers”.
The vision that the then ITP group had when they brought their proposal to the Trustees of the time was gutsy and for the long-term. DWC provided a commercial loan to ITP, who were then able to on lend to shop owners at very reasonable rates, enabling the business owners to renovate their shop fronts in a heritage style. Broadway and Reefton at large as we know it today began its revival.
While only a few took part in the first phase, it very much set the scene for more developments to follow. Other phases enabled more to come on board and some owners wanting to contribute to the town’s revitalisation took their own initiatives to upgrade their buildings. In essence the project was transformational in taking the town forward for long-term sustainability.
Sixteen years down the track and the benefits are evident for both the community and visitors to the town. It was an early economic development project that DWC is proud to have supported.
On re-reading the original application it was interesting to note a quote in support from the well-known international community development leader, Peter Kenyon.
“Nowadays towns are really not so different from businesses, they need to keep recreating themselves. The successful towns are likely to be driven by people who are passionate and creative, who see an opportunity and go for it. Some have it, some don’t. Reefton has it!”