Since the first big quake in 2010, the Government has invested more than $14 billion in the rebuild and recovery of Christchurch and greater Canterbury.
Today, Canterbury’s population has topped its pre-earthquake numbers; the economy is growing faster than in many other parts of the country; and its unemployment rate is below the national average. Even so, we still have work to do to ensure we continue to grow and thrive.
That’s why, late last month, the Government launched an action plan to drive economic growth. The Canterbury Regional Economic Development Strategy includes a series of targeted initiatives to increase jobs, income and investment throughout the region.
As rebuild activity levels off, the strategy sets challenging targets to promote regional transport planning and infrastructure, improve digital connectivity, manage the region’s fresh waterways, and provide support around education, immigrant settlements, production and tourism.
Two of these seven priority areas are particularly close to my heart — education and training for a skilled workforce, and tourism.
In the past year, 16,500 jobs were created in Canterbury. To keep that momentum going, the strategy includes $170,000 to help connect secondary students with businesses that can transition them into further education, employment or training.
We need to keep our young people in the region and ensure they have the knowledge and skills to get ahead. This not only benefits the individual, but the whole community.
Data shows greater Christchurch is back on the itinerary for many international visitors but, overall, tourism has not yet reached pre-quake levels. Government funding of $160,000 — on top of the $2 million awarded through the Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Grant Fund — will help grow a sustainable industry and ensure Canterbury becomes the gateway to the south.
This strategy is all about enabling Christchurch and greater Canterbury to leverage recovery and rebuild opportunities and drive economic growth into the regeneration phase.