Archive for the ‘Infrastructure’ Category

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.

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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….

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.

SME Package

February 5, 2009

I have done a number of media interviews (Radio NZ, Newstalk ZB, Dom Post) on yesterday’s announcement by the Government.  The proposals won’t solve all problems but they are a useful response to the challenges confronting us.  Here is our press release from yesterday:

Small Business Welcomes Government Tax Package

 

The initiatives contained in today’s Small Business Relief Package will provide welcome relief for cash strapped businesses according to the Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce.

 

“Cash flow problems are an increasing area of concern for small businesses in particular and the measures announced today are a pragmatic response to the extraordinary economic conditions we currently face”, said Chamber CEO Charles Finny.

 

“Adjustments to the provisional tax rules will give businesses more flexibility in the timing of their tax payments.  This is will be extremely valuable to them in the current economic environment.

 

“The announcement comes as our latest business confidence survey reconfirmed the difficulties businesses are facing in managing their cash flows and this initiative will be a welcome respite.

 

“The tax compliance measures, including the higher tax-return thresholds, will reduce the number of transactions small and medium sized businesses have with the IRD and will be well-received.

 

“The directive to government departments to pay their bills promptly is something Wellington businesses have been talking to us a lot about recently and we are pleased the government has acknowledged our concerns.  In a survey late last year 28.6% of businesses told us they have experienced such delays in paying invoices.

 

“We are also pleased that the government will allow the New Zealand Export Credit Office to provide short-term credit insurance for exporters.  A number of our members have reported difficulties over payments for exports in recent months.

 

“All in all this is a well-timed package which will go some way towards relieving the pressure on business at this difficult time,” Mr Finny concluded.

RMA Changes

February 5, 2009

We were very pleased with the announcement on Tuesday of the changes to the Resource Management Act.  Here is a copy of our press statement:

Resource Management Proposals a Boost for Business

 

The Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the proposed Resource Management Act reforms announced by the government today.

 

“The cost and uncertainty brought about by the RMA has been a real obstacle to business investment,” said Chamber CEO, Charles Finny. 

 

“Streamlining the processes around obtaining resource consents will prove to be a real tonic for economic growth.

 

“Small businesses in particular can face crippling costs and delays under the RMA and today’s proposals will go along way towards reducing them.

 

“The prevention of frivolous, vexatious and anti-competitive objections to developments is particularly welcome as is the option for applicants to go directly to independent commissioners.

 

The Chamber will scrutinise the proposals in more detail and looks forward to making a submission on the Bill at the Select Committee stage,” Mr Finny concluded.

The Way We Were

January 21, 2009

Remember the days of the NZ Post monopoly on telecommunications services?  How long did it take to get a connection?  It has been a bit like us here in Switzerland. Wendy hadn’t bothered to get the internet connected at her house here until now.  Unfortunately we discovered that it takes two weeks to get a connection here.  Apparently there are no exceptions to this two week rule, unless you want to pay a SF500 urgent connection fee.  The connection which happened today is a very good connection at a similar price to that we pay in Wellington.  A pity about the delay however.

Heathrow’s Third Runway

January 18, 2009

There is much controversy in the UK over the decision to proceed with a third runway at Heathrow.  I must confess to being confused about this decision.  Why build an expensive new runway at Heathrow when there is a great runway underutilised at Kent Airport – located right next to the high speed rail link between London and France???

A350 On Time

January 15, 2009

The media here is reporting that work began yesterday in Toulouse on the building in which the new Airbus 350 will be built.  Production of this new aircraft type is on time with first deliveries expected in 2013.  29 airlines have so far placed orders for 478 of these new generation aircraft – similar to the Boeing 787.  This is of particular interest to the Wellington region as the performance of this aircraft will allow more destinations to be reachable from Wellington than can be achieved by current aircraft types with economic payloads.

Transmission Gully

January 14, 2009

Apparently my letter made it into the Dominion Post so this is what I submitted:

 

Wellington does need to get its infrastructure act together.  We need to increase expenditure on public transport (our focus would be on bus rather than rail), and we need to solve some perennial transport bottlenecks – Airport to Basin Reserve, Ngauranga to Aotea Quay, Terrace Tunnel – and we need to ensure that we have a secure and resilient link to the rest of the country.  To the North that is provided by State Highway 1.  At present the alignment is highly susceptible to storm and earthquake damage and climate change experts suggest that the problems will get even worse as sea levels rise.  To make matters worse an upgrade of the existing alignment is not likely to achieve necessary consents, and to make it as resilient as the Transmission Gully Motorway would require greater expenditure than on Transmission Gully (previous estimates did not consider the need to raise the road further above sea level).  Rather than a pipe dream Transmission Gully is essential for our food, physical and economic security in Wellington and it is an integral part of the link between the North and South Island economies.  It is a strategic motorway of national importance.  Lets go ahead and build it asap.”

 

The Mayor of Porirua also had a letter published on this subject.

 

I am at present writing the editorial for the January issue of The Chamber.  I shall repeat this on Dear John.  This addresses how unfortunate the timing of this Dominion Post editorial was, and how we need to be speaking with one voice as a region.  Failure to do so will indeed see Wellington miss out on essential infrastructure investment.  The long term consequences of this will be very serious.

Toll Roads (3)

January 13, 2009

My earlier posts have elicited a range of comments – several of which failed to make it through the moderation process because they were abusive.  Aparently I am a fool and collectivist solutions are always better than solutions that favour the individual and business.  I forgot that Marxism is like a religion for its believers – it is faith based as opposed to evidence based.  Just to remind readers i have lived for several years in Communist run countries.  I know what works and what doesn’t, and i sure don’t want to see policy that has failed elsewhere be introduced here because it conforms to a fringe ideological belief system.  With that off my chest can i share some more info on the A41.  Hopefully the Dominion Post will take up the challenging questions asked below and provide some answers…

The Annecy Chamber has sent through more information about the A41.  It turns out that this fantastic road is France’s first BOT project.  Not one Euro of public money has been used to fund it.  The total cost was Euro 871.5 million.  The consortium that build it own the road until 2060 when it returns to public ownership.

 

Now things get very interesting – this road is forecast to be profitable on 23,000 vehicle uses a day. 

 

How come it is possible for a road that is more expensive and difficult to build than Transmission Gully on only 23,000 vehicle movements a day to be economic in Europe, when a cheaper road in New Zealand with more vehicle movements is apparently not suitable for a BOT solution???  This is going to require some further investigation….