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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.