Regional council get tips on economic growth

Waikato regional councillors were all ears as a trio of economic development advocates from Auckland and Tauranga outlined their tips for success - including the benefits of good sandpit etiquette.

Cheryl MacGregor, portfolio manager for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's Bay of Connections business advocacy arm; Auckland Council economic development manager Harvey Brookes and Patrick McVeigh, economic growth general manager for the Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) group all had positive tales to tell yesterday, during their three separate addresses to the Waikato Regional Council's strategy and policy committee meeting.

And MacGregor started hers with an analogy taken straight from the pages of any parenting guidebook.

"Remember when you were in the sandpit and the kids were told to play nicely together? That's what Bay of Connections is all about," she said.

That illustration applied to her organisation's four disparate main geographic areas of coverage - Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupo and the Eastern Bay of Plenty - which have traditionally competed against each other.

Chaired by BOPRC's Doug Leeder, the Bay of Connections group's membership includes former finance minister Sir Michael Cullen. Facilitated by BOPRC, it has an annual budget of $550,000 and its guidance covers several different "sector strategies", including aquaculture, freight logistics and sport and recreation.

Some specific areas in the Bay of Plenty were doing well, such as mountainbiking and cycling, where business initiatives were bearing fruit through competing firms working together to achieve a common benefit.

MacGregor extended her sandpit comparison to such success stories.

"If the kids do play well in the sandpit, then their parents give them rewards, don't they. That's what we try to do. Even when you are an adult you like to get rewards."

ATEED was an organisation similar to Bay of Connections, McVeigh explained.

"Our job is to get new money and new jobs into Auckland."

Funded by the Auckland council to the tune of $50 million per year, ATEED's spending was split roughly three ways between major events (43.1 per cent), tourism and visitor centres (25.9 per cent) and what was termed "business attraction and development" (30.7 per cent).

Asked if his organisation had an obligation to look after the rest of the country, McVeigh replied: "Definitely . . . the growth of the Auckland economy supports the growth of New Zealand's economy."

Waikato Times