Tepid welcome from business

BY MARTA STEEMAN
Last updated 05:00 10/02/2010

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John Key's 2010 reform programme is "light", says Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend.

Townsend said that was a personal comment on the package set out yesterday but there were also benefits for the local region, such as Key promising to get rid of regulatory roadblocks to water storage and irrigation in Canterbury.

Townsend said Key was referring to RMA processes holding up development and certain regional and national legislative conflicts. He expected to see some specific legislation drafted that would accommodate water storage and irrigation options in Canterbury.

"I don't think we will be able to proceed on our water strategy unless there is specific attention by central government on removing some of those roadblocks," Townsend said.

The package set out a wide- ranging series of incremental steps that "might" result in improvements to New Zealand's economic performance.

"My personal opinion is that it is on the light side. And I understand the political imperatives and he's gone about probably as far as he can in the MMP environment. But we need to do more than it being promoted in his speech to get New Zealand to where it's got to go to, for sure."

The signalled tax changes were encouraging as were some tax changes for property investment and he had no issues with Key's stance of not dealing with land tax and capital gains tax.

Holding government spending was right and he applauded the Government's emphasis on science and innovation. Canterbury was deeply involved in the application of science to business.

New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association chief executive John Walley was less complimentary. He said the programme was underwhelming and was merely tinkering around the edges.

He agreed with Key's diagnosis of the problems the New Zealand economy faced but there was little to address that.

He was an advocate of lower, broader taxes, and of a capital gains tax as long as there was a corresponding lowering of taxes.

"I'm pretty sad about it. I think it's a kick for touch at a time when there needs to be boldness and courage."

Manufacturer Brian Willoughby, of Contex Engineering, said there was nothing that would assist manufacturers and exporters but that was expected. "If you are a manufacturing exporter in New Zealand I think most of us have grown used to the idea that it doesn't matter who's in Parliament."

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