A strong economy key to Waitaki’s future prospects

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It’s great to be able to write to you about various Waitaki District Council-related matters.

Firstly, let me introduce myself.

I’m a born and bred Southlander, having grown up in Invercargill, but have spent considerable time in the Canterbury and Otago regions. After completing a bachelor of commerce, I worked in the commercial sector as an accountant, then in governance in the not-for-profit and commercial sectors.

For the past six years I was a Wanaka Community Board member and Queenstown Lakes District councillor, before joining the Waitaki District Council.

I moved to Otematata permanently last year after a long connection with the town and successfully stood for council for the Ahuriri Ward. It’s really enjoyable representing and advocating not only for this ward but for the Waitaki district.

We have an amazing district.

I love the beauty of the Waitaki Lakes and all they bring, the people are wonderful to work with and of course there are now five main towns in the Ahuriri ward, from Ohau to Duntroon.

The population of the ward is about 1800, representing about 8% of the total Waitaki district population of around 23,200 in June 2018.

Economic development is a focus of mine and I believe that if you have a good, strong economy, many positives follow.

In our district we are fortunate to have a number of economic drivers, not relying solely on tourism, which will mean a speedier recovery from the current instability around Covid-19.

Both the farming and accommodation sectors are well represented in business statistics for the district. Also the meat processing sector, representing around 52% of the total workforce.

What amazes me is the performance of our district in comparison to the Clutha district, for example. The GDP per capita was $57,000 in 2018, Clutha was $58,000 and we were just below the New Zealand average of $58,000. I’m hoping I can play a part in improving our performance.

While we have had an almost static population growth over the last 24 years or so, our population is both growing and ageing.

It’s crucial that we have a strong economy to help support this valuable and important group – health care, retail and ease of transport in the district are all very important, as around 25% of our population are in the 65+ age group.

The agriculture sector in North Otago is unique, with a strong farming and horticulture sector, growing wine industry and a good water supply which will assist in improving our economy.

In the Waitaki Strategic Evidence Review of 2019, a number of business sectors were identified where future growth prospects could occur. As a councillor I want to support initiatives that assist and grow our new industries.

This is a time when “don’t leave town till you’ve seen your country” will have positive impacts for all of us in New Zealand and I believe we need to support local businesses with a positive attitude, great customer service and good pricing.

Let’s work hard to get New Zealanders to our district and maintain a positive attitude about the community we are fortunate to live in.