As New Zealand emerges from its COVID-19 lockdown, around the country business and community leaders are turning their thoughts to regional recovery.
We are now confronted by a deep global, national, and local recession, the sharpness of which is unprecedented. It will be a slow, persistent climb out of this recession, back to some sense of normality.
New Zealand is well used to regional crises. Since 2002 there have been 71 states of emergency declared due to natural events; four a year, on average with the associated economic, social and environmental impacts for the communities affected. Globally, there has been a trend for financial and economic shocks every decade or so. Supporting businesses to prepare for these shocks, to respond to them and to emerge
stronger on the other side is a key challenge for every regional economic development agency in New Zealand.
Patterns emerging through the current COVID-19 crisis, in an economic sense are also new, variable, and complex with regions, sectors, communities and individual businesses all being affected differently. SMEs and certain sectors like tourism, retail, events and hospitality are disproportionately affected while others are under pressure in food supply
and health response. Supply chains and international trade are affected, and around the world central banks are using quantitative easing and monetary policy to boost demand. Local businesses and communities are trying to understand and respond to the ongoing impacts of the crisis while also trying to maintain day-to-day operations.
Roadmap to recovery
Here in Hawke’s Bay conversations have begun on what our roadmap for recovery will be. Hawke’s Bay already
has the Matariki Regional Development community, bringing together with one vision, the collective impact of business, Iwi and hapū, councils, and local representatives from Government agencies. Regional partnerships are in place, with valued and established relationships and diverse perspectives for collective and sustainable economic and social impact. Regionally, we can achieve prosperity alongside greater equity, prioritising broader and long-lasting future opportunities, addressing the more complex needs of our people and business. While Government has a key role to play in supporting the region, recovery efforts need to be locally driven.
Business Hawke’s Bay is part of the conversation. Through our membership of Economic Development New Zealand* and partnerships with national economic analysts, we have access to experts, resources and insights to help inform and support a programme for rebuilding and supporting our local economies. The aim is for the region to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis more resilient, agile, and sustainable.
Business at the forefront
Our economic and socially inclusive recovery requires strong business and industry input, advocacy, advice, and leadership. Business Hawke’s Bay is establishing a business leaders’ advisory forum and sector advisory groups to ensure that the voice of industry is heard alongside other partners and is considered at the forefront of recovery efforts, for that is where future sustainable jobs and economic and inclusive growth will come from.
It will also be important to ensure that actions are prioritised giving support to the highest value or most needed. Being agile and responsive, recognising that there are many possible scenarios to plan for should be a key factor in developing our recovery strategy. We already have a programme designed to deliver economic, inclusive, and sustainable growth that focuses on whānau wellbeing, employment skills and capability, resilient infrastructure, economic growth and promoting our place.
More than ever, it’s a time for evidence-based decision-making, to closely monitor progress and to identify appropriate “present-based” measures and indicators. Measures such as traffic counts (traffic busyness is considered an indicator of economic performance), retail spend and internet use which are available more frequently, are being used to evaluate economic impact in real-time. A wider focus on wellbeing, beyond GDP is encouraging everybody
to reconsider definitions of economic prosperity. We also need strong inclusive and sustainable growth indicators to provide a deeper, richer picture of progress. Evaluation throughout, constantly reviewing the impact of actions, adjusting and learning along the way, is the way to go.
Our region will face future economic crises, so understanding what COVID-19 can teach us will help to build a
more resilient Hawke’s Bay business community, for inclusive growth and sustainable returns and an economic development ecosystem to support it.
* Economic Development New Zealand, a national not for profit that empowers and enables individuals and organisations either practicing, or associated with, economic development across New Zealand.