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Hot Councils Are Business-Friendly


Hot Councils Are Business-Friendly

The Hot Councils 2004 awards have been successful in drawing attention to the need for more business friendly councils. Councils were ranked on rating and spending discipline, administration of the RMA, and local democracy; councils imposing business differentials and forecasting big rates increases lost ranking points. Local Government Forum chairman Simon Carlaw says the awards are a response to the lack of benchmarking of councils to enable ratepayers to compare performance. The top-ranked councils are: Tauranga (metropolitan councils), Ashburton and South Waikato (provincial councils), Westland (rural) and Taranaki (regional councils). The full rankings are on http://www.businessnz.org.nz

EMPLOYMENT BILL-COME TO THE AUCKLAND RALLY Oral submissions on the Employment Relations Law Reform start up again this week, with hearings at Auckland's Alexandra Park Raceway. This is also the venue for EMA Northern's rally against the Bill. Businesses in the Auckland region are urged to make their feelings known by turning up for the rally 10.00 - 11.30 am tomorrow (Thurs 29 April), morning tea provided. Details are on: http://www.ema.co.nz/Employer_Action_Forum.htm

EMPLOYMENT BILL A NIGHTMARE FOR BANK In the last series of submissions, before Easter, Westpac Bank told a select committee that outlawing so-called "free-riding" would be its worst nightmare. Like many other businesses it routinely passes on union-negotiated terms and conditions to non-union employees. "I really struggle to see how on earth we would make this work, given our size, our geographic distribution, and the fact that we want to spend our time and resources on providing good customer service and not doing business with ourselves," a Westpac executive told the select committee, saying the process would likely require four fulltime workers dedicated only to pay negotiations.

DRUG TESTING DECISION UNSURPRISING The Employment Court's decision allowing Air NZ to randomly drug test employees in safety-sensitive areas was not unexpected - any other decision would have contradicted the Health & Safety in Employment Act which says employers have to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of their employees. The Court endorsed Business NZ's guide 'Drug Testing in the Workplace' as "balanced and sound". You can get a copy of the guide from your regional business association EMA Northern, EMA Central, Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce or Otago Southland Employers' Association. Contact bburton@businessnz.org.nz .

SUCCESSFUL LOBBY CANS LEVY The Government has backed down on its plan to levy all PTEs to cover costs from the 2003 collapse of the Carich and Modern Age private training establishments. PTEs were outraged at having to pay for the problems of particular providers, and education and business groups including Business NZ lobbied hard against the plan. But the legislation still includes provisions to enable levies to reimburse international students who face financial losses following any future failure. Contact jbaker@businessnz.org.nz .

RESEARCH RANKINGS Last week the Tertiary Education Commission released its first assessment of quality of the research conducted by NZ tertiary institutions. It was heartening to discover that NZ has many good researchers in engineering and technology: 8.5% were rated as 'world class'. Less encouraging was that only 3.8% of business and economics researchers met the same standard. The report is on http://www.tec.govt.nz

SECRET BUT NOT SECRET The Ministerial Infrastructure Group has finally received a report on the state of the nation's infrastructure. Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton said the report had noted problems with the RMA in reference to energy, roading, hydro generation and irrigation but "there were surprises that were not surprises", because he and his colleagues were aware of them and were working on them. Now his office says no-one can see the report until after Cabinet has seen it next month. Perhaps it's secret but not secret....(either way, save us from spin).

PAY EQUITY RUMBLINGS The National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women (NACEW) is holding a pay equity conference in Wellington in June. With the results of the Government's enquiry into pay equity in the public sector expected shortly, the conference is likely to urge the imposition of pay equity requirements on the private sector as well. It could be a good idea to attend and spell out the practical effects that such a move would have. http://www.businessnz.org.nz/doc/706/PayequityconferenceJune2004

GROWTH STATS

HOUSING, GOVT CHARGES LEAD CPI

* Consumer prices rose 0.4% in the March Quarter, led (for the 7th consecutive quarter) by housing (+1.4%).

* For the year ended March the CPI rose 1.5%, with housing increasing 8.7%.

* While housing grabbed the headlines, central and local government charges also rose 7.3% for the March year, compared to a rise of 4.0% for the previous year. Excluding central and local government charges, the CPI would have increased by 1.1% for the year ended March 2004.

EXPORTS UP IN FEBRUARY

* The provisional value of exports for Feb 2004 was $2,517m, up 8.9% on Feb 2003, giving a Feb trade balance surplus of $123m.

* The monthly exports trend has increased 6.9% since July 2003 despite the NZ dollar having appreciated by over 8% over this period, indicating strength in NZ export volumes and world commodity prices.

* Butter and milk products led the rise in Feb and higher values were also reported for meat, wood pulp, machinery & equipment, aluminium & aluminium articles, electrical machinery & equipment, iron and steel.

* Exports to Australia were up 6.2% for Feb 2004 compared to Feb 2003. Exports to the US declined slightly, but increased to Japan (+9.5%), China (+31%), EU countries (+15%), Korea (+14%) and Taiwan (+32%).

RECORD COMMODITY PRICES

* The ANZ World Commodity Price Index recorded a 1.5% increase in March, taking the index to its highest level since it began in 1986. World commodity prices are now 13.7% higher than in March 2003.

* Improving demand and tight supplies were recorded for dairy products, lamb, beef, wool, kiwifruit, wood pulp, logs, and aluminium.

* The increase in world commodity prices has partially offset the higher NZ$ over the past two years, providing a cushion to the NZ economy (although NZ$ prices are still 30% below their April 2001 peak).

* The NZ$ has fallen in recent weeks on the back of a stronger US$. If currency appreciation resumes, exporters will be hoping world commodity prices stay at current high levels.

BUSINESS CONFIDENCE SLUMPS

* The NZIER Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion for March 2004 showed a sense of gloom, with a net 29% of firms expecting conditions to deteriorate over the next six months.

* Firms' expectations of their own activity has also fallen, but are still at positive levels.

* Economic growth is likely to ease to around 2.3% for the year ended March 2005.

* High capacity utilisation and tight labour market indicators point to rising resource pressures and expectations that firms will increase prices. Inflation is predicted to lift to around 2.5% for the year ended March 2005. Most firms think interest rates will be higher in a year's time.

INNOVATION SURVEY

* The new Innovation Survey undertaken by Statistics NZ defines innovation as the introduction of a new or significantly improved product, service or process.

* The survey shows 44% of businesses with over 10 employees reported innovation in the preceding 3 years.

* 80% of innovators reported increased profitability but only 30% said it had resulted in new overseas markets.

* Manufacturing has the highest innovation rate (57%) and construction has the lowest (25%).

* Impediments to innovation were seen as lack of management capability (56%), cost (53%) and lack of staff capability (51%).

WHAT'S NEW on http://www.businessnz.org.nz * Hot councils winners * Hot councils fact sheet * Safety is paramount * Proper review of RMA overdue

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