Experienced businessman and Northland Port Corporation chairman Colin Mitten has been appointed to spearhead a new direction for the region's newly-integrated economic development and tourism body.
With the start of a new financial year, the Northland Regional Council is embarking on a series of changes that have seen the former Northland Regional Council Community Trust (NRCCT) wound up and the $10M of trust funds it oversaw brought back in-house.
Council chairman Craig Brown says the move is part of a bid by council - and endorsed by the public as part of its recent Long Term Plan process - to enable the pursuit of new regional economic development initiatives supported by its Investment and Growth Reserve.
Mr Brown says while the $10M fund itself will be 'ring-fenced' as part of the regional council's wider $120M investment portfolio, the $10M will continue to be managed by expert external investment managers.
"The first call on earnings from the $10M transferred back to the council will be to inflation-adjust the capital of the fund itself so that it will continue to remain a valuable asset for Northlanders into the future, but once that's done, any residual income for the year will be transferred into the Investment and Growth Reserve to support economic development."
Mr Brown says the former NRCCT had funded regional economic development agency Enterprise Northland and tourism body Destination Northland (DN).
Under changes recommended by public submitters - and which took effect on 01 July Destination Northland has absorbed Enterprise Northland (including its seven staff) and DN's ownership has transferred back to council as a Council Controlled Organisation to ease audit, management, administrative and other costs.
Mr Brown says businessman Colin Mitten, has been appointed both as chairman of Destination Northland for two years, and also as acting CEO for the next three months pending the appointment of a board and new chief executive.
The Coatesville, Auckland, resident has more than 30 years management experience in both the public and private sectors in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States.
He will be supported in his executive chairman role by the four people - Irene Durham, Bill Shepherd, Andy Britton and Rawson Wright - who had most recently served as trustees of the NRCCT (and were also directors of DN) and who have all had their terms extended for the next three months.
Mr Brown says in the past, Enterprise Northland's role had been more about assisting regional development and bringing various interested parties together.
"Under Colin's guidance, the new organisation will have a more clearly defined role and will actively seek activities to benefit the regional economy and create jobs. It will recommend eligible projects to council for funding via the Investment and Growth Reserve Fund." Mr Brown says the revamped organisation will also drive regional tourism.
He says Mr Mitten has an interesting background and is well aware of issues facing Northland, in part due to his role as chairman of the Northland Port Corporation, another major council investment.
"Council is pleased to have secured the services of such a well-qualified person to both manage the transition of the economic development activities and lead Enterprise Northland forward."
"Colin has owned a number of companies in New Zealand and the UK, in the service and manufacturing sectors and has also been CEO of the Welsh Investment Bank Finance Wales."
"His holding company, Welcon Investments Ltd invests in New Zealand businesses and also provides consultancy to public organisations on economic development and business strategy and he's also a Director of NZ Food Innovation Auckland Ltd."
Mr Mitten says he believes the staff of the combined organisation is keen and enthusiastic to make a real and lasting impact on the financial wellbeing of Northlanders, and in turn drive the economy of the region.
He says there's no good reason why Northland is languishing at the bottom of the GDP statistics for New Zealand when there are so many natural attributes in the region and a willingness for Northlanders to help improve their financial environment.
Mr Brown says the former trustees and Mr Mitten will work together, pending a decision by the regional council about the make-up of a new board.
He says he and his fellow councillors are grateful to those trustees for the roles they had played to date and for agreeing to continue on as directors in the meantime.
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