Campaign to increase population

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‘‘Get a life in Southland’’ will be the basis of a new Southland Regional Development Strategy (SoRDS) campaign, governance group chairman Tom Campbell told Southland businesspeople last week.
The slogan, which would head a new branding identity for the region, was being developed by the Destination Attraction team led by Carla Forbes, of Market South, to attract people to live and work in Southland.
About 100 members of the Southland Chamber of Commerce and Otago Southland Employers’ Association attended a meeting at SIT Centrestage to be updated on the progress being made by SoRDS’ nine action teams to develop a strategy designed to make Southland a more vibrant place.
Mr Campbell said SoRDS’ overarching goals were to increase the population and diversify the economy.
‘‘Southlanders feel a sense of vulnerability and a sense of feeling stuck in a groove… There has been no growth in the population, and economic growth has been primarily in dairying.’’
He outlined some of the challenges facing the region and the action teams’ plans to address them.
Employers found it difficult to attract new employees from outside the region willing to come and live in Southland, he said.
‘‘We have a bad image. If we have any image at all, we have a bad image.’’
The ‘‘inner city decay’’, the region’s vulnerability to commodity prices evidenced by falling dairy and aluminium prices, and Southland not being an easy place to do business also needed to be addressed, he said.
A further issue was Southlanders were only ‘‘superficially friendly’’, making it difficult for new migrants to feel part of the Southland culture, he said.
‘‘[Southlanders] are courteous and friendly, but not inclusive. We are a friendly society but after we have done the pleasantries we move on.’’
Mr Campbell said one focus would be to increase international student numbers at secondary school and tertiary level, which would increase the population, improve the vibrancy in the city and be an important source of potential future employees.
‘‘Many would love to stay and work in Southland if they could get a job.’’
Aquaculture had been identified as a potential third large industry alongside dairying and aluminium, he said. Increasing tourism in the region would also be a focus.
Four of the nine teams have presented their action plans to the SoRDS governance group. The remaining five are expected to present their plans later this month.
The plan was expected to be presented to the Mayoral Forum next month and launched to the public in November.
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