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About Te Waka

Kia ora and welcome to Te Waka: Anga whakamua Waikato

Formally established on 6 July 2018, Te Waka is a business-led and governed organisation established to drive economic growth in the Waikato.

Te Waka is all about helping the Waikato reach its full potential. Our objectives are to:

  • Lift economic performance across the Waikato region.
  • Attract, retain and grow investment, talent and business across the region.
  • Champion and lead the region’s collective voices for economic and business needs and opportunities.

We work in partnership with existing economic development, iwi, business, government and community organisations to get things done and to unearth opportunities that will lead to jobs, prosperity and sustainable economic growth for everybody, thereby improving well-being for all communities.

A timelapse photograph of the Waikato Expressway at night

Why do we need Te Waka?

Many different parties have already done a lot of work to help move the Waikato region to the next level of economic prosperity. They paved the way for the formation of Te Waka: an organisation designed to put our region more firmly on the radar of central government and provide a vehicle for taking the many voices, with one message, to the rest of the world. 

Waikato people believe our region is a mighty one. We’ve used the resources, skills and innovation at hand to create a relatively prosperous economy, although we acknowledge we are not at the same level as other regions for growth and employment. 

It’s therefore time to take the next steps to create even greater economic outcomes for our communities.

Waikato people are at the heart of everything we do. The economic development goals we set and outcomes we achieve are all about making a difference for them. 

We are making a difference by working alongside the strong, existing business growth networks that already operate successfully within the region. Plus, we are enabling some new, major projects to lift the region’s economic performance – again, with the singular focus of creating prosperity benefits for our people.

Te Waka is helping to solve complex regional problems and tackle the hurdles that might prove too big for individual organisations to overcome on their own. Te Waka acts as a front door to the Waikato region and works hard to ensure we get our fair share of Government economic development funding for the benefit of our communities.



He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.

What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.



Te Waka helps build confidence in the Waikato region. We bring a cohesive approach to “getting things done” and tell our region’s economic growth story with one voice and agreed priorities. We also bring a kotahitanga approach to how we do things because we understand great connections and relationships are what makes this region great.

By improving business, services, skills and infrastructure, we will attract more investment and business and convey a cohesive message. We believe we are at a tipping point for economic growth in the region. Together with our partners, government and community organisations we are maximizing opportunities to foster this growth.

We have been building on the work of the previous economic development entity, Waikato Means Business, and utilising and leveraging the existing talents of the Business Growth Services team at Innovation Park. We also fund and operate the Waikato Story.

In considering the range of organisations and services already across the region, we are adding value in the following areas:

  • Telling the Waikato’s story
  • Regional investment facilitation and coordination
  • Regional sector and industry development
  • Business growth, advice and mentoring (through partners such as NZTE and Callaghan Innovation)
  • Co-ordinating a strategic approach and actions for a regional labour market
  • Regional economic intelligence and knowledge-sharing
  • Maori economic development
  • Major project support including funding and delivery 

Our agenda


In August 2018, we hosted a summit for key people in the region who we believe can help drive Te Waka and the region itself forward.
The summit developed the pipeline of major projects for the Waikato region for the next 2-5 years, and in doing so will continue to drive the agenda for Te Waka.
A photograph of central Hamilton and the Waikato River

How did we come about?

In 2016-17 a review of the Waikato’s economic development landscape found that despite our enviable location, people, history and industries, we were not doing as well as most other regions in New Zealand. Among a range of other findings, the review concluded that:

  • The Waikato had a confusing range of economic development strategies and frameworks with limited alignment.
  • There was limited buy-in to the Waikato Means Business strategy/plan and process.
  • The business community was seeking a stronger voice and ambition for the region.
  • There were fragmented and uneven economic development services, many with limited reach.
  • There was considerable demand for improved investment attraction and facilitation, innovation and industry/major project support.
  • Relative to the rest of New Zealand there was limited local government resourcing - $20 per capita (vs $36 for the rest of New Zealand), as well as limited scope to increase this significantly.
  • There is considerable opportunity to leverage resources from other sources (e.g. private sector, WEL Energy Trust, SWIF Trust, central government)

Based on these findings, the Waikato Mayoral Forum agreed that a new regional economic development entity should be formed -  focused on business development, innovation, industry development, and investment attraction services. The role of the new entity would be to:

  • Build upon and replace Waikato Means Business.
  • Be built off Waikato Innovation Park’s business development services.
  • Use the hub and spoke delivery model to ensure reach.
  • Ensure that destination marketing activities remain with existing Regional Tourism Organisations, but with clear linkages to the new entity.
  • Be an independent entity – business-led and focused.
  • Seek additional funding from private sector and local government to be effective.
  • Connect to the wider well-being strategy of the Waikato region through the Waikato Plan Leadership Group and the Waikato Mayoral Forum.

The scope of what we do

Te Waka is focused on the wider Waikato region. While Hamilton is an important part of the region, our efforts reach further than just Hamilton City.

It is important to understand that Te Waka is a business-led organisation and is not Council-run. However, we have great support and some funding from the councils in the region.

Te Waka takes a long-term approach to economic development. This means that we will work hard and efficiently over time, in partnership with other organisations, to solve problems and grow our region.

Because Te Waka is not a charity, we will need ongoing funding to help achieve our objectives for the benefit of the region. We will keep you updated and prove to you that we're worthy of that support.

Te Waka is committed to offering support to deserving projects and organisations in our region. We assess each request on a case-by-case basis to ensure any funds and support given has the interests of the Waikato community at heart. 

We are all about helping the wider Waikato region

How does Te Waka work?

Waikato's regional economic development agency, Te Waka, is a limited liability company and is owned by the Waikato Regional Economic Development Trust. This means we are able to be nimble, act independently and move with pace. We have a skills-based Board of Directors, none of whom are elected representatives.

Te Waka was born from the economic development ambitions of our region’s councils and businesses.  However, it is not a Council Controlled Organisation.

Te Waka's offices are based at Waikato Innovation Park, allowing the team to build on the existing community approach of this highly successful economic development initiative. We are also out among the Waikato’s business community on a regular basis, connecting with businesses and business leadership groups right across the region.

Want to know more?