Economic development groups come in for scrutiny

JANINE RANKIN AND CHRIS HYDE
Last updated 09:00 22/03/2014

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Palmerston North and Manawatu councils are reviewing their $2.2 million investment in six economic development groups, with a merger of the agencies possible.

Mayors Jono Naylor and Margaret Kouvelis yesterday announced the review of activities it supports through Vision Manawatu, Destination Manawatu, Sport Manawatu, Spearhead, Feilding Promotion and the Bio Commerce Centre.

The review comes as both Vision Manawatu and Sport Manawatu are led by acting chief executives.

While Mr Naylor is not ruling out merging the groups, he said that was not the goal of the review.

The timing coincides with Manawatu District's work on its own economic development strategy, and gives both councils an opportunity to apply any recommended changes in next year's long-term plan reviews.

"It's an opportune time to look at whether we are putting our money where it is most effective," Mr Naylor said.

"We are keeping an open mind. It's about ensuring that we are getting the best value we can from the ratepayers' spend."

Manawatu mayor Margaret Kouvelis said she was excited about the potential for the review to show how the city and district could better build on strengths and recent progress.

City councillor and former deputy chief executive of Vision Manawatu Adrian Broad said he was delighted the review he had been advocating for 15 months was under way.

"I have been concerned about the lack of direction around economic development and growth in the city and the region.

The city council recorded paying $1.35m to Vision, Destination and Sport Manawatu in its 2012-13 annual report. Another $85,000 went to Spearhead - a jointly supported project to attract new business to the region, which helped lure Proliant's $24m bovine blood plasma processing and research facility to the district, along with the prospect of 30 new jobs. Manawatu district invested just under $900,000.

The groups also get money from central government, trusts and sponsors.

Consulting firm Morrison Low, which worked for both councils on the boundary change project, has been appointed to undertake the review.

The goal is to complete the review by August.

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- Manawatu Standard

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