The Trust has made its first allocation from a specific business fund set up last year to support projects that improve regional business and economic development. The $400,000 fund will make up around 15 per cent of the $2.65 million the Trust will distribute in 2015-2016.
WEL Energy Trust chair Mark Ingle said the projects were identified as priorities in the Waikato’s economic development strategy, ‘Waikato Means Business’.
“That’s important because the Trust’s strategy to support economic growth is not about providing one-off funding or funding projects in isolation,” Mark said.
“We don’t want to tinker around the edges. We want to work with other agencies to support projects that create or attract sustainable business activity and provide clear ongoing economic and social benefits to the region.”
In its first allocation, WEL Energy Trust has partnered with the Waikato Regional Council, providing $70,000 to support the Waikato Story with a further $30,000 tagged for Waikato economic development strategy implementation. The Waikato Story will promote the region’s advantages and opportunities and will provide video and other resources to help local business attract key staff and investment.
WEL’s investment means the Waikato Story will be launched in the first half of this year.
Waikato Regional Council chair Paula Southgate said WRC had already allocated $250,000 per annum over 10 years to support the Waikato economic development strategy because it shared the Trust’s view that a strong economy was vital for community well-being.
“I think Trustees have been very smart and very strategic in their allocations,” Paula said.
“The Waikato Story is a key part of the region’s economic strategy and already has huge support from a number of sectors; in fact there are people already asking to use it. It will provide local business with tangible and useful tools that will provide long-term benefits for the region.”
WEL Energy Trust has also granted $100,000 to Hamilton & Waikato Tourism (HWT) from the same fund. The money will help implement the organisation’s 10-year visitor strategy and has been tagged for a tourism development plan that aims to grow visitor expenditure from $1 billion to $1.35 billion by 2025.
HWT chief executive Kiri Goulter said the grant would leverage the funding HWT already receives from local government and the industry itself and would enable faster progress to be made.
“The WEL Trust money will not be used for further marketing but instead to help grow and develop the local tourism sector. That’s an area we simply haven’t been able to specifically focus on until now,” Kiri said.
“While we will continue to promote the great experiences we already have on offer, this is about growing the region’s long-term tourism potential by helping improve the range of existing product, identifying new opportunities and looking at ways to attract further investment.”
A further grant of $40,000 was also made to the Smart Waikato Trust to support partnerships between secondary schools and employers.
Mark said WEL Energy Trust had been strongly commended for introducing the business-focused grants scheme since it was announced last year.
Priority would continue to be given to collaborative projects that were likely to lead to positive transformative change, he said.
“Successful business provide the income and employment opportunities that our communities need to be vibrant and successful. This is about picking winners and supporting social well-being by investing back into our region.”
WEL Energy Trust looks likely to allocate more than $2.6 million in the 2015-2016 year, the bulk of it to community groups. A community lending programme as well as healthy home and energy efficiency initiatives would continue to be supported along with power discounts to WEL Networks customers, Mark said.
WEL Energy Trust was formed in 1993 and owns WEL Networks Ltd on behalf of the community. WEL Networks owns the electricity lines and equipment in Hamilton, most of the Waikato district and a small part of the Waipa district.
For information on WEL Energy Trust call Mark Ingle, 027 488 4833
For information on the Waikato Story call Karen Bennett 021 791 995
For information on Hamilton & Waikato Tourism call Kiri Goulter 021 686 057
For information on SmartWaikato call Mary Jensen 021 295 5951