Friday, 22 September 2017

Getting Christ Church Cathedral Back

It is a great relief that the decision has been made to restore Christ Church Cathedral. This is the beginning of a long and complicated process that must produce the best possible outcome for the heart of our city.

There are some critical elements of the restoration that need to be carefully managed and thought through.

The restoration is going to take a long time - anticipated somewhere between seven and ten years. This will involve the project being deliberately planned and executed over that timeframe. Importantly that execution will need to be done in a way that will have minimal impact on the heart of our city. It needs to be conducted in a way that adds attraction and interest to our central city as the restoration is conducted. That might mean that the restoration is visually accessible to the public in Cathedral Square.

Of course, the Cathedral needs to be restored in harmony with the Cathedral Square redevelopment. The Square is going through a massive reconstruction and this needs to be done to reinforce the positioning and presentation of Christ Church Cathedral in the Square.

We have got one chance to get this right. The restoration of the Arts Centre is showing us how that can be done with a staged rebuild, sensitive to its environment.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Better Connections

As the Christchurch and Canterbury economies continue to grow apace good infrastructure will be vital to ensure an increase in economic activity is well supported.

The evolution of our highway infrastructure is impressive and needs to continue. The work in progress to connect Christchurch to Rolleston with a four lane highway, the overbridge at the Airport (over State Highway 1) and the continuing progress on the Northern Motorway are all very encouraging.

Regardless of who assumes power post 23 September the continuation of four lane highways from Ashburton through to Pegasus township will be vitally important for our future. It will make an incredible difference to traffic flows on State Highway 1. If the proposed investment is adopted and quickly it will be another big step forward in good infrastructure in Canterbury that will reinforce this city and this region as a living destination of choice.

Regardless of the development of other forms of transport, good regional roading resulting in good connectivity is going to be important for a long time yet. From the perspective of ease of travel through to the efficient movement of products and the increased safety of our roading network, investment is necessary and welcome. 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

NZCCI Election Manifesto

The Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce is a key stakeholder in the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce and Industry (NZCCI).

NZCCI have prepared insight documents for the incoming Government after comprehensive consultation with membership across the country. We consider it to be critical that Central Government understands the needs of business, which are many and varied, and recognises the importance of businesses contribution to healthy sustainable communities.

We also are strongly of the view that our regions across New Zealand are quite different and require different levels of Government intervention and support to ensure optimal economic development and progress.

We have made it clear to Government that a one size fits all policy, whether that be covering immigration or infrastructure, is simply not appropriate and we look forward to working with whichever Government manifests itself post 23 September in the best interests of our members and the wider business community.

There are three insight documents:

1.  The first is directed towards the politicians and succinctly outlines our expectations. Click here to view.
2. The second is a member and community facing document which informs them of the rational behind our requirements for the incoming Government. Click here to view.
3. The third document contains all the background material which can be selectively mined to resource an intelligent business-political interface. Click here to view.

Friday, 18 August 2017

The Christchurch Health Precinct (Te Papa Hauora) – a key long term economic development project

Te Papa Hauora, the Christchurch Health Precinct, is a key anchor project in the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan - bringing together people and facilities. The Precinct will foster and develop partnerships and collaborations that drive innovation across the areas of health research, health professional education and development and clinical services.

Development of the Precinct is being led by The Health Precinct Advisory Council - a strategic leadership group comprising senior leaders of the tertiary health and education sectors: Canterbury District Health Board, University of Otago, University of Canterbury, and Ara Institute of Canterbury, working in partnership with Matapopore (the Canterbury Ngāi Tūāhuriri earthquake recovery group) and the Crown.

The Precinct will make a real long-term contribution to the economic well-being of Christchurch by attracting top quality researchers, businesses, students, health sector workers and associated staff to live and work in the city – indeed it will be a real magnet for talent.

Working with big data is key, as is more effectively linking the health system with industry to commercialise health technology, products and services. Importantly - given that proximity matters for innovation - opportunities exist for businesses to physically co-locate into the Precinct.

