17 November 2017
The future of Southland is a conversation being had by many in the region’s business community, but it’s something that affects the whole region, not just business.
The Southland Regional Development Strategy (SoRDS) is something which many have heard of, but not all know how it relates to them.
Southland Chamber of Commerce president Carla Forbes said she wanted Southlanders, regardless of what their jobs were or where in Southland they lived, to understand that the next steps towards Southland’s future were absolutely critical to the future of Southland.
SoRDS has been something people have been talking about for a couple of years, but what it means for everyday Southlanders and small business owners remained unclear.
“In short, we need intense growth and expansion to make sure we don’t go backwards. We have an ageing and static population that means further retraction for our region,” Forbes said.
Less people in the region means less opportunities for people, businesses and community groups.
Population decline also means the region becomes less significant for government funding, which is why it’s important for everyone in our community to be working together.
As those foundation blocks of supporting business and attracting people to Southland are built, we are aware to promote and support all the aspects of regional living that make for enriched liveability.
“We want to get Southland to a point where our whole community – from niche committees to businesses – are all working in collaboration to enrich one another,” Forbes said.
“If we can get to that place where it becomes ‘Southland calling’ rather than separate entities with different agendas, then so many more doors are going to open for us.”
The scope of SoRDS is not just about having more people and a diverse economy – it’s about improving all aspects of liveability.
“We have an enviable lifestyle and a region we are proud of and it has been argued why we need to increase our population. Simply put, doing nothing and standing still means we will go backwards.”
Southland’s current demographics are a challenge for a prosperous, vibrant Southland. To be successful, the region needs more people, more talent and a more diverse industry and economy.
Tourism offerings, among other aspects of regional attraction, need to be expanded to drive Southland’s future forward.
“This is not about business, it isn’t about a Venture Southland entity or a different model – it is about a unified approach to regional transformation to create a great place for our kids, and our kids’ kids,” Forbes said.
Forbes said she was aware she had pushed the business and economic picture hard in presentations and media statements, but those aspects were not the complete focus.
“The output of this bold move is a Southland that continues to prosper, that is culturally rich with burgeoning arts and events – it’s a Southland with opportunities.”
For further information: Carla Forbes 021 678 682