Thursday, 22 December 2016

Oh Dear it is Almost Christmas

Santa was really angry. Time was running out and he had a lot to do to ensure that he met the expectations of all of his avid followers worldwide. If only I had a plan said Santa, every year I leave things to the last minute, I need some sort of strategic direction to ensure that I can do things on time, on target and within budget and once again I am going to fail on all three.

He looked around his cave. It was dominated by a dishevelled mass of toys. These look a lot like last years models he said, I should have done more research and development on current trends and innovative new technology to ensure that I was keeping up with the needs of my customers and the market. But then, he sighed to himself I simply dont have the back-office systems to enable me to develop a good database, to control my inventory, to ensure I have the addresses of all my recipients and to make sure that I dont deliver presents to naughty little children who simply dont deserve them. Why cant I be more accurate year after year.

He looked around and heard his reindeers scratching expectantly in the snow. Oh my goodness I have forgotten to feed them again he said, animal welfare issues how do I know how much to feed them before the long journey we are embarking on and how often I need to stop to replenish them?, I need more information. Where do I go to get it?

Then he reflected on the plight of his elves. His poor little elves, who year after year, work day and night with no reward. I have an employment issue here, I really should have some expert advice on employment relations. Look at that stupid elf chopping away on a new toy with a sharp knife and no protection. Goodness where is my health and safety programme? Wouldnt it be awful if I was prevented from delivering all of these presents because I had breached the new health and safety regulations and was detained and prosecuted.

One of the elves was heard to grumble I wouldnt be surprised if that happened. We have been treated badly for a terribly long time. We need some HR advice and Santa hasnt been good enough to search it out for us and make sure our working conditions are well protected and that we work in an empowering and flexible environment. There is nothing flexible about assembling toys year after year in a snow cave with no reward. And by the way Santa one called. You should access a wage and salary survey so that you can see what good elves should be paid, rather than just giving us a few crumbs from the Christmas Cake you collect on your rounds after your worldwide deliveries.

That is all very well for you to say said Santa I have got these worldwide deliveries to do and I dont know where I am going. How on earth do I get directions? Who can give me advice country by country on the demographics, the details, the geography and where I should be landing my sleigh?

To top it all off I have got a problem in Christchurch. There are no chimneys. How can I possibly deliver presents where there are no chimneys? I only wish that I could find some expert advice, particularly about that problem in Christchurch.

Thats not your only problem shouted an elf from a dark corner. You have no export documentation for any of your presents. You are going international Santa. You need to have certificates of origin and other export documentation to ensure that you will not get stopped at borders. How on earth are you going to get all those presents delivered in 24 hours if you breach all the Customs regulations?

You think that is a big deal? said another elf. He has got another problem with immigration. He is not going to have any right to cross those borders without the right visas and plant himself in other countries without an invitation. He needs some really good immigration and visa advice.

It is all such a hassle said Santa and it happens year after year after year. Life is simply getting much too complicated for me. I really do need some help.

Well Santa said a voice from a long way away, If you call on us here in Christchurch we will make you a complimentary member of the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce and we will resolve almost all of your issues, that will make everybody happy.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Lincoln University - knowledge and innovation for Canterbury's future

Christchurch is well known for its resilience, its “garden city” aesthetic, its strong balanced economy and as a go-to tourism destination. Something often not as well recognised about Christchurch and wider Canterbury is its integral role in the country’s agri-business sector, not only on a local level, but nationally and globally.

One institution often seen as the backbone of Canterbury, and New Zealand’s, agri-business industry is Lincoln University. For more than 138 years Lincoln University has focused on improving the country’s agricultural knowledge, wealth and productivity.

With a diverse student population of approximately 3500, from more than 60 different countries, Lincoln has built a reputation as an international leader in education, targeted at the growth and development of our primary production, the distribution sector and a range of related fields.

New Zealand’s largest land-based university, Lincoln is ranked 343 in the global ranking of tertiary institutions and number 100 when that field is narrowed to the disciplines of agriculture and forestry.

Lincoln is the country’s third-oldest university, founded in 1878 as a School of Agriculture, linked to Canterbury College. By 1896, the school separated from the college and formed its own governing body, which gave it the ability to award degrees through the University of New Zealand. In the early 1960s the university was officially renamed Lincoln College, a constituent college of the University of Canterbury. It became a self-governing institution in 1990.

Lincoln University has continuously adapted in order to better meet the needs of the modern commercial environment and the ever-changing agri-business sector. Courses have been structured to teach students the skills they need to operate in an increasingly specialised sector, now and in the future, and encompass practical skills as well as up-to-date knowledge of management and industry practices.

Lincoln offers a number of research-based programmes within its main campuses, many of which also extend to the university’s various farm portfolios. Lincoln offers hands on practical learning in food marketing, commerce, environmental management, landscape architecture, viticulture, tourism and property management. Research is a key aspect in every discipline and underpins its current mission – to help feed the world, protect the future and live well.

It is estimated that within the next 35 years the world’s population will reach 9.2 billion people, meaning food supply and production will be paramount, as too will be creating a sustainable environment for future generations. Lincoln’s ability to train the future leaders and innovators in this space, taking on the key problems faced by the world, will be integral to keeping Canterbury and New Zealand at the forefront of international agri-business.

In order to continue to produce top-quality graduates Lincoln has developed the Lincoln Hub (He Puna Karikari) in partnership with AgResearch, Landcare Research, Plant and Food Research and DairyNZ. The Hub will work combining with research industry and teaching and providing staff and students with various research and development-based opportunities.

