By Mick Jensen
An agricultural training college, biological dairy production and boutique butter plant and even a brewery and distillery operation are mooted business opportunities that could be established in the future to support a more diversified Methven economy.
Preliminary discussions have been held around those developments, as well as alpine adventures, safety and support industries and a brand and district promotion strategy for the greater Methven area.
Those ideas, alongside community feedback, have been collated for the Igniting Change Project, which aims to raise awareness and facilitate a process to support a sustainable local economy.
Driven by Methven Community Board (MCB), the project also identifies roadblocks to change and encourages more collaboration and support between MCB and Ashburton council.
MCB chairman Dan McLaughlin said an action agenda with eight objectives would now be released to the community through Facebook and other mediums to continue building on the momentum generated so far.
“We’ve gone out to the community, received feedback and have now established a good base to move forward.
“The aim ahead is to support economic development and promotional activities for the Methven area and to help the future economy move forward and to thrive,” said Mr McLaughlin.
The eight objectives in the action agenda include developing and implementing a strategic plan to manage promotional requirements, supporting and expediting the rejuvenation of Methven’s commercial precinct and facilitating discussions amongst stakeholders for the development of an industry leading agricultural project.
Other objectives include initiating discussions with the government and private sector on projects that use emerging technologies, sustainable manufacturing and environmental management, the development and inaugural launch of an annual event that will provide long-term economic benefit for Methven and facilitating negotiations with tertiary institutions for the establishment of an education campus in the township.
Mr McLaughlin said the focus over the next 18 months would be to address those objectives and to get the pilot project going.
“The talk around Methven has been very positive over the last few months.
“It’s also interesting to note that the eight action agenda objectives that have been developed are very similar to the economic development pillars outlined in Ashburton council’s own Long Term Plan.”
MCB held a workshop in May last year with civic planning consultant Nick Williamson to “roadmap” and develop a sound business plan and community vision for Methven.
Discussions centred on two main themes; the absence of a clear community vision; and a perceived divide between Methven and Ashburton and how resources were distributed between centres.
The Igniting Change Project seeks to address those issues and encourages the community to focus on the future.