By Graham Dwyer, chair of Agenda Waikato
What is the Waikato and what should we be striving to be? What are your aspirations for our region?
Recent research commissioned by business-led think tank Agenda Waikato and undertaken by the University of Waikato proves that the Waikato’s sub-region- the area within 45 minutes’ drive of Hamilton – wins on ‘play’, but underperforms on ‘work’.
Long story short, it’s a great place to live, but we’re lagging behind when it comes to earnings and productivity.
It shows us that we underearn compared to the rest of New Zealand, even though, bizarrely, our housing affordability is exemplary!
We need to lift our wages and household incomes, recognise the opportunities for wealth, trade and infrastructure so they can become our strengths, not our weaknesses.
The advantage of this research is that it is comprehensive, credible and is underpinned by international baselines. The research aligns with the approaches of both the New Zealand Treasury capital classification and the OECD well-being criteria.
Those baselines highlight three areas where the Waikato needs to step up in:
- environmental quality
- income, wealth and transportation
- trade and infrastructure.
When you look at the balance sheet, New Zealand scores 14 on the work scale and Waikato scores 12. What does this tell us?
We have the ‘live’ and the ‘play’ but how can we make sure our Waikato workforce is as mighty as our region? By understanding our weaknesses such as low GDP, household incomes and less skilled workforces, Agenda Waikato can consider strategic projects and initiatives that will help address them.
Agenda Waikato has the support of many passionate leaders in the region’s business community. We believe it’s important that engagement with other Waikato groups, including local and central government, is not just necessary, but imperative so that we can collectively achieve proactive outcomes supported by this research.
As we look forward to our newly-launched Waikato Regional Economic Development Agency to determine our region’s growth priorities, we must ask ourselves:
- What is our region, what are we truly and what do we aspire to be in 20, 30, 50 years’ time?
- What are our base principles and bottom lines?
- Appellation, aspiration, aberration or opportunity?
- With some of the most fertile soils in the world should we squander ourselves to lifestyle blocks and urban sprawl?
We need only to look to Pukekohe saying no more encroachment on their amazingly productive soils!
Relative to the rest of New Zealand, we are, as you all know, a fantastic place to live and play, but our next challenge is to create better work opportunities for Waikatoites, and it is critical that we act now and be part of the conversation to help shape the region we aspire to become.
What do you want Waikato to become? And will you contribute to the vital conversations that need to be had to help shape our future?
To find out more about Agenda Waikato visit www.agendawaikato.org.nz