An innovative network, education and research precinct (set to open in 2019 on the Te Waihora campus) the Hub will comprise five buildings, housing 706 staff and 900 scientists. It will involve the largest concentration of environmental and land-based researchers in the Southern Hemisphere.

The multi-faceted team behind the Hub is central to its success, part of Lincoln University’s recognition of the importance of building and developing partnerships between industry and research.

Lincoln University is a unique institution well equipped to educate the agri-business experts of tomorrow.

Lincoln’s ability to offer high-quality, future-focused education designed to meet the needs of the broad range of industries associated with the primary sector makes it vitally important to us all. Our future will depend to a large extent on how we apply clever innovative technologies to our natural capital. 

Friday, 2 December 2016

Protecting our power base

The recent 7.8 magnitude quake and series of aftershocks that have so drastically impacted the communities of North Canterbury serve as a harsh reminder of the benefits of foresight when it comes to investing in our own infrastructure assets.
After six years of earthquake recovery and rebuild, the city is in good shape to withstand the impact of future seismic events. We live in a seismic environment. It is for this reason that we must continue to invest in the resilience of key infrastructure that allows us to get on with our lives, and growing a thriving and vibrant economy.
Our electricity network is one of those critical fundamentals. It is also a great example of where foresight prepared the city well for some of its darkest days. Power was restored to the majority of the city very quickly after the February 2011 quake because of decades of prudent smart planning, investment and timely maintenance.
Although systems performed well there are still lessons to be learned. Orion openly states that its principle objective following the earthquakes has been to restore resilience to the network and reliability of power supply to our wider Christchurch community by 2019. That involves several significant projects – the 66,000 volt ‘northern loop’ cable project is one, as well as improvements to the supply to Lyttelton and the surrounding bays.
In working towards this goal Orion has approached the recovery and rebuild of the city in a disciplined and collaborative way. It is working with business, industry and community groups to ensure that in future events the network is resilient and flexible. The ability to reroute electricity flow away from damaged circuits to other, undamaged, parts of the network is critical to keeping the network working.
The recently completed northern loop project was five years in the delivery and is one of Orion’s largest ever projects. It is effectively a super highway solely dedicated to the effective distribution of power around and across the city. This will have a major positive impact on protecting our communities and businesses. It will also provide a strong foundation to support new technologies such as solar, battery storage and electric vehicles.
Recently there has been concern about interruptions to the electricity supply to the Lyttelton area. Lyttelton and surrounding areas are vital parts of our community fabric, and the port is critical to the success of our local economy. Improving the surety of power supply to and in the Lyttelton area is therefore a priority. Orion has been working on this issue for some time, but it’s not a quick fix and the investment required is significant.
The power supply to this area comes from the Heathcote Valley substation via two overhead lines that that share a common set of poles. This is tough terrain and a harsh climatic environment so there’ll be risk of power outages from time to time.
The best and most cost-effective way to improve the reliability of power supply to Lyttelton is to run a separate cable through the Lyttelton tunnel, which would then provide an additional source of power. But this requires NZTA approval because it owns the tunnel.
I understand Orion has been in conversation with NZTA for some time now and an agreement is not too far away. In the meantime, Orion has invested more than $1.5 million as a first step to improving the resilience of the Lyttelton network. This includes significant work on substation relocation and renewal.
Preparatory work has set the Lyttelton network up to receive the planned cable through the tunnel. Once an access agreement is finalised, phase two of the Lyttelton Project will commence with the installation of the cable through the tunnel, which should be completed within 24 months.
Further work is underway and more is scheduled on the two existing overhead lines into Lyttelton to improve the reliability of power supply in the interim.

Our community has been and will continue to be well served by Orion. It performed well in a post-earthquake environment and we can expect it to continue to finesse its operations through investment and innovation.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Applying learnings from disaster

The Christchurch business sector has learned much from the 2010/2011 earthquakes relating to how to respond and maintain economic activity in a community.

Never did we think that the lessons we learned in Christchurch would have to be applied to a community so close to home in such a short timeframe. The devastation in Hurunui and Kaikoura is still becoming apparent. The reality is that there are businesses who are stranded, who have disrupted supply chains and broken premises. Further they lack the essential services such as water, power, wastewater and communications to carry on their businesses. On top of all that in many cases their markets have simply dried up. When you have a tourist dependent business and the tourists are not coming you are in trouble. There is no doubt that many of the communities in the Hurunui and Kaikoura districts, including Kaikoura itself, are in dire straits.

One of the critical factors in Christchurch was the importance of providing cashflow to businesses to maintain the fabric of the business until it could get up and running again. Post 2010 I described it as business as usual when there is no business. The lessons we have learned in Christchurch put us in a very good space to help communities to the north. I have often used Kaikoura as a classic example of the interdependency between sustainable profitable business and community wellbeing. With the rapid growth of eco-tourism, corner-stoned by the whale watch activities, Kaikoura has changed from a small railway town to a bustling and vibrant community. Its proposition evolving around eco-tourism is the epitome of sound sustainable business activity. However, if the business activity in Kaikoura is not supported immediately it will be severely compromised and it will take a very long time for the Kaikoura community to recover.

