A think tank involving upper North Island councils including Tauranga City Council is refocusing its efforts on transport to improve freight efficiencies.
UNISA - Upper North Island Strategic Alliance - includes Tauranga, Hamilton and Auckland city councils and Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Northland regional councils and Whangarei District Council.
It is collaborating with Auckland Transport, KiwiRail and the New Zealand Transport Agency on initiatives to reduce the cost of doing business in New Zealand’s upper North Island.
The upper North Island generates more than 50 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, and more than 55 per cent of the country’s freight travels through the Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions.
“This collaboration is crucial for ensuring all organisations are on the same page with regards to land use, infrastructure and development and we expect that working together alongside industry will further enhance the economic performance of the upper North Island,” says BOP regional council chairman John Cronin.
“Co-ordinated planning of key inter-regional road and rail links is critical to making supply chains more efficient and lifting the economic performance of New Zealand as a whole.”
More than a third of Bay of Plenty freight, 35 per cent, moves to and from other regions in the upper North Island, much of it through the Port of Tauranga as New Zealand’s largest export port.
The UNISA regions comprise the bulk of New Zealand’s economy and its GDP is growing slightly ahead of the national average.
In 2010, the upper North Island population was estimated at 2.3million, 52.7 per cent of the national total. Population growth within UNISA regions accounted for 72 per cent of total population growth in New Zealand from 1996 to 2010. Auckland has been the key driver for the population growth.
All of the world’s most productive cities are at least twice the size of Auckland, and the challenge facing UNISA is achieving economic scale by increasing the upper north island contribution and growing it in a way that benefits all residents.
A fair bit is known about the economic strengths and opportunities within each of the UNISA member areas, but a clear understanding of the strengths of the UNI as an ‘economic district’ is relatively unknown.
A recent report titled “Economic Linkages between New Zealand Cities: Final Report” finds that the degree of economic inter-linkage between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga is negligible, although there are significant freight linkages between Auckland and Tauranga.
By international standards the three cities are economically distant, and the report findings suggest that improving accessibility and connectivity within the cities may have greater economic impact than trying to improve accessibility between cities.