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Free Speech Space with MJ - Dr David Wilson

“Where the Rubber Meets the Road… Regional Economic Development is Key For Growth”




Interview with Dr David Wison Economist & Regional Development Expert


MJ: Welcome back to another edition of MJ’s Free Speech Space. Today, DW is back to give us some knowledge Regional development. You know, just wave a wand and it sort of just happens. I’ve got no idea what happens in between, you know, that part. But I do know that there is a lot of modeling involved.

DW: Yeah, exactly, I’ll talk about regional economic development as opposed to regional development, and this is semantic, but not quite. So if we put the word economic in the middle, you got three words there, regional, economic, and development. If we take development as to sort of say that equals improvement. The economic bit that we all understand, you know, it’s our economy and that’s made up with, you know, labour and wages and turnover and revenue and all those things that you know well. It’s like adding up your regional gross domestic product, your regional GDP, that’s your regional economy. And that kind of sums it up. You’ve got a place, the economy, and improvement.

There’s regional science and regional economics. And that kind of takes things down a peg. If you look at the difference between say macroeconomics, stuff that happens up the top with the government, you know, Reserve Bank, all the ones we just talked about, productivity, that macroeconomy stuff, trade, etc. And then you look at microeconomics, which is pretty much focused on the firm, what happens within businesses and how they improve their productivity and so on. So you’re getting a little bit more focus. There’s this bit in the middle. I kind of a little bit surreptitiously call it meso-economics, the bit in the middle.

Improving those things is where the complexity comes in because it’s all well and good to be an economist and bleat out about rise in unemployment and oh wow, it’s us and what should we do about it? Invariably, you find that no one actually knows what to do about it. And for me, the regional economic development level is where the rubber hits the road. It’s where you know the people that are involved in the farming sector.

You know the people that are involved in retail. You know the people that are involved in logistics. And you know how your economy fits into a wider economy. So to me, it’s kind of like going beyond just talking about the numbers, it’s actually doing things. It’s programs. It’s projects. It’s work on the ground.

And that kind of excites me because it gets me out of the classroom and into the field. I like talking to real people. At the moment I’m doing a little bit of work in the Waitaki in South Island and that has been a sort of long running thing but it’s about figuring out with farmers what the best usage, use of their land is going forward. And you know they’ve got all sorts of considerations in there haven’t they?

The pressure on dairy, sustainability futures, whether or not they’re utilizing the land the most profitable and sustainable way, all those things come into it. So often there’s no one right answer, but it’s kind of like in all things considered, once we have as much information as we possibly garner around any potential pathway.

And to me, if you’re talking about productivity, the best way to increase productivity is to work with people that understand increasing productivity in their sector, in their place, one region at a time. So hopefully that’s a pitted kind of approach on what regional economic development is to you.

MJ: That’s really good, David. Now, of course, with regional development, I would imagine, or economic development. But regionally, you’re going to be looking at what is available as resources and what industry is there and what is not there.

So if somebody’s trying to start something that’s not there, the resources aren’t there, well, wouldn’t it be better to move it to another region where that would be more successful? And I would say that would be a very important aspect of what you look at when you’re considering the development principles and looking at legislation around certain industries and certain economic flows.

DW: Yeah, you’re bang on. A lot of people talk about bottom up versus top down. You know, we’ve got government telling us what to do.

but we kind of know better. So that’s sort of the bottom-up approach. And the top-down is government doing industry transformation plans, and they’ll show up to do all of these things to improve horticulture in New Zealand. And here’s all the opportunities. Translating what government’s saying to what’s actually possible on the ground, you need that kind of top-down, bottom-up kind of conversation. Yeah, your plan looks good, central government, but here it looks more like this, rather than what it looks like over the hill. So you’ve got to actually have that conversation and make it work for the region and for the people that are in that region, rather than just accept the received wisdom from the top.

I’m going to give you two pointy-head concepts now, two kind of academic concepts, and then explain them, which they kind of guide my practice. One is called endogenous development, which is the opposite of exogenous development. So endogenous means coming from within. Exogenous is like coming from outside……


Improving those things is where the complexity comes in because it’s all well and good to be an economist and bleat out about rise in unemployment and oh wow, it’s us and what should we do about it? Invariably, you find that no one actually knows what to do about it. And for me, the regional economic development level is where the rubber hits the road. It’s where you know the people that are involved in the farming sector.



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elocal Digital Edition – December 2023 (#272)

elocal Digital Edition
December 2023 (#272)


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