Kāpiti business community fruastration over the lack of progress with the district’s economic development strategy is running high.
That’s the view of the Kāpiti Economic Development Agency (KEDA) which is seriously concerned that very little has been achieved with the Kāpiti Coast District Council’s 3-year strategy that expired in June.
KEDA Chairperson Liz Koh says the level of business community frustration has reached an all-time high and economic development will be a key issue in next year’s local body election.
The 2015-2018 Kāpiti Coast Economic Development Strategy has four ‘planks’ but Koh says only a tiny bit of progress was made in the Open for Business and Leadership areas, but not enough to make any difference.
The other two strategy planks are Positioning Kāpiti and Building Capability.
Koh says a refreshed strategy, with input from key community stakeholders should have been completed before the end of June, but that hasn’t even been started.
To further exacerbate matters, the council's Economic Development Manager Sarah Todd recently resigned to pursue other opportunities.
Council’s Acting Group Manager, Strategy and Planning Kevin Black says an Acting Economic Development Manager has been appointed to take the council’s economic development work programme forward.
He says the programme includes work to refresh the Kāpiti District Economic Development strategy, until a permanent appointment is made in the new year.
Speaking on Beach FM this week (see full audio below), Kāpiti Mayor K Gurunathan says the aim of the position is have someone who can work across departments to push economic development initiatives, with the ability to work around potential organisational silos.
He says the position hasn’t work out the “way we wanted it to”, but that it was time to revise the strategy and to connect with the Government’s provincial growth fund.
However, Koh says that “at a time when we are poised for growth, we have no agreed plan of action and no-one to oversee its implementation”.
“Yet another key staff member has resigned leaving a new junior recruit as Acting Economic Development Manager,” she says.
KEDA is also critical of the council’s apparent reliance on the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund overseen by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.
Mayor Guru says council has successfully argued that the Kāpiti Coast should be considered a province, so that it’s eligible for funding under the provincial programme.
He says Kāpiti now has to get community support for priority projects and then queue up for funding support.
However, Koh says that’s like putting all your money on one horse in the 7th race at Trentham.
“There is a lot of competition for this money and it’s a long shot,” she says.
“If we are successful that will be great but it should be the icing on the cake, otherwise we might go hungry.
“I think it is a very sad state of affairs when we are relying on receiving Government handouts as our only economic development strategy,” says Koh.
Meanwhile the Kāpiti Coast Chamber of Commerce says it’s looking forward to working with council on refreshing the Kāpiti Economic Development Strategy.
Chamber Chair Heather Hutchings says: “We are meeting with the Kāpiti Coast District Council on the 30th of October to discuss a range of issues that are of concern to the business community, including the Economic Development Strategy, Business Development policies, what Open for Business means and how it’s measured”.
Hutchings says there are unprecedented opportunities for growth across the Kāpiti Coast.
“It’s important that the direction for the next three years ensures businesses and the wider community can take full advantage of the district’s potential and are supported to do this,” she says.
KEDA says that it was originally intended that the Economic Development Leadership Group established by Council in January 2017, as part of the leadership plank of the strategy, would oversee the implementation.
“However, the independent chair appointed for this group took it down a different path and no progress was made,” says Koh.
“As a result, the (leadership) group was wound up at the end of last year and nothing has yet been put in place to provide leadership with stakeholder involvement as outlined in the strategy, that’s why we set up KEDA.
“The intention of the strategy was that we transition to an independent economic development agency,” says Koh. “KEDA is the placeholder for that group”.
The 2015-2018 Kāpiti Economic Development Strategy can be downloaded from here https://www.kapiticoast.govt.nz/contentassets/2adf8c8204b94af582989e1e1315abe1/web-ready-economic-development-2015-18.pdf
You can listen to the full interview with Kāpiti Mayor K Gurunathan on this matter below. The player may not be visible on some devices but the audio can be found at this link https://www.beachfm.co.nz/politics