The tragic events of Friday, 15 March shocked our country’s core and reminded us that we are not immune to such unforeseen events.

We are committed to ensuring that diversity, inclusion and unity are guiding pillars in our future regional development efforts.

A unified approach will be embraced as Southland prepares for an exciting new chapter in regional development, with the establishment of the Southland Regional Development Agency (SRDA).

Although I will not be leading this agency - after seven years at the helm I have decided to move on from Venture Southland, I will be overseeing the transition process and I am excited by the opportunities that the new agency presents to Southland now, and in the future.

It’s been very rewarding to be part of an organisation that provides a cohesive voice for the region, advocates at both local and national level and helps to build our reputation with people all over the world.

I believe though, that through the establishment of the SRDA, the Southland voice will continue to go from strength to strength, identifying more opportunities for development and working alongside both public and private sector representatives to contribute to our region’s growth.

I’m looking forward to working alongside chair Ian Collier and the directors Dean Addie, Sarah Brown, Lucy Griffiths, Maria Pera and Joc O’Donnell, to establish the framework for the agency, and to help provide direction for even greater reach for regional development.

Together with the board’s ambition and determination, our collective enthusiasm for growth and track record for innovation, we’ll be able to implement the activities outlined in the Southland Regional Development Strategy and all benefit from a more connected, contemporary and competitive Southland region.

Paul writes a monthly column for the Southland Express, this is from the 28 March 2019 publication