It will be simpler and easier for the business sector and collaborators to engage with Health through a single “front door” that provides immediate and coherent access to the capabilities residing in the Precinct.

The New Zealand Health Research Strategy released in June 2017 nicely sits alongside the Health Precinct’s research strategy, and will facilitate Precinct partners and collaborators to further drive innovation in the Precinct.  Government strategy actions identified include more funding to support transformative and innovative ideas; creating industry partnerships, and strengthening infrastructure to support the translation of research into products and services that improve health outcomes.

Canterbury has a strong tradition of clinical research and of collegial links with industry and clinicians who are interested in new ways of doing things. Features that set Christchurch apart from other centres include a single teaching hospital; a single medical school and a single funder of health – making Christchurch an ideal location for research. Additionally, Christchurch researchers are considered to be ‘friendlies’ to the industry and are proven to be innovative and responsive. Examples include the highly successful MARS programme where clinicians and researchers have collaborated to develop a world first colour CT scanner, recently commissioning the prototype for small animals in the US. The B&M Gates Foundation use Canterbury Health Laboratories as a reference lab for their developing countries vaccination programmes.

Christchurch also has strong Māori research capacity at the Ngāi Tahu Research Centre based at the University of Canterbury, and Otago University’s Maori and Indigenous Health Institute. Engagement with these Centres together with Ngāi Tahu’s Hauora programme will help to identify new opportunities for innovation in Māori health research, workforce development and education.

The Health Research Education Facility (HREF) currently under construction will co-locate health education, professional development, and research activities into a purpose-built facility designed to maximise opportunities for collaboration and innovation. Ara’s undergraduate nursing, radiography and midwifery students, and UC’s postgraduate health science students will relocate into the HREF. The HREF will set the stage for partners and collaborators to create a truly unique and innovative health education and research environment that will be of international interest.

This is another good example of how the city is changing its offering and capability as it faces a bright future. 

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The Chamber Board Nominations

Chamber Board elections are imminent. As part of our democratic governance process, every year six positions become available on our Board.

Existing Board members can be re-elected but it is always a good opportunity for those Chamber members interested in getting involved in governance at the Chamber to put their names and credentials forward for consideration.

Board elections are conducted through electronic voting and historically we have had keen interest from our membership. This ensures that those involved in governance are elected through a robust process to represent the interests of the Chamber on the Board for a two-year period.

The Board’s responsibility is to ensure that the policy and determination of the strategic direction of the Chamber is delivered upon by Management. The Board is made up of 12 Directors each serving a two-year term.

I would strongly encourage members to consider putting their names forward as we are an organisation that believes in a robust democracy at a governance level.

Nominations must be received no later than 5.00pm on Friday 18 August and more information on the process and key dates can be found here, the nomination form can be found here.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require further information on 366 5096 or email 

Monday, 31 July 2017

Working Better Together

As we track down to the General Election on 23 September the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce has joined with other Chambers across New Zealand in doing work on what businesses might expect from an incoming Government. Although the economy is in good shape and the prognosis for Christchurch and Canterbury is looking very good from a business perspective there is a lot we can still do better.

Central Government will be pivotal in assisting us to do just that. One of the areas that we think needs some more work is the need for Central and Local Government to work much better together. The interface between the two is often messy and unclear and both Central and Local Government tend to blame each other for the bits that fall down the middle.

There need to be new ways established to drive two-way conversations between Central Government and Local Government. We believe that Central Government needs to review where Local Government sits within the Central Government machine and we need to ensure that Local Government is adequately funded to deliver on roles delegated by Central Government. This will require some work on how Local Government is funded into the future as the current funding mechanisms will not be appropriate as responsibilities and roles continue to change.

We also need to ensure that Local Government is held to account for its collective action, its role in the community and its spending against agreed baselines. If specific work is done on this area by whoever establishes the next Government it has the potential to markedly improve Government outcomes at a national and local level for us all. 

