28 May 2020
An economist’s report on the economic and social impacts of COVID-19 on Rotorua will help inform economic recovery and community support strategies, Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick says.
Rotorua is expected to be among the worst-impacted districts due to its exposure to the drop in international tourism, according to the Infometrics report, which was commissioned by Rotorua Lakes Council and was referenced at today’s Full Council meeting during an update on local economic recovery work.
“Our district has been hard hit and we still face a lot of uncertainty in terms of what lies ahead so this report will be a useful tool for Council and others,” says Mayor Chadwick, who chaired today’s meeting.
“Current predictions are based on the best data available right now but there are many unknowns. That ongoing uncertainty highlights we need to continue to be very adaptable and flexible in our response – and the timing of our response – so that we can deal with emerging issues and also make the most of opportunities that may arise that can make a positive difference for our district.”
The report draws on key assumptions based on currently available data and suggests Rotorua may benefit from domestic migration due to housing affordability and lifestyle. It says Government funding for infrastructure development also presents opportunities for the district, while skills development and retention will be key to future workforce resilience.
Council has adopted a Build Back Better economic recovery framework that aligns with the Government’s approach to fight the virus, cushion the impact and positon for recovery (see more about Build Back Better and the strategies on which it is based HERE).
The recovery framework is based on six key strategies, including working with business leaders to develop innovative strategies for impacted sectors. This work is being facilitated by Council’s economic development CCO Rotorua Economic Development (RED) through a business steering group and sector groups.
Council’s draft 2020/21 Annual Plan aligns with the recovery framework, recognising the community’s need for ongoing support and providing flexibility to address new challenges and opportunities that may emerge. (See more HERE about the draft plan and find out more detail and how to have your say HERE)
Elected members were given an update on the progress of recovery work at today’s livestreamed Full Council meeting.
Council is also establishing a taskforce to ensure alignment and collaboration across organisations, sectors, agencies and iwi partners, ensure an ongoing pipeline of projects and work programmes that contribute to recovery, maximise opportunities and avoid duplication.
Another stream of work will focus on social impacts and community welfare.
Work also continues on the Rotorua housing strategy and associated locality plans. The lockdown caused a delay while council staff focused on working with government agencies to provide social support for the community and housing for Rotorua’s homeless. A draft housing strategy is to be presented to elected members next month.
Re-starting existing council projects as soon as possible to help keep businesses in work and people in jobs is also part of the Build Back Better strategy, and councillors received an update today on the progress of the lakefront redevelopment. Work is underway on the first two stages with about 40 people currently working on the project and that number expected to increase as further work gets underway.
Projects submitted by Rotorua Lakes Council for “shovel-ready” funding from Central Government have all made it past the first hurdle with numbers now whittled down from more than 1900 to just over 800. Council submitted seven projects and co-submitted an eighth. (See more about these projects HERE on Council’s website.)
Councillors heard Rotorua Lakes Council has also successfully applied for $1.1m in Government funding for rural roadside work that has been contracted to Council’s InfraCore CCO and will enable redeployment of about 25 locals who have lost jobs as a result of COVID-19. (See more about the Government fund HERE)
Mayor Chadwick says this is a great example of how Council can facilitate economic stimulus by providing work and employment, supported by Central Government.
“Council’s role is also to facilitate and enable collaboration, and create an environment that builds confidence and optimism and encourages innovation and community input. There will be things that come out of the work of the business sector groups and the community that will require Council support or policy decision-making.
“So there is a lot of work happening on a lot of fronts but all very much linked to the recovery of our district. It’s a huge task and it will require ongoing collaboration and ongoing strong partnerships,” Mayor Chadwick says.
From the Infometrics report (all data is for the year to March 2021):
- Rotorua’s economy is forecast to contract 7.8%, compared with 7.9% nationally.
- Employment is expected to decline 10.5% (about 3700 jobs) compared to 9.8% nationally.
- Local unemployment could rise to 10.7% resulting in lost earnings totalling $186m.
- Economic activity will remain constrained as the effects ripple through the local economy.
- Food exports, especially bulk commodities such as dairy, are expected to decline only slightly, Rotorua’s large health sector is expected to fare reasonably well, and domestic education is expected to grow as people who lose jobs look to re-skill or upskill.
- The next couple of years will be particularly difficult for vulnerable, low-income households in which Rotorua’s Maori and Pasifika populations are over-represented.
You can view the full Infometrics report HERE on Council’s website
Today’s meeting was livestreamed and you can access the full recording HERE on Council’s website or via Council’s YouTube channel HERE.
The agenda for today’s meeting can be viewed HERE on Council’s website. Presentation slides can also be accessed at this link.