Regional Economic Development – Holy Grail or Black Hole?

Last year Kapiti Coast ratepayers shelled out around $535,000 for WREDA, our regional economic development (ED) agency. Do we get value for money? Could we do better?

WREDA sought to answer these questions for an audience of 60 local business people with their recent Kapiti Briefing1 (thanks to Kapiti Coast Chamber of Commerce and Kapiti Business Projects). And though greatly appreciated, the presentation left many of us with more questions than answers.

For what was billed as a customised introduction to WREDA that was a couple of months in the making, there was surprisingly little local content (specific to Kapiti) and few if any metrics or examples (in terms of WREDA spend, deliverables and outcomes for Kapiti).

Instead, WREDA asked that we interpret their every mention of “Wellington” to mean the entire Region (four District Councils and four City Councils) and that all of WREDA’s initiatives are intended to benefit all parts of our Region (more or less). That’s understandable, to a point, knowing 80% of WREDA’s funding comes from Wellington City Council. But with so little Kapiti content, the presentation did little to allay what many Coasters have long suspected – that Wellington City really does enjoy pretty much all of WREDA’s attention along with the economic benefits of their work.

That said, WREDA’s presentation gave us a good understanding of their purpose and the scope of initiatives, projects and events (“interventions” in ED speak) they manage on the Region’s behalf. And there was certainly enough in what WREDA did share to appreciate just how much Kapiti Coast has to gain from working more closely with a focused, supportive and proactive regional ED partner – the partner we need WREDA to be.

Like all successful partnerships, both parties have dependencies and much to gain from working with one another. In the words of Dr David Wilson2, Chair of Economic Development NZ :

“Regional ED needs to consider local ED or community led ED too! … to be that meat in the sandwich between central and local govt and between the public and private sectors. Grunty enough to deal with inward investment and infrastructure issues, but fine grained enough to support a new business. Grunty enough to deal with central govt ministries, regional and local govt, and responsive to communities.”

“Economic Development, tends to be best realised when you can orchestrate all these bits in a relatively coherent ‘economic geography’ (a region) – you organise at the regional level and connect and build from the local.”

“… you (Kapiti) want good local penetration of the WREDA suite of business development, inward investment, tourism, sector initiatives etc (in other words their toolkit) plus their intel, and what they want is the gold you guys can produce from local intelligence and partnerships.”

“What it really means is that you apply resources at the level where you can have the greatest effect with a task/function focus. So, the solution is a joined-up one – not a separate or parallel or duplicative one. You both need each other’s intel to craft the opportunities and interventions.”

In the end, it’s up to Kapiti to champion our local ED priorities and projects and keep these in front of all the various stakeholders involved – and none more so than WREDA, our regional ED partner.

Helene Judge (Kapiti Business Events) sums it up nicely, “if you don’t ask, you will not receive!”

References:

1 “WREDA Introductory Presentation_Kapiti” – Slideshow courtesy of WREDA

2 “Regional Development needs a fresh approach” Dr David Wilson, Chair EDNZ.
Article weblink https://economicdevelopment.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/RED-needs-a-brush-up-Dr-David-Wilson.pdf