Fix the economy? Imitate Taranaki
Can you fix the economy?
If New Zealand wants to improve its economy, it should imitate Taranaki's success, writes Phil O'Donoghue.
Taranaki has built up of a solid base of dairy, oil and gas, energy, heavy engineering and even culture producing low unemployment, a high average income, and a balanced lifestyle of outdoor and arts recreation.
Taranaki has intelligently exploited its natural resources of fertile soil, equable climate, and its position between Wellington and Auckland. It has applied its human capital of educated and skilled labour, both native, immigrant and formerly FIFO workers, with purpose, focus and just plain smarts.
The private and sectors work in strategic harmony and mutually reinforce each other, via economic and social booster Venture Taranaki, supported by local and regional authorities. Infrastructure development, such as Port Taranaki/Westgate owned by ratepayers through the Taranaki Regional Council and New Plymouth District Council's establishment more than 30 years ago of a landbased sewerage treatment plant, means that resources and focus have been applied to creating even more cosmopolitan and rich cultural choice such as WOMAD, Taranaki Festival of Arts, Festival of Lights to reinforce longstanding events such as the Garden Festival.
These events and attractions draw audiences locally, nationally and even internationally, some of whom are encouraged to settle or return to a province, city and towns that are "just the right size" and mix of Heartland New Zealand and wired global village.
Taranakians have enthusiastically adopted t-shirts proclaiming Taranaki Hardcore and gratefully compliment each other for living in "Taradise". The latest good news story in the Taranaki Daily News reveals how much the regional polytech, WITT, is worth in dollar and human capital terms to the region's economy.
Depending on how you look at it, the province's population is stable. One concern is that a part of Taranaki's youth working population leaves home to pursue more academic tertiary education and work in larger metropolitan centres in New Zealand, Australia and further abroad. Taranaki's movers and shakers are already aware of this potential threat and are proactively focused on finding the opportunities to counter them.
One last potential fly in the ointment is a function of the dynamic region's economic success - a shortage of skilled labour in some industries. But even this unintended consequence of an array of otherwise good news stories is being dealt with and the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki is working with private enterprise to provide work-ready graduates.
As Tom Cruise while filming a Hollywood movie and who picked up his fish and chips along with almost blase locals, casually opined, "Who wouldn't want to live here?"
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