Aussies find 'cold' start in rebuild tough

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 24/07/2014

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Hitting the rebuild ''cold'' is the biggest barrier to Australian firms setting up in post-earthquake Christchurch, the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce says.

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey said during his New Zealand trip this week that 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,'' he said.

Chamber chief executive Peter Townsend yesterday rejected the parochialism claims, saying ''smart'' companies had succeeded by collaborating with local firms".

''The difficulty Australian companies have, in my experience, is that they come into Christchurch cold, they think they can just set up in business unilaterally and the business will pool through the doors. That's simply not how it works.

''It doesn't even work like that for companies who come into Christchurch from other places in New Zealand. They find it very difficult to start cold.''

Australian firm Woods Bagot was partner in the team that developed Christchurch's central city blueprint in 2012, and BVN Donovan Hill, which has offices in four Australian cities, is working on the health precinct master plan.

Cockram Corporation is in a joint venture with Leighs Construction on the redevelopment of Burwood Hospital, while Australian construction contractor Theiss has joined forces with Christchurch's Southbase to build the new bus interchange.

Brisbane-based claims settlement firm Gallagher Basset Services had a 12-year relationship with the Earthquake Commission until the service it provided became internal in June 2013.

Townsend said a local company ''unlocking the economic opportunity'' and joining with an outside firm was an internationally tested and proven model.

''It's a model we know works and a model we are strongly supportive of here in Christchurch,'' he said.

Townsend is heading to Australia this weekend to investigate large infrastructure programmes operating in Sydney and Melbourne.

''The whole intent of that is how we can work better with Australian companies, in the context of committing scale to the rebuild. To suggest there is some resistance to that is just wrong,'' he said.

Finance Minister Bill English said yesterday Australian firms faced the ''normal competitive pressures'' Kiwi businesses did across the Tasman.

''That is, in any local market there's a way of doing business and it takes a while to break into that,'' he said.

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The Government welcomed ''competitive pressure'' coming from Australia.

''We're pleased to see them here,'' English said.

 


- The Press

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