Here are some examples of what I think should be applied to the Kaikoura business community and beyond to ensure that affected businesses can be maintained until markets are restored:
  • One of the most critical issues in Christchurch was the introduction by the Government of the Earthquake Support Subsidy that provided cashflow for businesses until they could get themselves into recovery mode. It was based on a number of dollars per employee per week. It was delivered on a high trust basis and it was a very significant component in business survival in Christchurch. It is very good to see that mechanism being immediately introduced into Kaikoura, Cheviot, Waiau, Rotherham, Mt Lyford and Ward. This will make a significant and positive difference to affected businesses.
  • We would expect, as was the case in Christchurch, that banks will adopt a very supportive and lenient stance for their customers. Offering additional working capital, delaying loan repayments and being generally supportive of the businesses who are effected by the earthquake directly or indirectly.
  • The Inland Revenue Department effectively provided cashflow support to businesses in Christchurch by delaying payments of GST and provisional tax. We would expect the same thing to happen in this instance.
  • Insurance companies in Christchurch did make fast provisional payments on business interruption insurance and property damage to enable cashflow to be supported.
  • The Government, through its various other agencies, provided support for workers and employees where their companies had indeed collapsed and provided support for recovery operations both in the rural sector and urban precincts.
  • The Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce provided a safe pair of hands for business providing internet based support, a call centre and business recovery coordinators that were put out into the community to assist businesses through the challenging times.
  • Businesses helped each other out within and across regions.

We know from the Christchurch experience that these mechanisms combined resulted in minimal business attrition and in fact ensured that through business survival the greater Christchurch community was in good shape to embrace a full-on recovery programme.

The numbers of businesses effected in Hurunui and Kaikoura are much smaller than those impacted in Christchurch but it is just as important that they are supported as they underpin the rural and regional communities in that area. Of course, it is also important that we reinstate appropriate connectivity into the areas within the Hurunui and Kaikoura districts and that involves immediate air and sea support as is already being evidenced. It also involves careful planning to ensure that State Highway 1 and the rail link are options that are considered urgently and strategically. Alternative road access into all the areas will be essential in the short term and it is pleasing to see the emphasis being put on the inland Kaikoura route and the obvious dependency that heavy transport will have on the Lewis Pass in the foreseeable future.

As Hurunui and Kaikoura regenerate themselves their businesses and their infrastructure in the post-earthquake environment they will do so in a way that points to the future as we have done in Christchurch.

The immediate international response to the 14 November earthquake was that once again Christchurch and the South Island had been devastated by a seismic event. Of course, this is blatantly incorrect and we all need to do what we can to ensure that the rest of the world understands what has happened and what it really means for our community. The regeneration of this city has been done in a way to accommodate seismic events and that has proven to be the case with almost no damage in our city as a consequence of the 7.5 seismic event in our region. Tourism will continue to be important for the whole of the South Island and particularly important for the earthquake effected area with both Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura heavily dependent on tourism activity. We need to show the world that although this event has knocked those districts back a little they are getting up and getting going and will still offer some of the most spectacular tourism offerings in the world. We must not let perception get in the way of reality and recovery. 

Friday, 4 November 2016

International education in Canterbury - contribution and opportunities

International students are welcome in Christchurch. Recent news items have discussed the challenges around visas for international students in other parts of New Zealand. It is timely therefore, to reinforce and recognise the contributions they make to our city and our region.

In 2015 we had 11,542 students come to Christchurch to study. They were in primary and secondary schools and universities, The Ara institute and private training establishments. They contributed $311m to our local economy. The Canterbury International Education Leadership Accord, that includes the institutions that provide international education services to students, is working to grow our student visitors to 25,580 by 2025.  The contribution they will make to our city and region will be $937m. As valued visitors to Canterbury, they will spend on average $37,300 each on hospitality, activities and accommodation.

The Government, through Education NZ, supports the work of the Accord and recognises that these students and their families who visit Canterbury, return to their countries as ambassadors for us, and encourage many others to visit, study, work and play in our beautiful city.

As Christchurch expands and changes after the 2011 earthquakes, we know that we need to attract and retain skilled workers in our technology, business, and agricultural sectors to contribute to economic growth. Almost half of our new residents, who decide to stay in Canterbury and make it their home, first visited Christchurch on a student visa. We want these talented and energetic visitors to stay in Christchurch and make it their home.

Many agencies, including the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce, The Canterbury Development Corporation, Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism, Christchurch International Airport and our City Council, know that these visitors support economic growth and make our city a cosmopolitan and exciting place to live and work. Our city, on the whole, welcomes these students.

However, we need to ensure we offer a consistent quality of service and experience that matches the level of commitment our visitors have made in choosing to come to Christchurch. They have made a courageous decision to come to our country and city, and from time-to-time they may feel isolated and homesick. How we welcome them and look after them is an important way for us to say thank you, but also to demonstrate to them that they are a valued part of our community.

If we look at the likely 25,580 students who will be living and studying in Christchurch by 2025, there are some other less obvious opportunities for us to consider. Our students can be one of the catalysts for reinvigorating our central city with new places to stay and play – they will need somewhere live and recreate. The opportunity for carefully planned and exciting approaches to new urban development, and hospitality and activities in central Christchurch are perhaps one of the most significant opportunities. Imagine 25,000 new residents living in town and the stimulus they will provide for businesses and developers to create a new vibrant centre for Christchurch.

All of us who are charged with the stewardship of our city and call it home, can make a contribution to be even more welcoming and supportive of our student visitors and their families. As employers we have the opportunity to access new talent, new ideas and new investment that is stimulated by international students and we all have an opportunity to make Christchurch an even better place to live study work and play.

