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The first leg of economic development minister, Steven Joyce’s regional tour has been labelled a “success” by the Wellington business community and the city’s council.
“I am delighted that the minister started this regional tour in the capital,” says Wellington Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown, adding that the minister acknowledged the potential of the region for good jobs, as well as the world class nature of a number of businesses in Wellington.
Mr Joyce yesterday announced during a meeting with the trans-Tasman business circle that he would be travelling around the country, visiting all regional businesses, councils, tertiary institutions and economic development agencies.Wellington was the first destination on his list.
“I am doing that for a very important reason, because I think there are some very good opportunities to work across all sectors and lift our economic performance. I will be going there to hear what their challenges and opportunities for growth are,” he says, adding that it was government’s responsibility to “remove” blockages that may hinder business growth.
He added that it was important to leverage connections between the business, science and tertiary sectors.
Speaking during a reception for Wellington business to discuss economic development in the region, Mr Joyce said the government had been rightly criticised for often not seeing “past the end of its nose” in relation to Wellington.
“We have one economic driver in Auckland; we have one getting off its knees in Christchurch. We need Wellington to be successful. We need to look at the opportunities, not just at business but also at leveraging off resources and infrastructure,” he said.
Councillor, Jo Coughlan, whose portfolio includes economy, told National Business Review that the local government, business sector and industry needed to talk to each other more in order to develop the local economy.
“We are a relatively small country and we should be able to sort out problems relatively quickly. Obviously having these conversations is a great way to start,” she said.
Over the past decade Wellington’s economy has been growing at a relatively fast rate. According to Ms Coughlan, the region’s gross domestic product has risen on average 3 percent a year for the past 10 years, compared with the national average of 2.2 percent.
Given the threat of job cuts in the public sector, the council is hoping to attract more business to the region.
“Bearing in mind that 80 percent of Wellingtonians actually work in the private sector, it was time for us to start doing a better job at letting the key decision makers know what Wellington has to offer to New Zealand Inc,” she said, adding that this had led to an economic strategy, which she will be leading, aimed at encouraging international business to operate from the capital city.
Mr Joyce told NBR he was hoping to conduct two or three of the same fact finding missions per month, his office could not confirm where the next meeting would take place, but said that interested parties should follow Mr Joyce’s Facebook account for more details.
“We do have wider discussions with businesses, but this type of format means that it is small enough to engage with role players one on one. It is encouraging to see how people take good ideas and turn them into great businesses,” he said.