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WRC Regional Development Fund 

Readers may remember this post on 23 March about the wonderful new 'slush-fund' being proposed by certain members of the WRC.

It seems that TCDC have a totally different view of the use to which this fund should be put. Here is the content of the Paper signed off by Hammond that goes to Council on Wednesday next relating to our input into the WRC Long Term Plan consultation process:

Thames-Coromandel District Council strongly supports the proposal to establish a Regional Development Fund to drive economic growth throughout the region. TCDC has adopted an ambitious economic development strategy and work programme, and we are keen to partner with WRC on projects of regional benefit. Hence we support the stated aim of the fund to enable WRC to make strategic investments in projects that will improve the region's economic outcomes in a way that also supports environmental, social and cultural outcomes.

We note that the proposed source of the fund is to come from a portion of the WRC's investment fund's annual returns. As this investment fund originally came from the sale of port shares held on behalf of all ratepayers across the region, TCDC believes this reallocation of funding resources is a positive use of these monies for a wider regional benefit.

Our preferred option is to use a portion of the WRC's investment fund to stimulate economic growth (as opposed to the alternative proposal of applying a targeted rate of $0.88 cents per $100,000 across all regional ratepayers).

We support the criteria around "regionally significant" projects, but ask that WRC clarifies that the wording allows the Council sufficient flexibility to ensure that a project which provides regional economic benefits, and also benefits one territorial authority, can qualify. We support the baseline criteria that the project must have a total value of $2 million or more to qualify for accessing the fund.

We believe the fund should be focused on economic growth, and TCDC supports the principle in 5.3.1 that community facilities such as sports fields, swimming pools, stadiums and theatres should not be funded under this regional development fund unless they are part of a national programme and accompanied by central government funding.

TCDC further notes that WRC will provide up to 50% of funding for projects such as strategy development, capability building, capital expenditure and operating expenditure for a limited time period. However the fund will not provide for the costs of applying for resource consent applications, and TCDC supports this principle.

In general, TCDC sees a positive future for this fund in attracting central government and private sector funding to the region through the partnerships model. Anyone who has worked in the economic development field knows that having a supportive partner willing to put up capital either as a grant, a loan or bridging finance is often the trigger that draws in additional sponsorship investment. Through becoming this partner in key projects, the WRC fund is likely to assist projects in leveraging more central government funding.

We believe that WRC needs to strongly advocate to Government dollar for dollar matching investment for regional economic growth. The former Regional Partnership Programme had significant regional benefits when it was in place.

From the TCDC's point of view, one of the projects which we intend to put forward for potential funding (assuming this fund is approved by WRC) is the financing of increased wharfing facilities in the Coromandel area to allow for continued growth in the aquaculture industry.  Now whilst this wharf may be based in one district, the flow-on effects throughout the region from additional goods and services purchased, and the net exports generated will be significant beneficiaries from a WRC-backed project. Coromandel has the main aquaculture product in the region and our research shows the potential for significant growth. The region's aquaculture is lagging behind Bay of Plenty and it's local, regional, central government partnership.

Decision sought:

That the WRC approves the implementation of the Regional Development Fund through utilising a portion of  the port-shares investment fund, and applies these monies towards fostering economic growth in specific projects throughout the region.

Note from the paragraph underlined above that TCDC considers the proposed Fund to be for the economic benefit of the region rather than any of the other fancy social projects that Cr Livingstone and her ilk consider necessary for 'socio-economic' purposes.

It would appear that the ultimate use of this fund that proposes accessing income from reserves set up with the proceeds of sales of assets like the port shares, is likely to become the subject of an intense battle at the latter stages of the LTP deliberations. But it is interesting to note that Hammond is still pushing for Regional recognition of the importance of the Coromandel aquaculture industry - I get the impression that he (and others) still carry a candle for the fin-fish aspect of this development. Not much chance of that rationale holding up in the WRC at this stage I would have thought, but no harm in trying.  

With any luck, the TCDC position may get into the starting blocks - if only to stymie the ambitions of Cr Livingstone & Co. - we shall see. In the meantime no-one should hold their breath. The remainder of the Paper appears sound and well-meaning, but the basic philosophical differences remain the sticking point regardless of the high flying rhetoric.




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Reader Comments (2)

Seems a bit of about face for TCDC-- I thought they wanted shot of WRC and were hoping for a Unitary Council??
Not sure about that sentence 'with sales of assets like the port shares--- have an idea that probably should read 'from the sale --of port shares' - though I could be very wrong

April 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterToe Rag

Toe Rag

Yes TCDC would like to be shot of WRC but it a will not happen. TCDC has zero chance of running as a Unitary, they can hardly meet their current legislative responsibilities let along those of a RC, given their level of debt and staff resource. So they have admitted defeat and are now wanting to get their hands on some moola for pet projects within their own rohe.

The criteria for "regionally" significant projects will be the determining factor.

Personally i do not believe this is a role for Regional Government. Politicians are very poor at picking commercial winners traditionally without "skin in the game" as they do not undertake due diligence sufficiently being strectched too thinly time wise more often that not.

April 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

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