Three reports from partner organisations painted a positive picture of the Waikato region and Hamilton at today’s meeting of Hamilton City Council’s Growth and Infrastructure Committee.
Representatives from Hamilton & Waikato Tourism, the Hamilton Central Business Association and regional economic development agency Te Waka presented reports which together illustrated a growing and more vibrant Hamilton central city, growing tourism spending and guest nights in the region and positivity around government funding to further boost the Waikato economy.
The Hamilton & Waikato Tourism report showed visitor spend in the region has climbed to $1.558 billion for the 12 months to June 2019, a 3% increase on the previous year. Domestic spend injected $1.196 billion of the result, with international visitors contributing an estimated $362M into the regional economy.
The region is now the fifth-largest in New Zealand for international visitor expenditure, fourth for domestic spend, and the fourth-largest (behind Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch) for conventions, meetings and business events.
The Hamilton Central Business Association (HCBA) provided its six-monthly update and its three-year strategic plan, noting increasing CBD pedestrian traffic, increased vibrancy through events in four central city spaces and continued commercial investment in the central city.
The HCBA was allocated $100,000 by the Council in 2018 to activate four public areas in the city; Civic Square, Garden Place, Victoria on the River and Embassy Park. Highlights over the summer months in these areas included the launch event for the HSBC NZ Sevens in Hamilton, the Boon street art festival, movies in Embassy Park, the City Burn event as part of Balloons Over Waikato with an estimated 4000 visitors, Stories in the Garden, and a Chinese Lantern Festival.
The Committee also received the first annual report from Te Waka, the regional economic development agency established in July 2018. Through a partnership agreement with Te Waka, the Council provides $140,000 in annual funding.
Highlights for the first year of operation included establishing partnership agreements with ten of the region’s local authorities, sponsorship agreements with leading businesses and support from regional trusts.
The past year has also seen the confirmation of $4.8M in confirmed funding from Callaghan Innovation for business in the region as well as confirmed funding of $3.3M from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF). In the past year Te Waka has provided active support for applications to the PGF for funding to the value of $90M, (for projects with a total value of nearly $300M), and many projects still being assessed.
The first six months of operations for Te Waka were a start-up phase, with the second six months solidifying operations. Becoming a fully-operational regional development agency will continue into the next year of operations as final funding is secured.