THE Southland Regional Development Strategy (SoRDS) has received an injection of more than $2 million in Government funding.
The announcement followed the much anticipated launch of the SoRDS Action Plan at Bill Richardson Transport World yesterday.
The launch was attended by about 500 people including Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.
Mr Joyce said the strategy’s goal to grow the region’s population by 10,000 people by 2025 was challenging, but achievable.
“It’s great when a region works cohesively together and knows what it wants. It makes it simpler for the government agencies to work alongside…
“I am passionate about every region in the country being successful. We are right there with you.”
The plan presented at the launch included 40 actions to achieve the strategy’s goals to grow Southland’s economy and make it a more vibrant place to live.
Among the actions was growing tourism, international education and aquaculture in the region.
The Government pledged $950,000 in funding to support Southland’s aquaculture industry, $520,000 to boost the region’s primary sector, $440,000 to promote international education and primary sector skill development in Southland and $510,000 to strengthen Southland’s tourism industry and attract more visitors to the region.
SoRDS Governance Group chairman Tom Campbell said diversifying the economy would ensure Southland was not so vulnerable to commodity price fluctuations in the dairy and aluminium sectors.
The plan aimed to double annual tourism revenue to $1 billion, creating thousands of jobs, by establishing a single tourism management entity to lead the industry and develop new tourist attractions such as Bluff Oyster World, driven by the Awarua Runanga, and an interactive wildlife conservation centre in Te Anau.
Creating new opportunities in international education would be the role of the Southland Education Alliance. The plan aimed to grow Southland’s international student population from 1000 to 3500 (or 6000 including dependants), through programmes such as a student internship scheme.
A reworked concept plan for Invercargill’s inner city had also been developed, with its key anchor an art gallery, likely to be located in Esk St West behind Wachner Place.
Mr Campbell said the rejuvenation of Invercargill’s inner city was of great importance to attract more people to the region.
SoRDS was working with the Invercargill City Council to prioritise projects, which included establishing the art gallery incorporating all public collections, a new hotel driven by the Invercargill Licensing Trust and a retail precinct in the heart of the city, he said.
The programme demonstrated a level of regional cohesion not seen before involving high-level thinking and a practical, business-led approach, he said.
“The region is gradually pulling itself together to exert the level of energy required to achieve the three main challenges SoRDS has identified – more people, more social and economic diversity and more growth.”