9 May 2019

Wairoa takes its business case to government

10:39 am on 9 May 2019

The small rural district of Wairoa in Northern Hawke's Bay is like many provincial areas, often overshadowed by the large urban centres.

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Photo: Image: Wairoa District Council.

However, it is building itself up to be an economic success story, and on Tuesday Wairoa made sure it was in the spotlight.

Seventy five leaders from the Wairoa community travelled to Wellington to give Parliament their vision to address the social and economic challenges the area faces.

There were stalls showcasing local business, a kapa haka performance, a video presentation and speeches.

The district's unemployment rate is 12.8 percent, almost three times the national average.

Tātau Tātau O Te Wairoa Trust chairperson Leon Symes said it people were looking for opportunities elsewhere.

"Our own records say that we've got 34,000 members that live throughout the country and the world, it would be great to get some more of those people back home to support the economy of Te Wairoa, there are also social issues that need to be addressed," he said.

Shane Jones

Wairoa got $250,000 from New Zealand First MP Shane Jones' Provincial Growth Fund to help develop business cases for investment. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

MP for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti Meka Whaitikri agreed there were many social issues to be addressed.

"Sixty-three percent of the population in Wairoa is Māori, so we've got huge challenges around equitable education outcomes, health outcomes, housing and employment.

"But with communities like rural-based communities they're so resilient, they don't wait for someone to rescue them, they just get on with the mahi," she said.

Local business owner Kiwa Hammond said the community had done just that.

"We are a problem child that the government needs because we are a problem child you want to look after ... because if you get it right with our community, you will get it right anywhere in the country.

"That's not to say that Te Wairoa is so impoverished it can't do things for itself because look around, these are examples of things that are happening in spite of any social ills and so forth that have been impacting our community," he said.

At the event Te Wairoa reported back to ministers about how they can help further unlock the district's potential.

Wairoa mayor Craig Little by the Waihi Dam

Wairoa mayor Craig Little Photo: RNZ / Kate Gudsell

The report is the result of a $250,000 Provincial Growth Fund grant for the district council to help develop business cases for investment.

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little said the report addresses the deprivation in the area.

"We want it to be changed, we want how they're delivering social services, education, health differently. We want to be in charge of it from the bottom up, at the moment it comes in from the top down and it just gets lost by the time it doesn't get to a lot of the people."

Mr Little said he would like to see the district better connected by improving internet and transport infrastructure

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones told those attending he would be giving generous support to the community by allocating them a chunk of what remains of the Provincial Growth fund.