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.