Agency looks to develop Nelson as marine hub

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 12:58 08/04/2014

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The regional Economic Development Agency is hoping to create a "marine city hub" in Nelson.

"We believe we have all of the elements in Nelson to be a hub for marine activity," the agency's chief executive Bill Findlater told the Nelson City Council governance committee.

"It's pretty much in its infancy, but we're working with a group of Nelson businesses in the research and development sector and some other businesses and looking to see how we can develop Nelson as a marine precinct or hub," he said. "That's already started to happen with the projects out at the Glen with the Cawthron, with Wakatu and the NMIT initiatives out there and the recently opened Plant and Food research centre down on the port reclamation areas."

He said the research and development was a key sector for the region.

"Nelson has the highest per capita of people working in research and development of anywhere in New Zealand, so that's a particular focus and that's where we lead into that marine city. We've got these research people here and that can keep us to the forefront of any ongoing developments. We need to be sure, and it is happening, that research are linking with the commercial sector and commercial are linking with research."

The agency met with the governance committee to discuss its intentions for the next financial year.

"The company is in a good position and we believe we have the respect of both councils and the wider community," said the agency's chairman Paul Dalzell. "We believe that we are meeting the expectations as we perceive them."

The agency's workload is varied and spread across several projects including starting to work with businesses to get young people into the workforce.

The agency also administer an events fund on behalf of the council to support local events, which reflect the region's identity including Marchfest, the South Island Masters, the Adam Chamber Music Festival, and Light Nelson.

The agency is also working on helping local businesses connect with China, undertaking a stocktake of IT companies in the region, implementing and monitoring the regional economic development strategy, and working with iwi.

Mayor Rachel Reese said the council and the agency needed to connect more.

"Every time you come in and see us it reminds us that we need to do this more," she said.

Dalzell asked the committee to tell the agency if it was focusing on the wrong things.

"Are we doing the job we should be doing? We believe we have a clear vision," he said "You have got an organisation you have got to use it."

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Deputy mayor Paul Matheson congratulated the agency on its work.

"I'm extremely proud of the EDA," he said as the last council had "dumped stuff on you and said you fix it".

Findlater said there had never been a lack of direction for the agency, but the council was "making the point that relationships could be a lot closer in terms of general direction".

The committee talked about the agency being involved in long term plan meetings, which Findlater said was "a real positive".

The agency is a not-for-profit organisation and was reporting a slight deficit for the coming year.

"We are not here to make significant profit, but we are certainly not here to make losses either," said Findlater.

- Nelson

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