Council snubs Indian firms

Last updated 13:19 07/02/2014

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The Wellingtonian

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A high-powered Indian business delegation is not coming to Wellington after the city council declined funding for a trade fair to showcase the capital to the booming Indian market.

The visit was to coincide with next week's cricket test between India and New Zealand, and would have included delegates from top banking, IT and Bollywood firms.

The proposed delegation's total worth exceeded $100 billion.

Now questions are being asked about whether the rejection was because of the involvement of defeated mayoral candidate John Morrison.

Cricket Wellington, which organised the planned visit alongside Mr Morrison, said the test offered a golden opportunity to introduce businesses to Wellington before a New Zealand-India free trade agreement and next year's Cricket World Cup in New Zealand.

"We wanted cricket to be the vehicle for Wellington businesses to develop relationships with obviously a very attractive market," Cricket Wellington chief executive Peter Clinton said.

A similar visit organised by Mr Morrison to coincide with last year's AFL match at Westpac Stadium is estimated to have brought about $9 million in Australian business and tourism to the capital.

The council provided about $500,000 towards organising it.

In December, Cricket Wellington asked Wellington City Council for $200,000 to sponsor a trade fair at a high-profile venue such as Shed 6 or the Basin Reserve, and host lunches with Weta's Sir Richard Taylor and leading Wellington businesses.

The initiative was being driven by Google Asia head Richard Suhr, also a director of Cricket Wellington, who had invited 20 leading Indian businesses.

Some attendees would have paid for their flights and accommodation, and funding would have come from the council's $6 million economic development fund, which supports events such as WOW and the sevens.

Council officers recommended funding $150,000, but the application was declined on January 21 by mayor Celia Wade-Brown, deputy mayor Justin Lester, and councillor Jo Coughlan.

Mr Lester said the proposal lacked a proper budget from organisers, delegates' attendance was not confirmed, and there were reservations about a $50,000 management fee.

Mr Morrison said the canning of the visit was a blow for Wellington business.

"I'm very disappointed. It was a great opportunity," he said.

He had no idea where the suggestion of a $50,000 management fee had come from.

"It was a Cricket Wellington initiative, and Cricket Wellington would have shared in the profits, but there was no fee. That is rubbish."

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Mr Morrison said there had been sufficient time for the council to grab the opportunity.

"The visit was being arranged around the cricket test. We couldn't move the test dates, obviously.

"It required some progressive thinking by the council, and that has been lacking."

Porirua mayor Nick Leggett said he hoped the visit had not been sacrificed to personal animosity between the mayor and Mr Morrison.

"I would be disappointed to think personality politics got in the way of what could have been a great opportunity for the Wellington region," he said.

He believed the visit could have produced better results than Positively Wellington Tourism's campaigns and the Destination Wellington scheme, which together received $6.5 million in council funding this financial year.

Making decisions at speed was important for the region, he said.

Ms Wade-Brown denied the decision had anything to do with the involvement of Mr Morrison, who campaigned against her for the mayoralty last year.

She said that, as a previous member of the economic development panel, he should have known to give councillors more time to consider the proposal.

"Any business people who come - and it's an awful pun - off their own bat will be very welcome."



Richard Suhr, managing director of Geospatial Google Asia Pacific, and a director of Cricket Wellington, wrote to Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown and chief executive Kevin Lavery, detailing the names of some of India's largest companies, with which Cricket Wellington has relationships through commercial and cricket networks.

He named Tata Group, Tata Consulting, Mahindra Group, Maruti Suzuki, Reliance telco, Reliance Films, Google India, State Bank India, Team Computers, Navteq Nokia, Indian cements, Cognizant, Mindtree, Wipro, Genpact, Tata Steel, India infoline, ICICI Bank, Ashok Leyland, Punj Lloyd, Taj Hotels, Vodafone India, Karbonn, Baroda Bank, Bank of India and said there were many more.

"We believe that creating access to these companies will generate direct and measurable opportunities for Wellington and businesses based here," he said.

Mr Suhr spoke of access to distribution and sales networks throughout India and Asia.

He also pointed to the opportunity to develop joint commercial IP and technology projects and to showcase Wellington as a tourist destination to India.

- The Wellingtonian


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