A search at plodding pace?

Our regional economy hasn't been squirting on all tits lately.
Robyn Edie

Our regional economy hasn't been squirting on all tits lately.

EDITORIAL: Well what do you know? Turns out Southland is still essentially a farming province.

You don't look surprised. Fair enough. But it's the context against which the latest report of the ASB Regional Economic Scoreboard needs to be read.

Southland came at the tail end of the 16 provinces for regional economic growth for the last quarter of 2016, using measures such as employment, construction, retail trade and house prices.

A lot of yes-but argument could go into the relevance of those measures but even at face value the report isn't telling us we're not spiralling downwards or heading off a precipice.

READ MORE:
* Wooden spoon for Southland 
* Still a role for Venture

We're on the commodities price rollercoaster coming off a couple of downturn years, certainly for dairying, and readying to head back up now that the prices have been pleasingly improving.

It won't be such a speedy climb because farmers should first be attending to their debt levels before they start spending up locally.

Still, with tourism ticking over reasonably, there's every indication we'll be tracking up steadily enough for the rest of the year.

All very unsurprising, then? Yes, but that's not a cause for satisfaction any more than it's reason for panic. Here, again, is a reminder that although farming will always be crucial to our province, we still need to develop our regional economy into something a tad more stable overall.

That ambition was promoted to join population growth as the twin targets of the Southland Regional Development Strategy, the progress of which, since it was released last November, hasn't been striking, even though we keep being assured that doesn't mean it's non-existent.

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The SoRDS strategists -- about 100 Southlanders with a pleasingly wide range of backgrounds and expertise -- have been clear in their wish to hand the regional development baton to a new entity with the task of ensuring the actions they proposed were pursued effectively and coherently.

The next step was for Southland's local government to agree on what this new entity/vehicle/shebang should look like, and by implication how the existing Venture Southland would mesh into it.

They're talking about a council-controlled organisation, incorporating Venture. The set-up of which might be at such glacial speed that it isn't completed until next year. An interim oversight body might come into play in the meantime, to keep actual progress ticking over.

Let's be clear, though, that as things stand the representatives of the the Invercargill city, Southland and Gore district councils, and the regional council Environment Southland, have been taking longer than anticipated to agree on format for the new entity to take back to their respective councils for endorsement.

Tick tock, guys.

 - Stuff

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