On 20 September 2016, the Government released the “Tai Poutini West Coast Growth Study”. This was one of several studies carried out by Martin Jenkins as part of the Regional Growth Programme. In preparing this report, they were assisted by a Governance Group comprising business people from the West Coast, the Regional Council and a senior Government official.

The other regions in this programme included Tai Tokerau Northland, Toi Moana Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay.

After interviews with many individuals and groups, the report was prepared and included several priorities for Action.

One of those priorities “reviewing economic development arrangements in the region with a view to recommending a new governance, funding and delivery approach” was carried out by independent consultants and they reported back in June 2017 with the results incorporated in the Action Plan released on 13 July 2017 by the then Minister of Economic Development.

The review found that the delivery of economic development functions was fragmented. One of the recommendations from the review was for Tourism West Coast to become a part of a new centralised Economic Development Unit within Development West Coast.

Development West Coast’s Trustees accepted the recommendation and have been working with stakeholders to implement the review’s proposed changes.

For Tourism West Coast, and the services it offers and provides on behalf of the West Coast, there will be little discernible change. The new branding ‘Untamed Natural Wilderness’, which has been an amazing success, will not change. The current staff leading this work will not change. The Marketing Strategy for the region with its identification of the five icons, and the work underway promoting these, will not change. Instead, Tourism West Coast will be able to leverage new opportunities from working within Development West Coast.

The concern that there will be a loss of input from the current Board is also incorrect as they will continue in an advisory role. This is particularly important through the transition phase.

We as a region need to show that we are coordinated, as well as being one that has options for co-funding initiatives, to ensure future support and investment from government. This will require that we work constructively and strategically across the West Coast with the common goal of advancing the region.

The review also proposed that the regional economic development manager’s role be employed within the centralised agency. Kevin Stratful, the West Coast Economic Development Manager, has accepted a secondment into Development West Coast to head up the Economic Development Unit. Mr Stratful has spent the past two years working closely with Tourism West Coast and this arrangement will continue to provide this close relationship between the two entities.

Mr Stratful will be working with Development West Coast to progress the development of the West Coast Economic Development Strategy over the coming months, working with elected members, communities and businesses up and down the region.

The West Coast is full of potential in many areas, such as fishing, dairying, forestry as well as Tourism, and we have significant opportunities ahead of us which will lead to more prosperous and vibrant communities across our region. A coordinated delivery of economic development will help ensure the region is able to maximise these opportunities.