Regional Development Strategy

There have been months of talking about this strategy and I am excited to finally see it. I think its a good document. I started reading it at 11pm one night thinking it would be dry and possibly boring and it would help me fall asleep. An hour later I had finished the 40 page document and my head was buzzing – I was pretty impressed. And it took me a fair while to fall asleep.
So why do I like it?
Mostly because if gives us a goal – and as the document says it is a goal that we can get our teeth into. Interestingly its the same goal the Mayor has had for quite some time now. Population growth. 
I also like that the things that have been identified in the Strategy to help work towards that goal are thing that make sense to me. People like to live in a vibrant place and that vibrancy is achieved by having a city that buzzes on various levels – not just within the business sector but socially, at a community level and so forth. I agree with all of these things.
I also like that this document is big on collaboration. I do notice however that this word sends shivers down the spines of many people. And I can understand that – its hard work to let go of the things that you or your business or your council or your community group want and let other people have some influence over them, maybe take them in a slightly different direction or do them in a different way. There’s a fear in that that things might not turn out how you had planned them.
There is also that notion that ‘you know best’ for whatever reason that might be – because you are a business leader, a person of influence, have been around a while, have travelled, know that industry. And then of course there is patch protection – this occurs on many levels in communities, from the top to the bottom – have you ever watched kids playing together? One of the hardest things to teach a kid is sharing.
The Strategy also identifies an issue which needs to be the focus moving forward – the aging population. This is hugely significant for Southland going forward especially when we get to the stage when we have more people leaving the workforce than entering it. This could create a very vicious circle because if businesses cannot find good staff then maybe they won’t be able to operate here. That’s the top of a slippery slope.
I am also glad to see the document talks about the approach to this Strategy as being community driven. I do have a concern here however as the definition around community driven says’ The strategy needs to be implemented by a broadly-based governance group including business, community, iwi, local and central government.’
As an advocate for the bottom up approach this sounds very top down to me. There is research and evidence from all around the world that says in this day and age bottom up is the way to make things happen and succeed, the top down approach is a thing of the past. I hope the teams take time to consider this and do some research into it themselves – and I am happy to provide a large pile of reading material on the subject if they would like it 🙂

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