International Students are an important ingredient in making our city special, now and into the future. We should recognise and support them for that.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Canterbury air gets fresher from November 2016

This November, Cancer Society Canterbury-West Coast Division will be launching Christchurch’s first Smokefree outdoor dining pilot. We have been on the lookout for local cafes and restaurants who were keen to make their outdoor areas smokefree, whilst enjoying some fantastic promotion and support along the way.

Working in partnership with the Canterbury District Health Board, this Pilot is the next step following our research on Smokefree outdoor dining undertaken with 137 Christchurch hospitality venues last year. Findings from the research indicated that 60% of respondents thought that a voluntary pilot was the best way to introduce smokefree outdoor dining. 

We asked, they answered and we listened. From here the Fresh Air Project – A taste of Smokefree outdoor dining pilot was born. 
The following 20 venues will go Smokefree outdoors from November 1st:
Laneway Espresso, Café Metro:St Albans, Ferrymead and Merivale, Joes Garage Sumner, Emperor’s New Clothes, Boatshed Cafe, Raspberry Café, Local at Riccarton House, Lonestar Papanui, The Tea House, Café 186,Addington Coffee co-operative, Ilex Cafe– Botanical Gardens, Coffee Culture: Merivale and Sumner, Savoire Café and Wine Bar, Under the Red Verandah, Oddfellows,  and Robert Harris, Rolleston.

Each week a new venue will feature as the Fresh Air Venue of the week,helping to profile that business for being part of the Smokefree pilot.

Under The Red Verandah’s Jennifer Kippenberger said “when we go Smokefree, the main benefits will be for families. They can sit together outside and not worry about someone lighting up next to their toddler”.  Jennifer added, “I’m hoping that the next generation are smarter than my generation as far as smoking goes and we can play a part in that”.

For further information contact Amanda Dodd at Cancer Society Canterbury West Coast Division DDI: 03 353 9871 and visit

Friday, 21 October 2016

International Visitors – Can We Cope?

It is very clear that New Zealand, and the South Island in particular, is on the verge of an exponential increase in international visitors. Tourism is now the country’s biggest industry with $14.5 billion generated in the current year. We are expecting 4.5 million visitor arrivals by 2022. This year we will host 380,000 visitors from China and that will grow to 500,000 in 2017. These are big numbers and this is a critical industry for our country.

New Zealand is sold to the world largely on the majesty and beauty of the South Island, even though a disproportionate number of tourists land in Auckland and concentrate their visitor experience in the North Island. However, the secret is out. Tourism numbers to the South Island, especially free independent travellers, who spend significant sums of money, are on the increase and we are seeing increasing pressures on our general infrastructure as numbers grow. This is a very positive problem for New Zealand and for the South Island in that tourism provides a diverse range of job opportunities, a significant amount of foreign exchange earnings and also assists to connect our country better with other countries to realise other opportunities.

However, we have some challenges. The capability of many of our tourism operators needs to be enhanced and they need to manage the growth accordingly. Growing companies face issues with regards to capital constraints, internal business processes and human capability.

We also have infrastructural challenges. Our international air carriage capacity is increasing in a carefully coordinated way, particularly into markets with high visitor potential. Our roads are in relatively good shape, but we are under increasing pressure with regard to visitor accommodation. This is not only as a result of the earthquakes but in the other areas throughout the South Island accommodation is becoming choked.

Then of course we see the issue of how small communities can provide facilities for visiting tourists, such as toilets and hospitality offerings. This is a particularly fraught issue when it comes to rate payers in small areas being expected to provide significant tourism facilities.

While we welcome all of the opportunities that increasing international tourism brings to the South Island we must be careful we do not destroy the very offerings they have come to see. Guardianship of our prime tourist offerings is vital as is the spread of visitors right across the South Island to take pressure off the hot spots. We also need to explore how we can continue to host our visitors across the year, not just in the peak season. A South Island wide coordinated visitors strategy will be critical. In Christchurch we now have a strategy in its early stages of development and it is important that that be developed alongside the overall aspiration for our city. Tourism will continue to be a leading contributor of our economy, with Christchurch operating both as a gateway to the South Island and also a tourism destination in its own right.

New tourism offerings such as the Christchurch Adventure Park need to continue to be developed to ensure we get a good spread of activities to entertain and enthral our international visitors. We also need to ensure that across our population we welcome and relate to visitors from other countries. Next to our scenery, the prime reason tourists visit the South Island of New Zealand is our people and that of course includes our cultural heritage and diversity. We are on the doorstep of the biggest economic opportunity of our generation. We need to do it well and we need to get it right.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Post-earthquake workplace dynamics

Workplace dynamics are changing quickly everywhere with the increased use of technology and changing expectations of employers and employees. Nowhere has this been more evident than in Christchurch in a post-earthquake environment.

The earthquakes forced an acceleration of changes in workforce and workplace dynamics through necessity which will be locked into the city and the region’s future. For example, there was an increase in flexibility in the workplace. The change in the working environment for many of us necessitated flexibility as did the importance of our families’ welfare in a tumultuous post-earthquake environment. Although this has its challenges in some employment situations, generally it provides a better working environment, increased productivity and a better employer/employee relationship.

We have also seen a rapid increase in employees operating in empowering environments. The emphasis on outcomes rather than on prescriptive work agendas has been accelerated post-earthquake. In my opinion it is the responsibility of every good employer to create a partial vacuum of opportunity around all of the employees to reduce boundaries and to create news spaces in which employees can migrate and realise their real potential.