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Concerns over news that Christchurch City Council is considering introducing the Living Wage

On Thursday 27 July the Christchurch City Council is considering the introduction of the Living Wage for Council employees. There is no doubt that the concept of the Living Wage is well intentioned. We all want everyone to be rewarded with higher wages as the economy improves. However, there is considerable controversy over the sustainability of the Living Wage concept and whether or not it can achieve its objectives. 

New Zealand’s current Living Wage campaign dates from 2013, based on a calculation by social researchers of the costs of a basic healthy lifestyle for a family of two parents and two children (one aged ten and one aged four), one parent working full time and the other part time. The living family rate was calculated in 2013 at $18.40 per hour and in 2017 sits at $20.20 per hour. Living Wages are calculated on the basis of a notional employee’s domestic circumstances rather than the value of their work (skills and productivity). Many of the potential recipients of the Living Wage will not meet this criteria.

However, if the work done by employees doesn’t generate sufficient value to pay their wages, something has to give. There is abundant literature arguing that lifting minimum wages without supporting increases in productivity may actually increase poverty and unemployment in the medium and long term. This can be readily accessed online through a simple google search (search: “minimum wages increase poverty”).  A central premise is that just increasing the minimum wage increases competition for that work.  The losers in that competition are usually the uneducated, unskilled and inexperienced i.e. those often already on the edge of poverty. 

No matter how an enterprise chooses to label its approach, the approach it takes to wages should be an economically rational and sustainable one.   It is therefore vitally important that enterprises, especially those that are spending ratepayers and taxpayers money, looking to increase wages to “Living Wage” levels do so in full knowledge of the potential consequences. 

This in part is why a majority of existing Living Wage employers are in community groups and taxpayer funded public and local government sectors where their existence is not immediately threatened by the need to be profitable.

Currently accredited “Living Wage employers” are made up almost exclusively of churches, community groups, unions, left wing political parties and a very small number of small and mainly “green” businesses (e.g. organic foods). None of the local authorities that have taken up the Living Wage brand are accredited Living Wage employers.

Our City Council is generally regarded as paying its employees well. It is hard to understand why employees of the Council alone should all be entitled to the Living Wage when other organisations owned by the Council will not be. This indicates an ideologically driven positioning funded eventually by the rate payers of the city. It also sends a strong signal that this could be the beginning of a trend towards adopting an arbitrary Living Wage figure across all entities associated with Council, as is happening elsewhere in New Zealand. When looking at the big picture, one could be excused for suspecting that the Living Wage campaign is simply about raising the minimum wage through the backdoor. That would be very damaging for first time employees and the New Zealand economy.

It is puzzling as to why the City Council would consider branding its employment remuneration under the “Living Wage” banner when it is perfectly capable of remunerating employees at levels which reflect their value and contribution to the enterprise.

In considering the adoption of the Living Wage the Council needs to be very clear of the additional permanent costs this will involve, the pressure that will come on to entities associated with the Council, and the impact on the wider community.

The very small number of larger private sector employers who have increased wages to “Living Wage” levels have all apparently done so in a staged and structured manner that aligns increases in wage rates to increases in the skills and productivity of employees. Employers in this category in fact are not following the Living Wage model as such, as their structured approach has added value to the workers’ labour, rather than compensated them for their domestic circumstances.    

The same could be said for SMEs striving to remain competitive and for whom an obligation to pay unsustainable minimum wages would mean closing down, or shifting into the informal economy. 

We can best achieve higher wages and good employment outcomes by growing the Christchurch and Canterbury economy. Lifting everyone’s wages is something we should all be aiming for, but it’s a matter of how we do that and the basis for it. It is not done by a stroke of a pen.

It is important to this city and our region that we are not seen to be followers of those who have not considered the consequences of adopting the Living Wage. Let’s be a leader of those who have.