Venture Southland should be regarded as a successful model that could be replicated around the country. It has become a powerhouse of innovation, community support and business success that has allowed a province with around 2% of New Zealand's population punch well above its weight.
Venture Southland's vision for Southland's future is admirable:
- A region with vibrant urban and rural communities that is widely recognized as a desirable place to live, learn, do business and visit.
- A harmonious social and natural environment that is based on sustainable development and diversity.
- A population sufficient to support services, recreational facilities and opportunities that enhance the quality of life for residents.
- Produced an energy strategy that puts our national one to shame.
- Attracts Government funding for sustainable energy projects.
- Supported a pilot scheme promoting solar water heating (we installed a system under this scheme).
- Established a rocket tracking station in partnership with the European Space Agency.
- Provides soil and climate data (Topoclimate survey) for the identification of useful micro climates and to support land optimisation.
- Pioneering future industries in partnership with overseas expertise that includes a possible silica smelter.
- Promotes sustainable business practices.
- Supports research into mitigating green house gases that are produced by our farms and turning them into useful energy.
- Creates a vibrant arts culture within the province with well attended events such as the Arts Festival and very popular Buskers Festival.
- Provides valuable support to individual businesses and non profit groups. The farmer's market that I am involved with has benefited from this greatly over the years.
- Ensured isolated communities are well connected.
Venture Southland has just released its draft business plan and is asking for submissions. It lists many new and exciting projects that include: the oat industry project; establishing education partnerships with China; pathways into employment in agriculture for young people; and promoting the Around the Mountains cycle trail.
Southland has achieved a lot under a National led Government that has done little to support regional autonomy and development. I just wonder how much more could have been achieved if there was greater national support for regions and communities to find their own solutions to economic, social and environmental challenges. Venture Southland has proven that we can have a vibrant, sustainable economy that doesn't have to rely on intensive dairying and fossil fuel.