Another area of rapid change has been the reinforcement of the trend towards open plan. Work spaces post-earthquake many companies were forced to work in temporary and sub-optimal worksites which more often than not involved crowded working conditions and employees working, whether they liked it or not, in an open plan environment. A consequence of that is that most of the employers and employees who were forced to work in an open plan environment now find that a preferable and more efficient way to work.

It was very clear in Christchurch that after the tumultuous events of September 2010 and February 2011 people learned how to work better together. We have seen across a wide range of Canterbury companies much better collaborative endeavours with employees stepping outside their specified areas of activity to work on whatever it takes to achieve better outcomes for themselves and for their companies.

In addition to collaborating internally we have seen a much greater emphasis on employees and employers working together across sectors especially where companies were thrown together by necessity in a post-earthquake environment. Working with each other delivers extremely positive outcomes compared to the entrenched silo mentalities of the past. For five years many of us have led a day to day nomadic existence. Now that we are moving back into rebuilt, permanent office space it is very interesting to note how employees right across the corporate spectrum are thinking more strategically. New Zealanders are not good strategic thinkers and this is a very healthy trend that we are seeing unfolding in the context of the regeneration of our city.

Finally, from an employment perspective it is most encouraging to see how more and more employees in Christchurch are recognising and appreciating the independencies not only across the city but between the city and the wider region. In the day’s post-earthquake all of us in the city realised just how dependent we were on the wealth creators right across our region and how that activity helped to support us through the dark days of 2010/2011. That understanding is now engrained in our workforce and our corporate sector very much to the betterment of our city and our region. We are working better together and we need to.

As we continue to regenerate greater Christchurch these workplace dynamics will continue to evolve and in my opinion will put this region ahead of the rest of New Zealand in terms of complementary highly productive workplace outcomes. This is the sort of post-earthquake legacy that should never be taken for granted.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Business expectations of Local Government

With the Local Government elections looming it is important to reinforce what the business community expects from Local Government, in the context of being supportive of business, given how critical it is for any community to have a healthy business sector.

Local Government needs to be business friendly. Being business friendly means providing opportunities for interaction by business with the city in a friendly, efficient and cost effective manner and in a way that optimises sustainable economic growth for the benefit of all.

It is timely to remind all candidates why being business friendly is important. Fundamentally it is about the compelling linkage between sustainable, profitable business, community wellbeing, and individual welfare. However, a business friendly Council is also important because the local economy must grow to achieve the Council’s aspirations as expressed in its Long Term Community Plan. Of course, we need to generate wealth for our community to thrive. Christchurch is still regarded, relatively speaking, as a low wage economy and businesses and employers are determined to change that.

Christchurch City Council has a mission of adding value to the local economy and has declared its intent to advocate in the interests of the whole economy including the business community. It follows therefore that the Council must be seen to be inadvertently business friendly in the context of wider community support. As we regenerate our city, most of us understand that vibrant businesses are a critical component of a liveable city. During this regeneration phase the Council must be seen to be overtly business friendly to optimise positive business outcomes. A Council that stands in the way of sustainable profitable business will impose a major barrier for good business outcomes and will discourage the investment of capital in our city.

Our challenge to the incoming Council, which has been our challenge to the Council for many years, is that the Christchurch City Council be recognised as the most business friendly Local Government in New Zealand. It can do that by making a declaration to be business friendly, because attitude is important, and because this will give us an edge over other communities. Everyone in Council, both elected representatives and staff, must be encouraged to think business friendly. Council must ask itself constantly what it can do to support and encourage local business activity.

The Council should be intent on actively attacking and reducing compliance costs. It should think of compliance through the eyes of the business community. The Council should activity support local business given all other factors being equal. It should make sure that its infrastructure is supportive of business activity and it should be fair in apportioning the city’s running costs, rates and user charges. The Council must not subsidise one business against another or offer cash incentives or selective rates relief. They distort the economy.

The Council needs to work closely, collaboratively and constructively with local business support agencies and it needs to support cross community collaboration to grow the economy. It is important that the Council is seen to be prepared to be accountable and rectify issues that are seen to be anti-business. It needs to have a long term sensible and predictable planning framework. It is critical that we are overtly promoting sustainable business growth in our community and that we have new models of collaboration in a very busy post earthquake period to encourage efficiency and to maximise productivity. A business friendly Council can materially assist in this endeavour. We lay down the challenge and we look forward to working with the incoming Council to achieve our common objectives.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Prime Minister and Mayor jointly open The Chamber offices

The new home of the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce was officially opened on Thursday 15 September by the Rt. Hon. John Key and Hon. Lianne Dalziel at a special opening celebration.

Peter Townsend, CEO Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce, led the formalities before the Prime Minister and Mayor unveiled the plaque, declaring the new facilities officially open. The Prime Minister and Mayor were invited to jointly open the building as a signal of local and central government’s commitment to work together on the rebuild of our city and central business district.

The Chamber relocated back to 57 Kilmore Street in July after spending five and a half years in various locations following the February 2011 earthquake.

“It’s been quite the journey since that devastating day. Our first post-earthquake residence was at my personal house in Holmwood Road where the team worked tirelessly to support Canterbury businesses to get back up on their feet. Six months later we moved to the Westpac Hub, then to Colombo Street, and now we’re back home … for good. Words can’t express how great it feels!” Peter Townsend said.

Construction for the new facilities started in December 2015 and was completed in July 2016. The building has an open plan workspace for their 30 staff and allows for future growth. In addition, it features multi-functional meeting spaces and two fully equipped function rooms which will accommodate the majority of The Chamber’s training courses and many of their events.

