Involvement with group questioned

The Otago Regional Council's membership of regional economic development initiative Otago Forward hangs in the balance.

Councillors yesterday considered a report outlining its involvement in the organisation, whose membership also includes Otago's other city and district councils, and agreed to make a decision on its membership of the group early next year.

Otago Forward was formed in 2002, with one-third of funding from the Dunedin City Council, one-third from the regional council and one-twelfth each from the other councils in the region.

To date, the regional council had contributed $390,816 to Otago Forward and its initiative to fund the Otago Design Institute.

Chairman Stephen Cairns said the council had been concerned about the effectiveness of Otago Forward for some time and had recently raised the issue at the Otago Triennial Agreement meeting of the region's mayors, chairmen and chief executives.

It had been suggested a way to revitalise Otago Forward was to bring it under the triennial partnership or make economic development a standing agenda item at the triennial agreement meetings, he said.

A recent meeting of Otago Forward did not seem to support the idea, he said, but the council agreed yesterday to continue to support it, at this stage.

Otago Forward representatives planned to talk to the council in February about the regional council's ongoing involvement, Mr Cairns said.

Councillors agreed they would make a decision on ORC membership of the group after that meeting.

Cr Duncan Butcher said Otago Forward had not achieved anything and it did not align with the new economic development policy, which the council adopted yesterday.

"It's run its course; it's been captured and it's not achieving anything."

Cr David Shepherd said given the "baggage" associated with the group, there did not seem to be any point to carry on.

"In 10 years, $400,000 has been expended and it has not got us anywhere."

Cr Bryan Scott said one of its failures was the lack of a person to drive its initiatives, and that was a challenge still faced even if it ended up under the triennial agreement.


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