More support needed to grow business

JOSH MARTIN
Last updated 17:29 25/02/2014

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Local government must have a "business-friendly ethos" which goes beyond rate cuts and deregulation, Wellington mayor Celia Wade Brown said at the launch of a programme to support business growth.

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) today released six guidelines for councils around New Zealand to attract and support business ventures within their regions.

The key principles in the Business Friendly Guidelines included building partnerships between councils and business groups, identifying challenges and needs, providing certainty and clarity to businesses, making interactions count, proactively looking for business opportunities and responding with businesses in mind after emergencies.

Wade-Brown said the capital's economic indicators were "more modest than they should be" and her council, from councillors down to the front desk staff, had not earned a pass mark to fulfil the guidelines. But was it was "moving rapidly".

Councils should say 'yes' to businesses often, 'no' to them less often, but never 'maybe', she said.

"To string businesses along and say, 'in a bit, in a bit', and then not deliver is not fair when they could be making better informed decisions and investments."

LGNZ said local and regional councils invested over $8 billion in infrastructure and services a year in order to support business operations.

Stuart Crosby, mayor of Tauranga and head of LGNZ's city sub-group, said if each city can identify distinctive competitive advantages and also collaborate together to allow businesses to grow, New Zealand Inc will be stronger for it.

"Collaboration is helpful when things run smoothly, but especially when things don't go so well," Crosby said, referring to the Bay of Plenty's kiwifruit PSA disaster.

The group's report found successful case studies such as Wellington's world premier party for The Hobbit movie and Dunedin City Council's Red Carpet, not Red Tape policy, where large business projects were given a council relationships manager to cut through bureaucracy.

Crosby said Tauranga had raised $30 million and gave land in order to get a university campus, with emphasis on marine science and logistics, management to help grow the Bay of Plenty economy.

Associate Local Government minister Sam Lotu-liga said local government initiatives were central to driving jobs and opportunities in their communities.

Business New Zealand chief executive Phil O'Reilly said: "These guidelines are very expansive and include many examples of councils that have aided large infrastructure, sustainability and tertiary education and have reduced the time of consent processes."

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O'Reilly said he hoped the effect of business-friendly councils would trickle down to smaller businesses, as well as the larger corporates.

- Fairfax Media

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