No economic growth without people

The Ashburton District is one of the best for quality of life and opportunities. In fact, we know from the recently commissioned New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) report that our district is the sixth most desired for business and twelfth for quality of life of 66 districts across the country.

​One of the key findings from the report was that the Ashburton District has a labour shortage: we have jobs, but not enough people with the right skills to fill those positions. The consequence of this predicament is estimated to have cost our local economy $16 million in lost output in 2018 alone. This is forecast to increase to $105 million by 2030 - reflecting a shortage of 589 employees, if we stay on the same trajectory.

With all this in mind, the Council is making sure that we are doing what we can to increase those opportunities and support the continued growth of our flourishing community.

People are drawn to places where there are jobs, housing, access to services, safety and a strong sense of identity and belonging – somewhere where they can support their families and see a future for themselves. If we can continue to make these elements a core attribute of our district (which benefits all of our citizens), then the economic opportunities for our community could be near endless, and that cost of lost output would be diminished.

I am not ashamed in admitting my passion for getting to the heart of people and being a leader with a focus on the human experience and potential. Communities are very little without the people in them to make them exist, and it is with this vision and empathy that I approach many of my duties.

A consequence of this, is that some may consider that I don’t emphasise the strictly business and economic growth of our district, or that it comes secondary to my appeals for the human experience. This is not so.

Max Frisch is attributed as saying, “we asked for workers, we got people instead”. To me, these profound words offer a link between the numbers game of business, and the stories and lived experience of being a person.

What is the point of declaring we need workers to come to our district, if we can’t retain them and keep them living here? They may indeed come for the jobs, but it is the connections, the opportunities, services, accessibility and sense of community that further cement a person’s inclination to settle down and establish their roots in a new place.

To put it more simply, I believe that people and economic growth are entwined. We cannot support growth and investment without attraction and retention of labour, along with appealing to peoples’ humanity and ensuring we are meeting their needs beyond that of an income. Essentially, we are striving for a quadruple bottom line of people, profit, planet and progress.

So let’s support our district’s potential together, and seek to further the community appeal of our patch of paradise, so that new residents feel welcome, wanted and willing to call Ashburton District their home, while acknowledging that we can move forward together as a community, for the betterment of all residents.

Or, as the Te Reo proverb puts it quite succinctly; He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tangata, he tangata, he tangata: What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.

Page reviewed: 19 Jun 2019 3:49pm