Opotiki is a remote, mountainous district with 75 per cent of the land area in conservation estate and therefore unrateable. The 8000 strong population is spread along the coast, with roughly half living in the township. The district has persistently figured among the most highly deprived populations in New Zealand when compared to other populations through the Index of Deprivation. The median income is nearly one third less than the New Zealand median income, and there’s been a high social welfare spend for decades.
But this community is not sitting on it’s laurels. Local iwi, Whakatohea, have invested heavily in a practical project which has the potential to create local jobs and wealth, by creating a modern industry based on the sea. And the local Council has got right in beside them, with huge community support, as both an advocate, and provider of enabling infrastructure.
Through many years of hard work, Whakatohea are the majority shareholders in the largest piece of consented water space in the southern hemisphere for farming multiple marine species. More than a decade of trials have resulted in a comprehensive and compelling business plan for New Zealand’s first offshore marine farm.
World demand for seafood is increasing rapidly and the target of the NZ Aquaculture industry, supported by government policies is to grow into a billion-dollar industry by 2025. Opotiki is poised to contribute to that growth via the development of aquaculture farming with a consequent dramatic effect on job creation and economic development for the Eastern Bay of Plenty community. This will add $34 million to the sub-regional economy, an additional $7M to the wider regional economy, and create 450 full time jobs.