FTA With India

February 24, 2009

The Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce today welcomed the news that New Zealand and India are to commence negotiations for a bilateral FTA and emphasised the importance including services in the negotiation.


“An FTA with India would be hugely beneficial to New Zealand and has been a very high priority for us for many years,” said Chamber CEO Charles Finny.


New Zealand and India have had a longstanding relationship but trade between the two countries has been relatively meagre. 


India is a fast growing economy of more than 1.1 billion people and it has taken steps in recent years to open up and become more outward looking.  New Zealand exports to India are small but growing and so a FTA would be a valuable platform to build that trade.


“Indian agriculture is highly protected and improved access for our agricultural produce is very important.  It is also essential that negotiations cover services and investment.  Aiming for a good deal in services will be necessary if we are to achieve a breakthrough in agriculture.  It would also benefit New Zealand’s services sector which makes up around two thirds of the economy.


“With its service sector orientation, the Wellington economy in particular has a lot to gain from closer economic relations with India – particularly in the IT, film and education sectors.  These are areas which both India and Wellington excel in.


“We strongly support the strengthening trade relationship with India and we congratulate Tim Groser and his officials for reaching this milestone”, Mr. Finny concluded.



Indoor Community Sports Centre

February 24, 2009

I was very pleased to read of the deal done between Cr Foster and the Mayor.  I look forward to the outcome of the review.

Tertiary Education Funding

February 23, 2009

I was pleased to hear that the inconsistency between the current funding model for tertiary education institutions  and the difficult economic times (which is seeing a big increase in demand for places)  was one of the main items run on Morning Report this morning.  I have been raising this issue with government for some weeks (see for example my speech to the Weltec graduation).  Most recently I raised the issue with Mark Weldon (Friday) and TEC boss Roy Sharp (Wednesday).  I see the tertiary education as a key part of the response to this crisis.  I would much rather have people re-skill or up-skill rather than go on the dole.  Aside from anything else this will help us grow our productivity into the long term.

We have a section on this issue in our submission to the employment summit on Friday.  We hope the Government will act immediately to review policy in this area and remove the caps imposed a couple of years ago.

Dear Poneke

February 22, 2009

Tried to post a fullish comment on your site but it was rejected because it did not like my work e-mail address.

I thanked you for missing me.

I have simply been busy.  Last week saw multiple meetings including a select committee and the regional transport committee meeting which tried to prioritise billions of land transport expenditure and approve a $3 billion rail plan.  I take these things very seriously.  I also had three important board meetings.

Lack of posts nothing to do with Cr Foster.  Indeed our Board meeting on Thursday was unanimous in endorsing the City Council’s preferred site.

I have simply been busy.  I start most days around 0600 (sometimes earler) and am tied up to late .  I have family responsibilities and I want to stay sane so try and fit in a bit of golf.  I would have loved to have had time to read blogs let alone write posts on Danny Lee, the FTA with India (well done Groser), Lamy’s visit to New Zealand, US Climate Change policy, ARC and the Galaxy fiasco, Mark Weldon and our breakfast on Friday, our Export Breakfast on Tuesday, disagree with Fran O’Sullivan on tax cuts plus much more, but I have been too busy.

The week ahead is even worse, literally not one gap in my diary until Saturday, and even on Saturday I have several appointments (including the ballet which I am looking forward to very much).

Given your obvious withdrawal symptoms I will see if I can squeeze a post or two in.  Will also try and do better on our media statements etc.  But you can always keep up by reading www.wellingtonchamber.co.nz if you are desperate.

Good night David, and thanks to those who alerted me to Poneke’s post.

Dear John

February 16, 2009

Dear John  has been a bit of an experiment for us here at the Chamber.  It has achieved good readership numbers and there have at times been vigorous debate.  This is encouraging.

We are in the process of a major re-jig of our communications with members and wider community and use of blog format has been part of the mix. 

We will make some decisions over the next month.

In the meantime we will be restricting content on Dear John to formal press releases and the editorial from our monthly magazine.  Continuing interaction with our readership is encouraged.

For those interested in the indoor community sports centre we had another session with the Mayor on Friday and have Garry Poole WCC CEO coming to talk to our Board meeting this week.  We continue to be  actively engaged on the issue.

Australian ETS Scheme On Hold

February 13, 2009

Interesting developments vis a vis emissions trading in Australia.  There are several reports in the Australian media on this.   It will be interesting to watch the impact that this development has on New Zealand’s review.

US Services Companies Support Trans Pac

February 11, 2009

We at the Wellington Chamber of Commerce are memebrs of the Global Services Coalition.  Our US partner organisation is the Coalition of Services Industries.  I was therefore evry pleased to see that the Coalition is lobbying the Obama Administration to support the Trans Pac negotiation.  I am less sure about the strategy proposed on the WTO front, but share the Coalition’s frustration over how the important services component of the negotiations has been positioned.

Government Infrastructure Package

February 11, 2009

We are generally happy with the package of projects announced by the Government this morning.  In particular it is great to see that the Muldoon’s Corner improvement on the Rimutaka Hill Road is not only going to happen, but that work is going to begin so soon.  this is a much needed improvement to our regional road system.  This area of road is too narrow for two trucks to meet (going in opposite directions), and all large trucks are forced to cross the centre line.  this makes the road dangerous for all users.  The project has been on the regional roading agenda for several years but has consistently been prioritised down the list when it has come to decisions actually being taken.  Well done Minister Joyce.

