20 Sep 2016

Govt must 'walk the walk' for West Coast - mayor

8:38 pm on 20 September 2016

The government has released a study on improving the West Coast economy, but a plan to put the research to use will likely not be ready until next year.

A powhiri was held at Arahura Marae ahead of the study's launch.

A powhiri was held at Arahura Marae ahead of the study's launch. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment's regional growth programme has commissioned studies for six regions, targeting investment and job opportunities.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce launched the West Coast Regional Growth Study at Arahura Marae, just outside Hokitika, today.

Read the full Tai Poutini West Coast Growth Study

He said there was scope to gain value from key industries such as tourism, and to develop more niche industries such as horticulture and ICT.

Figures from the study showed the $55,000 annual median household income in the region in 2013 was nearly $9000 lower than the national average of $63,800.

It also found the total population of the region dropped by about 390 people between 2013 and 2015.

Mr Joyce said developing high-quality infrastructure such as roads and telecommunications networks would help reduce the disadvantages it faced because of its distance from markets, and compensate for the slump in key sectors such as mining and dairy.

Boutique accommodation business owner Jan Roberts, who was based just north of Greymouth, said better roads and facilities to accommodate tourists were needed to grow the industry, but the region could not afford to do that on its own.

Associate Economic Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell, National List MP Maureen Pugh, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, Selwyn MP Amy Adams, and Energy and Resources and Transport Minister Simon Bridges.

Associate Economic Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell, National List MP Maureen Pugh, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, Selwyn MP Amy Adams, and Energy and Resources and Transport Minister Simon Bridges were at the pōwhiri. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

"Public toilets, the works ... It all comes with it. Eighty-five percent of the West Coast is national parks, scenic reserves, conservation land, so we don't have the rate [payer] base to pay for all that infrastructure that we need so that's probably one of our major issues."

Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn said the government had talked the talk - now it had to walk the walk.

"We must see that investment from the government," he said.

"There is no point coming down here and laying down a plan if they're not going to buy into it."

"Always the number one ingredient to every plan is that capital that comes behind it, so it is important that the government invests in the West Coast to make sure it's got a rosy future."

Mr Kokshoorn said the foundations had been laid but it was time to start collaboration between the government, local government and the West Coast community to make the change happen.

An action plan informed by the study is expected to be released early next year.

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