Our work program over the last quarter of 2021 has continued at pace, despite the impact and frustrations of the extended lockdown in Auckland and other parts of New Zealand.
The impact of the lockdown on the Waikato economy is yet to be seen. As of writing, the results of Christmas trading are yet to be known and the move to take the country into a red traffic light level is creating significant concern.
We continue to actively watch two key areas – labour force and supply chain issues. Both are material and likely to deepen.
Two further areas we are now monitoring are inflation and the impact on cashflow for businesses, particularly with credit supply tightening. Potential impacts on workforce availability and productivity with forced isolation resulting from the latest Omicron outbreak are also likely to be material.
A key issue presenting across all our sector work is a lack of available talent and resulting pressure on wage inflation.
This is limiting growth for Waikato businesses, so together with our industry partners, we’re working on talent attraction campaigns in several different sectors – starting with Construction and Technology sectors.
We are also looking at targeted initiatives aimed at bringing fresh international students to the region once our borders are starting to re-open again.
We are also continuing to make progress in our Logistics & Distribution sector workstream, with our Freight Action Plan nearing finalisation in partnership with EY and a range of key commercial partners.
We expect this will be published in February. As the economic environment continues to evolve, we have worked with Kanoa and other regional stakeholders to review the region’s economic priorities over the next three years.
This review will be shared in more detail next month, but has resulted in a modified approach, with six growth opportunities (Logistics & Distribution; Sustainable Food, Agriculture & Land Use; High Value Manufacturing; Technology, Digital & ICT; Energy & Sustainability; and Tourism), and four growth enablers (Housing & Construction; Education, Skills & Talent; Investment & Innovation; Enabling Infrastructure) identified.
As we head into 2022, we are also launching a proactive regional engagement programme aimed at bringing together key stakeholders from business, community and local government, and collaborating to build knowledge of - and bring support to key sub regional economic opportunities.
A knowledge-based and more collaborative approach will be essential in helping focus our support to deliver impact. Despite continuing uncertainties surrounding Covid, our intention is to stay focused on our work programme whilst remaining agile and able to adjust as necessary.
Our goal of lifting economic performance of the Waikato region to enhance the wellbeing of Waikato people continues front of mind. Ngā mihi, Hamish Bell | Chair