The Great Debate: Business in the Hamilton. Waikato

The topic of the Great Debate last night was about business and how to attract business to the Waikato, lift productivity and champion Hamilton as an economic hub of the region. We had a minute and a half on each of the following questions, after a 3 minute intro on the topic.

How will I help to lift productivity and support business?

I want to make it easy for businesses to get started here by streamlining consents and other application processes, and front-ending support especially for small business.

This includes significantly more automation of processes which right now, are simply cumbersome. 

Just because we’re a council, we don’t have to act like one!  For some time, I’ve been asking we be more proactive in seeking out and supporting new opportunities such as relocating some Government Head Offices to Hamilton.  These are the sorts of conversations I’ve been having in Wellington for some time and we need to put a rocket under them.

I’d love to see us shoulder tapping emerging and growing businesses and encouraging them to come here, but let me be clear….I’m not offering rates relief or anything of that nature.

 I have been calling for Hamilton to be the home of the Vocational Centre of Excellence and that’s something I want to pursue.

And I want to reiterate something the Chamber has often said….the City Council simply cannot go it alone.  We absolutely must work with partners -  the Chamber of Commerce, Hamilton Central Business Association, Te Waka  Regional Economic Development, to align our efforts and focus and present a more united, pro-Hamilton front.

I think the absolute key to this is transport  and links to markets, both in the  North and to Tauranga in the East.

Should there be a Super City, like Auckland?

Let me be absolutely clear.  Hamilton doesn’t “get to decide” that it wants to be a super city and then just gobble all the other Councils up.  While that’s what some people might want … that’s simply just not how it works.  I know, I have been part of these conversations and I’ve seen some of the resistance.

So let’s be realistic about this and focus on things we can and should achieve.

Anyone who understands our neighbours, and has a good relationship with other Mayors like I do, would know that talk of a super city is premature

BUT – and this is and important BUT,  I DO think talk of being more efficient, and being a lot more effective in the way we work together is really smart. That’s EXACTLY what we should be doing.

So I I won’t be supporting amalgamation in the way some people picture it – because other Councils simply and categorically will not support that.

BUT I agree with the Chamber.  We should be actively pushing ways to be more efficient. And if those discussions make some people uncomfortable, tough!

For example, as a region we walked away from millions of dollars of savings because Waipa District Council rejected shared waters management.

That’s just not good enough.  It should never have happened.

I will be supporting stronger working relationships with our neighbouring Councils – but I won’t be lecturing them….or hectoring them.

 I will be supporting working along side other key business and community organisations to maximise talents and resources. And, I will be building on our relationships with Government – including my own very strong government relationships - to make sure Hamilton gets its share of Government support.

I think one of my strengths is the fact that I have very strong relationships in Wellington, right across the Board.

In summary, a super city is not the only way to create efficient collaboration.  We need very strong financial management, an absolute focus on reducing wasted time and cost, we need to work smarter and we need to do a better job of managing spending priorities.Council needs to make it easier for business to do business.

How will I work to bring business and the community closer together?

Well Sleepyhead is going to Ohinewai. We could learn something from that and one of the first things I want to do is ask them why?  Employment, housing and transport are key and so is pro-active shoulder tapping.

But research shows that people don’t come to live in a city – any city - JUST because of jobs.  To build a real city, we need to create a place where people can live, get educated, work and play.  And if we don’t, we’ll miss the boat.

I actually think the city is doing a pretty good job at this already, within the financial constraints we have.

Business such as Rabo Bank come when there is quality office or industrial space, excellent transport and IT connectivity and someone for families and workers to live.

Saying that, we can always to better.

I’d like to see our Smart Business Office initiative expanded to foster innovation, information sharing, concept development AND problem-solving. This means regular forums and idea sharing with key business stakeholders, but not just for the Mayor.

There are 13 members elected to represent and serve this city – not just one. 

We would be well advised to run the city more like a company, and less like a fiefdom.

I support the work of Te Waka, the Hamilton Central Business Association, Hamilton Waikato Tourism and others. I’d like to see HCC actively supporting them in sharing with others what we have to offer.

Tell our story, not just at home but elsewhere.

In respect to Tourism we have to stop simply relying on the Hamilton Gardens alone.  They’re fabulous, but they’re not our only offer.  We need another draw card or two. There is huge untapped potential in cultural tourism and our River is simply waiting to shine. Cultural tourism is one area I would like to see a greater focus on.

I already mentioned the Vocational Centre of Excellence… why not here? It makes sense. 

And let’s get the easy things done such as streamlining consents.


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