The West Coast's economy has been undermined by global economic headwinds that have dropped international prices for minerals and milk powder, a Government report shows.
The West Coast Regional Growth Study sets out ways to attract new investment and diversify the coast's economy.
It emphasises the need for high quality infrastructure so the region can take advantage of better circumstances when markets improve.
The report identifies tourism - which is thriving - as a major immediate opportunity.
"With the West Coast's stunning natural setting and cultural history there is a great deal of potential to attract more domestic visitors, commercialise more experiences and develop a stronger set of iconic attractions and products that encourage visitors," it says.
"There is potential to grow international education services in outdoor recreation and environmental management."
Labour's economic development spokesman, David Clark, says the report reveals some worrying figures.
"The region is lagging behind the rest of the country," he said.
"Annual median household income in 2013 was $55,000 compared with $63,800 nationally ... even more concerning is that the population fell between 2013 and 2015."