“This is the first time in The Chamber’s 157 years of existence we’ve had purpose-built facilities for our members. The Chamber offers over two hundred events and training courses every year which are attended by thousands of Canterbury business people. It’s great to be able to hold the majority of those in our new home allowing members to be better connected and supported by us” said Leeann Watson, General Manager of The Chamber and project manager for the facility rebuild.

“It’s been a long time in the planning so it’s wonderful to see it be officially opened today; we are extremely proud of the legacy we have created for our members. Miles Construction and Canterbury Property Investments Group have done a superb job creating a flexible and future focused facility. We must also thank those who helped us over the last five and a half years, and to our members for their continued support – it’s been an incredible journey.

Peter Townsend talked of the future for The Chamber and what a facility like this means.

“We’re a membership organisation who are about helping our members do business better. This is the beginning of a number of changes as we head into a period of transformation and positive change. We’re under no illusion – the business world is changing dramatically with the digital evolution - we are going to be a part of that to ensure Canterbury businesses feel well supported and have the necessary tools to continue to thrive.” Townsend said.

“Members have always been at the heart of everything we do at The Chamber. The new building locks in a future-proofed legacy for us; we are here to support Canterbury businesses long-term.”

Today’s opening was well attended by over 100 special guests of The Chamber and featured a ‘best of our region’ food theme. The Chamber is holding an Open Day on Friday 7 October for all members to view the new premises and be updated on the future of The Chamber. Members are encouraged to drop in anytime between 11am – 2pm. 

Monday, 12 September 2016

How critical is lobbying and advocacy?

The organisation that I am proud to lead, the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber), plays a vital role in lobbying and advocating for businesses to be able to operate in a supportive environment. This is one of the critical functions of the Chamber ably assisted by its affiliations with the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce and Industry (NZCCI) and BusinessNZ.

The lobbying role often goes unnoticed and is sometimes taken for granted. However, if we did not have business support agencies such as the Chamber and its associated entities there would be no coordinated voice for business and we would be on the receiving end of rules and regulations that would work actively against the ability for businesses to operate.

The Chamber for many years has been lobbying and advocating for sensible employment legislation, realistic health and safety laws, the sustainable use of water in our region, simple and transparent tax regimes, and issues around energy usage and climate change both directly and through our other relationships. For example, BusinessNZ is currently advocating on the issues of taxation of employee share schemes, competition law, Holidays Act problems, anti-dumping legislation and has recently, together with the Chamber, been advocating against the Minimum Wage (Contractor Remuneration) Amendment Bill.

The Minimum Wage (Contractor Remuneration) Amendment Bill known as the Contractor Bill was a potential piece of legislation promoted through a Private Members’ Bill that had the ability to blur the difference between a contracting relationship and an employment relationship. Contracting relationships and employment relationships are both legitimate forms of utilising labour. In late August, there was a real possibility that the Contractor Bill would become law and create a massive amount of confusion for the business community at large. Despite the fact that BusinessNZ, which is partially funded by the Chamber, opposed the bill as far as back as September 2015, it had reached the stage that it had a majority of political support to be passed by Parliament. That would have resulted in a bill that was impracticable, uneconomic and breached basic legal principles.

The Private Members’ Bill was put forward by the Labour Party and supported by the Greens, New Zealand First and Maori Party. It was also originally supported by the MP, Peter Dunn. The combined voting power of that group would have given it sufficient votes to be passed through Parliament.

The business community through business support agencies such as the Chamber made it clear that the bill was poorly drafted and would result in confusing the employment contracting interface. It was obvious that it would cause significant damage across the contracting sector. We went on to assert that contracting is a legitimate method of providing services and the bill attempted to draw more closely together the contracting and employment relationships. We maintained that if passed it would result in confusion and be impossible to regulate. We insisted the bill needed to be dropped to avoid a wide range of destructive unintended consequences and that we could do much better for our employment and contracting communities.

Our view was shared by business support agencies across the country who lobbied hard to ensure that the bill did not become law. As a direct result of that intense lobbying the voting shifted to the extent that the Minimum Wage (Contractor Remuneration) Amendment Bill was defeated by one vote in Parliament in late August.

This is just one example of the importance of lobbying and it is great to see how effective we can be if we work together in the interests of business and the wider community. Good legislation is critical; poor legislation can be incredibly destructive. The Chamber is a strong advocate of transparent mutually beneficial, high quality, employment and contracting relationships. We strongly oppose poor legislation that would undermine either or both relationships.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Good Health Threatened

There has been a great deal of media coverage recently about the Canterbury health system and the constraints it faces. Amid the confusion, it is timely to recognise what the total health system (led by the Canterbury DHB) has actually achieved.

Despite the challenging circumstances post the 2010/2011 earthquakes, our health system has continued to deliver the very best care to our community. There will always be people whose needs haven’t been met, but our health system has always been there for the people of Canterbury. The leadership of our health system has made a personal commitment to ensuring that, whatever happened after the earthquakes, the community could rely on its health system.

Keeping the Canterbury health system on track has necessitated creative solutions to problems never faced by any organisation before.  The system needed to keep services running safely from damaged buildings, including delivering surgery during thousands of aftershocks and it needed to find innovative ways to change services in response to the changed needs of broken and fragmented communities. This included a dramatic increase in mental health demand.  It also needed to have an eye to the future and planning future services and facilities. 

