IN the 15 months since the Southland Regional Development Strategy (SoRDS) Action Plan was released, some ambitious projects have been launched, but as yet few tangible outcomes have been achieved.
So, are those behind SoRDS satisfied with the progress made so far?
“We are behind schedule, no doubt about that,” Southland Mayoral Forum chairman Gary Tong said, in reference to the establishment of the Southland Regional Development Agency (SRDA), a new entity to oversee, implement and drive SoRDS action plan.
SRDA hearings were held in November last year.
Mr Tong, the Southland District Mayor, said the hearing panel’s recommendations were expected to be released before the end of next week.
The action plan, launched in November 2016, incorporated 40 actions to achieve the strategy’s goals to increase the population and diversify the economy.
SoRDS programme director Sarah Hannan said the establishment of SRDA was behind schedule, but many of the plan’s projects were under way.
The reason few tangible outcomes had been achieved so far was because many were long-term projects, she said.
Southland in the past year had not been officially measured since the SoRDS action plan was released, real estate agents had anecdotally reported there were many newcomers moving to Invercargill, Ms Hannan said.
“The region is on track to achieve the goal of attracting 10,000 more people to live and work in the region by 2025.
“[However], if [SRDA] is not in place, it will slow things down.”
Ms Hannan and programme manager Sarah Brown are stepping down from their roles as other agencies assume responsibility for implementing SoRDS projects.
“We are getting some great projects under way, but it is important that the region continues to work together and continue on with the projects.”
$2.5 million Curio Bay Tumu Toka Natural Heritage Visitor Centre completed in December last year. Not a SoRDS-initiated project, but identified in the action plan as a priority project
Some SoRDS projects under way
Welcoming Communities pilot programme survey
Southland Story project
Graduate internship programme
Work Ready Hub
Invercargill CBD retail precinct development
Bluff Oyster World
SoRDS and Air New Zealand Memorandum of Understanding
Sheep milking identified as a potential new growth industry
Milford Opportunities governance group investigating ways to ensure visitors enjoy the Milford experience
Study Southland set up in November last year to attract international secondary school pupils to Southland schools
Invercargill Licensing Trust’s new $40 million hotel plans announced in April last year
Stewart Island’s Port Pegasus was deemed economically unviable for salmon farming, with aquaculture being a major focus of SoRDS.
“[Aquaculture] is not off the table. If the economics become better, we would look at it,” Mr Tong said.