Development structure deliberated

Southland's four councils are considering a proposal that would centralise Southland's economic development strategy into one agency.

Under the proposal, a so-called Southland Regional Development Agency (SRDA) would take in Venture Southland and its existing staff as part of a council-controlled organisation and limited liability company majority owned by all four of Southland's councils.

Councillors at Southland District Council, Invercargill City Council and Gore District Council, and Environment Southland are expected to consider the proposal at meetings over the coming weeks.

Mayoral Forum chairman Gary Tong said the councils decided there should be a better way of doing things when it came to organising Southland's economic development, such as tourism and better business within Southland. 

"There were too many bits and pieces happening throughout the district, so we looked at how we could bring all this together through a council-controlled organisation."

Mr Tong said Southland businesses had been consulted and came on board very quickly to the idea, which was later put out for public submission.

The proposed agency would essentially be a one-stop shop that combined the work of the Southland Regional Development Strategy and Action Plan (SoRDS) and Venture Southland into one agency with a broader community and business base.

Mr Tong said it would still be business as usual for Venture Southland until the end of Feburary 2019, when Venture's current funding stream stopped.

Core funding is expected to be provided by the four councils of Southland on a population basis. The proposed agency would also seek to increase and diversify non-council funding from central government, business and the community sectors to support regional development.

Talks are being held with iwi in regard to the makeup of the agency. However, under the proposal, the majority of the agency would be owned (75%) by the four councils with the remaining shareholding (25%) made up of community shareholders. The agency would include a skill-based board and representation from business and community groups under the proposals.

Subject to council agreement, the board would be appointed and a Statement of Intent in place by November 2018; by February 2019 the board would take over full operation of the organisation and all staff transitioned to the new company.


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