The enormity of these challenges cannot be underestimated. The 18,000 people that work in community and primary care, hospital, mental health and public health services took this opportunity to make the Canterbury health system even better. And they have. In every respect it rates highly amongst its peers as an efficient, effective health system. It is internationally recognised and praised as one of the top five integrated health systems in the world.

Solutions developed in Canterbury are now being adopted around the world. In the UK another journey is starting, to implement the Canterbury way of working. This follows in the footsteps of most of Australia. The NHS England transformation strategy “Five Years Forward” was informed by what they learned from Canterbury.  Canterbury clinicians and leaders are sought-after speakers in international forums. Locally, the Canterbury approach has been used as a case study by the Productivity Commission, the States Services Commission and ACC. Internationally, the list is longer and includes the World Bank, the Kings Fund and the World Health Organisation. And last year the Canterbury Clinical Network won the IPANZ Supreme Award for public sector value.

These are high accolades indeed!

But all of this is at risk as yet another challenge is thrown at a system which is already so stretched. The replacement acute hospital is still two years away and our population is increasing rapidly. However, and inexplicably, Canterbury’s share of national funding is declining which is placing extreme financial pressure on the DHB.

With everything Canterbury has had to deal with, and in unique circumstances, I would have thought that the Ministry of Health might have considered the impact of continuing to apply the standard funding formula. They might have questioned a formula that reduces Canterbury’s share of national funding, despite an increasing population. Other experts have noted that post earthquakes, population changes and changes in health need, make the use of a population based funding formula inappropriate.  Canterbury is leading the world in understanding the impacts of a major natural disaster, on a first world country and the possibilities of an integrated system. The rest of the world is watching Canterbury!

The level of impact on the health and wellbeing of this community as a result of New Zealand’s largest natural disaster is unprecedented. In my opinion it is now time for the DHB to be supported and encouraged to continue to do what it has done so incredibly well – meet the needs of its community, without negative interference, under funding, or undermining from the Health Ministry.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Post-Earthquake: The Facts, The Figures, The Forecast

As part of my role with the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce I am often asked to speak publicly about where we are at in post-earthquake Christchurch, particularly from an economic perspective. Given the ever changing nature of the recovery I often just speak “off the cuff” without notes, however I am frequently asked for a summary of my address (particularly the facts and figures) which many in my audiences have found of great interest. So here is my up to date assessment of where we are at in the story of the regeneration of Christchurch.

2016 will see us halfway through the reconstruction of our city. We have a total of approximately $32 billion of reconstruction activity out of a total earthquake cost of between $45 and $50 billion. This year we will have spent to date around $17 billion on residential reconstruction, commercial reconstruction and public sector rebuild. The total expected cost of residential repairs is around $12.7 billion, commercial reconstruction will total around $13 billion and public sector/civil reconstruction around $6.5 billion. These costs do not include the costs of land damage, land remediation and regeneration activity outside physical construction. We are currently spending $100 million a week on the rebuild which totals around $5 billion per year. That is expected to continue through to the end of 2018 when it will gradually decline through to 2024/2026.

The good news is we are halfway through our reconstruction; the other good news is we still have halfway to go. Any perception that the rebuild has peaked needs to be eliminated from our thinking. The rebuild has plateaued and we will continue to spend $100 million a week regenerating our city for some years to come.

One of the interesting aspects of the rebuild that is not well understood is the role of insurance. Insurance monies, including private sector insurance of $20 billion and EQC of around $13 billion, is very much underpinning the regeneration of our city. Total insurance of $33 billion being applied to a population of around 360,000 is unprecedented worldwide. Although we have had our issues with the insurance companies the reality is that Christchurch was the best insured community ever to have been struck by a major disaster when measured on insurance cover per capita. Also, when looking at the total cost of the earthquakes, I know of no other community of 360,000 people anywhere in the world that has incurred the damage of $45 billion in such a confined area. We are all living through a unique experience.

The other interesting issue about insurance is how it is playing out in terms of the regeneration of Christchurch. The $33 billion of insurance proceeds is underpinning the rebuild. Just looking at our housing stock $3 billion of insurance proceeds has already been applied to repairing 70,000 houses that had under $100,000 of damage through the Fletchers EQR programme (which is now complete). A further $10 billion of insurance money is being applied to rebuilding and repairing approximately 25,000 houses that had in excess of $100,000 worth of damage or were red zoned or destroyed altogether. We lost a total of around 10,000 of those homes completely.

The really interesting statistic is that of those 25,000 homes, approximately 5,000 will be rebuilt or repaired through insurance managed processes. The balance of 20,000 homes will be cash settled and the cash proceeds will be in the hands of the homeowner to affect the rebuild or repair. We can expect some slippage with some of those insurance proceeds with people deciding to spend money elsewhere, however it is very evident that a lot of people who are repairing or rebuilding homes are applying more money to the rebuild or repair than their insurance company has paid them. This will mean that we are going to end up with a lot of high quality, new, energy efficient, strong and safe homes in our city.

From a commercial perspective we are also seeing a massive amount of insurance money being reinvested into the commercial rebuild in our city. The total of $13 billion that will be applied to restoring the commercial building fabric of mainly central Christchurch will result in a high quality offering of accommodation, hospitality, office and retail space. There are some signs that there may be a short term over supply of office space, particularly in the central city and in the suburbs of Christchurch, as people start to move around and back into the central city. That will be a normal part of the process of regeneration and we can expect a bit of bouncing on the way through in the terms of supply and demand. However, again the end result will be a high quality building stock which is well designed, strong, functional and offering much better accommodation of all types than was the case prior to the earthquakes.

