3 April 2018
Open letter from Andrew Robb –
Chairman of the West Coast Regional Council
We have recently seen a considerable number of stories and statements given to half-truths and
misconceptions which have been neither constructive, nor positive, for our region. I would like to
take this opportunity to address these for the benefit of those who live, work and invest on the West
Why is the Regional Council involved in economic development?
Feedback on the Discussion Document for the Regional Policy Statement in 2014, indicated that the
high priorities for our communities were expanding employment opportunities and growing the
Consulting through our Long Term Plan in 2015, we introduced a new rate to co-fund an Economic
Development Manager in conjunction with Development West Coast, with the support of the
Mayors and Chairs Forum at that time. Kevin Stratful was employed in this position. Mr Stratful has
since been instrumental to a number of successful initiatives throughout the region, including the
new tourism branding (Untamed Natural Wilderness), tourism marketing strategy for the key five
icons, Waste to Energy in Westport, securing the New Zealand Institute for Minerals to Materials in
Greymouth, taking on directorships for local institutions to assist them with his depth of knowledge
from the commercial world as well as mentoring a number of small businesses throughout the
The review of economic development arrangements, as part of the Regional Growth Programme,
recommended that all economic development activity should be managed from within a specific
division at Development West Coast, or separate Economic Development Agency. We support the
recommendations made and Mr Stratful’s recently announced secondment into Development West
Coast to develop an Economic Development Strategy for the region. This is critical to effectively
targeting the Provincial Growth Fund.
We have not missed out on the Provincial Growth Fund!
Announcements made at the launch of the Provincial Growth Fund included $1 million towards the
West Coast Wilderness Trail and the Old Ghost Road, and a further $100,000 to assist Punakaiki with
developing a master plan. Numerous other proposals exist for the West Coast, and the Government
has clearly stated that they will work with the region to identify how the Provincial Growth Fund can
enhance our economic opportunities, create jobs and lift the overall productivity of the region.
The West Coast has been identified as one of five surge regions, and the only one in the South
Island, which will be targeted for future investment. Proposals are required to fit in with agreed
regional priorities. These priorities will be determined through the Economic Development Strategy
for the West Coast, a Strategy that will be built from the grassroots up as well as from bringing all
elected members throughout the region together.
It is also useful to clear up the confusion around the Regional Growth Programme Governance
Group. The Regional Growth Programme was a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
(MBIE) initiative. MBIE appointed the members to the Governance Group, and they sought business
leaders and iwi representatives to lead this work. The appointment of Andrew Robb to Chair the
Governance Group was also a MBIE decision, reflecting a desire for the work to address regional
The current Governance Group will oversee the initial implementation of the initiatives in the
Economic Development Action Plan 2017. As the region transitions to the new economic
development governance and delivery arrangements, this oversight role will shift to the Regional
Economic Strategy Group, the proposed new business-led strategy body to be appointed via an
Electoral College voting system.
Seeking efficiency and progress versus district dissolution
The Regional Council has always been committed to seeking efficiencies where appropriate, hence
our partnership with the District Councils to establish a new Civil Defence West Coast Group. The
Regional Council rates for this, and employs the staff, but within this arrangement there is an
Emergency Management Officer based at each of the District Councils and the Chair of the Joint
Committee, who oversees the work Civil Defence undertakes on the West Coast, is Mayor
The West Coast does not have the volume of ratepayers to justify expenditure wasted on duplicated
systems, staff, office leases, roles and responsibilities. Feedback from the Local Government
Commission work also indicated a greater desire to see shared services implemented across the
region. At times this may also involve other organisations and agencies where true cost savings can
be made, for example, the Regional Council co-funding the Economic Development Manager role
with Development West Coast.
It is evident that what is good in one district is good for the others, contributing benefits across
boundaries. Business do not see our district boundaries, tourists do not see our district or regional
boundaries, and many of our people do not either, where they may live in one district and work in
another. We do not have to speak with one voice across the West Coast, but I do believe we need to
be promoting a consistent message. We will not be listened to if the region continues to be
fractured, at odds with each other or have no clear direction for the future.
In summary, the actions of the Regional Council are undertaken in the best interests of our people
up and down the region, and when sought by those communities or other organisations where it is
perceived that there is a lack of leadership or resourcing. The West Coast is full of potential and we
are very keen to see that potential realised into the future. We are, and have always been,
committed to working with all sectors to achieve this.
West Coast Regional Council