INTERVIEW: HEATH MILNE
ROLE: CHIEF EXECUTIVE
ORGANISATION: DEVELOPMENT WEST COAST
Who is Your Organisation?
Development West Coast
What are the high level goals of your organisation in relation to supporting entrepreneurship and innovation?
Our overall mission is to grow business to grow the Coast.
What were some of the key programmes or initiatives run in 2021 in relation to supporting entrepreneurship and innovation?
DWC runs a popular 10 week business start-up and development programme called Co.Starters. Since 2016, we’ve had 133 participants through the programme – and many of them have gone on to launch successful West Coast businesses.
In the last year alone, graduates from our Co.Starters programme have set up some pretty exciting new businesses – from canine boarding facilities, craft breweries to sweet chilli sauce manufacturers.
The programme has been a great incubator for business start-ups, as well as entrepreneurs looking to develop their existing businesses. A big part of Co.Starters success is the collaborative nature of the programme. The West Coast business community has really gotten behind it, giving their time to come share knowledge and inspiration with the participants.
Another exciting initiative we are supporting is the Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme (YES). This programme gives school students across the West Coast the opportunity to experience the start-up world first-hand, by setting up and running their own businesses.
DWC provided seed funding for some of the businesses going through the programme, and we’ve been really impressed by the ideas we’ve seen. The West Coast is definitely in good hands.
What have been some of the highlight achievements or moments that stand out for you and your team this year?
From an organisational perspective, a highlight has been how our team has gone above and beyond to support businesses during this challenging time. Our business support team has been engaging with a record number of businesses, helping them access resources and advice through the Regional Business Partner Network.
The shifts in COVID levels have made it a difficult year for many businesses. Doing business in Alert Level 3 involved new challenges and costs. To help businesses adapt to the changing environment, DWC set up a delivery rebate scheme offering businesses providing a delivery service up to $500.
In another initiative, we worked with EPIC Kawatiri Westport and Tai Poutini Polytechnic to set up a temporary online business directory promoting West Coast businesses operating under Level 3. Over 260 businesses were listed on the platform – many of which had never been involved in e-commerce.
In general, the issues this year have had a positive impact on businesses and individuals desire to innovate and collaborate.
Given the renewed challenges and disruptions posed by COVID this year, what effect (if any) has this had on the entrepreneurial spirit and/or output of your local entrepreneurs in relation to innovation?
Our tourism industry in South Westland has been incredibly hard-hit by the closure of international borders. Sadly, we have seen businesses close due to no fault of their own. We can’t overstate the devastating impact this has had on these small close-knit communities.
To help support businesses, we have set up a $5m Glacier Country Business Support Fund.
There have been other key collaborative initiatives to support impacted businesses and communities, such as the Kotahitanga ki te Uru (working together for the West) partnership between the two West Coast iwi, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae and Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio, the West Coast Regional Council, Department of Conservation and DWC.
KKTU became operational in October 2020 and helped secure a $13 million funding boost from the DOC’s Jobs for Nature programme to support COVID impacted businesses to work on nature-based projects.
The Quickstart/Sustaining South Westland Community programme in South Westland has enabled more than 40 businesses to remain in operation and well over 100 people to remain in full time employment in South Westland.
A lot of the innovation we are seeing amongst businesses, as they deal with the challenges of COVID, is through greater levels of collaboration. For example, through the Jobs for Nature programme Skydive Franz Josef & Fox Glacier staff have worked closely with DOC on track building.
Tourism operators have also been joining forces to put together packages that will appeal to the domestic market. Check out our Holiday Booster campaign to see some of these great deal. To support the efforts of our operators we are knocking $100 off the first 200 packages booked.