Thick trust and intimate familiarity —
The perfect conditions for regional growth

After undertaking a wide range of similar projects in New Zealand and internationally, I have come to the conclusion that national identity is about the parts of the sum, which make the whole country so interesting. The people of Burgundy are very different to the people of Provence, and it seems in my travels that a kind of twin citizenship sits comfortably with French and Italian people, particularly in romancing their regions within a national context.

The topic of regional economic and social renewal has always interested me; maybe, because I come from the King Country - a beautiful area in the central North Island that sadly seems to have lost its way, and I have always regretted this. I've found that voluntary co-operation and trustful relations exist in communities that have inherited substantial stock of social capital. There is a kind of “thick trust” - the belief that rests on intimate familiarity. In the absence of trust, entrepreneurial and learning traditions are difficult to establish. Most regions we observe work in vacuums, never quite capturing their collaborative energies.

When I think of a region's personality I prefer to use the word "spirit" in that a place is much more than simply the natural environment. The history of successive generations creates a greater emotional charge than just location. 

Not every project we have undertaken has been successful. However, our efforts in Southland, Central Otago & Singapore stand out for me as career highlights in working with terrific communities of interest and achieving quantum change. 

The love of a place gives people the enormous power and motivation required to preserve and advance their region or place in the way they wish. Proven well and truly with the achievement in recent days by a few stalwarts wishing to preserve the beautiful landscapes of Central Otago and stop a “hideous” eye sore of a wind farm along their magnificent horizons.

Carving out specialness in Central Otago seems to be going well, driven entirely by the locals. The district had the best performing economy in New Zealand in 2008. Even during a global recession, its growth figures in relation to the rest of New Zealand are still well ahead. Why? Probably because the world seems exhausted and what they have to offer is the perfect antidote - “Slow”. The region is currently enjoying the 2nd-best performing economy in New Zealand. In the last 3 years 40% more people used their unique Otago Central Rail Trail cycling experience, bringing $12.2 million into the local economy every year - up from $5m in 2009. That’s a 78% increase in economic impact.

Central Otago is fast becoming New Zealand's soft adventure experience.