Our civil construction is advancing satisfactorily with the horizontal infrastructure largely due for completion by the end of 2016 at a total cost of around $3 billion. The other civil and public sector investments are starting to manifest themselves in the city. The most obvious of which are clearly evident with the Justice Precinct, Environment Canterbury’s new building, the Bus Interchange and the Avon River Precinct redevelopment all making their presence felt.

The official end date for the rebuild of Christchurch is projected to be 2026 with the tailing off of regeneration from 2018/2019. The opportunities throughout the city and Canterbury, together with the massive challenges ahead in construction across New Zealand, will ensure that opportunities to actively participate in the economy will continue. Christchurch is indeed a city with opportunity and that opportunity in the context of a rebuild is with us for a long time yet. 

Monday, 1 August 2016

Lyttelton Port of Christchurch

I spent some time in Lyttelton last weekend. It is a remarkable community steeped in history and with an eclectic retail and hospitality offering. Of course it is a community completely integrated with our Port.

Lyttelton Port of Christchurch (LPC) is in one of the most exciting stage of development in its history as it rebuilds and enhances the Port to meet Canterbury’s increasing freight demands and ensure it has the capacity and capability required for the future. The Port is a vital strategic asset with an essential role in Canterbury’s growth and the recovery of Christchurch.

The Port is the gateway for South Island trade. It manages 56% of the South Island’s total import/exports and its volume growth is forecast to increase at greater than GDP levels throughout the next 30 years, from over 370,000 TEU (20 foot containers) to about 1.2 million TEU a year by 2043.

Its billion dollar redevelopment features more than twenty large projects which are either underway or being planned. Together, these will create a thriving Port for the future. All the projects are inter-related and the success of each is imperative for the overall success of the planned development.

The Port needs to have the right facilities and capacity to continue to attract major international shipping lines. This gives the region’s exporters and importers access to completive fright networks and cost effective access to markets and goods. The Port’s redevelopment provides local, national and international customers with confidence to invest and do business in Canterbury.

The Lyttelton Port Recovery Plan (LPRP) is the blueprint for the journey ahead. It was developed with extensive community feedback and engagement. The public were overwhelmingly supportive of the Port’s plans and LPC remains committed to engaging the community.

A key focus is moving Port operations to the east onto land being reclaimed in the west in Te Awaparahi Bay. This will free up parts of the Inner Harbour for public access. The aim is to redevelop Dampier Bay to create an engaging and vibrant waterfront for the enjoyment of locals and visitors and provide a new 200 berth marina with modern amenities.

Already this year we have seen the Port achieve major milestones in its development. In June MidlandPort, LPC’s new Inland Port at Rolleston, opened providing a rail connection for container freight with Lyttelton Port.

It is a step change in container freight efficiency for the region and in supporting Canterbury and the South Island’s long term trade growth. It is strategically positioned at the intersection of major arterial transport routes to offer shippers in the region unprecedented connectivity throughout the South Island and rail access to all points west and south of Rolleston. It also supports better supply chain efficiency, particularly for central Canterbury importers and exporters. It supports the increasing productivity from the Canterbury plains, primarily the export growth driven by increased irrigation, and the freight increases forecast following the completion of the Southern Motorway.

Transporting containers by rail reduces truck traffic congestion on roads round Christchurch and travel delays, effectively taking 40 to 80 truck trips off our roads every day.

Another milestone development was the opening in February of the Port’s new $85 million Cashin Quay 2 wharf. It is an example of how the Port is increasing capacity and growing container trade as it plans to meet the challenge of the next 30 years. It supports Lyttelton being the international freight Port for the South Island, doubling container berth capacity. Already there is significant improvement in ship turn-around times.

A key part of the Big Picture is the Port’s preparation for a large forecasted increase in freight and the arrival of bigger vessels carrying more containers. As well as needing deeper berths and more space, the new larger, heavier vessels will also need a deeper, wider, navigation channel. The Port has announced its proposed shipping channel deepening project and began the process of engaging with the public to seek feedback before submitting a resource consent application in September. 

Internationally, container ships have been getting bigger for many years. To accommodate these larger ships the Port is proposing to dredge the channel to increase its depth by 5-6m.

With 99% of New Zealand’s freight carried by sea, and a 50% forecast in trade growth through Lyttelton, alongside Lyttelton’s container volumes set to double over the next decade and double again by 2041, it is imperative the Port secure a deeper draught.

Dredging of the harbour’s channel is not new and has occurred regularly since the first dredge came to Lyttelton Port in 1880. The harbour has a natural depth of 5 to 12m, but with successive dredging a shipping channel with a consistent depth of 12.5m has been formed. To allow the bigger ships to call at Lyttelton requires a depth of approximately 17-18m and increasing the channel width by 20m.

The Port is seeking community input to ensure the public is comfortable with the plan. It is proposing extensive environmental monitoring and a protection plan. It is committed to protecting the health of marine mammals, the harbour’s environment and ecology and the mahinga kai values of whakaraupō and koukourārata throughout the project.

As part of preparing for the resource consent LPC has invested more than $3 million, working with a range of expert scientists, to undertake investigations into any effects the proposed dredging could have.

The Port’s future is as the hub for Canterbury and South Island freight so it can support New Zealand’s economy and prosperity. It has started a journey that will ensure the region has a modern thriving Port servicing the region over the next 30 years that is well connected to the community and supports a healthy harbour environment. It is important the community it serves understand the value of the Port to them and their region and supports its plans for the future.