Our statement is up on Scoop….

Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership

February 11, 2009

I was very pleased to read this morning that the stalled negotiations over closer economic relations with the Hong Kong Special Economic Region are to resume.  Hong Kong was due to be our third free trade partner – after Australia and Singapore.  Fears that Chinese goods would be smuggled into NZ via Hong Kong was the reason why negotiations stalled.  This now seems a bit ironic as within a couple of years New Zealand was negotiating an FTA with China.  I hope this agreement delivers something exciting on investment and services.  We look forward to working closely with the government on this negotiation.

Knee Jerk Reactions

February 11, 2009

One of the more complex issues to confront Wellington City Council in recent years was that of the indoor stadium.  At the Chamber we have spent hundreds of hours on the issue.  I must have lobbied the Mayor personally twenty times on it.  Our Board has agonised over the issue, and we have surveyed our membership on it.

Like Cr Foster our initial position was that a site next to the Westpac Stadium on the outskirts of the CDB was the best one.  We still believe this.  Unfortunately there are significant drawbacks to this site.  Size, cost (we have serious doubts about the claim by Cr Foster that a 12 court stadium can be built next to the Westpac Stadium for $46 million does this for example include the cost of the necessary grade separation?) and carparking all raise significant issues for the CBD site.  So reluctantly, after studying every piece of information available on the issue we came around to the view that the Cobham Drive site was the only option to support.  Our submission (easy to find on our website) I think displays our reluctance, but also shows that we took a well considered position.

While considering this issue in depth we monitored the positions taken by individual Councillors, their arguments in meetings and their attendance at meetings.  We know exactly the role played by Cr Foster in this process as does the Dominion Post

Last year Mr Foster called the decision to put the centre on Cobham Park the worst by the council in 15 years. It sparked a new council vote that saw Cobham Park reconfirmed as the site by 13 votes to 1. Mr Foster missed the meeting as it clashed with his 10th wedding anniversary.

Having essentially lost the robust and extended argument for the port site, the Chamber has felt obliged to back the early completion of the agreed site at Cobham Park.  As those who know me will testify, I am a pretty tenacious person.  (I will do a post shortly on an issue I have been fighting for for 23 years).  But on some issues there comes a times when you have to accept the inevitable, particularly when there has been a fair and transparent democratic process to reach a decision.  At the Chamber we also feel that the construction of this project could not be better timed given the economic downturn, and it was clear that the sporting codes affected have clearly been waiting too long for a facility of this type.  We had assumed that other parties who had favoured the port site would act in a similar way to us, after all the facility will be a real asset for the region and the sooner we have it the better.

We now face an 18 month to 2 year delay.  This is annoying.  I personally feel for those parents and sports players who will have to spend an extra two years of standing and playing out in the Wellington elements.  I feel also for those companies that might have survived if this construction had occurred and those who will be without work because of this delay.  This was also an issue which I had been commenting on for several days.  So there was nothing knee jerk in my support for comments from our Mayor a couple of days ago.  I was angry over the grounds used for this appeal (is preferring another site real grounds for appeal under the RMA??), and I was as angry over the fact that a member of the Council had decided to act contrary to the near unanimous position of the Council as I was last year over Iona Pannett’s attempts to stop the Basin Reserve grade separation following a very detailed and complex decision over the Ngauranga to Airport land transport corridor (I am at least consistent on this issue of collective responsibility).

I have never called for Cr Foster’s resignation, but I do think there is an issue around this.  To paraphrase another blogger “Isn’t the fact that 8 members of the Council including the Mayor are either calling for a colleague’s resignation or suggesting that he review his position suggestive of the fact that there is a serious issue here?”  And isn’t it a bit unusual that Cr Foster has been the subject of two searching editorials – Wellingtonian and Dominion Post??? I also do worry about Andy’s ability to Chair his two committees in the current situation.  As a minimum a standdown might be an idea.  These considerations were the background to my supposedly knee jerk reaction.

Is it appropriate for someone in my position to be expressing opinions on this issue?  Absolutely.  It is my job.  Who else scrutinises the Council and the actions of individual Councillors as closely as I do?  What is the Chamber position?  This is also easily accessible on our website.

I was also a bit surprised to be labelled an ardent cheerleader for Mayor Prendergast.  I am sure that she will be as surprised as I was to read this characterisation.  We have a close and fully professional working relationship.  We meet somewhere around town most days.  We regularly exchange views on the issues of the day.  We sometimes agree and often disagree (we can’t mention a certain roading project to the North of Wellington without the sparks flying). This is the nature of our roles.

I do hope that this issue is not about positioning for another significant event that is also due in about 18 months to 2 years time (have a read of the first letter to the editor in today’s Dominion Post).  But by then I am kind of hoping we might be lucky enough to be voting for a Mayor of Greater Wellington.  In that context, the site chosen for the Wellington city indoor stadium is unlikely to be a regional issue.  By the way this isn’t just my view, the Chamber has long championed the idea of local body amalgamation.  Once the Royal Commission on Auckland delivers its recommendations, a similar solution for Wellington must be on the cards.