Chamber invites leaders to visit

Leaders of the parties in the new government have been invited to visit Dunedin to talk to members of the Otago Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber chief executive Dougal McGowan confirmed to the Otago Daily Times he had invited prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and Green leader James Shaw to talk to his members.

During the election campaign, no leader of any political party took up an invitation to talk to business leaders in the city, something Mr McGowan was keen to rectify.

The chamber was seeking ``full understanding'' of the policies the new Labour-led government would be pursuing, such as any water tax, youth employment and skill shortages.

Dougal McGowan
Dougal McGowan

``If there is going to be a regional approach to those policies, we are keen to get a full understanding of what it will mean to this region.''

The impacts of overseas ownership bans would be particularly relevant to the region, he said.

A large sheep and cattle station was up for sale by Landcorp and whether the sale could proceed without constraints needed clarification.

Mr McGowan was also writing to local Labour MPs David Clark and Clare Curran to discuss a local agenda and how the chamber and the MPs could work together.

``There are unique opportunities for Dunedin, such as the rebuilding of the Dunedin Hospital and the $10 million regional initiative where we become an IT and technology hub.''

Crowe Horwarth managing tax partner Scott Mason said the tax working group seemed likely to go ahead but it it was in a holding pattern until the scope of its inquiry was set.

Already, it had been determined a capital gains tax, or a land tax, would not apply to the family home, but it was impossible to predict what the outcome would be on such things as water tax.

Most New Zealanders supported the idea of a tax on water exports.

``Water belongs to all New Zealanders but exporters of water should contribute to New Zealand. This is a different proposal to what was proposed by Jacinda Ardern before she stepped away from it.''

However, no-one had stepped away from the five-year bright-line test which meant any sales of property, other than the family home, could be taxed at a seller's marginal tax rate. If the seller earned more than $70,000 a year, the sale would be taxed at 33%, rather than a capital gains tax rate of 15% to 20%, Mr Mason said.

``Five years is a long time to hold on to a bach or a rental property.''

BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said if there were changes to immigration laws, and businesses could not access skilled labour through those channels, New Zealand's education system needed to respond.

BusinessNZ wanted to engage with the new Government on that issue, and the signs were good.

``We have had discussions with people who are likely to be cabinet ministers and they have been positive.''

Like Mr Mason, Mr Hope was keen to know more details about the tax working group, particularly around tax on savings.

New Zealand had one of the highest tax rates on savings in the OECD and he wanted discussions on savings to be part of the mix.

One good thing was Ms Ardern had been a spokeswoman for small business and already understood the pressures those businesses faced.

``It would be great to see additional policy on helping small businesses in there and someone as minister with experience of running a small business would be fantastic.''

Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley wanted work to continue on reversing the infrastructure deficit.

The Roads of National Significance projects were a good start and must continue. In addition, local government needed greater assistance to improve regional roads and both road and rail needed to be integrated to make the most efficient use of freight hubs and inland ports.

The election campaign illustrated the time for road pricing had arrived, he said.

All parties agreed the use of demand management through road pricing could have an impact on traffic congestion in Auckland.

A high proportion of peak time traffic was single-occupancy cars and road pricing could have a direct impact. As long as the system devised was fair across all road users, there was broad support for its introduction, Mr Shirley said.

The road transport industry was equally adamant the National Land Transport Fund must remained a ring-fenced, user-pays fund to be reinvested in roading and not used to subsidise other transport modes which made no contribution to it.

``The future of immigration policy is of concern to the new road transport industry and
we would caution the new government to consider very carefully the implications of further restrictive policy in this area.''


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