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Whakarauora- The regeneration of Long Water

A spotlight on Wairoa report has revealed the highs and lows of the district.

On Tuesday Council received the economic development report ‘Whakarauora - The regeneration of Long Water’ which was externally funded by the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).

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The draft report had previously been considered by the Wairoa PGF board which includes iwi chairs, the Maori Standing Committee chair as well as their economic development representative.

The comprehensive document is a direct response to Central Government’s recognition that some areas of New Zealand are challenged and that through the Provincial Growth Fund people living all over New Zealand can reach their full potential by helping build a regional economy that is sustainable, inclusive and productive.

Mayor Craig Little said while the report identifies some amazing potential for our district, it also contains some confronting statistics, particularly around the health of our people.

“The report is about how our district can grow and become more advanced so that social and economic conditions are improved.

“It identifies we are a diverse community and one size does not fit all and it requires all of society - central and local government, business and residents - to recognise that.

“This report is not the magic answer, but it is an up-to-date spotlight on our district, its potential and its limitations.

“It must also be remembered this is not a Council report, Council is not the author. This is a snapshot of information from people in our community.

“There are some fantastic recommendations within the report, but we are not just limited to the scope of this study. We are not trying to be something we are not, it is about being the best we can be with what we have.

“Parts of the report have re-identified areas that have been discussed before but this time around it’s being held together by a commitment from Central Government to enhance and enable our communities.

“This report is just the first step in a journey to realising our district’s full potential. There is still a lot of work to do, but at least we have a place to start from.”

Mr Little said Council will now look to implement the strategies that relate to its functions and encourages the rest of the community to consider the recommendations and support their implementation.

“Council does not have to lead everything, and it is incumbent on everyone who believes in Wairoa’s potential future to do their bit, and this report is an opportunity for that to happen.”

“The Council is here to offer support and the best way to move forward is for people in the community to lead the initiatives.”

Themes from the report include regeneration of the Wairoa River, the forestry threat to agricultural farming, diversifying into horticulture and improving the productivity of traditional hill country farms and Maori owned land.

High-speed internet connectivity throughout the entire district and enhanced job creation including closing the gap on the shortage of tradies, enhancing employment within existing sectors and encouraging new vocational pathways are all targeted.

The report recommends a focus on creating new economic activity and jobs by focussing on sectors which currently have limited economic impact, but which comprise the future economy such as tourism, business services, technology, inwards investment attraction, Māori expertise/proficiency/uniqueness and food.

The report identified that Wairoa is confronted by significant social impacts which have impeded the welfare of the community for the past two decades.

Wairoa’s deprivation level is three times worse than the average of New Zealand with a lower life expectancy than the rest of Hawkes Bay, with cancer the highest cause of death followed by heart disease.

Wairoa’s self-harm mortality rates are 3.3 times high than that of Central Hawkes Bay.

Poor health and well-being levels ultimately lead to one in every four working-age adults not working of which 85% are Māori.

Key socio-economic measures rank Wairoa among the “unhealthiest” rohe, or areas, in New Zealand.

Wairoa’s job seeker rate is three times higher than the national level, but the report claims Wairoa does not necessarily have an unemployment problem, and that there are jobs available, particularly at Affco, but there is a lack of work-fit employees.

In relation to the Treaty settlement, the report identifies the Crown’s acknowledgement that living in Wairoa has resulted in social-economic deprivation and reduced opportunities, to which many other New Zealanders have enjoyed and has made a commitment to building a new and enduring relationship.

A further opportunity is for Government to back a socially progressive, pilot programme in Wairoa that has limited political risk.

The proactive, community-led social investment presents an opportunity for the district to take a bold step in line with the Crown’s commitment to the people of Wairoa.

The report was produced by the Giblin Group which specialises in attracting funding to help social infrastructure projects for local government.

It aims to provide a prioritised economic development framework to help guide sustainable growth throughout the Wairoa district over the next 10-years and beyond.

The report states that the secret to Wairoa’s economy becoming healthier and sustainable, and fully harnessing its potential, is understanding the district is comprised of 10 distinct communities, each with its own identity, needs and opportunities.

It says Wairoa’s future success is dependent upon creating grassroots solutions, in their place of need. This requires a devolved, community-focused approach.

A healthier Wairoa economy is completely dependent upon our community also being healthy.

The report identified many potential game-changers means to improve Wairoa’s economy over the mid to long-term, providing a fully integrated approach is consistently taken to implementing the strategy.

The over-riding theme and lead recommendation is that Wairoa is developed into New Zealand’s first sustainable rohe, expressed as Whakarauora or Regeneration (of the sky, land and water, her people, their authentic traditions and culture). This focus uniquely positions Wairoa with her River (eco-system) literally as its lifeblood.

The report will now be made publicly available, including on Council’s website wairoadc.govt.nz.

Mr Little said the information from the report will be used to inform the development of applications to the Provincial Growth Fund and to inform other work within the community in the social, environmental, cultural and economic space.

The report will also be received at next Wednesday’s Community Partnerships Group meeting where it will be considered as a ‘whole of community report which requires a whole of community response’.

The Community Partnerships Group’s aspiration is that all whanau across the Wairoa district are thriving.

The group comprises members from Central Government Departments, agency leaders, and iwi representatives and is chaired by Mayor Craig Little with a primary driver being to drive forward change in the health and social sector and to look at the Wairoa community determining the priorities for the community and how central government investment is better targeted for better outcomes for Wairoa.

Mr Little said this is a focal area of the report and it’s important that government agencies understand they have a contribution to make too.

12 March 2019

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