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Labour's 10-point plan for "Cinderella sector"

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"Labour's commitment today to bring the small business sector in from the cold will be backed up by a solid, 10-point action plan," Labour spokesperson on small business Ross Robertson said at the release of the party's policy.

"Small business is critical to the New Zealand economy and Labour believes it is time this was recognised around the Cabinet table.

"We must remember that the small business of today is the big business of tomorrow. Companies such as Watties and Fletcher Challenge, for example, started as small backyard operators.

"Traditionally small businesses have regarded government as a substantial impediment to their growth. Existing legislation has tended to focus on the needs of the large enterprise rather than the small, which has been detrimental to small companies."

Mr Robertson said Labour would establish a Small Business portfolio and an Office of Small Business within Industry New Zealand to provide a strong voice for small business at the heart of Government.

The Office would monitor and comment on all regulatory issues from a small business perspective and would work closely with regulators to ensure regulations were enforced in a way that recognised the particular problems of small business.

It will also develop a single electronic gateway so that small firms can find out from one site which regulations affect them.

Other components of Labour's small business strategy include:

· Providing better access to finance by developing a range of new financing options, including venture capital, and by promoting the development of "Angel Networks" throughout New Zealand. [Angel Networks help bring small investors into contact with small businesses which require investment. They have worked well overseas.]

· Ordering the Industrial Supplies Office and other government purchasing agents to buy New Zealand made products where possible.

· Developing a modern Business Development Programme to replace the BDBs abolished by National last year. The new programme will be run by the Small Business Office and will provide affordably priced business audits, technical and management skills training and grants to investigate new products, markets and technology uses.

· Developing communications strategies to ensure small business people are aware of the various forms of government assistance available to them.

· Reducing the cost of doing business by, among other things, implementing the recommendations of the 1998 Select Committee Inquiry into Compliance Costs.

· Encouraging small businesses to export as part of Labour's larger export encouragement campaign through an expanded Tradenz and through the provision of new export guarantees and credits.

· Promoting small business incubators to allow small businesses operating in similar industries or providing complementary products or services to share some of their costs or pool equipment and information.

· Encouraging innovation by accelerating the depreciation regime for new capital investment in technology and introducing a more sympathetic tax treatment of R&D expenditure.

· Improving the skills base through Labour's apprenticeship, training and tertiary education policies.

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