Otago is prepared to generate its own economic growth but
the Government can play its part in stimulating the growth at
very little extra cost, Otago Chamber of Commerce chief
executive John Christie says.
Asked to comment on the sheer scale of work planned in
Christchurch this year, Mr Christie said his comments were
aimed at what was good for New Zealand, with a particular
focus on Otago and New Zealand.
''New Zealand has to have strong regional economies but at
present, large amounts of money are going into two
supercities - Auckland and Christchurch.
''Christchurch has become the supercity for the South Island
and Auckland is becoming the supercity of New Zealand at the
expense of provincial New Zealand. This is evident around the
country. We are not facing this in isolation.''
Whether it was a reality or just perception, the Government
needed to pay attention in an election year as people in
regional New Zealand all had votes, Mr Christie said.
The regions had respect for the roles of Auckland and
Christchurch in the overall economy. They were important
gateways on which the country depended.
However, regional productivity was important and
consideration needed to be given to where New Zealand's
largest exporter - Fonterra - sourced its products from, he
The chamber would advocate setting up a regional reference
group, similar to the small business group which met previous
governments, to discuss issues of importance.
Each region had a unique strength and debates over the future
of institutions like Invermay, where AgResearch was
considering moving jobs to Christchurch, could be held in an
''We are not after handouts. All we want is the Government
making decisions in the best interests of the country.''
Mr Christie worried about an ''unsettling trend'' in which it
seemed the Government was moving towards central procurement,
shutting out smaller regional suppliers who were not
registered on the appropriate website.
''More and more, we are seeing local companies missing out to
large multinationals who can offer better pricing but not
necessarily better services.''
The chamber was aware of a Dunedin company that had its
supply contract cancelled because a larger multinational,
which specialised in supplying office products, decided it
could also supply hospitality supplies.
During the food procurement debate for district health
boards, it emerged a company had been set up specifically to
provide bulk purchasing for the health sector - at the
expense of smaller local suppliers.
That was being seen in other sectors, Mr Christie said.
''I believe this is the thin edge of the wedge. The
Government can grow its spending in the regions and boost
opportunities for small businesses at no more cost.''
In the Dunedin economic development plan, there had been
discussion about Dunedin City Council procurement, using
local companies in preference to outside suppliers, he said.
The Government was a significant purchaser of services and
could easily allow Dunedin business to provide services and
products to city-based government departments - if there were
any left, he said.
Other areas in which the Government could help included
immigration, whereby immigrants could be encouraged to spread
out to centres other than Auckland. The Government was adept
at attracting inward investment to the country and it could
look at spreading that among regions, like Otago. As
technology overcame geographical barriers, contact centres
were obvious examples of businesses which could be
established in Dunedin rather than Auckland.
He was ''seriously concerned'' as to how the new building
regulations would affect Dunedin building owners.
''There must be a way of alleviating pressure on building
owners. We are a city of heritage and old buildings, which
are not necessarily the same thing.''
More older buildings would be pulled down in the city to
become car parks as owners struggled to justify spending
money without an economic growth benefit, he said.
Ways to assist
• Adopt a regional procurement policy
• Encourage immigrants to settle in regional New
• Spread inward investment into the regions
• Retain or establish government departments in smaller