Aussies lobby Govt over rebuild

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 06:41 23/07/2014

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Australian businesses are lobbying their government over concerns they are being shut out of Christchurch rebuild opportunities by "Canterbury parochialism''.

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey revealed the concern after visiting Christchurch this week, in part to pay his respects to the city but also to fly the flag for Australian investors.

Speaking to Fairfax, Hockey said concern from some Australian businesses about ''Canterbury parochialism'' had been raised with him.

''I think that's to the disadvantage of Christchurch because you know you want to get on with things and the faster you can move, taking all the resources of the world to rebuild your city, the better.''

Hockey, who spent yesterday in Wellington for meetings with senior government ministers and Prime Minister John Key, said he understood the need for ''some degree of caution'' about moving too quickly in the rebuild because of price inflation and other issues.

''It is going to take time to rebuild Christchurch. I don't think there is any doubt about the resolve of the Government to do it and nor the financial capacity. But clearly people do want it to move faster.''

Asked if businesses were encountering a ''Canterbury first'' mindset, Hockey responded: ''That's right. I don't think 'Canterbury first' is going to do it because the task is much bigger than the capacity of Canterbury only businesses.''

Prime Minister John Key said last night Hockey had not raised that concern with him during their discussions in Wellington yesterday.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said there were very open government procurement processes ''and we are simply looking for the best outcome''.

A large number of Australian-based businesses were based in Christchurch and getting a lot of work.

Brownlee said he had seen no evidence of a ''Canterbury first'' mindset.

''If you look at the major companies operating in Christchurch they are all national if not international. ''

The opportunities for foreign investment would continue to grow.

For instance, while the Government itself was building the convention centre complex with retail and commercial spaces it had ''no intention of being the long term owner of those facilities''.

''An operator has been selected [that] has international connections and the eventual owner of that facility may well be an owner that has similarly international connections.''

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