Imagine what Timaru District could be ...

Having recently completed an updated Economic Development Strategy and a Destination Management Plan for the Timaru District to help inform and prioritise their activities going forward, Venture Timaru was keen to look even further forward as to what Timaru could aspire to be.

To kick this off, Economist Benje Patterson of People & Places was engaged to highlight what an aspirational economic future could look like for the Timaru District and what achieving such an outlook would rely on.

The three hypothetical scenario’s modelled in the report, for Timaru’s Economy in 2050, are “status quo” (low), “more” (medium) and “better” (high/transformational).

The ”better” scenario in the report is the most ambitious and transformational scenario targeting both higher employment and productivity growth which it estimates would result in 16,500 more jobs requiring our district’s population to grow to 75,000 from current 48,500. Just to maintain status quo the report highlights Timaru District population would need to grow by at least 5,000 to maintain current employment levels and counteract ageing population impacts.

“Given our existing strengths such as our central South Island location, a highly collaborative and connected business community, excellent health & education services and a diversified industry sector base that coped better than most of New Zealand through the past 2-3 years, we would challenge us all that the “better” scenario is achievable” says Davenport.

“That said nothing worth achieving is ever easy and whilst productivity, employment and population growth are key drivers of economic and wider social prosperity it ultimately comes down to us all to make it happen.”

“This is not advocating growth for the sake of growth but growth that principally enhances our way of life and provides for inclusive and connected communities” says Davenport. “Imagine a Timaru District with more people and more opportunities resulting in thriving communities and enhanced social & recreational services and facilities – who wouldn’t want that?” “Let’s double- down on our collective efforts to attract more people from other parts of New Zealand and around the world, to bring new vibrancy and diversity to our communities.’

On the report Davenport says, “It’s always valuable to take the time to step back and look a lot further forward than what you are currently focusing on.”

“It is also important we point out that this initial piece of work from Benje is very much a starting point, off which more work will need to be done. However, it does point out what Timaru District could, should and realistically needs to aspire to be,” he says.

“Doing the same is not an option as we effectively go backwards – now is the time to be truly aspirational to be the best we possibly can be by being bolder and more transformational than we have ever been.”