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Evolution of New Regional Development Interventions in New Zealand: An Analysis of the First Year of the Provincial Growth Fund

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Regional development has evolved in response to shifting local and global priorities.

These shifts have transformed both the way we think about regions, their role and how that shapes the outcomes and benefits that might occur from engaging in regional development. Key debates centre around the ability (or desirability) of regional development interventions to unsettle path dependence and “lock-in” created by past approaches and to create opportunities for alternative development futures and to provide choices between sectoral-based investments to support economic activity in contrast to a more place-based approach to regional development. This paper overviews the dynamic nature of regional development to offer reasons for its recent resurgence by highlighting the key debates about the purpose and function of regions and what regional development can or should do. We then discuss the New Zealand context specifically and use the first year of Provincial Growth Fund investments to reflect on how the processes, objectives and goals reflect particular interpretations of the meaning and purpose of regional development. We conclude that a strong adherence to a growth imperative has the potential to reinforce path dependencies at the expense of alternative development pathways.

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