A Waitaki business leader says more should be done in
North Otago to attract businesses affected by the Christchurch
Otago Chamber of Commerce Waitaki Advisory Committee chairman
Gary Kircher fears the North Otago economy is being
disadvantaged by a lack of effort going into attracting
businesses wanting to move from Christchurch.
His comments follow similar statements by an Ashburton
business leader who said the Mid-Canterbury town had failed
to match aggressive promotional campaigns by Dunedin and
Timaru to lure Christchurch businesses facing earthquake,
staffing and insurance issues.
"There has never been a better opportunity to grow our
district's population and economic base and we should be
doing what other districts have been doing for the last 16
months," Mr Kircher said.
Promoting "Waitaki's natural advantages" to businesses
wanting to leave Christchurch - including a stable workforce,
suitable commercial and industrial land and good access to
freight infrastructure - was not the same as attempting to
steal business from Christchurch, he said.
"The Chamber of Commerce wants to be clear that this is
absolutely not about taking business from Christchurch, which
we want to see rebuilt and regain its strength," he said.
It was time the Waitaki District Council (WDC) reconsidered
its position, he said.
"We had this discussion almost a year ago with the WDC and
whilst there was some willingness on behalf of the Waitaki
Development Board to promote Oamaru and the wider Waitaki
district as a great option for those businesses wanting to
relocate, the council was less than enthusiastic."
His comments followed those of Grow Mid Canterbury chairman
Rob Brawley on Monday, whose appeal to the Ashburton District
Council for a seed fund of $130,000 to help develop a project
to attract businesses and large contracts from Christchurch
was turned down.
Mr Brawley noted the Dunedin City Council (DCC) had already
committed funds to help its businesses secure rebuild work,
and that Timaru's Aoraki Development Business and Tourism
board wanted funding from its council towards the same end.
The Timaru business organisation is asking its council for
$741,000 in funding, including an additional $50,000 this
year for a campaign to attract Christchurch residents. That
application followed research which suggested that most
people and businesses that relocated to the area in the
months following the earthquakes did so at the encouragement
of people living in and around Timaru.
While the financial position of the WDC was tight, Mr Kircher
believed the Waitaki Development Board had "various
promotional budgets that could be tapped into" and other
resources that could be redirected.
His group would be happy to consult the relative parties, but
had been "knocked back" previously and given the "distinct
message that [the council] were just not going to go there".
Waitaki Mayor Alex Familton said the council was taking a
more discreet approach to the situation.
"The approach was sensitive in as far as we particularly did
not want to be taking advantage of other people's tragic
circumstances, and felt that it would be insensitive to have
a public response," he said.
Advertising materials relating to the proposed Oamaru
business park had recently been delivered to 35,000 homes in
Christchurch, and exclusive agent A C Spivey Ltd had been
working with business interests in a "wide interface" to
point out business possibilities throughout the district.